Sunblock vs. Sunscreen: What’s the difference

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Many people use the words sunblock and sunscreen interchangeably, like they’re the same thing. But, there are differences between the 2 that will alter which you would want to use on your skin.


Sunscreen is a chemical sun protectant, and contain chemicals absorb the UV sun rays and disperse them, preventing some of them from entering into the skin. Sunscreens are lightweight and go on fairly transparent, so you don’t have to worry about the white cast that sunblocks traditionally give off. Most sunscreen ingredients, such as avobenzone, avobenzene, and oxymethylcinnemate, can cause skin and eye irritation, so it is not suited for children or people with skin sensitivities. If you are concerned about irritations, look for a sunscreen that contains Parsol 1789. Sunscreen should be used daily.


Sunblock is a PHYSICAL sun protectant, that basically makes the sun’s rays bounce off of it. This is the stuff we remember from the 80s that people used to wear on their noses in the movies. It is very opaque and thick, making it less desirable to use for most people. Typical ingredients in sunblocks are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are less irritating than ingredients found in sunscreens. It is also a better choice to use sunblock if you plan to go on vacation where the sun’s rays are more harsh, or if you plan on being out for longer periods.

Sounds pretty simple right? If you’ve got sensitive skin, opt for a sunblock.

Actually – it isn’t that simple.

Companies are also using the words sunscreen and sunblock like they are the same thing. But when you go to read the ingredients, every “sunblock” contains sunscreen ingredients.

This was a problem for me, as my skin was getting very irritated when using these sunscreens, and it was super annoying to find that everything that was marketed as a sunblock, was indeed a sunscreen.

So, if you are on the market for a sunblock, familiarize yourself with the ingredients, to know what to look for.

I have found a few true SUNBLOCKS, and am still trying to find my favourite one. They are becoming very few and far in between because most people hate the thick feeling of sunblocks.

My Favourites:

Banana Boat Natural Reflect

Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby

Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc

  1. Interesting. One thing to add. The U.S Food and Drug Administration regulates sunscreen and their new rules actually make it illegal to use the term “sunblock”.

    It can make things a little confusing so the best way to tell is to look at a sunscreen’s “Active Ingredients” (all sunscreens have to list them) and only look for ones (like ours) that contain zinc and/or titanium as Em Elle says.

    1. I agree, it is so important to know which ingredients to look for or avoid

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