While many people lather on sunscreen during the summers, the reality is, no matter the weather, you've got to wear SPF every day of the year. UV rays that cause skin cancer and sun damage don't take a break, and neither should you.
In this article, we explain the real difference between sunscreen and sunblock to help you choose the right product for your skin. Read on to learn more.
What Is Sunscreen?
Sunscreen is a chemical defense that penetrates the skin and absorbs the UV rays before it reaches and causes damage to the dermal layers.
One of the primary factors behind skin aging and skin cancer are UVA rays. Did you know that UVB rays account for almost 95 percent of the radiation that penetrates the ozone layer?
Sun is a source of ultraviolet radiation and the UVA and UVB radiation is harmful to your skin. When the UV rays hit your skin, they affect the growth rate of your skin cells and the appearance of your skin.
UV rays are of two types - shorter rays or UVB rays and longer rays or UVA rays. Extended exposure to UVB rays may cause superficial damage to the outer layer of the skin or the epidermis like sunburns.
Since UVA rays last longer, they can penetrate deeper into the dermis and cause more permanent damage.
Unprotected exposure to UV radiation can cause a host of physical ailments. The short-term effect may be painful sunburn. In the long run, it can result in wrinkles or skin damage and, in the worst case, skin cancer.
Regardless of the time of day or season, UVA rays are always present. On the other hand, UVB rays are rare during mornings, evenings, and during winters.
Ingredients In Sunscreen
To absorb the harmful UV rays, some of the active ingredients in sunscreen are:
- Mexoryl SX
- Tinosorb S and M
- PABA and trolamine salicylate PABA
What Does Sunscreen Do?
A broad or full-spectrum sunscreen protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. The ingredients present in the product react with radiation before it penetrates the skin, absorbing the rays and releasing the energy as heat.
You need the action of both blocking and absorbing if you want to combat UVA and UVB rays.
Another essential element of sunscreen is the SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF does not mean the strength of protection. It’s a measure of protection from the amount of UVB exposure.
Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and one that offers UVA and UVB protection.
What Is Sunblock?
Sunblock is a physical way to defend against UV rays. It is also known as a physical sunscreen or mineral sunscreen. It sits on top of the skin and acts as a barrier.
It's called sunblock because it literally forms a physical shield to block the UV rays.
In chemical sunscreen,the ingredients present in the product absorb the UV rays before your skin can. A mineral sunblock's formulation is designed to obstruct the damage caused by UVB rays.
While the word sunscreen is very loosely used to describe a chemical or physical sun protectant, "sunblock" always describes physical UV protection products.
Ingredients In Sunblock
The active ingredients in a sunblock include titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which give it a thicker, more opaque consistency.
You may notice people wearing sunblock at the beach, as they will often have a streak of sunblock on their noses or other parts of their bodies.
What Does Sunblock Do?
Sunblock blocks and scatters the rays before they penetrate your skin.
Being the physical kind,a few products it leaves behind white streaks wherever you apply. Nowadays, ones which apply transparently are available as well. But the good thing is, you don’t need to re-apply often. It stays on the skin for a long time.
What Is The Difference Between Sunscreen And Sunblock?
The terms sunblock and sunscreen often get mixed up. There is a big difference between chemical sunscreen and physical sunblock. You need to get a little more specific about the two to understand each one.
Here are a few differences between a chemical sunscreen and a physical sunblock, so you know which one is right for you.
As sunblock offers a physical barrier, it’s okay to just smear it onto your body. There’s no need to wait for your skin to absorb the product either because it’s meant to form a physical barrier.
With sunblock, even application is key, so you don’t miss certain parts of your body and risk exposing them.
As chemical sunscreens do not form a physical barrier on your skin, even application isn’t an issue. Regardless, waiting is crucial with this type of sun protectant. Before you step out into the sun, give your skin at least 30 minutes to absorb it.
The amount of sunblock or sunscreen you need to put on your entire face is at least 1/2 teaspoon.
2. When To Apply
Chemical sunscreens require constant reapplication. If you apply sunscreen an hour before heading out, you should ideally reapply it an hour after you get outside. If you’re looking for continuous protection, you need to reapply the product every two or three hours.
A physical sunblock works almost immediately, and you can apply it right before sun exposure. You don’t need to keep reapplying physical sunscreen. Due to its opacity and thickness, try to rub in the product until you can’t see it.
What Are The Spots On The Body That People Often Miss?
Skin cancer, wrinkles, dark spots, and other skin related issues can appear on any part of the body, even parts not exposed to UV rays. So apply sunscreen everywhere.
You might forget the back and the tips of the ears, the tops of the hands and feet, back of the neck and the exposed scalp.
An excellent foolproof way to ensure even application is to apply sunscreen before you get dressed. Once you’re dressed, you can re-apply on any exposed parts that you’ve missed.
Sunblocks are thicker and specially formulated to protect from both UVA and UVB rays.
Sunscreens are meant to protect from UVA rays, the primary reason behind wrinkles.
You can find products that offer both UVA and UVB rays, known as full-spectrum protection. Along with full-spectrum protection, look for a product with an SPF of 30 or higher.
A. Shields From Harmful UV Rays
An excellent source of vitamin D is the sun, but overexposure to the sun without adequate protection can put your health at risk. Sunscreens and sunblocks help safeguard your skin from the damaging effects of harmful UV rays.
B. Prevents Premature Aging
We all want healthy, radiant, and younger-looking skin. Without proper protection, the chances of premature aging are higher.
C. Lowers The Risk Of Skin Cancer
The protective layer of your skin will begin to deplete if exposed to UV rays, which leaves your skin susceptible to various ailments such as melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Sunscreen and sunblock provide the protection your skin needs and lower the risk of developing skin cancer.
C. Prevents Sunburns
Being out in the sun without any protection can cause sunburns, which results in itchiness, blotchiness, redness, and skin peeling.
D. Reduces Blotchiness
The chances of keeping eruption of red veins and skin irritation at bay are higher with a generous amount of sunscreen. The sun’s rays make these symptoms worse, and proper protection shields your skin from the UV rays.
E. Prevents A Tan
You need the sun’s rays to get that perfect bronzy glow, but sunbathing can put your skin at risk. Enjoy sunbathing with a little help from a sunblock or sunscreen with an SPF of 20 or higher.
5. Which One Should You Use?
Some of the most important factors to consider when deciding between sunscreen and sunblock are your habits, needs, and activity levels.
If you’re into activities that involve moving a lot, a quick-dry solution will work best.
Those with sensitive skin are better off with sunblock as they contain fewer irritating ingredients. Additionally, there are plenty of non-greasy options available.
Remember, if you’re swimming or sweating a lot, sunscreen or sunblock is water-resistant, not waterproof, so you will need to re-apply it every two hours. Choose one with an SPF of at least 50.
If you’re heading out to the beach or indulging in water sports, you need sunscreen or sunblock that offers UVA and UVB protection.
An excellent tip for beachgoers is to choose non-toxic, eco-friendly sun protection products.
For daily use, choose a product with an SPF of at least 30.
6. Side Effects
If used correctly, the side effects should be minimal.
The Cons Of Chemical Sunscreen
The presence of chemicals may cause an allergic reaction in some people. You must pick the right product for your skin type, especially if you have sensitive skin.
The Cons Of Mineral Sunscreen
There are chances of breakouts with mineral sunscreens for acne-prone skin as it is thick and sits on top of the skin.
Combination skin or acne-prone skin may benefit from a combination of both chemical and mineral ingredients.
While sunscreen is a crucial step for sun protection, it's not enough on its own. There are plenty of ways to protect your skin beyond sunscreen and sunblock.
Wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a hat with a brim to protect your scalp. Avoid stepping outside during the hours when the sun's rays are strongest. For short trips to the grocery store or somewhere nearby, using an umbrella is a chemical-free method of protecting your skin against the sun.
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