What Does PA On Sunscreen Labels Stand For?

PA japanese rating system

Have you ever noticed that some sunscreens and skincare products, especially those from Asian brands, have a weird PA+ rating next to the SPF level? It’s obvious it has something to do with the level of sun protection offered by the sunscreen, but isn’t that what SPF states too?

The difference between SPF and PA

Nope. SPF refers to the protection provided against sunburn-inducing UVB rays, and simply tells you how long you can stay in the sun without burning. But UVB rays aren’t the only type of UV radiation that causes serious damage to your skin.

UVA rays, which cause premature aging and contribute to the development of cancer, are very harmful too and, unlike UVB rays, they manage to penetrate through clouds and windows, so you’re not safe from them even when it’s cloudy or you are indoors.

PA, which means Protection Grade of UVA rays, is a rating system created in Japan (that’s why it is mostly used in Asia) to indicate the level of protection from UVA rays. The more plus signs (the maximum is three) next to PA, the higher the protection.

PA system isn’t recognized everywhere

The PA system isn’t recognized in the US or Europe yet. In the US, sunscreens that protect against the entire UV range (unfortunately, not all do yet) must be labelled “broad spectrum”, while European sunscreens are stamped with a UVA seal if they provide UVA protection that’s at least one-third the SPF.

The lack of an universal standardized rating system for UVA rays can be very confusing, especially if you’re buying yours online or while on holiday in a different country. Therefore, the best way to make sure your sunscreen also offers protection against UVA rays is to check the ingredient list. It must contain at least one of these filters: Avobenzone (Parsol 1789), Mexoryl XS (Ecamsule), Zinc Oxide, or Tinosorb S (Bemotrizinol).

Remember, you need to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. If a sunscreen doesn’t provide that, it’s not worth using it.

Do you use sunscreen labelled according to the PA system?

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    • Gio says

      Trisha, oh thank you!

      I wish this system would be adopted everywhere. It’s very simple and would make things easier for everyone.

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