The World Around Us

Chemicals in Our World

How does sunscreen work?

Sunscreens either reflect or absorb ultraviolet light from the Sun. To reflect the light sunscreens contain either titanium or zinc oxides, which are both very white solids (so all wavelengths of visible light are being reflected). To absorb light, sunscreens can contain organic chemicals that interact with harmful UV wavelengths. While almost all sunscreens use titanium and/or zinc oxides, the particular organic compounds that are used vary widely across brands and countries.


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