Weekly Science Tidbit: Sunscreen

Ahh, this past weekend was extremely hot and sunny, reminding me that summer is nearly

Use Suncreen!

here!  Though I prefer the cooler, crisper weather of autumn, I slathered on some sunscreen and walked around campus with my friends enjoying the sun.  So that got me to thinking … “Just how does sunscreen protect us from awful burns?”  I researched it a bit and here is what I found:

Both inorganic and organic compounds are suspended in the lotion and act to protect us from sunburn culprit UV-B (280-320nm) and more harmful UV-A (320-400nm) rays.

The inorganic compounds include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (remember rubbing that white stuff all over your nose as a kid?) work by reflecting the sun’s rays.  It is as though your skin is holding up many tiny mirrors to deflect harmful waves and shield your body.

Octyl Methoxycinnamate (OMC) from Wiki

The organic compounds, such as octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC), serve to protect your skin by absorbing wavelengths of light emitted in the UV range and giving off that absorbed energy as heat.

Both of these types of compounds are used in sunscreens to obtain a larger SPF value.

So if it is sunny where you are this weekend, don’t forget to grab your sunscreen and enjoy the weather!


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