Each year at my Bournemouth laser clinic I get asked about sun exposure and UVA and UVB sunscreens. There is a lot of confusion out there as to what is ‘safe’ sun exposure and what isn’t. And more importantly what kind of sunscreen should be applied.

It is widely believed that only ‘burning’ equates to ‘dangerous’ sun exposure. Whilst this is true to a large degree, dermatologists have also now confirmed that UVA, long thought to be the ‘safe’ ray is extremely harmful. A couple of years ago whilst attending a laser conference, the dermatologist speaking, called it (UVA), the ‘silent killer’.

So what is UV?

UV stands for Ultraviolet radiation. It is radiation that forms part of the light spectrum given out by the sun. These wavelengths are classed as UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC having the shortest wavelength is therefore the most damaging, but little is ever mentioned about this ray as it is absorbed almost entirely by the ozone layer. UVA and UVB therefore are of most concern to us.

At my Bournemouth laser clinic, many of my clients seem to only be concerned about UVB, the ray which causes burning. However as I am always very keen to point out, UVA is the ray which causes premature ageing. After laser hair removal, skin rejuvenation is the most popular laser treatment at my laser clinic in Bournemouth. Skin rejuvenation encompasses thread vein removal, pigment removal (in the form of sunspots, age spots and liver spots), laser acne treatment, as well as collagen boosting using the fraxel laser. Prevention is always better than cure, and knowing what you’re up against when it comes to UV exposure, makes for better informed choice when it comes to sunscreen.


This long wave is absorbed more deeply into the skin than UVB and is now known to be responsible for causing premature ageing of the skin in the form of lines and wrinkles. Think of this ray as literally eating your collagen. Whilst in the early 80’s it was thought that this was the ‘safe’ UV ray, studies over the last 20 years have shown that in fact UVA plays a far greater role in the formation of skin cancer than previously thought. UVA damages skin cells called keratinocytes which are found in the basal layer of the epidermis. This can lead to ‘basal cell carcinomas’. UVA is the main tanning ray, which is why artificial tanning booths emit only UVA. However consistent tanning (and therefore damage to the skin) over a prolonged period of time has been shown to lead to skin cancer.


UVB is the ‘burning’ ray. It hits the skin very superficially and causes reddening of the skin and sunburn. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer which is why most people think of only UVB as causing potential health problems. It also plays a role in skin tanning and premature skin ageing. In the UK this ray is at its strongest during the summer months, between 11am and 3pm. However at high altitude UVB rays can damage all year round, especially during the ski season when UVB rays are reflected and intensified by the snow.

Protect your skin

Using a broadspectrum (UVA & UVB) sunscreen will protect your skin from UV damage and will help keep thread veins, acne and pigmentation under control. Whilst other factors like genes play a major part in all skin conditions, exposure to UV undoubtedly exacerbates if not causes many skin complaints.

Always wear at least an SPF15, which if applied properly will protect from 93% of the sun’s rays. Ideally a factor 30 should be applied to the face which has some of the thinnest skin on our bodies. At my Bournemouth laser clinic I recommend using ‘Vitage’ a zinc oxide sunscreen. It is a mineral (not chemical) sunscreen which creates a barrier and reflects rays away from the skin’s surface. It is also non-comedogenic which means it will not cause spots. Zinc Oxide provides excellent protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Laser hair removal and laser skin rejuvenation

Whilst having laser hair removal treatments or indeed any laser skin rejuvenation it is crucial to keep out of the sun, both before and after treatment. Treating sun tanned skin will lead to laser burns and blistering. If you have laser treatment on tan-free skin, but then go out in the sun immediately afterwards, the combination of cosmetic laser treatments and UV exposure can lead to pigmentation in the skin. At my Bournemouth laser clinic I always recommend therefore that clients where an SPF 30 for at least one month after their last treatment with me.

If you would like any advice on sun protection or laser treatments, please contact Laser Skin Solutions on 01202 29 69 69 or at www.laserskinsolutions.co.uk