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Sun cream is a topical product that protects from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun. Applied to the surface of the body, sun cream has been a popular product since the mid-1900s as the chief protection from sunburn and other negative consequences of the sun’s radiation. The product comes in many forms and brands and in spray, gel, and lotion types, and is also known as suntan lotion or sunblock. With three main types of protection, sun cream is an essential product for many exposed to midday sun for long periods, and is most commonly seen on summer beaches.
From small tubes or spray bottles, sun cream is supposed to be distributed over the exposed body evenly. A dosage of cream around the size of a quarter could reasonably coat the average adult with enough sun cream to cover exposed areas. Many normal sun creams should be applied every two or three hours for maximum effectiveness, and should be reapplied after swimming or getting wet. In the 2000s, modern sun creams have been developed to resist water and sweat.
Sun cream first emerged as a popular preventive method against sunburn in the 1930s, when Franz Greiter developed the first sun cream lotion, which later became the original Piz Buin product and product line. Twenty-two years after developing the first primitive creams, Greiter was responsible for the concept behind what is today known as SPF, or Sun Protection Factor. The SPF guide was established to measure the strength and effectiveness of different sun creams with different skin types. The SPF helped to determine the amount of cream needed and the level of protection offered.
More recently, sun cream has emerged as a popular product for a culture obsessed with suntans. With the growing risk of skin cancer, sun cream has become an essential product across the United States, though it has not become as prevalent across Europe. Sun cream has been proven to combine organic compounds to absorb UV rays above the skin; reflect and scatter UV light on the surface; or do a combination of the two through organic and inorganic particulates.
Recommended by the American Cancer Society, sun creams come in various variations, including anti-wrinkle creams. Though the major purpose of sun creams are to protect from the sun, some creams have been developed to protect the skin while using the rays of the sun to enhance a tan at the same time. These creams are not to be confused with tanning lotions or creams, which do not protect from the sun.