Published By: Ishani Karmakar

Sunblock Vs Sunscreen – What’s The Difference? Which One Should You Get?

Sunblock and sunscreen are terms often used interchangeably, but they refer to two distinct types of skin protection against the sun's harmful rays.

Understanding the difference between these two can significantly impact your skin health, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Here's a detailed exploration of sunblock versus sunscreen, helping you decide which one you should get.

Sunblock vs. Sunscreen: The Fundamental Difference

Physical vs. Chemical Barrier

Sunblock acts as a physical barrier, reflecting the sun's rays away from the skin. It contains active mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which physically block the sun's radiation.

Sunscreen, on the other hand, gets absorbed into the skin and then absorbs the UV rays; then converts the rays into heat, which then gets released from the body. The active ingredients in sunscreens are usually chemicals like oxybenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, avobenzone, homosalate, and octinoxate.

Protection Spectrum

Sunblocks are typically broad-spectrum, protecting against both UVA (aging rays that penetrate deeply into the skin) and UVB (burning rays that cause sunburn) radiation.

Sunscreens can also offer broad-spectrum protection, but you need to check the label to ensure it protects against both types of UV radiation.

Visibility on the Skin

Sunblocks are often thicker and may leave a white or tinted residue on the skin, making them more visible.

Sunscreens tend to be more invisible once absorbed into the skin, making them preferable for daily use under makeup.

Resistance to Water and Sweat

Sunblocks, due to their physical barrier properties, tend to be more water and sweat-resistant, making them ideal for activities like swimming or heavy exercise.

Sunscreens can also be formulated to be water-resistant, but they usually need to be reapplied more frequently, especially after sweating or swimming.

Which One Should You Get?

The choice between sunblock and sunscreen depends on several factors, including your skin type, the activities you're engaging in, and your personal preferences. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

For Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, sunblock might be a better choice because it's less likely to cause skin irritation. The physical ingredients in sunblocks are generally gentler than the chemical ingredients in sunscreens.

For Everyday Use

If you're looking for a product for daily use, especially under makeup, sunscreen might be the better option because it's less visible on the skin and can be found in formulations suitable for various skin types.

For Extended Outdoor Activities

For long periods spent outdoors, especially in water or while sweating, a water-resistant sunblock is advisable. Its physical barrier is less likely to wash off, providing longer-lasting protection.

For Broad-Spectrum Protection

While both sunblock and sunscreen can offer broad-spectrum protection, always read the label to ensure the product blocks both UVA and UVB rays. This is crucial for preventing sunburn, premature aging, and reducing the risk of skin diseases.

For Environmental Considerations

Some sunscreen ingredients, notably oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been found to harm marine life and coral reefs. If you're environmentally conscious, look for reef-safe products, which are typically physical sunblocks.

Application Tips for Optimal Protection

Regardless of whether you choose sunblock or sunscreen, proper application is key to ensuring maximum protection:

Apply generously and evenly to all exposed skin 30 minutes before going outdoors.

Reapply every two hours, or more frequently if you're swimming or sweating.

Don't forget easily missed spots like the ears, neck, tops of feet, and the edges of clothing or swimwear.

Both sunblock and sunscreen play essential roles in protecting our skin from the sun's harmful rays. The choice between them should be based on your specific skin needs, activities, and personal preferences. Remember, the best sunscreen or sunblock is the one you will use consistently and correctly. Always look for broad-spectrum protection with an SPF of 30 or higher and consider the environmental impact of the ingredients in your chosen product. By making an informed choice between sunblock and sunscreen, you can enjoy the sun safely, keeping your skin healthy and protected year-round.