The Evolution of Sun Protection: A Brief History of Sunscreen


Sunscreen is a ubiquitous product in our lives today. Whether we are out playing sports or just running errands, we have been taught that wearing sunscreen is essential for protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, the history of sunscreen is much more complex than many people realize. In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating history of sunscreen, from its earliest origins to its modern-day applications.

Origins of Sunscreen

The ancient Greeks and Egyptians were among the first civilizations to use sunscreen. They would mix ingredients such as rice bran, jasmine, and lupine extracts with beeswax and apply it to their skin for protection against the sun. However, these mixtures provided minimal protection and were not widely used.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that modern sunscreen was developed. In 1928, Franz Greiter, a Swiss chemistry student, became sunburnt while climbing a mountain. This led him to develop Gletscher Crème, a cream made from a mixture of mountain ash, alpine herbs, and zinc oxide, which became the first commercially available sunscreen. However, this cream was thick and difficult to apply, and it was not until the 1930s that more modern sunscreens were developed.

The Development of Sunscreen

In the 1930s, the first chemical sunscreen was developed. It was called benzyl salicylate and was initially used as a fragrance in perfumes. In 1938, Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal, created the first sunscreen that was specifically designed for sun protection. It was called Ambre Solaire, and it contained benzyl salicylate as well as a UV-absorbing chemical called PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid).

PABA was the first ingredient that was specifically designed for use in sunscreens, and it quickly became the most popular ingredient in sunscreens. However, it had some significant drawbacks. It was thick and greasy, making it difficult to apply and uncomfortable to wear. It could also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people.

In the 1970s, a new generation of sunscreens was developed. These sunscreens contained new UV-absorbing chemicals such as octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone. These chemicals were much more effective at blocking UV rays than PABA, and they were also more comfortable to wear. They were less greasy and absorbed more quickly into the skin.

In the 1980s and 1990s, scientists began to develop sunscreens that used nanoparticles to improve their effectiveness. These nanoparticles were small enough to penetrate the skin, making the sunscreen more effective at blocking UV rays. They also made the sunscreen more transparent, making it more appealing to consumers who did not want to look like they were wearing sunscreen.

Modern Sunscreens

Today, there are many different types of sunscreens available. Some are designed specifically for use on the face or body, while others are designed for use during sports or water activities. Some sunscreens are even designed for use on specific skin types, such as sensitive skin.

The most popular types of sunscreens today are chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays, while physical sunscreens work by reflecting them. Chemical sunscreens are often more comfortable to wear and absorb more quickly into the skin. However, physical sunscreens are more effective at blocking UV rays, making them a better choice for people who spend a lot of time outdoors.


The history of sunscreen is a fascinating one that spans thousands of years. From the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to the modern-day, sunscreen has evolved from simple mixtures of plants and beeswax to high-tech

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