UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
Home
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Webcasts
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
What are the main ingredients used to make sunscreen? What chemical reactions are there? How do these ingredients work chemically to help protect the skin from UV rays? Can you please help me find some good sites relating to sunscreen...
Question Date: 2002-06-03
Answer 1:

Well I didn't know the answer to your question, so I did a bit of research on the web, and learned something myself! It turns out that there are two kinds of sunscreen ingredients - chemical and physical.

The chemical ingredients work by absorbing the sun's UV rays. These are organic molecules which are able to absorb light in the appropriate frequency range. It's not really a chemical reaction - the molecules are excited into a higher energy state, which they then relax from gradually without re-emitting the dangerous UV radiation that would damage your skin.

The physical type simply work by covering your skin and blocking the radiation (much like wearing a shirt works!) These are oxides, including TiO2 and ZnO. Incidentally, TiO2 is also used in paints for the same reason - it is very good at scattering light. Here are some good web-sites that have some more information: sunscreens



Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use