What’s the Difference Between Sunscreen and Sunblock?

By ·
What’s the Difference Between Sunscreen and Sunblock? featured image
Getty Images

When we think of summer, we immediately think of long days out in the sunshine, and with that comes with the need for proper sun protection. In this day and age, the necessity of incorporating sunscreen into our daily routines has become rather commonplace. But there are still tons of misconceptions when it comes to the world of sun care, including the question of what the difference is between sunblock and sunscreen.

While discussing new innovation from ZO Skin Health—their revolutionary Triple-Spectrum Light Defense gel ($70) and sheer fluid ($70) sunscreens that protect from damaging rays from the sun as well as heat and even blue light from your phone—we got to hear from Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD about all-things sun protection.

Dr. Downie admited that she, too, uses the terms sunblock and sunscreen, but that does not mean that they’re necessarily synonymous. “I do use the two terms interchangeably, but truth is that there is no sunblock, there’s only sunscreen,” she explains. What Dr. Downie means, is no product truly “blocks” the sun’s rays from our skin, so though both terms are used to describe the same product, sunscreen is the more appropriate descriptor.

Debunking another misconception, Dr. Downie confirmed that combining different sunscreens of different SPF levels does not, in fact, increase your level of protection. Though it would rationally make sense to think that combining two SPF 15 products would result in SPF 30 protection, Dr. Downie explains that SPF is not buildable, so the only way to ensure proper protection is by using higher levels of SPF. For Dr. Downie, SPF 30 and up is what is always necessary.

Another common sunscreen myth that Downie debunked during the chat was that you don’t need to reapply SPF throughout the day regularly. The truth is that you absolutely do. “What I tell my patients is that I apply my sunscreen at around 8 o’clock every morning and then somewhere around 10 o’clock, I’ll take a bathroom break to reapply, and same at 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock and so on. I’m a little bit crazy with it, but it works.”

Similarly, Dr. Downie urged listeners to unlearn the mistruth that they don’t need to reapply sunscreen on beach days if the formula is waterproof. “A lot of people think that once you get in the water you’re cool just because the formula is waterproof, but you still have to reapply. Even if the product says you’re protected for a certain amount of time after water exposure, I recommend reapplying right away.”

Find a Doctor

Find a NewBeauty "Top Beauty Doctor" Near you

Give the Gift of Luxury

NewBeauty uses cookies for various reasons, including to analyze and improve its content and advertising. Please review our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for more about how we use this data. By continuing to use this site, you agree to these policies.