Sunblock Buster

Can a popular sunscreen ingredient make sunburns even worse?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


SUNSCREEN IS SUPPOSED TO prevent sunburns—but research shows it might also cover them up. It all started with a scorched guinea pig. Eugene Pittz, a chemist in New Jersey was formulating sunscreens for the cosmetics company Warner-Lambert (now a part of Pfizer) in the early ’80s when he accidentally gave one of his laboratory animals too much ultraviolet radiation. He applied sunscreen to the burn, and to his surprise, the rodent’s redness faded. He ran a few more experiments (including one on himself) and confirmed that the now ubiquitous UVA blocker oxybenzone had anti-inflammatory properties. Pittz patented his findings, but sunscreen makers haven’t been in a rush to publicize them. Understandably so: If your sunscreen makes your sunburn look less severe, you’re likely to spend more time in the sun without realizing you’re slowly roasting.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate