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Sunscreen vs Sunblock

Posted on 18 March 2015

sunscreen vs sunblock

What is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?  Is there even a difference between the two? Here is a breakdown to help you make the best choice.

Many people use the words sunscreen and sunblock interchangeably, however they are two entirely different forms of sun protection. 1

SUNSCREEN

According to the American Melanoma Foundation 2, sunscreens contain special ingredients that act as filters and reduce ultraviolet radiation penetration to the skin.  These sunscreens are often colorless and maintain a thin visible film on the skin.  Sunscreens usually contain UVB absorbing chemicals and more recently contain UVA absorbers as well.

SUNBLOCK

man applying sunblock

Sunblock physically blocks ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and comes in two forms: chemical and physical.

In its chemical form, sunblock products contain ingredients such a titanium dioxide and zinc oxide providing broad protection against both UVB and UVA light. They can be cosmetically unacceptable to many people, because they are opaque making them visible on the skin, difficult to spread on the body, and do not easily wash off.

Physical sunblock, and most recent on the sun protection scene, is sun protective clothing designed to block UVA and UVB radiation. The effective SPF is greater than 30.

Little Leaves sun protective clothing contains a UPF of 50, effectively blocking 98% of harmful UV rays.

The Bottom Line on Sunscreen vs Sunblock

  1. Sunscreen filters ultraviolet penetration to the skin, keeping most rays out but letting some in.  Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow it to be fully absorbed into the skin.  Frequent reapplication is necessary.

  2. Chemical sunblock physically reflects the rays of the sun, blocking penetration to the skin.  Because it is opaque and thick in consistency, it can be messy and difficult to spread on the skin, and you can see it sitting on the skin (they are usually white, but neon colored sunblocks are also available).  No reapplication is necessary.

  3. Physical sunblock sun protective clothing effectively blocks UVA and UVB radiation, and used with sunscreen or chemical sunblock, is the most effective and convenient form of sun protection.

ADDITIONAL READING:

See Through the Smokescreen about Sunscreen to Find Baby-Safe Protection

Shop Little Leaves sun protective clothing, learn more about our ultra-soft hypoallergenic bamboo fiber blend, and read more about the dermatologist and pediatrician that created Little Leaves Clothing.

Sources:
1-http://cancer.about.com/od/skincancermelanoma/f/Sunscreen-Or-Sunblock.htm
2-http://www.melanomafoundation.org/prevention/facts.htm

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