Sun Safety: What Is The Difference Between And Sunscreen And A Sunblock?

As one considers spending time in the sun, it is important to know the difference between sunblock and sunscreen so that the best product can be chosen.

It's summer time. You've planned your vacation to the beach, and have to begin the challenge of packing. As you shop for your trip, the skin care products that are available overwhelm you. What should you choose for your family---sun screen or sun block? Does it really matter? Is there a difference or is it just a gimmick""a way for the consumer to spend more money?

There is actually a difference between sunscreen and sun block. The product that is chosen needs to be contingent upon the needs and desires of the consumer. The difference between sun screen and sun block can basically be found in their names. A screen is something that filters---letting some items in, but keeping some items out like the window screen that lets the light in but keeps the nasty bugs out. A block is a barricade, which does not let anything through. Sun screen then, allows some UV rays to reach your skin. The amount of UV rays that can reach your skin is determined by the SPF, or the sun protection factor. The lower the SPF rating, the more UV rays reach your skin. The higher the SPF rating, the less UV rays reach your skin. SPF ratings can be as low as 3 or 4 and as high as 45. Because it is a screen and lets some UV reach the skin, a sun screen product will allow for some tanning or darkening of the skin while preventing the skin from burning by keeping out some of the stronger UV rays. If one is going to go into water, it is advisable to apply sun screen approximately 15-20 minutes prior to entering the water so that the product has time to dry. Also, if one applies sun screen and spends time in the water, they should reapply regularly.

As mentioned earlier, the role of sun block is to block out all UV rays that could reach the skin. Sun block is usually thicker and less like a lotion in comparison to sun screen. For lack of a better descriptive word, sun block is typically more goopy""and hard to spread evenly over the skin. It usually contains a chemical called zinc oxide. At times athletes who play their sport in the hot sun paint it like Indian war paint on the most easily burned areas""like their nose or their cheeks. Since it is so hard to spread because of its texture, consumers typically do not use sun block to cover their whole body. For an infant sun block could be used, not only because their body has a smaller surface area, but also because their skin is more sensitive to the sun.

The consumer needs to consider their needs and the state of their skin. More sensitive skin may need sun block or a sun screen with a high SPF. Individuals who do desire to tan their skin but have some protection may wish to consider a sun screen with a lower SPF. Sun screen and sun block are different enough, that when the consumer goes to purchase they should carefully assess their needs.

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