Interesting Facts About Sunscreen: Our Number One Friend for Fun in the Sun

Even though we all need our fair share of vitamin D, too much exposure leads to issues of its own. For start, getting too much UV light causes sunburn which can be an uncomfortable experience to say the least, with all the pain, redness, swelling and tenderness, followed by eye damage, skin ageing and changes manifested in wrinkles, moles and freckles, and of course, the most dangerous of them all, skin cancer.

The best way to make the most of sun exposure is to mind how much time we spend in the sun as to avoid both vitamin D deficiency and sunburns. However, getting the needed protection from a sunscreen is paramount. Depending on how sensitive one’s skin is, some individuals might have to apply more often than others – particularly those with fair skin.

The great news is we aren’t short on sunscreen options nowadays, so there’s plenty to choose from in terms of protection. That being said, if you’re up for utmost protection, it’s advisable to choose a formula that contains natural ingredients such as green tea, cucumber, and rosehip, that aren’t only safe for us with their antioxidant nutrients that help nourish the skin, but are equally great for the environment as is the case with the reef safe sunscreen.

For those of you wondering what does reef safe sunscreen mean – it indicates the product is safe for the coral reef ecosystem, as it doesn’t contain toxic ingredients that are harmful to marine life, like oxybenzone and octinoxate. Some of its active ingredients such as the natural zinc oxide are known to reflect the UV rays.

Sunscreen Timeline

While it may seem like sunscreens are a contemporary invention, they’ve been around since the beginning of the 20th century. One of the first chemists to work on sunscreens was Milton Blake (from South Australia) in the late 1920s, whose formula for the cream was later refined in the 1930s by Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal.

It was around this time that the Austrian scientist Franz Greiter also came up with his own product, the Glacier Cream, inspired as a solution after his own sunburns, and later on in the 1960s it was he who developed the concept of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) that’s still used to this day, with the intent to standardise the effectiveness of the products.

Meanwhile, in the 1940s in the US, chemist Benjamin Green patented his Red Vet Pet, short for red veterinary petrolatum, resembling petroleum jelly for sun protection within the military during WWII (though it wasn’t that successful as a commercial product because of the fabric staining). It was later refined into what was known as the Coppertone Girl after Coppertone bought the patent.

In the following years, specifically the 1980s, the brand also developed the UVA/UVB sunscreen type as to provide protection from short and long-wave UV rays alike. The 2000s are a period marked by research on the effectiveness of sunscreen, as well as an evaluation on the ingredients, specifically how harmful they are to human health and the environment.

This led to the creation of reef safe sunscreen, and the preference of using more organic based ingredients than chemicals. This resulted in laws and bans regarding the chemicals present in some sunscreen as in the example of Hawaii.

Complexion Preferences

In the past, pale complexion was considered the most attractive type, as it was believed to show one’s social status, indicating the pale individual was spending time indoors relaxing in luxury as opposed to tanned people working in the fields exposed to the sun. However, things began to shift in the 20th century.



Sunbathing started being viewed as healthy and naturally this made tanned skin popular and even though there were sunscreen products available, not many people were using them, preferring to sport golden tans instead in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, when scientists started warning about the harm of sun exposure without the needed protection. In addition, the study conducted by Australian scientists on regular sunscreen use and its role against photo-aging made the cosmetic value of these products quite clear.

Considerations When Buying Sunscreen

Since there are various options available, it’s only natural to be confused. This is why it’s important to go about it same as you would with the rest of your cosmetics, first taking your skin type into account, as there are some types of sunscreen created for specific skin types.

Also, depending on whether you have an issue such as rosacea, you might want to skip products that contain alcohol because they only exacerbate it, but feel free to opt for them in case you’re dealing with acne.

Having in mind UVA and UVB rays can speed up skin ageing as well as lead to skin cancer, it’s important to mind the SPF of the sunscreen, remembering those with SPF below 30 aren’t that effective, and those above SPF 50 don’t make much of a difference as there isn’t any evidence that would point they’re better than SPF 50.

Additionally, it’s necessary to know the length of the effectiveness of the sunscreen, so you’d be in the know of how often you should reapply it to fully enjoy the sun. And, of course, don’t forget to pay attention to the ingredients and opt for those like the reef safe sunscreen, based on organic compounds. Why should protection be at the expense of the environment, right? So choose well, and get in the habit of using it!