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Sunscreen Vs. Sunblock: What Makes Them Different and How to Choose?

Although they may sound similar, their mechanisms differ


Sunscreen vs. sunblock comparison, sun protection mechanisms, choosing between sunscreen and sunblock, UV rays and skin protection, environmental impact of sunscreen, eco-friendly sun protection, chemical vs. physical sunscreen, SPF criteria for sun protection, water-resistant sunscreens, broad-spectrum sunscreens, biodegradable sunscreen benefits, reef-safe sunscreens, sunblock aesthetics and transparency, sunscreen ingredients and sensitivities, sunblock for sensitive skin, invisible sunblock formulas, FDA guidelines for sun protection terms, accurate sunscreen labeling, dermatologist-recommended sun protection, sun protection for children, preventing sunburn and premature aging.
Sunscreen vs. Sunblock

In the realm of sun protection, sunblock and sunscreen play vital roles, each employing unique methods to shield the skin from the sun's relentless rays. This article aims to shed light on the differences between these two forms of protection, providing valuable insights to empower you in making the right choice for your needs.


Sunscreen vs. Sunblock: What Makes Them Different?


Sunscreen vs sunblock, but what actually makes them different? Sunscreen, often labelled as chemical sunscreen, stands as the more prevalent choice for shielding against UV rays. Operating by filtering or screening the sun's ultraviolet rays, it permits some penetration while blocking the majority. In contrast, sunblock, recognized as physical sunscreen, rests atop the skin's surface, reflecting the sun's rays away as a protective barrier.


FDA Guidelines and Navigating Sun Protection Options


Since 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited the use of misleading terms like "sunblock," "waterproof," and "sweatproof" on product labels, emphasizing accurate information for consumers. When navigating sun protection options, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises seeking products that provide broad-spectrum coverage against UVA and UVB rays, boast an SPF of 30 or higher, and are water-resistant. Both sunblock and sunscreen, when applied correctly, prove effective in preventing sunburn, premature aging, and tanning.


Biodegradable Sunscreen (aka sunblock): A Sustainable Choice


A rising star in sun protection is biodegradable sunscreen, distinguished by its ability to shield against UV rays without relying on the chemical ingredients commonly found in traditional sunscreens. Often referred to as "reef-safe" or "coral-safe," biodegradable sunscreen is celebrated for its eco-friendly nature. As it washes off in the water, it poses minimal risk to plant and animal life, making it a sustainable choice for conscientious consumers.


Sunblock Ingredients: Invisible Protection


Often referred to as Mineral, mineral-based sunblock or Biodegradable sunscreens because it predominantly uses mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, creating a formula that forms a physical barrier on the skin, completely blocking UV rays. This category of SPF protection has an association with white cast, however, with the advancement of modern sunblock brands, they are often invisible once rubbed into the skin and leave little to no white cast.


Sunscreen Ingredients: Chemical Absorption of UV Rays


In contrast, traditional sunscreens leverage various chemicals, such as oxybenzone or avobenzone, to absorb UV rays after they have penetrated the skin. Individuals with sensitivities to certain sunscreen ingredients may find solace in the gentler formulations of sunblock.


Is the protection provided by sunscreen superior to that of sunblock?


While both offer equal protection, their distinction lies in how they guard against UV rays. Note that sunscreen requires around 15 minutes to absorb into the skin to provide optimal UV protection, whereas sunblock works immediately by providing a protective barrier from UV rays upon application. There is no wait time with sunblock.


Is it acceptable to apply sunblock on a daily basis?


Absolutely. In fact, it's advisable to use sunblock (or sunscreen) daily. This routine safeguards your skin against the detrimental effects of UV rays, ensuring comprehensive protection.


Choosing Based on Preferences and Considerations


It is crucial to be mindful of additional elements in sunscreens, like fragrances, added chemicals, oils, or insect repellent, while sunblocks, which may be slightly thicker in consistency offer environmental benefits and may be better suited for those who are seeking a more natural SPF alternative, may appeal to those who prioritize particular aesthetics.


Both sunblock and sunscreen serve as effective barriers against the sun, utilizing different ingredients and application methods. The choice between them depends on personal preferences and considerations, including potential sensitivities to specific components. Always ensure the selected product meets the criteria of being broad-spectrum, with an SPF of at least 30 and water resistance. Additionally, the emergence of biodegradable sunscreen provides a sustainable alternative, offering protection without the environmental repercussions often associated with traditional sunscreens. Regular check-ups with a dermatologist and consistent sun protection, even on overcast days, remain crucial for optimal skin health.


Note: On June 21, 2023, the FDA prohibited the use of the term "sunblock."


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