Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Akruti Khandkar (Journalist)  on 10th Oct 2020

What Does the PA+ Rating in Sunscreens Mean

What Does the PA+ Rating

Do you pay attention to your sunscreen label? If yes, you might have noticed something called SPF number or PA+. Today we'll do a thorough review of what this rating means and how it affects your sunscreen.  

Why Is Protecting Your Skin From The Sun Important?

Before digging into PA and PA++ rating systems' puzzles, it's essential to learn why sunscreen and sun protection is significant.

Whether you're lying on a bright seashore or sledding on Himalayan mountains, any time you are out- your skin is vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation.

Everyone is a once in a life victim of sunburn. Red, irritating, swollen skin and heat are signs of the familiar burn from the sun. If you ever look at your burnt skin under a microscope, you'll find damaged blood cells and skin cells. Rehashed burns from the sun lead to dry and discolored skin that can be easily harmed.

Too much exposure to UV rays can damage your DNA in your skin cells, and this harm can cause skin cancer.  

There Are Three Types Of Ultraviolet Radiation

UVA rays: This kind of radiation enters deeply into the skin and may prompt skin aging and skin cancer.

UVB rays: This kind of radiation is liable for the discoloration in your skin—your tan or burn from the sun is an immediate aftereffect of UVB rays.

UVC rays: This kind of radiation is consumed by the world's climate and won't cause damage to your skin.

Fortunately, this is one kind of UV radiation you don't have to stress over.

A significant role of sunscreen is to shield your skin against both UVA and UVB rays.

Dr. Mona Gohara gives a perfect technique to remember these rays – UV-(A) means aging.

UV-(B) means burns. 

There are three kinds of SPF sunscreen-  

To have a proper insight into the rating system, it's critical to see how sunscreen protects your skin.

Sunscreens are available in several varieties: gels, wax, sprays, lotion, and mineral powders. These are the most common ones; however, sunscreen items are usually a blend of organic and inorganic chemicals.  

  • Physical (inorganic) SPF-It creates a layer on the skin and obstructs the UV rays from entering our skin. They contain ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both.  
  • Chemical (organic) SPF-It sinks into the skin and absorbs UV rays. It is less oily and thin in texture. They contain at least one of the accompanying ingredients, avobenzone, octisalate, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate.
  • Broad-spectrum SPF- it shields your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. An everyday sunscreen protects you from UV-B rays; however, a broad-spectrum sunscreen is ideal and covers you from a wide range of UV rays.  

As per the FDA, the sunscreen that passes the broad-spectrum test is labeled "Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens." The products "Broad Spectrum SPF15 or higher" also reduce the chance of skin cancer and early signs of skin aging, adds FDA. 

Do you know?

Photostability is another term you should also check in sunscreen labels. "Photostability" implies that the filters don't collapse in the sun. 

What is the PA rating system?

PA is a simplified version of "Protection Grade of UVA." The SPF rating on a sunscreen bottle represents Sun Protection Factor, an estimation of how long you can remain outside during the day and be shielded from the UVB rays (if you're applying sunscreen the correct way). UVA beams are available, as well; this is the place the PA+ rating system becomes possibly the most critical factor.  

Why should I care about these rays?

Both UVA and UVB rays are detrimental to our skin. UVB rays are accountable for burning and redness in your skin, while UVA beams are known as the sun's silent murderer since you don't feel them influencing skin.

For quite a while — until the 1990s — individuals didn't understand precisely how harming UVA rays were. It turns out. They are the essential driver of aging and skin cancer.
Essentially, shielding yourself from both UVA and UVB rays is essential, so understanding the skincare label is a must-have skill.  

Bifurcation of rating system- 

PA+ = light UVA protection
PA++ = Moderate UVA protection
PA+++ = High UVA protection
PA++++ = Extremely High UVA protection

These ratings associate directly with a factor called "Persistent Pigment Darkening" (PPD), which determines how long it requires for the skin to tan. If your skincare product has a PPD of 2, it takes twice as long for your skin to tan when secured versus the amount of time it would require while unsecured. Similarly, if your product has a PPD of 5, it would need five times as long.

Do you know?

A few sunscreens incorporate PA+ ratings on their items. The letters "PA" trailed by in addition to signs (PA+, PA++, PA+++, and PA++++) on a mark are a rating system created in Japan to speak to the amount of UVA protection the item offers.  

Many individuals are starting to see that it is so indispensable to shield the skin from UVA and UVB rays; everybody should use the skincare products that do as such. There's no reason not to!

Many dermatologists suggest wearing sunscreen regardless of any weather. Don't omit the highest points of the ears, neck, and back of the hands.  

SPF: Sun Protection Factor!

SPF shields your skin from UVB rays that originate from the sun. UVB energy causes redness and burns from the sun on the skin.

As per AAD, you apply the sunscreen with an SPF 30(at least) blocks approximately 90 % of the UVB rays. A higher number of SPF is more beneficial for your skin, although no sunscreen gives 100% assurance of security.  


High SPF sunscreen works for the same time as low SPF sunscreen. It means that high SPF creams do not allow you to spend additional time in the sun.  

Ever got confused with the SPF numbers? You are not alone.

There are many SPF numbers on the label (SPF15 SPF30 SPF50), and these numbers tell how much UVB rays your sunscreen can strain out.  

  • SPF 15: 93% of the sun's UVB rays 
  • SPF 30: 97% of the sun's UVB rays 

The AAD suggests using an SPF 30 or higher for maximum protection. 

Advice by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) 

Every customer should keep these points in mind before buying any sunscreen.
Choosing a sunscreen with precaution is the ultimate goal. We spend away a lot of time in the sun, which increases skin aging and skin cancer. To reduce the risk of these dangers, FDA advice to pick broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15+ with some protective measures: 

  • Limit your time in the sun. Avoid stepping out between hours 10 am to 2 pm (the sun rays are strongest) 
  • Pick the attire covering your skin exposed to the sun (for example- long-sleeved shirt, hat, sunglasses, pants) if possible. 
  • Pick a water-resistant sunscreen if you sweat a lot or you go swimming.  
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every 2hr regardless of water-resistant creams. 


No cream is waterproof because eventually, your sunscreen washes off. The "water-resistant" are labeled when the sunscreens are tested as per the SPF test procedure.   

Yes, several moisturizers have SPF too. 

SPF in moisturizers goes through the same testing process as sunscreens. Nonetheless, these moisturizers are very thin and less likely to be water-resistant.

A moisturizer with an SPF will help secure you against limited quantities of UV radiation.

It is also significant that lotions containing an SPF may not have any UVA protection and, therefore, won't protect against UV-caused dangers.  

How to Apply Sunscreen 

Sunscreen ensures that your skin is safe from early aging and skin cancer. However, this clause works only when applied to the product correctly. Follow these tips from dermatologists while applying sunscreen:  

  • Choose/select a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, water-resistant, PA rating, or broad-spectrum coverage. 
  • Apply sunscreen before going outside. It takes roughly around 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect your skin.
  • Apply enough sunscreen. Most grown-ups need around 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to completely cover their body.  
  • Apply sunscreen to all skin, not secured by clothing. Recall your neck, face, ears, highest points of your feet, and legs. For hard‐to‐reach regions like your back, request that somebody help you or use a spray sunscreen. To protect your lips, apply/use a lip balm with an SPF 15.  

Should kids use the same sunscreen as adults?

For infants and children, just as those with sensitive skin, dermatologists suggest physical sunscreens since they're significantly less liable to cause rashes or other hypersensitive responses.

Since it tends to be hard for kids who are a bit older to sit still for sunscreen applications, use spray sunscreen, make sure to hold the nozzle close, and splash until the skin flickers to be sure you're applying enough.

Pick a sunscreen with all these fundamentals and achieve the goal of healthier skin.