The History of Sunscreen

The History of Sunscreen

Did you know that sunscreen was invented in the 1930s? However, it was very different from the sunscreen products we know and love today. There are two stories of how sunscreen was invented, read further to find out!

The story goes, according to the New York Times, that in 1938, a chemistry student from Switzerland named Franz Greriter, suffered from a sunburn while hiking Mount Piz Buin. And after experiencing the sunburn, he set out to invent the first ever sunscreen. Around the same time, in 1944 an American airman and pharmacist who served in World War II named Benjamin Green, sought to develop a substance that could protect himself and other soldiers from the sun during the war. He used a greasy substance called “red vet pet” which was a red veterinary petroleum, however it was heavy and unpleasant to use. Though it did provide a physical barrier between the skin and the sun. After the war, Benajmin developed a more pleasant and consumer-friendly version by adding cocoa butter and coconut oil. This combination eventually became Coppertone suntan cream.

In 1946, Franz Greiter also developed and commercialized the first modern sunscreen. It was known as Glacier Cream and he named the brand Piz Buin, in honour of the mountain in which he climbed. Franz also invented the sun protection factor (SPF) rating, and the original Glacier Cream had an SPF rating of 2. 

According to a paper by Drissi et al., since the 1940s, manufacturers have developed water resistant sunscreens, and using ingredients that are both UVA and UVB blockers. And testing standards have been put in place by regulatory bodies like the FDA and Health Canada.

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