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What are the differences between sunblock and sunscreen?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology
We throw the two terms around with abandon, but sunblocks and sunscreens are not interchangeable and are not created equal. It's important to realize that most sunscreens (especially the SPF 15 tinted moisturizers or face lotions you would wear every day) don't contain the blocking ingredients that protect against UVA rays, the ones that cause skin cancers and premature aging. Longer UVA wavelengths penetrate to the dermis, where they trigger the melanocytes, creating a suntan (again, a sign that your body has been injured). Many sunscreens safeguard the skin only from UVB rays, which also cause skin cancers and generate sunburns on the surface of the skin: In fact, the SPF factor on a label only gauges protection from UVB rays. You should be aware that there are shorter and longer UVA rays too.
To be on the safest side every day, always wear a combination sunblock and sunscreen. It will have "broad spectrum" on the label, which means you'll be getting both UVA and UVB protection. Ideally, you should be on guard against both, and against longer UVA wavelengths too.
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.