Differences Between Sunscreens – What SPF Should I Buy?

by | Jul 10, 2020 | Blog, Sunburns

Differences Between Sunscreens - What SPF should I buy?

Sunscreen is one of the essentials of the summer. Everyone should use sunscreen to protect skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation. In this article we want to explain to you the importance of using sunscreen every day but more importantly, using the correct sunscreen. Here we also explain the differences between sunscreens, so you can decide which one is best for your skin. 



Let’s quickly go over the basics…

A sunscreen is a formulation which helps protect the skin from UV radiation. These are known as UVA and UVB. UVA have a bigger wavelength, meaning they can penetrate deeper into the skin, resulting in tissue damage. UVB have a shorter wavelength, stay superficially on the skin and are responsible for sunburnsHowever, not all sunscreens are created equal. Let’s have a look at what to look out for when shopping for the best sunscreen. 

Consult an online dermatologist 24 hours and get an answer on any skin concern.



Different types of sunscreens

Despite the different formulations (creams, lotions, sprays, oils..) sunscreens can be divided into physical and chemical sunscreens according to their chemical composition.


There are differences between chemical and physical sunscreen:

  • Chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin and then absorbs UV rays, converting them into heat, and releasing them from the body. You might prefer a chemical sunscreen if you sweat a lot or for water related activities, as they often come in water resistant formulations. The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone.


  • Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin and reflects the UV rays. You might prefer this type of sunscreen as it is less irritating on sensitive skin. Many people dislike physical sunblock as they tend to be hard to blend in and leave a white cast on the skin. However, newer brands now offer matte and tinted versions that have less of a white cast and can give the skin a smooth, even appearance. The minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main active ingredients in physical blocks.


Consult an online dermatologist 24 hours and get an answer on any skin concern.



What to look for on sunscreens? 

Whether you decide to opt for a chemical or physical SPF, you should always make sure the label says:

  • Broad spectrum-protects from both UVA and UVB rays
  • Fragrance-free-lower risk of allergy and irritation
  • Non Comedogenic- will not clog your pores
  • SPF30 or higher

Consult an online dermatologist 24 hours and get an answer on any skin concern.



How often should I apply sunscreen?

Is recommendable to apply sunscreen on a daily basis, not only if you are off to the pool or at the beach. Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying your whole body one ounce full (or one shot glass) of sunscreen 30 min prior to sun exposure and reapplying every 2 hours. Also, regular daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent.

Consult an online dermatologist 24 hours and get an answer on any skin concern.



What ingredients should I look for?

In the United States, sunscreens are regulated as a drug because it makes a drug claim – to help prevent sunburn or to decrease the risks of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun. In EU or other parts of the world, sunscreens are regulated as cosmetics due to some difference in the composition requirements.

Also, in the US sunscreens are strictly subject to FDA approval before being commercialized. This means active ingredients in your sunscreen have been tested in clinical trials before they were declared safe to use. Below is a list of FDA approved active ingredients in products that are labeled as sunscreen:


Over exposure to the sun can cause severe damage to the skin. Sunburns speed up the aging process of the skin, creating wrinkles and dark spots. We recommend babies and small children to stay out of the sun. Sometimes even at a shady spot, it can be too much glare for sensitive skin. 

If you have experienced a skin reaction caused by the sun exposure recently, you can ask our online dermatologist for any advice on your concerns. 

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