The effects of exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), 280–400 nm, in different life histories and development stages of the kelps, Lessonia nigrescens and L. trabeculata, collected in the south-east Pacific coast (30°S) were evaluated in the laboratory. Germination and viability (motile zoospores, settled spores), diameter of the primary cell of the gametophytes, percentage of female gametophytes, fertility and sporophytes production were measured after exposure to three radiation treatments (PAR; PAR + UVA; PAR + UVA + UVB). The effects of UVR in young sporophytes (diploid stage) were evaluated as changes in maximal quantum yield of chlorophyll fluorescence of photosystem II (PSII) (Fv/Fm). A significant decrease in all variables was observed for the treatment that included UVB (PAR + UVA + UVB) after 2 and 4 h of exposure, in relation to the control. The motile spores were more sensitive to UVR exposure compared to settled spores and gametophytes, suggesting that along with an increase in ontogenetic development; there is an increase in the tolerance to UVR. In addition, it was observed that early stages of the intertidal L. nigrescens were more tolerant to UVR compared to the subtidal L. trabeculata. These results allow initially to infer that UVR may be regarded as an important environmental factor influencing the upper limit of distribution of these species, mainly through its detrimental effects on the early stages of the life cycle.