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Glossary of Terms Relating to Sunscreen Cosmetics

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Sunscreen cosmetics play a vital role in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Understanding the terminology associated with sunscreen products is essential for effectively choosing and utilizing sun protection. This glossary aims to elucidate the key terms in the realm of sunscreen cosmetics.

UV (Ultraviolet)UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the sun. It is divided into three main types based on wavelength: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVA radiation comprises the longest wavelengths (320nm~400nm) among UV rays. It has strong penetrating power and can reach the dermis layer through the epidermis layer, causing deep skin damage. UVA exposure is also associated with skin cancer.


UVBUVB radiation has shorter wavelengths (280nm~320nm) than UVA and primarily affects the outer skin layers. UVB exposure causes sunburn and contributes to the development of skin cancer.
UVCUVC radiation has the shortest wavelengths (<280nm) and is largely absorbed by the Earth's ozone layer. It is of lesser concern for skin exposure.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor)


SPF indicates the level of protection a sunscreen offers against UVB rays. Use UVB to irradiate the skin, SPF = the time of sunburn erythema after applying sunscreen ÷ the time of sunburn erythema without sunscreen.

PFA (Protection Factor UVA)PFA is a measure of a sunscreen's protection against UVA rays. It quantifies the degree of protection a product offers against UVA-induced skin damage. PFA = MPPD with sunscreen ÷ MPPD without sunscreen.
PA+ / PA++ / PA+++The Protection Grade of UVA (PA) system, mainly used in Asian countries, categorizes sunscreen products based on the level of UVA protection they provide. The more plus signs, the higher the protection level.
MPPD (Minimum Persistent Pigment Darkening)After the skin is exposed to UVA, persistent stains may appear on the skin (the standard is to stay for 2 to 4 hours). The minimum UVA dose (or time) that causes this persistent stain is MPPD.
Broad Spectrum SunscreenSunscreen products with SPF 15 or above and that have passed the UVA protection test can be labeled as "broad spectrum". Sunscreen labeled as "broad spectrum" effectively protects the skin from both UVA and UVB radiation, offering comprehensive sun protection.
MED (Minimal Erythema Dose)MED indicates the minimum amount of UV radiation exposure required to cause skin redness (erythema). Sunscreen with higher SPF values extends the time it takes for an individual to reach their MED.
Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation, undergo a chemical reaction, and release the energy as heat. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.


Physical SunscreensPhysical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They work by forming a physical barrier that reflects and scatters UV radiation away from the skin.
Waterproof SunscreenWaterproof sunscreen formulations are designed to adhere to the skin and provide protection even when in contact with water or sweat, offering extended sun protection during water-based activities.


  1. Tae Hoon Kim, et al. Energies 2023, 16(5), 2231.
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