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The History of Sunscreen

It’s an important product for protecting your skin, but do you know where sunscreen comes from? You might be surprised to learn that it has only been around for about 100 years! The earliest sun care came in the form of modest bathing costumes that covered the skin. But in the early 1900s, Coco Chanel debuted a post-vacation suntan that symbolized health and wealth, and people began trying to imitate her look. In 1928, a link between sun exposure and skin cancer emerged, but it wasn’t enough to discourage tanning. Then in the 1930s, a chemistry student created Glacier Cream. It was the first product to include a Sun Protection Factor (SPF), but it was only a value of 2! It was the 1940s that truly brought about a revolution in sun care, when a U.S. airman created what eventually became known as Coppertone sunscreen. (Those iconic Coppertone ads were created in the 1950s by a pin-up artist.) However, at the time, the purpose of sunscreen was still seen as being able to safely tan – not to fully block out UV rays. Chemical sunscreens and self-tanners became even more popular in the 1960s, but actual protection remained low. By the 1970s, SPF was only up to 15! The 1980s brought about zinc oxide sunscreen and the 1990s introduced spray-on and gel-based formulations. Finally, in the 2000s, high-SPF sunscreens replaced low-SPF versions. Today, we know more than ever about the link between skin cancer and sun exposure, and there are more high-SPF sunscreens to choose from than ever before!

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