How to Choose Between Sunblock and Sunscreen

  • Sunblock is any material or ingredient that blocks the rays of the sun from penetrating the skin.
  • Sunscreen is a type of sun protectant that filters or screen the UV (ultraviolet) rays of the sun.
  • Dermatologists share the difference and advantages between sunscreen and sunblock.

Caring for the skin includes protecting it from too much sun exposure. If you are always under the sun or love being outside, you need to use something to protect your skin. While several products can offer skin protection, sunblock and sunscreen are the most widely used.


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Sunblock acts as a physical shield that blocks the ultraviolet rays from entering the skin. It contains titanium or zinc oxide as the active ingredient. It appears opaque when applied on the skin.


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Sunscreens work by absorbing the ultraviolet rays then converting it into heat before releasing it from the skin. It contains organic compounds like octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate and ecamsule. Some have active ingredients such as PABA ( aminobenzoic acid), oxybenzone or avobenzone. These chemicals work to absorb the sun’s rays and prevent it from penetrating the skin.

Sunblock vs Sunscreen

Sunblock and sunscreen both provide skin protection against the sun. According to Cristina Psomadakis, a London-based dermatologist, sunblock and sunscreen can differ in the following aspects:

Skin protection

Sunblock prevents the rays of the sun from penetrating the skin while sunscreens absorb the harmful rays before they penetrate the skin. Also, sunblocks are formulated to stop damage caused by UVB rays such as sunburns, and sunscreens protect against UVA rays that cause skin damages.


Sunblock can be slathered on the skin while sunscreen needs to be rubbed in the skin to be effective. Sunscreen does not leave a mark on the skin and disappears entirely upon rubbing it in. On the other hand, sunblock appears opaque and leaves a white mark on the skin because it stays on the skin surface. Both the sunblock and sunscreen needs to be re-applied.    

Allergic reactions

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Sunscreens contain chemicals that can cause allergic reactions and irritations as they penetrate the skin. Sunblock is only applied on the surface of the skin, so they are generally well-tolerated and does not contain any chemical ingredients. Dr. Psomadakis recommends using sunblock for people with extra sensitive skin or those with skin conditions.

According to Rhoda Q. Klein, a dermatologist in Connecticut, it is best to choose the right sunblock or sunscreen for your skin type because anything applied to the skin may produce irritation.

What do dermatologists recommend?

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Sunblocks and sunscreens contain a sun protection factor (SPF). The recommended SPF for these products should be at least SPF 30, which is enough to block 97% of the UVB rays. Dermatologists explain that no sunscreen or sunblock can block 100% of the sun’s rays. Also, dermatologists recommend using sun protection products all year long, either on a sunny or a cloudy day and applying it not only for the body but also for the face.   

Source: Health

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