While having that perfect, golden summer tan can be worth it in so many ways - especially as a teenager - is it really worth dying over?
The answer is no. So luckily for you, there are two ways to protect your skin from the sun - sunscreen and sunblock.
But is one more effective than the other? What are the differences between sunscreen and sunblock? Can you use either - are they interchangeable?
Here we are to answer all your questions on the differences - and similarities - between sunscreen and sunblock.
However, before we can get into that, it's necessary to define a few crucial acronyms regarding the sun and its affects:
uv - ultraviolet
uva - ultraviolet a, referring to radiation
uva rays - long wavelengths that penetrate the skin and cause premature aging, wrinkles and sunspots (note: uva rays are weaker than uvb rays)
uvb - ultraviolet b, referring to radiation
uvb rays - exposure to uvb rays can cause burns and lead to melanoma, or other types of skin cancer (note: uvb rays have slightly more energy than uva rays)
spf - sun protection factor
Now that that's done...
As sunscreen is typically more commonly used, we're going to kick this off with sunscreen.
As you can see in the image above, sunscreen comes in various SPFs. As you can't see, sunscreen also comes in different brands, some less expensive or better quality than others.
Sunscreen - the chemical kind - works by penetrating the skin and absorbing the sun's UVA rays before they reach the dermal layer to damage it, thus screening the skin from the sun. The active ingredients that work to deflect rays are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These components were specifically chosen to create a formula that will absorb the majority of the sun's UVA rays before they're able to reach the skin.
However, no matter the SPF level of the sunscreen, it is unable to fully absorb all of the sun's harsh beams. Furthermore, the primary SPF ingredients in the majority of sunscreens are benzophenone and avobenzone, which, while mostly effective regarding absorption, are known to irritate some people's skin.
The second method of protection we'll be covering is sunblock.
To determine if the protection you're using is sunscreen or sunblock, check the bottle for a label. It should determine if the product is screen or block.
Sunblock, the physical kind, is made from both organic and non-organic ingredients. This formula is made to sit on top of skin and act as a barrier between skin and UV rays. It protects the skin from damage by reflecting, or scattering, UV light, thus blocking skin from sun damage.
One advantage of using sunblock, rather than sunscreen, is that the titanium and zinc oxides in sunblock are typically non-irritating and will not irritate skin. However, sunblock tends to be thicker than sunscreen, and if your skin is acne-prone it's important to make sure the sunblock is non-comedonal so that it doesn't block your pores.
So... which one's better?
This is actually a funny story. In 2011, the FDA passed a regulation that companies are no longer allowed to label their products as "sunblock," and can now only use the word "sunscreen." They did this because people were overestimating the shielding ability of formulas labeled as "sunblock." However, in everyday use, many people still use the two words interchangeably.
And nowadays, formulas will generally be a combination of the benefits of both sunscreen and sunblock for maximum protection. Overall, the most important thing to remember when purchasing sunscreen is to use the correct SPF, though there is no such thing as "too high" when it comes to SPF. To expand on this idea, SPF ratings can sometimes be wrong - even the slightest differences in testing conditions can effect results. That being said, just because a sunscreen has a higher SPF does not mean one doesn't have to reapply as often.
The best way to avoid sun damage is to wear sunscreen and reapply often. Taking these steps and being both cautious and aware of the sun's dangers are the best way to prevent getting skin cancer.