Do we know what the symbols on sunscreen tell us?

¿Sabemos lo que nos indican los símbolos del protector solar?

Migraciones dev |

We all know the importance of protecting the skin with SPF products. However, understanding the symbols and knowing how they work is more complex. Normally when buying a product we look at the labels, and in the case of sunscreen where we usually look is the SPF symbol, since the rest are usually more unknown.

Today we explain the meaning of each symbol, how to choose the right protection for your skin and best of all, we are going to recommend the safest, most effective and sustainable sunscreens.

Let's get started!


They are the acronym in English for the sun protection factor, Sun Protection Factor (SPF) , and they help us know the type of protection that a protector has against ultraviolet radiation of the UVB type.

It also helps us classify different levels of protection against UVB rays:

  • Very high: SPF 50+
  • High: SPF 30 to 50
  • Medium: SPF 15 to 30
  • Low: SPF less than 15

Sun protection factor (SPF) measures how much UVB protection a product provides to the skin. The higher the SPF, the more it protects. A product containing SPF 30 will protect the skin from almost 97% of the sun's UVB rays (when applied generously). SPF is a guide to how long you can stay in direct sunlight before your skin starts to burn.

To resolve this, typically if you burn after 10 minutes in the sun without protection, multiply this number by the SPF rating you are using. This is how long your sun protection will last. For example, if you burn within 10 minutes of being exposed to the sun without protection and you are using SPF 30, you will get 5 hours of sun protection (10 minutes x 30 = 5 hours).

These types of UV-B rays have a shorter wavelength, penetrate less into the skin, and are responsible for superficial sunburns, erythema, and redness.

The SPF is not an indication of high protection against these UVA rays, but only against UVB rays.


 On the other hand, UV-A rays have a broader wavelength with the ability to penetrate deeper layers of the skin, breaking down collagen, elastin and activating melanocytes found in the innermost layer of the epidermis. They are responsible for premature photo-aging and hyper-pigmentation spots. 

We already know SPF refers to protection against UVB ultraviolet rays, but it does not ensure protection against UVA rays, for that we must look at the UVA symbol and that we sometimes find it in 3 different nomenclatures:

  1. UVA ( inside a circle): When we see this graphic symbol (UVA around a circle) it tells us that our sunscreen protects at least 30% of the SPF value against UVA rays, this 30% is the minimum recommended by European regulations.
  2. UVA (circle with 5 stars): Now then! If on your sunscreen you find the acronym UVA around a circle with 5 stars (UK Boots Test), it means that these sunscreens have reinforced protection against UVA rays, reaching a protection of 90% of the SPF value, Providing much higher protection compared to the minimum recommended that we remember, it is the UVA symbol within the circle. If your skin is prone to hyper-pigmentation, you suffer from vitiligo, you have sensitive skin or you simply want reinforced protection, always look for this symbol!
  3. UVA (represented as PA+++++): There is another nomenclature to show protection against UVA rays, it is the symbol PA (Protection Grade of UVA) and the Japanese measurement system is also classified as:
    1. Very high: PA++++
    2. High: PA+++
    3. Medium: PA++
    4. Low: PA+


When choosing a sunscreen, we must consider its level of resistance. This is indicated by:

Waterproof or Very Water Resistant: This labeling tells us that the sunscreen maintains its protective capacity after 4 20-minute baths in water (80 min).

In this case, after 80 minutes we must renew its application, as long as we have not dried with the towel after one of those baths; on the contrary, we must reapply immediately.

Water Resistant: The sunscreen maintains its protective capacity after 2 baths of 20 minutes (40 min).

In this case, after 40 minutes we must renew its application, as long as we have not dried with the towel after one of those baths; on the contrary, we must reapply immediately.

Although sunscreens offer water resistance and are a plus, and very useful for people who practice sports outdoors, or people who have sweating problems, we recommend continuing to reapply the sunscreen after each swim, or drying with a towel.


At International Cosmetic, we look for 90% of our sunscreens with reinforced UVA. We have selected some of them for you:

  • 5α Control No-sebum Sun Lotion SPF50+ by Dr. Ceuracle , with non-irritating mineral filters, matte effect, oil-free and non-comedogenic, with a completely liquid texture that does not leave a white or dense residue on the skin.
  • Cica Regen Vegan Sun SPF50+ from Dr. Ceuracle , packed with Centella Asiatica and with a very light texture that calms and reduces redness in the most sensitive skin.

And finally, we already know that body sunscreen should not be used for the face, since face sunscreen is specially designed to ensure good tolerance for each skin type.

That's why don't forget to choose body sunscreens for this summer!