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Sun-Shielding 101: The Difference Between Sunscreen And Sunblock

Sun-Shielding 101: The Difference Between Sunscreen And Sunblock

Okay, here’s a fact. You don’t know much about sun-proofing the skin. And that’s because you’re misunderstanding sunscreen and sunblock as equivalents in sun-protection. Look, even though they promise to defend your skin against the effects of sun-induced damage, they don’t do it the same way. Here’s your definitive guide to the difference between sunscreen and sunblock. We’ve already spoken about sunscreens for different types of skin: dry skin, acne-prone skin, and sensitive skin; but this has been long overdue. You’ve gotta know your basics. Sunscreen vs Sunblock —which one’s better?

Back To Basics: What Is Sunscreen?

Let’s go over the fundamentals of sunscreen. A sunscreen reigns supreme in the way of popularity. It works by absorbing UV rays (but not completely) by seeping into the skin before the rays can penetrate and damage the dermal layers. It can contain ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) to do much of the absorption, and is referred to as ‘chemical’ sunscreen. It’s a chemical defense against the sun. 

POPxo Recommends: POPxo Selfie Ready Tinted Sunscreen 

Formulated for all types of skin, the POPxo Selfie Ready Tinted Sunscreen is a triple-duty product in the way that it starts off as a primer, doubles up as a glow-inducing tinted moisturiser, and sun-proofs your skin. It has a strength of SPF-50 to protect you from UVB rays, and it comes with a PA+++ rating—which means that it provides high levels of protection from UVA rays. While UVB rays are associated with sunburn and cancer, UVA rays penetrate your skin more deeply, are linked to ageing (photo-ageing), and can cause your skin to turn brown-ish. And it offers you protection from man-made sources of blue light as well—in other words, protection from light emitted from your screens. Because, yes, they can have long-term effects like premature ageing on the skin.

Also Read: Does Sunscreen prevent tanning  

Back To Basics: What Is Sunblock?

It’s self-explanatory. A sunblock blocks UV rays by sitting on top of your skin, and functioning as a barrier against the rays of the sun. It’s a physical form of sun-protection that doesn’t absorb or seep into the skin. A sunblock can contain ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide.

POPxo Recommends: St. Botanica Vitamin C SPF 50 Sunblock Face & Body Mist Sunscreen UVA/UVB PA+++

The St. Botanica Vitamin C SPF 50 Sunblock Face & Body Mist Sunscreen UVA/UVB PA+++ is a mineral-based or physical sunscreen (a sunblock in other words) infused with a strength of SPF 50 to protect you from UVB rays as well as a rating of PA+++ to protect your skin from UVA rays. This one’s a lightweight and non-greasy formula that doesn’t leave behind a residue or film on the surface, and prevents spots, hyperpigmentation, and photo-ageing. And it contains the benefits of skincare too—it’s infused with botanical extracts for intense nourishment and hydration, sun-protection, and anti-ageing effects, and it contains antioxidant-rich extracts of chamomile, calendula, jasmine, green tea, madonna lily and pomegranate as well. 

Sun Protection 101: Sunscreen And Sunblock

How do they protect your skin? We’ve explained it already. Both of them protect you from the short-term effects of UV light like sunburn, blotchiness, tan, pigmentation as well as the long-term effects like cancer and premature ageing (wrinkles, spots, and lines). A sunblock does this by acting as a bulletproof vest that shields your skin, and a sunscreen reacts with the radiation before your skin can absorb them, and releases the energy as heat. It works like a sponge in simpler terms. Some products combine the blocking and the absorbing, and protect your skin from UVB as well as UVA rays. 

Behind The Scenes: Ingredient Breakdown

Why do these formulas perform differently? You can thank their ingredients. That’s what sets them apart. I’m putting the incessant Google searches of ‘sunscreen and sunblock difference’ and ‘difference of sunscreen and sunblock’ to rest. 

Sunscreen Ingredients

A sunscreen contains active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate. These work by absorbing the rays of the sun. You might ask: what’s the difference between sunscreen and sunblock? This composition is one of the things that sets them apart. 

How To Treat Sunburn Damage Skin

Sunblock Ingredients 

A sunblock contains physical ingredients like Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide. These ingredients deflect the rays of the sun, and are generally considered safe for use. The latter is regarded as safer in comparison though. It’s cited as safe, photostable, and suitable for sensitive skin. These mineral-based ingredients do contribute to the thicker consistency of sunblock.

The Ultimate Difference Between Blocking And Screening

Apart from the way in which the two protect your skin, there are a couple of differences between the two. Let’s see: Sunscreen vs Sunblock — which one is better?

Factors SunscreenSunblock
DurationMust be reapplied every two hours. Tends to last longer than sunscreen, and you don’t have to reapply it as frequently.
Appearance Blends into your skin seamlessly, and doesn’t leave behind marks or streaks. Just remember to rub it in well for the formula to trickle into your pores.Thicker and less see-through, and leaves behind a white-ish film or residue because it is sitting on top of your skin.
ApplicationMust be applied about thirty minutes before you step out into the sun. Absorption needs a little time.Just rubbing it onto your skin is enough for it to start working. But you must cover every inch of your body. 
Suitability Suitable for combination or acne-prone skin due to thinner consistency. Suitable for those with sensitive skin—or with conditions like rosacea and eczema as they contain non-irritating ingredients that just sit on the surface of the skin.
Protection Formulated to protect you from UVB rays.Formulated to defend you against UVA rays.

Final Verdict: Which One’s Better?

Both of them have their pros and cons—as seen in the points explained above, and it all depends on the nature of your skin coupled with your personal preference. Sunblock is considered more effective than sunscreen as it forms a protective barrier between the skin and the rays—much like an armor. It doesn’t contain chemicals that penetrate the skin for protection, and it lasts longer in comparison to sunscreen. But sunscreen is ideal for those with acne-prone skin. And it doesn’t leave behind a residue like sunblock. Once you understand the needs of your skin, you’ll know which one’s better for you.


  1. Is sunscreen and sunblock the same?

No, they’re not the same. So what is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock? The primary difference lies in the way in which they function. A sunscreen works by absorbing the rays of the sun (most of them) before they reach your skin, and a sunblock sits on the surface of your skin, and forms a barrier between your skin and the sun. 

  1. Do sunscreen and sunblock prevent tanning?

Tanning is an after-effect of UV-induced damage. When the skin senses this damage, it reacts by stimulating the production of melanin for protection. And that’s how tanning happens. Yes, they can prevent tanning to a certain extent. But you can still tan regardless—just that these products soften the impact. 

Just remember this—since everything is labeled sunscreen these days, look for products infused with mineral-based ingredients like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. 

Once you’ve ticked that box, make sure the formula is an SPF 30 or higher, and features keywords like ‘broad-spectrum’ (protection against UVA and UVB rays) and ‘water-resistant’ (how long it’s effective in water before reapplication is required).  Find a product that combines the benefits of both (with the label ‘broad-spectrum’).

Some sunscreens can contain fragrances, oils, or insect-repellants. Steer clear of them. Sunscreen has to be applied every few hours, and these ingredients aren’t suitable for frequent usage. Now you know the answer to ‘are sunscreen and sunblock the same thing?’ It’s a resounding no. We’ve finally put the Sunscreen vs Sunblock difference to rest.

Should I Wear Sunscreen Indoors

Also Read

  1. Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens: We’re pretty sure you know that there are different types of sunscreens: physical/mineral and chemical. Zinc Oxide is a mainstay in the former, but what do we know about this ingredient? Why is it featured in these sunscreens, and does it have any benefits at all? And what Zinc Oxide-infused sunscreen is ideal for our skin? Read on to find out. 
  2. The Best Sunscreens For Every Budget: Sunscreens range from inexpensive to costly. And choosing the right one for yourself bearing in mind the price is a little tricky. Some satisfy all of our requirements but exceed our budget; while others are cheap but not quite suitable for our skin. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best sunscreens for every budget-bracket! Read on to sun-proof yourselves generously and effectively this summer.

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26 Apr 2022

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