National Sun Screen Day is May 28th, why? What did you think we were talking about?

I love the sun, but if you’ve ever forgotten to put sunscreen on then you know the sun doesn’t really love you back. Living in Florida (aka the Sunshine State), I’ve gotten used to sunscreen being part of my daily skin regimen but working in a quality control laboratory with a QUV machine has shown me why we ALL need to be wearing sunscreen everyday. Since May 28th is National Sunscreen day, I thought I would enlighten you all on UV Rays, QUV machines, and titanium and zinc oxides.

UVA vs UVB rays

Here at ChemCove we love a good acronym, and I’m sure many of you have heard of UVA and UVB rays but not enough to use it in an everyday conversation so let’s break it down. UV stands for Ultra Violet which is a type of electromagnetic (EM) radiation. EM radiation is essentially little bundles of energy called photons which travel in waves and move at the speed of light. Some photons are visible to us and believe it or not we call this visible light (VL). UV photons move faster than VL because they have higher energy and a shorter wavelength. Though some animals such as bumble bees can see UV light, we, as humans, cannot. However we are quite capable of feeling the effects of UV ray exposure.

There are different types of UV rays. UVA rays are responsible for dark spots, wrinkles, premature aging, and fine lines. These types of rays can pass through window glass and clouds. UVB rays skim the surface of your skin and are the main culprit of sunburns and skin reddening. Both UVA and UVB are responsible for skin cancer. The most harmful type of rays are UVC rays but thankfully for us we don’t need to worry about this kind because it is entirely absorbed by our Earth’s ozone layer. However, stay away from old tanning beds because you can find UVC rays there.

UV resistance in paint and coatings

In the paints and coatings world, we test many products by exposing them to UV rays in a contraption called a QUV machine. QUV stands for Q-Panel Ultra Violet (Q-Panels are what the samples are placed on while they are in the machine). The QUV mimics the effect of sunlight with fluorescent ultraviolet lights, really similar to a tanning bed but for chemical samples. In a matter of hours we can see what will potentially happen to the samples after being exposed to the sun’s rays for a couple of months. Advanced weathering causes so many types of damage, like fading, color changes, cracking, embrittlement, strength loss and so much more. Now imagine what it’s doing to your skin! The data obtained from QUV machines helps in the selection of new materials to improve product durability so hopefully you, the customer, won’t see the effects the sun has on everyday items such as paint or wooden floors (the list is extensive, believe me).

You vs the Sun

Now that you have a baseline understanding of how harmful the sun’s UV rays are on everything around us including YOU, it’s time to have a talk about protection. There’s two main types of sunscreens: chemical or physical. Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, or homosalate. The one “benefit” of using a chemical sunscreen is that it absorbs into your skin and is more transparent, but be warned… These chemicals not only cause hormone imbalance and irritate the skin (especially if you’re acne prone) but they kill our reefs and damage marine life which are extremely sensitive and important to our ocean’s ecosystem. Chemical sunscreens work by dispersing the UV rays throughout the skin which are let off as heat and take about 20 minutes to become effective after application since it has to be absorbed through our skin’s layers. Thankfully our Earth has blessed us with minerals called zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which are the main component of physical sunscreen. These compounds physically block UVA and UVB rays acting like a shield; they are a more natural product and they are reef  and marine life safe! Rub it in well and it looks shear on the skin but to the UV rays it works like a mirror to deflect and protect. Physical sunscreens don’t have to be applied as often as chemical sunscreens and are very gentle on the skin. As far as which one is right for you, it’s about personal preference and doing a little research.

Bottom line is that your skin is important and the sun’s rays can be very destructive in everyday life. So here’s a life lesson: say yes to protection!


Madeleine Smith
Associate Chemist

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