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Sunblock chemistry and you

Out here in the Black Rock Desert, sunblock is not just a good idea, it's essential for your survival. However, you should note that not all sunblocks will protect you the same way, even if the SPF ratings are equal. Most over-the-counter products offer basic protection from only one type of ultraviolet radiation, known as UVB. For more complete protection, you should be using a sunblock that protects against both UVB and UVA, a second type of ultraviolet radiation.

UVA is the spectrum of sunlight that causes superficial sunburn. UVB is a longer spectrum of light that penetrates more deeply into the skin. It's believed that UVB may cause skin cancer, and its penetration builds over time. Check the label of your sunblock¸the compound avobenzone offers the fullest protection against UVA rays, and can be found in some Shade˙, Coppertone˙, and Water Babies˙ products. For the most complete protection though, your sunblock should contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide¸both of which act as a physical block¸along with additional active ingredients. And be warned: sunblocks that are labeled as "broad-spectrum" or "UVA/UVB" are less protective, since they contain oxybenzone or some other ingredient that blocks only a portion of the UVA spectrum. Also, don't forget¸the SPF rating on sunblock only pertains to UVB rays. So grease up liberally and don't get burned!

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