Difference Between Moisturizer and Sunscreen

Moisturizers and Sunscreens are often mistaken as having the same properties, but they don’t. They both are very different in their functions and properties. Moisturizers are used mostly by dry skin types while sunscreen can be used by every skin type.


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There are many misconceptions about both products which need to be clarified to know their actual results.

Moisturizer vs Sunscreen

The difference between moisturizer and sunscreen is that moisturizer is a product used to seal moisture and hydration in the skin whereas sunscreen is a skincare product used to block the sun’s radiations. Moisturizer prevents drying of skin while sunscreen prevents the harmful rays (UV rays) from damaging our skin. The moisturizer has soothing properties whereas sunscreen has blocking properties.

Moisturizer vs Sunscreen

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The moisturizer also called emollient (meaning-to soften) is a skincare product. It provides moisture and protects the skin from drying out. The moisturizer comes in many forms like creams, lotions, oils, etc. to provide hydration.

It hydrates the top layer of our skin (epidermis) and locks the moisture content to prevent cracking of the skin.

Sunscreen is a topical skincare product that is used to block the harmful UV rays of the sun from damaging our skin. It provides a protective layer on our skin from sunburn. It comes in the forms like creams, ointments, lotions, gels, powders, and foams.

It protects against skin-damaging prominently preventing skin cancer which causes mostly due to UV radiations.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMoisturizerSunscreen
DefinitionMoisturizer is a hydrating and soothing topical preparation. Sunscreen is a protecting topical preparation.
Available in formsCreams, oils, lotions, linimentsGels, ointments lotions
Functions asSoothing, hydrating and calming agentBlocking, healing, and anti-aging agent
Protects fromDrynessUV radiations
Mostly Preferred in seasonMostly WintersMostly Summers
Side effectsIt has no side effects or is sometimes minimal.Some people (around 2-3%) may be allergic to the active ingredients present in it.

What is Moisturizer?

Moisturizer is a cream, lotion, ointments, or oil that helps in providing moisture to the skin. Our skin has a natural moisturizer called “sebum”. But when sebum does not secret as per need, then an external moisturizer functions the same.

Every skin type can use a moisturizer. Especially, dry skin requires moisturizer for their skin.

There are different ingredients and formulations used in the production of moisturizers.

Some of the ingredients used are- shea butter, castor oil; humectants like glycerin, sorbitol; occlusive like paraffin, dimethicone; emollients like glyceryl stearates, lanolin, isopropyl palmitate; hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, retinol, lactic acid, etc.

Moisturizers are generally used two times a day i.e. in the morning and evening. In the daytime, along with moisturizer, it is advised to use sunscreen or a moisturizer that contains sunscreen in it.

At night, a moisturizer with repairing, healing, and soothing properties is used. It helps to prevent common skin conditions like acne, bumps, and many more.

Functions of a Moisturizer:

  1. Prevents dehydration: Moisturizer gives a hydrating layer on the uppermost part of the skin and seals the moisture content.
  2. Helps fight acne problems: Oily skin mainly causes acne and other issues on the skin. Applying moisturizer helps to stop the clogging of pores resulting prevention of acne problems.
  3. Provides healthy and glowing skin: Applying moisturizer regularly helps in making skin healthy and glows from within.
  4. Slows down the signs of aging: A hydrated skin will not give wrinkles and fine lines at a young age. If you apply moisturizer in a long run, then your skin will feel smooth and firm even in tricenarian and quadragenarian.
  5. Calms sensitive skin: Moisturizers with soothing properties and ingredients like Aloe Vera, honey, chamomile, are used to avoid reddening and irritated skin.

What is Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a topical preparation used for protecting skin from harmful sun radiation (UV). It helps to avoid skin conditions and prevents our skin from causing skin cancer. It is available in the forms like gels, ointments, lotions, and much more.

Skin conditions like dark spots and loosening of skin are slowed down by applying sunscreen regularly.

A scientist named H.A. Milton Blake introduced the first sunscreen in the year 1932. The sunscreens work either by absorbing the UV radiations preventing them from reaching deep into the skin or by reflecting.

Sunscreen works for a few hours after that you need to re-apply it. Applying sunscreen does not mean that you will be protected the whole day from the sun’s radiation. There are certain rays on which specific sunscreens don’t work.

So, choosing the right sunscreen is an important step in your skincare routine.

Using a sunscreen of more than 50+ SPF and having broad-spectrum sunscreen i.e. UVA/UVB helps to protect skin efficiently.

Because not all sunscreens block UV radiations, for this you need to have UVA/UVB infused sunscreen to reduce the risk of cancer. The risk of the deadliest skin cancer “Melanoma” is reduced by regular use of good sunscreen.

Here are some of the active ingredients that are used in the production of sunscreen- zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, octyl salicylate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, cinoxate, p-aminobenzoic acid, amiloxate, etc.

These ingredients are approved by the FDA committee, so they are clinically tested and sanctioned officially.

Main Differences Between Moisturizer and Sunscreen

  1. A moisturizer is a topical preparation used to provide moisture and hydration to the skin whereas sunscreen is a topical preparation used to provide a protective layer to prevent sun radiations.
  2. A moisturizer is seen in the forms of creams, lotions, oils, etc while sunscreen is available in the forms like lotions, ointments, gels, etc.
  3. Moisturizer functions as a hydrating agent while sunscreen acts as a protecting agent.
  4. Moisturizer was created by Saint Hildegard while sunscreen was created by H.A. Milton Blake.
  5. Moisturizer was invented much earlier than sunscreen. The moisturizer was made first in the year 1100 whereas sunscreen was made in the year 1932.
Difference Between Moisturizer and Sunscreen
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962219329494
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc4366744/
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