Sunscreen is one of those modern marvels that we tend to take for granted. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to spend as much time out enjoying the beach or the park without suffering a severe sunburn or lasting sun damage that causes aging and sunspots. This simple lotion or spray allows us to safely spend time outdoors, but exactly how does sunscreen work? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions which may have crossed your mind:

What is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

Picture sunscreen as a screen door while sunblock is a solid wood door. Sunscreens use a chemical compound to filter out harmful rays from the sun. In particular, they provide protection against UVA rays, which can cause long-term damage to the skin, such as sunspots and premature aging. That is why sunscreen is considered the most important part of your skin care regime. 

On the other hand, sunblocks work by physically creating a barrier between the skin and the sun’s harmful UV rays. Sunblock targets UVB rays that cause sunburns. They contain organic ingredients, such as zinc and titanium oxide that work to fully block the sun’s rays from penetrating into the skin. In general, sunblocks are thicker in consistency and appear white on the skin.

Sunblocks are the ideal option for long days on the beach or sitting poolside. There are a lot of options on the market, so make sure your sunblock is water-resistant as well.

Sunscreens are usually the consistency of a moisturizing lotion and are available with or without a tint, making them the ideal choice for everyday use. You can easily incorporate sunscreen into your makeup routine and they will absorb into the skin like any other lotion and help keep you looking young and healthy when used regularly.

Depending on the types of activities you will be enjoying and the amount of exposure you will have to the sun while outdoors, you will want to use sunscreen at the very least and sunblock may be a wise choice. Remember that all types of sun protection should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every 2 hours after that for maximum protection.

What does SPF mean and why is it important?

The meaning of the SPF number on your bottle of sunblock or sunscreen is probably a mystery. Here is what you need to know: SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and used to measure how long a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays, which are the main source of sunburns and a major factor in skin cancer.

For example, let’s say without sunscreen you get a sunburn in about 20 minutes.  If properly applied and reapplied every 2 hours, a sunscreen or sunblock with an SPF 30 will allow you to stay in the sun 30 times longer without burning when compared to wearing no protection at all.

You can use this simple formula to choose the right sunscreen strength: “SPF Number x Time to Burn without Protection = Time to Burn with Protection”. For example: SPF 15 x 10 minutes = 150 minutes of protection.
Why do experts recommend applying sunscreen 30 mins before going out into the sun?
Thirty minutes provides enough time for the product to be fully absorbed by the skin for full and lasting protection.

Who should use sunscreen?

Everyone should be using sunscreen, including babies 6 months and older and people of every skin tone.

Do I need sunscreen if it is cloudy? 

Just because it’s a cloudy day doesn’t mean you should skip applying sunscreen. The sun's rays can still reach your skin and cause wrinkles, sunspots and even a sunburn. Your best bet is to use sunscreen everyday.

Now that you know a little more about how sunscreen works and how it differs from sunblock, you are better prepared to safely enjoy the summer months. A little planning can help you avoid skin damage and protect you and your family from painful sunburns throughout the year. 

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