By Jennifer Outcelt, Creative Content Architect
Ah, finally, the warm embrace of the Alaskan sun! While it brings joy to our frozen hearts and some much-needed Vitamin D, it also brings many potential risks. But just like you put on a down coat to protect your skin from the harsh winter, so must you put on daily layer of sunscreen protect against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Let’s take a stroll (perhaps with a parasol?) through the history of sunscreen, exploring its development and the crucial role it plays in preventing cancer and other illnesses.
The quest for sun protection dates back centuries. Ancient civilizations instinctively sought ways to shield themselves from the sun’s scorching rays. While finding shade was always the simplest solution, it was not always the most practical for ancient people on the go. And since the umbrella hat would not be invented until 1880, alternative mobile sun shielding technologies were needed. Ancient Egyptians crafted primitive sunscreens using ingredients like rice bran and jasmine extract. In China, rice paste and white lead were employed, creating a pale complexion which doubled to symbolize social status through sun avoidance.
Fast forward to the 20th century, where brilliant minds began paving the way for modern sunscreen. In 1938, a Swiss chemist named Franz Greiter invented the world’s first commercial sunscreen, introducing the concept of Sun Protection Factor (SPF). However, it was not until the 1970s that sunscreen gained mainstream popularity and recognition for its vital role in safeguarding skin health.
With growing awareness of the link between sun exposure and health risks, the importance of sunscreen soared. Sunscreen formulations became more advanced, offering improved protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Research unveiled the direct correlation between unprotected sun exposure and skin cancer, prompting organizations like the American Cancer Society to advocate for regular sunscreen use.
The significance of sunscreen extends beyond preventing skin cancer. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and eye damage, including cataracts. By applying sunscreen, individuals can shield themselves from these harmful effects and maintain healthier, more youthful-looking skin. Sunscreen also plays a crucial role in preventing other types of cancer. Lips, for instance, are susceptible to UV damage, making the use of lip balm or lip-specific sunscreens vital. Moreover, sunscreen protects against squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and even melanoma— the most aggressive form of skin cancer. Any suspicious spots you find on your body (new or enlarging spots, larger than a pencil eraser head, irregular edges, discolored areas, scaly, etc.) should be looked at by a dermatologist.
With modern society fully aware of the importance of sunscreen (though some still choose to ignore it’s benefits), it is now an integral part of personal care as well as numerous industries. From lotions, clays, and sprays to gels and sticks, sunscreen has evolved to offer convenient and effective options for everyone. Outdoor workers, Lifeguards, athletes, and even children at schools and summer camps are encouraged to use sunscreen regularly. Moreover, clothing and accessories with built-in UV protection have become increasingly popular, providing an extra layer of defense against harmful cancer-causing rays.
Sunscreen has come a long way from ancient concoctions to modern-day sun shields. Its historical development and the mounting evidence of its importance in preventing cancer and other illnesses have solidified its status as a must-have in our daily routines. Hopefully this shed some light on why you might not want so much light shed on your skin. So say it with me folks, “I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen with Sunscreen!”