It’s been less than a hundred years since the first gloppy, paint-like versions of sunscreen were invented. They didn’t work all that well and you couldn’t get them wet, but it’s on that foundation that modern sunscreens were developed, improved, and waterproofed. So, today, I’d like to tell you the story of sunscreen.
History and Prehistory
The sun’s long been a difficult partner—helping our bodies produce vitamin D, allowing life on earth, and simultaneously burning our skin to a crisp. Humans have, for as long as we know about, used everything from extra clothing to mineral oils and plant mashes to protect their skin for purposes of health, safety, and beauty.
Ancient Greeks used olive oil which, according to not-all-that-modern science, might not be the best choice. Egyptians used rice pastes and jasmine. Even zinc-oxide, a standard ingredient in modern sunscreens, has been used for thousands of years to combat the sun’s harsh effects.
Modern sunscreens, however, came about only in the last century with no one person able to claim complete responsibility for the “invention.”
In 1932, H.A. Milton Blake introduced Hamilton Sunscreen to Australian markets. Through a series of experiments in his boardinghouse bedroom, Blake eventually produced a cream-based, sunburn preventative product called Hamilton Sunscreen. It was the first product of its kind to reach the market but was only mildly effective by today’s modern standards.
Four years later, in 1936, Eugene Schueller, founder of L’Oreal introduced his formula to the world. It was refined a little further and a bit less miserable to wear but his sunscreen was still a long way from our modern expectations.
In the 1940s, a Florida-based doctor and airman, Benjamin Green, introduced Red Vet Pet—a sticky red gel that, at the time, was the best sunscreen around. It was designed to protect GIs in the South Pacific theater of the second World War and served its purpose fairly well.
Between Schueller and Green, in 1938, Franz Greiter introduced a fairly effective formula called Glacier Cream. His biggest contribution though didn’t come until 1962 when he introduced the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating system that we use today.
Now, sunscreen’s not only common for beach-goers and soldiers, though it is standard issue from moms and commanding officers alike. It’s applied through makeups, lip balms, and lotions, as well as the more standard creams and sprays. People throughout history have recognized the value of protecting their skin but now we have the ability to do it with nothing more than a spritz on our way out the door.
We all know that Panama Jack makes the best sunscreen from the best ingredients around so all you have to do now is decide which one’s right for you. I like the Continuous Spray Sport Sunscreen with SPF 30. Which one do you use?