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What should we think about the "total sunblock" label on sun protection products?

Sunscreen creams offer varying levels of protection to ensure optimal defense against the harmful effects of the sun's rays. Some even speak of total sunblock. But does total protection truly exist against UVA and UVB rays? What does this claim, still frequently found on sunscreen packaging, actually mean?

Sunscreen Products: How do they protect us from UV rays?

Sunscreens (gels, oils, creams, etc.) are a crucial tool formulated to mitigate UVA and UVB rays before they reach the deep layers of the epidermis and dermis. Their sole purpose is to protect the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays by absorbing, dispersing, or reflecting this radiation.

While the first sunscreens only offered modest protection against UVB and none against UVA, and they were easily washed off by water or sweat, it is quite different today. The active ingredients in sunscreens are organic sun filters (chemical absorbers), inorganic (physical blockers), or a combination of both.

  • Inorganic agents (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) absorb and deflect UV radiation by creating a layer on the skin's surface, acting as a reflective barrier.

  • Organic filters directly absorb UVB rays and, increasingly effectively, UVA rays. Through a chemical reaction, they then convert UV light into fluorescence or release it in the form of heat.

Does "total sunblock" really exist?

Regardless of the SPF and its composition, no sunscreen formula can block 100% of UV rays and therefore cannot claim to provide total protection from UVA and UVB rays. As a result, claims of "total protection" or "full screen" should not be made. In fact, these inscriptions are now strictly prohibited on the labeling of all UV protection products sold in the European Union.

Indeed, in September 2006, the European Commission adopted this recommendation and grouped all Sun Protection Factors (SPFs) above 50 (60, 70, 80, or even 100) into a single index of 50+. This measure was also taken to protect consumers from misconceptions about this topic, particularly the mistaken belief that one can expose oneself without limit with an SPF 100 applied only in the morning.


  • Recommendation from the Commission dated September 22, 2006, regarding sunscreen products and manufacturers' claims about their effectiveness. Official Journal of the European Union (2006).


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