Everything You Need to Know About Sunscreen and Sunblock
Wed, April 14, 2021

Everything You Need to Know About Sunscreen and Sunblock



Sunscreen is your top arsenal for protecting yourself from the sun’s rays, decreasing your risk of developing skin cancer and skin pre-cancers, explained Skin Cancer Foundation, a global organization dedicated to skin cancer.

Sunscreen also prevents sagging, age spots, and wrinkles. Men, women, and kids over six months of age can use sunscreen daily, including individuals who tan easily and those who don’t. Infants below six months should not use sunscreen as their skin is highly sensitive. Rather, infants should stay out of the sun or wear protective clothing to minimize their exposure to sunlight.


Application of Sunscreen and Perceptions Among Survey Respondents  

Aaron S. Farberg, M.D. and colleagues of JAMA Network (2017), a monthly open-access medical journal, said 156 US dermatologists participated and completed enough of the questions to be included in the analyses. Regarding their perceptions of safety and efficacy of sunscreen, the dermatologists said regular use of sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer (96.8%) and minimizes subsequent photoaging (100%).

They also believed that the presence of oxybenzone (90.4%) and retinyl palmitate (86.5%) in sunscreens, as well as FDA-approved sunscreens currently available in the US are safe (96.2%). 99.4% of respondents said patients generally do not apply enough sunscreen and the best sunscreen is one that is used regularly. The factors that influence recommending sunscreen to patience were SPF (99.4%), broad spectrum coverage provided by the sunscreen (96.2%), and cosmetic elegance and feel and feel provided by the product (71.2%). Other factors included the presence of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (100%), oxybenzone (87.8%), and retinyl palmitate (78.2%).

Regarding dermatologists’ personal and family use of sunscreen, 100% used sunscreen with SPF ≥30 when outdoors, 67.3% applied sunscreen with SPF ≥50 when outdoors, and 76.3% used sunscreen at least half the time (76.3%). 53.2% applied sunscreen every day and 98.7% recommended family and friends to use sunscreen to protect their skin. On the other hand, aesthetic procedures online resource RealSelf found that only 10% of US adults applied sunscreen daily while 47% never applied it, according to their 2019 report published in PR Newswire, a distributor of press releases.

Women (15%) were more likely than men to wear sunscreen every day (4%). 66% of those aged 18 to 34 years applied sunscreen at least one day a week unlike 49% of adults 35 years and above. 16% of adults in the Midwest applied sunscreen four or more days a week unlike 29% of adults in the West, 25% of those in the South, and 24% of adults in the Northeast. 53% of Americans applied sunscreen at least one day a week and of those, 93% used it on their face followed by the neck (74%) and arms (73%).

Among the reasons for not applying sunscreen were “I don’t think I’m exposed to the sun enough” (56%), “my skin does not burn easily” (25%), “I don’t like how it feels on my skin (18%), and “I’m too busy” (5%). Regarding the respondents’ motivations, they cited preventing skin cancer (74%), the look or feel of sunburn (48%), the appearance of aging skin (46%), and sunspots on skin (39%).




What is SPF?

SPF means “Sun Protection Factor.” The number you see indicates (ex: SPF 30) how long the sun’s UVB rays would redden your skin if you apply the product as directed versus the amount of time without sunscreen. That means applying an SPF 30 sunscreen would take you 30 times longer to burn than without sunscreen. If you’re indoors, opt for a product with SPF 15 or higher. If you spend more time outdoors— especially when and where the sun is at its peak— it is recommended to use an SPF 30 or higher, water-resistant product. Regardless of the SPF of your sunscreen, it is important to reapply the product every two hours and immediately after sweating or swimming.  


What’s the Difference Between Sunscreen and Sunblock?

Sunscreen contains organic chemical compounds like octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, and ecamsule, said Claire Gillespie of Health, a health website. London-based dermatologist Cristina Psomadaki told Health, it is dependent on a chemical reaction to absorb UV light, transforming it into heat and released from the skin. Sunscreen is called such as it has chemicals absorb UV rays before your skin can. Since it is absorbed by your skin, sunscreen needs to be rubbed in. Meanwhile, sunblock contains mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zin oxide to physically block UV rays.

It is called a “sunblock” because it forms a physical shield to block UV rays. Sunblock can be applied by slathering it on your skin. Unlike sunscreen, sunblock leaves a white cast on your skin. Generally speaking, sunscreens are made to protect you against UVA rays, causing skin damage while sunblock is designed to prevent the damage caused by UVB rays, leading to sunbunrs. However, many sunscreens and sunblocks protect you from both UVA and UVB rays to prevent wrinkles and sunburn.



Should I Apply Sunscreen When Indoors?

You can also apply sunscreen when indoors because blue light emitted from digital screen can increase melanin production or skin pigmentation, causing melisma or age spots, said  Orit Markowitz, MD, director of Pigmented Lesions and Skin Cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital, quoted by Nicole Saunders of NBC News, a news division of NBC. Blue light can lead to the presence of free radicals, causing inflammation and breakdown of your skin’s collagen and elastic tissue.


Is Sunscreen Better than Sunblock?

Dr. Psomodakis recommended sunblock if you have sensitive skin or skin conditions as some of the ingredients in chemical sunscreen might irritate your skin or trigger an allergy. Overall, the best sun protection product you will use is the one that caters to your needs.

The side effects of sunscreen should be minimal if applied correctly. Opt for a product for your skin type, especially if you have sensitive skin. Connecticut-based dermatologist Rhonda Q. Klein, MD, commented, “Just as with anything applied to the skin, there is the chance of irritation or skin reaction.” Deborah Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist noted that some sunscreens contain oil, which causes acne. Other products might cause itching or a stinging sensation if you have very sensitive skin, she warned.

For Dr. Klein, she suggested using sunblock that does not contain irritating ingredients. Dr. Klein said, “Because physical sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin, they are well-tolerated by even the most sensitive skin types.”


The sunscreen a person will use depends on their needs and skin type. Even if an individual is staying at home, it is recommended to apply sunscreen to protect their skin from blue light. If a product triggers an allergic reaction or causes irritation, consult a dermatologist as soon as possible.