Sunscreen is understood to be the universal problem solver of sunburn. However this could be one of the best deceptions of the past century. The way sunscreen works is interesting in relation to your skin’s reaction. Misuse of sunscreen happens way more often than proper use. Your skin reacts to the sun in certain ways depending on how you prepare for it. Skin can adapt to the sun’s exposure and produce its own strategy to fight against the sun’s rays. The combination of sunscreen, your skin’s reactions, and the way your immune system works has to be understood correctly to be able to keep your skin as healthy and as strong as possible. 

Sunscreen, obviously, is known to be a cosmetic that in theory protects your skin from the sun. The University of Chicago Medicine posted an article on their website explaining the Science of sunscreen, called, Feel the burn? Explaining the science of sunscreen. The way sunscreen works is expressed in two different types of sunscreens, “organic, or chemical, and inorganic, or physical.” Chemical type has organic compounds that lay on the surface of your skin. It “works like a sponge” absorbing the rays of the sun. Similarly to chemical, in the physical type the inorganic compounds lay on the skin, but will reflect the sun’s rays. The University of Chicago Medicine says that these two product types are often used together to formulate one product, “Many types of sunscreen available in the U.S. combine organic and inorganic compounds to provide this kind of broad-spectrum protection.” In addition, it is often found that most people use sunscreen incorrectly, which results in possible burns. It is said that sunscreen must be applied every 2 hours and 15-30 minutes before sun exposure. Do you or anyone you know use sunscreen in its most effective way as advertised? Even so, a majority does not use it in this way. This is interesting because if a product is deemed effective when used properly, if used improperly it becomes ineffective. 

When exposed to sunlight, skin has its own form of protection against ultraviolet light, the skin produces Melanin. Melanin is explained in an article by Medical News Today, called, What to know about melanin. The article states, “Melanin is a substance present in the skin that produces pigment.” This is what makes your skin look darker or tanner. The function of melanin is described as the “protection of eyes and skin from sunlight”. This does not act the way sunscreens do in way of a reflection or sponge over top the skin. Melanin fends off the harmful rays of the sun while still allowing the skin to absorb the benefits of sunlight such as vitamin D. 

The immune system is forever adapting. The Australian Academy of Science created a simple video that explains how the immune system fights off viruses. It shows the process of the immune system in action. When a bacteria is introduced in the body your immune system will immediately send in “guard cells” to intervene. They can kill foriegn bacteria but will also cause inflammation in the process, possibly in the form of swelling. If this will not stop the problem, “the brain of the immune system” is introduced, a cell that will collect information from the foriegn bacteria and decide what to do in order to eliminate the bacteria. It will find a “helper cell” that is genetically designed for this certain bacteria. The “helper cell” is activated by the “brain cell”, which will multiply and join the fight while also sending back valuable information back to a “b cell”. The “B cell” will then create antibodies that flood the body and destroy the foriegn bacteria with its own identity. In relation to the skin, the sun’s harmful UV rays can play the role of the foriegn bacteria. The rays contact the skin which then the immune system will send the initial line of defence to stop it, causing inflammation such as sunburn. But while this happens the immune system then collects all the information it needs from the opposition and will form a line of defence, Melanin. Melanin acts like the antibodies do against viruses. When this process happens again the skin will be familiar with it and react accordingly. The more instances this happens your body becomes more knowledgeable on the matter and can find out the best possible method to stop it from any harm at all.

Sunscreen is a cosmetic that acts as a shield of armor for your skin, allowing no sun to contact.  Melanin, the body’s known choice of defense, is produced when your skin does contact with sunlight. Melanin is the skin’s natural defence against the sun’s harmful rays. The immune system will collect information from the harmfulness of the sun’s ray, then create a defense method to battle the opposition. The immune system will grow stronger as it encounters these rays more often and ultimately stopping it in its tracks.With all these variables understood we can begin to devise a plan on what to do when in contact with the sun that is safest and will make us stronger. 

Resources (2016, September 7). The immune system explained. Curious. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from

Waxman, E. (2018, July 18). Feel the burn? explaining the science of Sunscreen. UChicago Medicine. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from

How does melanin protect the skin? melanin skin and the melanin function. BloqUV. (2019, September 16). Retrieved November 9, 2021, from

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