What is a UV Stabilizer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A UV stabilizer is a product which is designed to prevent or slow degradation caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Exposure to sunlight causes products to break down over time, and in many products, they do so in a chain reaction process, with the rate of decay accelerating over time as more and more of the product is broken down. Degradation caused by UV exposure can be a serious problem with a wide range of products, and is generally undesirable.

Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

Plastics, synthetic rubber, and similar products are often treated with a UV stabilizer or have the stabilizer integrated into their manufacture. The concentration of the stabilizer varies, depending on how it acts and the specific needs of the product. Once stabilized, the product can still decay, but the process will be slowed. Especially if combined with sensible care, a UV stabilizer can extend a product's lifetime significantly.

Ultraviolet absorbers (UVAs) act by absorbing UV radiation before it reaches the product. These products need to be used in high concentrations to be effective, as otherwise they will not be able to absorb enough light to preserve the product. Hindered amine light stabilizers (HALS) work by trapping free radicals generated during the oxidation process, effectively halting the chain reaction which allows degradation to occur. These stabilizers can be added in lower concentrations because only a small amount is needed to be effective.

Adding a UV stabilizer can make a product more expensive, but this is viewed as an acceptable tradeoff because the product will last longer, justifying the increase in price. This can be an important safety issue in addition to a consumer one, as when some products decay, it can lead to dangerous conditions which could expose people to risk. Degradation caused by light exposure can also simply be a nuisance, as for example when a convertible roof leaks.

A wide range of UV stabilization products are available to people who need them. Many are manufactured by chemical companies and designed for specific applications, such as addition to plastic products to help them resist breakdown when they are used outdoors. It is also possible to order custom products for specific applications, although such products can be expensive if they are not in the regular product lineup of a manufacturer. Care must be taken when working with a UV stabilizer because some contain toxic components or will release hazardous materials when blended with the wrong products.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I would like to know it the effects of a UV additive remain the same over time. If added to protect the degradation of a bottle for example, is the UV additive as effective in a year, two years or five years as it was the day the bottle was made. Does the effectiveness of the additive diminish over time?


I bought a very expensive digital camcorder years ago, and one of the best – and least expensive – investments I ever made to protect my camera was to buy a UV filter.

The UV coating on the filter helps to reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the lens when I’m shooting outdoors. This is very important of course; if the lens ever gets ruined, there goes the camera.

For about ten bucks, it’s certainly worth it, and I recommend that you buy one if you don’t have it already for your camera. It’s cheap protection and you can certainly leave it on your lens all the time. That way you don’t have to worry about cleaning your lens or blowing off dust particles too.

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