Sunblock vs Sunscreen – Which One To Choose? August 4, 2016

Hey readers..

How are you all doing? How is the summer treating you?

Slathering sun protection stuff all over?

Ok.. so have you ever wondered why you get both sunscreen and sunblock in the market? What is the difference between them?

There is a general confusion when it comes to sunblock or sunscreen – which one to buy? How much SPF? And so many other questions that come up…

This post would help answering atleast few such queries on sunblock vs sunscreen, I hope. Beware – its lengthy! 

Sunblock vs Sunscreen


The sun rays contain 3 different types of  ultra-violet (UV) rays namely – A, B & C.

The UVC are filtered and radiated back by the atmosphere and hence they never reach the earth.

The UVA & UVB rays do reach the earth and inspite of being emitted from such a long distance – have the potential to harm us a lot with their radiation.

The above picture can help one understand why sun protection is much needed to humans – not only in the summers but throughout the year! 


We all know sunscreen provide us sun protection from the UVA and UVB rays and also helps the skin from darkening or getting tanned.

As the name goes, sunscreen products form a thin film on the screen which either absorb or reflect the sun rays falling on the exposed human skin, based on the components present in it.

Sunscreens absorb the harsh radiations from the sun but do not let them reach the human skin. Thereby, protecting us from the sun’s UV radiation. 


The effectiveness or the coverage from the sun of a sunscreen is measured in terms of SPF – Sun Protection Factor. It is termed as the ability of a sun protection offering product.

SPF 10 in a product means – it provides 10 times more protection to you under the sun when compared to being without a sunscreen!

Simply put, the higher the SPF – the more sun protection the product offers.

For Indian skin tones, being medium, SPF 30-50 should be a good choice whereas there are products available up to SPF 90 in the market.

One can also look it from a different angle – If a person has not applied sunscreen properly enough, applying an higher SPF may offer better protection than a lower SPF.

If one thinks they get tanned too quickly or happen to stay out in the sun for most part of the day – SPF 50 would be a good choice.

But, interestingly SPF measurement of the sunscreen is about the protection from the sun’s UV-B rays only.

The other set of rays – the UVA from the sun, causes skin aging and cancer which is not supported by the SPF measure.

PA system is the measure of protection against UVA rays. PA refers to Protection of grade UVA.

PA++ is considered to be a good measure for Indian skin tone. 

Conventional sunscreens protect the skin only from UVB rays and not UVA.

Whereas, broad spectrum sunscreen help to check both the ray types.

Look out for mention of PA factor in the label next time you set out to buy a sunscreen! 


What on earth is a sunblock then – if you are wondering so… read on!

Sunblock is a type of sunscreen too. It is generally an opaque sunscreen which is effective in blocking both UVA and UVB rays.

It is claimed that they consist of a heavy carrier material which is a little resistant to be washed off easily.

Sunblocks as their name goes – block majority of the sun’s radiation from reaching the skin by reflecting them back.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are two important and common ingredients in most sunblock products.

It has been verified that these components degrade slowly upon exposure to sunlight, hence offering good protection.

Tips for sun protection from dermatologists: 

    • Choose sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB rays
    • Apply sunscreen thick enough to get full SPF protection
    • Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before sun exposure
    • Reapply in cases of swimming or sweating under the sun
    • Avoid the sun between 10 am to 4 pm when it is at its strongest
    • Wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses with UV protection when out in the sun or at least carry an umbrella
    • Avoid reflective surfaces like water or snow while under the sun; they can increase UV radiation exposure

Sunscreen vs Sunblock – JUDGEMENT TIME!

Yes! Sunblocks are better than sunscreens – but they too cannot totally protect you completely from sun’s rays.

So, be it a sunscreen or sunblock – check the protection measures, know the ingredients and choose wisely! 


1.     Choose a sunblock with atleast SPF 40 or above.

2.     Always check for the PA measure in your sunblock/sunscreen label

3.     Look out for zinc oxide / titanium dioxide in the ingredients

4.     Pick products that claim to be – Non-comedogenic & Hypo-allergenic

5.     Wear your sunscreen sunblock throughout the year – in less SPF other than summers

[Read:Sunscreen  Why Use]

Hope this post on difference of sunblock and sunscreen helped…. Stay protected – stay cool !

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  • Jaminie

    Thank you for getting this information out there! So many people don’t know enough about sunscreen!