Sun Care Jargon Made Simple

In all aspects of beauty or skincare there’s a whole lot of jargon – from buzz words, hot ingredients, the active bits that really make them work and the ones you sort of assume you know but maybe don’t fully ‘get’ or maybe want to know a little more information about. So as part of the suncare week with Ultrasun I wanted to do a sun care jargon buster to run through some of the key terms and ingredients that will help make the best decisions when it comes to your own skin protection.

Sun Care Jargon Ultra Sun Tan Accelerator

Suncare week is sponsored by Ultrasun


These are the rays that burn you. It is UVB rays that cause ‘sunburn’ we see ourselves after overexposure. This is measured by SPF (Stands for Sun Protection Factor). The SPF rating system was developed back in 1962 by Franz Greiter to measure the capacity of a sunscreen to block UVB radiation. The current SPF rating system applies ONLY to UVB rays, since those are the rays that cause sunburn.


These are the ageing, DNA and cell changing rays (responsible for skin cancer). They penetrate below the skin’s surface which is why you require a high level UVA filter in the sun cream you choose. 
UV rays penetrate light cloud cover so you need protection all year round regardless of weather conditions. This is something important to note so you get the full spectrum – always look for something that offers both UVB AND UVA protection when choosing the appropriate sun cream for your skin type.

Understanding UVA protection in products

In the UK there is the star rating system for products, if sold across Europe products need to show the EU-recommended UVA circle logo. To be able to show this symbol the UVA protection for each sunscreen should be at least 33% of the labelled SPF. The two systems work independently and therefore are not directly comparable. As an example Ultrasun Family SPF 30 product would only need to have a UVA filter of 33% to meet EU standards,  whereas in reality it far exceed this with a filter of 90%. We test thus to a higher level than the EU system, and we’ve recently updated our packaging to make it even clearer for customers, by  actually showing UVA % on all products. 

Sun Care Jargon

Infrared A

Thought it was just the UVA or UVB rays to consider?! Nope… you also have the pesky Infrared A to factor in. Standard sun screens do not protect against Infrared-A because the rays cannot be blocked, so protection must take place inside the cell. Infrared-A damage is caused by free-radicals overwhelming the body’s own antioxidant defences, leading to the release of an aggressive enzyme which attacks collagen and elastin. This latest technology means that you can now protect yourself against harmful Infrared-A rays, as well as UVA and UVB. By using a sun care brand that includes Infrared A Protection, like Ultrasun, you will be getting protection from the broadest range of the sun’s rays. Ultrasun products contain a specific high-tech complex of anti-oxidants to provide this Infrared A protection.

Pigmentation/age spots

Pigmentation is when the skin darkens. The difference to tanning is that pigmentation occurs in patches rather than in an even fashion. Brown patches of pigmentation can appear all over the body and particularly on the hands, décolletage and shoulder areas. This can be either hormonal (pregnancy) or environmental (sun exposure and UVA rays penetrate deep into your skin and cause both pigmentation and ageing). Pigmentation, hyper pigmentation or age spots occur when the DNA of the skin is damaged by sun exposure and it causes melanin production to be affected.

Sun Care Jargon


Antioxidants help counter free radicals. I like to think of them as little pac-men that are munching away/destroying the rogue anti-oxidants that are bouncing all over the place and damaging your cells in the process. Vitamins C & E both are powerful anti-oxidants to protect you from free radical damage.

What’s the difference between sunscreen/sun cream & sunblock?

The difference between these terms comes down to the formulation. Sun protection products can be sprays, gels, creams or lotions. The terms have been confused with filters as sun protection products use both chemical filters to absorb UVA & UVB rays so that your skin cells don’t have to. Or physical filters protect the skin physically with a layer or barrier so those rays find it hard to get to the skin and do their damage. Both are great, however, there are some considerations.

Ultrasun UK MD, Abi Cleeve explains: ”At Ultrasun we look for an optimal balance between both physical and chemical filters, so we look at smaller particles of Titanium and Zinc that will physically stop the Sun’s rays or prevent some of the Sun’s rays getting to the skin, combined with chemical absorbers in a quantity and a level that the skin can cope with. It is very important as manufacturers that we look at the whole activity of what our customers are doing. Most products are formulated to EU guidelines but as responsible manufacturers we must consider the bigger picture including other products the customer may be using throughout the day. Minimising chemical ingredients in a sun product, as Ultrasun does, when it may be one of up to 15 cosmetic products used by someone in a day, is the best approach.”

It is also important to note that there actually is not such thing as a sunblock nothing totally blocks the sun.

Ingredient Buzz Words:


A revolutionary and rare natural anti-ageing enzyme that protects the skin from the effects of UVA induced premature photo ageing. (found in all Ultrasun Face Formulas)


This is the magic natural tan enhancer, which has been shown to accelerate the tanning process by over 40% in ten days.

Superoxide Dismutase

Activates the skin’s own biological repair system to neutralise sun induced skin damage.

Less is more

When it comes to ingredients, if you tend to be prone to irritation or sensitivity then the best advice is to avoid perfumes, mineral oils and preservatives such as parabens as these can cause reactions.

Ultrasun is available from Marks & Spencer and QVC 

Suncare week is sponsored by Ultrasun




  1. Simona Mazenyte
    May 22, 2017 / 11:17 am

    Hi Jen, an informative post on sun care industry jargon. I will add to this post the myth that high SPF number gives you better protection. SPF 30 offers only 4% more sun protection than an SPF 15 while an SPF 45 offers only 2% more than an SPF 30. The higher up you go, that percentage lessens. The real secret to protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is to use the right sun care product and reapply often. At the end of the day, the SPF number does not really matter.

    Simona | Skin Aspirations

    • Jen
      May 22, 2017 / 2:24 pm

      I was trying to explain this to someone the other day – so many misconceptions about sun protection out there!

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