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Sunscreen vs. Sunblock: Is There A Difference

sunscreen sunblock

During summer, the first thing that comes to mind is lying under the sun on a beautiful tropical beach. But the heat of the sun can be a little too much for your skin to handle. So you head to a grocery store on your way to the beach to pick up some sun protection. You find sunscreen and sunblock with different SPF’s all in one shelf. Confusing isn’t it? Here’s some info to guide you in your quest for sun protection.

What do those numbers mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which is how the amount of UV radiation it takes to burn protected skin is measured. You can calculate it as SPF multiplied with how quickly the skin burns without any defences against the sun. So if you have SPF 30, you multiply 30 with how quickly your bare skin would get sunburn, like 15 minutes, so 30 x 15 = 450 minutes, or seven and a half hours of protection under the sun. This is important to remember when buying or choosing sun protection so you won’t have to lather on so much or have too little protection.


Sunscreen is a kind of sun protection that is absorbed by the skin and absorbs any harmful UV radiation that enters the skin, keeping the UV rays from damaging your skin. Sunscreen uses chemicals such as PABA, or para aminobenzoic acid, to filter out harmful substances from your skin. It is advisable to lather on sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going out into the sun to give the sunscreen ample time to be absorbed by your skin.


Sunblock, on the other hand, does just that, it blocks out all of the sun’s harmful rays by letting the chemicals sit on top of your skin, acting as a barrier against UV radiation. Their active ingredients can include titanium or zinc oxide that gives the sunblock a thicker consistency and makes it often visible on the skin. There are some newer sunblock brands that offer creams that are less visible on the skin.

Both these variants provide good skin protection against the sun, but there are people who are allergic to the chemicals in sunscreens, and as most sun protection products are a mixture of both, it would be wise to read the ingredients list to check for the chemical you may be allergic to before buying anything. It is also good to know what UVA and UVB mean, UVA pertains to the rays that cause ’aging’, while the B in UVB means ‘burning’ and it is important to make sure your sun protections shields you against both.

sunscreen sunblock

image source: misstinak.com

Most experts would say that on average, you would need at least 30 SPF in your sun protection and it should be applied liberally. The recommended amount of sun protection cream applied is an ounce of cream a day. And, depending on your activity, it would be wise to reapply if you stay in the water for a long time, or you’ve been sweating a lot.

Either would be great as long as the SPF is 30 or above, but for those with sensitive skin, sunblock has less irritants you can be allergic to. SO, what are you waiting for? Lather up some sun protection for the beach!

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