Sunblock Vs. Sunscreen: Which One Should I Use?

Sunblock Vs. Sunscreen: Which One Should I Use?

Thanks to social media, you probably already know that wearing sun protection isn’t limited to the spring or summer time. Yes, sun protection should be worn during all seasons, and even indoors! Now that we’ve got that covered, did you know that sunblock and sunscreen are two different things? We’ll dive into deciphering which is best for you (and yes, that includes my WFH buddies).

Sunblock & Sunscreen Differences

Nine times out of ten, you’ve seen the word physical/mineral and chemical sunscreen in the skincare aisle at your local drugstore or beauty retailer. There are hundreds to choose from, ranging from 15 to 100 SPF, leaving you completely indecisive.

The easiest way to separate the two types of sun protection is to compare a physical sunblock to a physical barrier or shield on the skin, and a chemical sunscreen to a filter that filters UV rays by turning them into heat before they hit your skin.

Sunblock tends to feel a lot thicker because it contains titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide, an ingredient that can sometimes leave a white cast on your skin. However, mineral sunscreens are better suited for sensitive skin types and children six months or older.

Sunscreen on the other hand tends to be thinner and easier to blend without leaving a white cast or residue, especially on melanated skin. Chemical sunscreens also work great as makeup primers and are usually water or sweat resistant.

Benefits of Having Sun Protection

The sun is a double-edged sword; it can greatly improve mental and physical health, but it can also cause skin aging and skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate the skin’s thickest layer, affecting collagen and elastin production and can even penetrate windows. While UVB rays penetrate the skin’s top layer, resulting in sunburn or even skin cancer. Luckily, proper sun protection can protect the skin for up to 98% of UVA and UVB rays.

Sun protection doesn’t always mean using creams – it also means taking care of your body by wearing protective clothing like pants, hats, and sunglasses, especially during high noon hours. When working from home, make sure to wear blue-light reflecting glasses to prevent photoaging.

How to Choose Sun Protection?

Both sunblocks and sunscreens are based on SPF (sun protection factor). However, not all sun protection protects against both UVA and UVB rays – so it’s important to look for SPF that covers both types of harmful rays (AKA broad-spectrum protection). The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends using a minimum of SPF 30. Contrary to popular belief, higher SPF in protection is negligible. SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB while SPF 100 blocks 99%. When choosing SPF, we recommend using either creams or lotions separate from your foundation or makeup, as these are easier to measure for the proper application. When reapplying SPF while wearing makeup, try looking into a stick or powder SPF for touch-ups.

What Does SPF Mean?

SPF or Sun Protection Factor is a scientific measure that focuses on the time it takes for UVB rays to penetrate through SPF. SPF functions by enhancing the inherent protection of your skin against the sun's rays. For instance, an SPF rating of 30 offers approximately 30-fold greater safeguard compared to your bare skin without any sunscreen.

Which SPF Is Right for Me?

Both sunblock and sunscreen rely on different chemicals to protect the skin. If you tend to suffer from rosacea, dermatitis, and eczema, then sunblock will benefit you. If you live an active lifestyle, then sunscreen will benefit you. Whatever formula you choose and love, just make sure to use enough daily! When applying SPF, make sure to apply at least 1 ounce to fully cover the body. For face and décolleté, use two finger tips worth of SPF, and reapply every 90 minutes.

What About Ingredients That I Should Be Aware of?

Ingredients in sunscreens to be aware of are oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, avobenzone, and octocrylene as they may disrupt hormones and are considered unsafe in high amounts. Oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene are known to negatively impact coral reefs and have been banned from being distributed in Hawaii. Higher SPF values may pose greater health risks as they require higher concentrations of chemicals than lower SPFs. When using powder and spray SPF, be weary of inhalation.

Sunblock Ingredients

Sunblocks typically feel denser because of zinc and titanium dioxide. However, when infused with iron oxides, they provide anywhere from 71.9% - 85.6% of photoaging protection. Note that the only SPF ingredients Hawaii allows are in mineral sunscreens.

Sunscreen Ingredients

Most sunscreens while include a combination of oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, and homosalate.

Which Is Better: Sunscreen or Sunblock?

Many consumers love how easily sunscreens blend and layer under foundation. However chemical sunscreens are more reactive towards sensitive and acne-prone skin and take 20 minutes to work before sun exposure. Sunblock on the other hand is great for all skin types and contains coral-reef friendly active ingredients and works instantly. In more recent times, brands have also become more inclusive in providing sunblock that works for all skin tones.

What Products Do We Recommend?

Mineral Sunblock:

Chemical Sunscreens:

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