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Sunblock Vs. Sunscreen

Deepa Kartha
The debate between sunblock and sunscreen has been going around among experts as to which is the most effective way of protecting the skin from the sun's dangerous UV rays. Read on to find the effectiveness as well as the difference between sunblock and sunscreen.
Exposing one's skin to the harmful rays of the sun can give rise to problems like sunburn, premature aging, and sometimes even, skin cancer. Hence, it has become extremely important for people to use lotions that protect their skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun.
Most people believe that sunblock and sunscreen are the names of the same product which helps in protecting the skin from the sun's UV rays
However, contrary to popular belief, sunblock and sunscreen are two different products, and they protect the skin from the sun in different ways. Hence, it is important to know the difference between sunblock and sunscreen before you invest in one of them.

Sunblock or Sunscreen: Which is Better?

After knowing the difference between sunblock and sunscreen, it will be easier to opt for the one that suits your skin as well as requirements. The ingredients of these products are also mentioned here. So, if you are allergic to any of them, you can opt for the safer one. Here are few important things that you ought to know about sunblock and sunscreen.

What is a Sunblock?

Sunblock, as the name suggests, is a lotion that blocks the UV rays of the sun from penetrating the skin. The sunblock ingredients are mainly zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which not only protect the skin from the sun's UVB rays, but also from its UVA rays.
The best thing about sunblock is that it does not contain any chemicals, and hence, can be used by people who have very sensitive skin. Due to this reason, sunblock is a good product that can be used for babies too. You may use a no-fragrance sunscreen for kids, if they have sensitive skin.
A sunblock lotion contains metallic materials from which the UV rays get scattered after reflecting. Thus, it acts as a wall or a barrier between the sun and the skin. However, the reason why many people do not like to use the sunblock for protecting their skin from the sun is because it is opaque, and can be quite messy.
Nevertheless, nowadays, one can find sunblocks that are light and transparent just like the sunscreens. One thing people have to keep in mind while picking out a sunblock is to check the ingredients. There are many products in the market which are called sunblock, but actually contain the ingredients of sunscreen.
There are also products which are a mixture of sunscreen and sunblock. So, if you want a pure sunblock, do not forget to check the ingredients thoroughly.

What is a Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a popular sun-protecting product as compared to sunblock. Though this is a most commonly used product, it is not as effective as sunblock in giving the skin complete protection.
A sunscreen lotion gives protection to the skin by absorbing the sun's UV rays. However, unlike a sunblock lotion, a sunscreen lotion is only effective in keeping away the harmful effects of sun's UVB and not the UVA rays.
Hence, it can be said that sunscreen is not the best product for preventing skin cancer. 'Broad spectrum' indicates that a sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB.
Ingredients like glycerol PABA, padimate A, and padimate O protect from UVB rays. UVA protectors are oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, and Parsol 1789. It has been noticed that some people have an allergic reaction to PABA. They should use sunscreens without it. According to the FDA, oxybenzone is safe and effective.
However, some experts say that it being linked to hormone disruption and cell damage, may lead to skin cancer. Some sunscreens contain retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A, for its antioxidant properties. It is true that it protects against fine lines, but it acts like a carcinogen, and can damage the skin seriously.
A sunscreen lotion can contain cinnamates, salicylates, titanium oxide, dioxybenzone, benzophenones, etc. People who have sensitive skin may be allergic to some of these ingredients, which can cause skin problems. However, it has been found that the sunscreen is the best product that helps in protecting the skin from sun burns.
According to the argument that is discussed here, it can be said that sunblock is better than sunscreen, when it comes to overall skin protection. However, both are effective in protecting the skin and hence, it is fine to apply either of the two while going out in the sun, rather than applying no lotion at all.
Another important thing that you have to consider while choosing a sun-protecting lotion is its SPF factor. The higher the SPF factor of the lotion, the more protection it would provide to the skin. However, the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends an SPF 30 product for overall skin protection.
An SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays. An SPF 45 product may block about 98% of rays, but none offers 100% protection. The FDA has stated that SPF higher than 50 is inherently misleading.
And, for continued protection, it is important to apply the sunscreen or sunblock after every one/two hours (depending upon the time of exposure to the sun). It should be applied after swimming, drying off, or sweating. Experts say that most people use a lotion sparingly.
The amount of lotion that would fit in a shot glass should be applied at a time to protect the whole body, if you are going to spend time in the sun, wearing a swimsuit. Those who have skin problems should consult a dermatologist before buying any skin product.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.