Sunblock vs. Sunscreen: What’s the Difference?
Sunblock vs sunscreen—what exactly are their similarities and differences? Sunblock and sunscreen are both products designed to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful effects. However, there are significant differences between the two. Understanding these differences is important when choosing the right product for your skin and your needs.
Before I begin, let me quickly introduce myself! My name is Gretchen Gatan Fragada and I’m a writer and managing editor based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Welcome to Greta’s Junkyard—a dump of topics on beauty, lifestyle, travel, and more. This is a creative outlet I started back in 2013 where I document the many milestones in my life as well as write about my favorite things. Some people often wonder if there’s a difference between sunblock and sunscreen. So I’m hoping that this article gives them more insight!
Sunblock, as the name suggests, is a physical barrier that blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the skin. It is usually made with mineral-based ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that sit on top of the skin and reflect the UV rays away. Sunblock is typically thicker and more opaque than sunscreen. Moreover, it tends to stay on the skin longer, even when you sweat or swim. Sunblock is generally considered to be more effective at protecting the skin from the sun. This is especially true for people with sensitive skin or those who spend long periods of time in direct sunlight. I also recommend this better if you’re an athlete who plays outdoor sports like me, or if you’re planning to hit the beach!
On the other hand, sunscreen is a chemical-based product that absorbs the UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. More often than not, sunscreen is lighter and more easily absorbed into the skin. Additionally, it comes in a wide range of formulations such as lotions, sprays, gels, and creams. People who want a product that is easier to apply and more comfortable to wear prefer sunscreen. Especially if it’s for everyday use!
Sunblock vs Sunscreen
There are some other key differences between sunblock and sunscreen that are worth noting. For example, sunblock is typically labeled with an SPF rating, which stands for Sun Protection Factor. This rating indicates how much protection the product provides against UVB rays, which are the primary cause of sunburn. Meanwhile, sunscreen is labeled with a broad-spectrum rating. This means it protects against both UVB and UVA rays. UVA rays are responsible for premature skin aging and contribute to the risk of skin cancer.
Another difference between sunblock and sunscreen is their ingredients. Sunblock often contains mineral-based ingredients, which are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Sunscreen contains a variety of chemical ingredients that can potentially irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction. Some people may also have concerns about the safety of some of these chemical ingredients. One such ingredient is oxybenzone, which has been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects in laboratory studies. This is why it’s safer for pregnant and breastfeeding women to use sunblock instead of sunscreen.
While sunblock and sunscreen both offer protection from the sun, they work in different ways. They have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately, the choice between sunblock and sunscreen will depend on your personal preference, skin type, and the level of protection you need. It’s always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist like Dr. Erika Kim Chan to determine the best products for your skin and your specific needs!