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Sunscreen and Sunblock (cont.)

Sunscreen vs. Sunblock vs. Suntan Lotion

The use of the terms screen, block, and tan with the prefix sun certainly complicates our understanding of what these products can do. Currently, the only term allowed by the FDA is "sunscreen." Sunscreens must have documentary evidence that they either absorb or physically block ultraviolet light. The only real sunblock is presumably a physical substance like clothing that is entirely opaque to ultraviolet light. The term suntan lotion probably means virtually nothing except as an advertising device.

Types of Sunscreens and Ingredients

Sunscreens categories are rather subjective. One way of dividing them is by what wavelengths they block. Broad-spectrum sunscreens block ultraviolet light throughout the ultraviolet spectrum (UVA and UVB). Physical sunscreens utilize very minute bits of metallic salts like zinc or titanium to block ultraviolet light. Chemically based sunscreens use the ability of chemicals to absorb the ultraviolet light.

Safety of Sunscreens

Although public anxiety is periodically raised by the publication of poorly documented concerns about the safety of the chemicals used in sunscreens, there is no compelling evidence that sunscreens pose any danger. On the other hand, there are massive amounts of evidence that ultraviolet light is potentially dangerous to human skin. There is abundant evidence that the use of sunscreens prevents wrinkling and skin cancers.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017
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