Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
3 minute read
4 Jan 2022
4:18 pm

Beauty dilemma! Do I need sunscreen or sunblock?

Renate Engelbrecht

Did you know that there is a difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

Sunscreen versus sunblock. Image: iStock

Most of us might be returning home from holiday, but the sun is still out and come February, we will probably still see quite a couple of hot summer days. This means looking after our skin should remain a top priority as we enter the new year.

Knowing which products to use is just as important. As it turns out, there is a definite difference between sunscreen and sunblock and knowing the difference might help you choose the right product for the right situation as we launch into the last phase of our much-loved South African summer.


Sunscreens, which are often also referred to as chemical or organic sunscreens, are ingredients that need to penetrate your skin in order to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. When a sunscreen penetrates your skin, it surrounds the cells in the upper layers of your skin, protecting you from UVA and UVB frequencies.

These products are designed to absorb the energy produced from these specific light frequencies, converting them into other forms of energy and ultimately protecting you and your skin.

READ: Choosing the right sunscreen for summer


Sunblock is often referred to as an in-organic sunscreen or a physical sunscreen and it is said to reflect sunlight. However, according to Lamelle Research Laboratories, research has shown that a lot of the protective action that comes with sunblock is related to the fact that it absorbs and converts sunlight energy.

Choose the right product for your skin
Choose the right product for your skin. Image: Lamelle

Which should you invest in?

If you wear makeup or if you choose to wear sunscreen in combination with other skincare products, it might be best to invest in an organic sunscreen as it is absorbed by the skin and leaves a less oily residue.

You will have slightly better UVB protection with this kind of product, but keep in mind that an organic sunscreen is not water-resistant, so it won’t be your best bet if you are taking part in a Triathlon or if you’re heading to the beach.

In-organic sunscreens don’t get absorbed into the skin that well, and it might leave a white cast, especially on darker skin tones. It tends to lie on top of the skin and might even leave an oily residue. This is probably why people with darker skin tones and oilier skin types usually prefer sunscreen over sunblock.

When shopping for skin protecting products, keep in mind that products with organic sunscreens provide a broader percentage of protection. They also generally absorb into the corneum (the outer layers of your skin) and don’t leave a white cast on your skin.

Either way, both sunscreens and sunblocks provide protection from UVA and UVB frequencies of sunlight. The biggest difference will probably be the look and feel on your skin.