What the world used before sunscreens came into existence

We all know that a long day in sun calls for some sort of skin protection like sunscreen that can save you from the harms of harsh rays. You will be surprised to know that this behaviour is not a new fad, and even in older times, there were some pre-sunscreen solutions that people used to follow. Let’s find out what were they. 

 Zinc Oxide

Zinc Oxide paste has been used as effective protection against UVB and UVA rays from hundreds of years. The only issue with Zinc Oxide paste is that it does not easily absorb in the skin, and the person who has applied it looks funny outdoors with white patches all over. It has recently comeback as a nanoparticle in some sunscreen products given its effectiveness in providing ample protection.

Zeozon, the first commercial sun protection

In 1910, a product called Zeozon came on the market with claims to protect the skin against sunburns and freckles. It was a natural product derived from the horse chestnut tree extract. Before this, people used to apply coloured pastes like red or yellow paste and often wore veils for sun protection.

Jasmine and Rice as sunscreen

Ancient Egyptians were the first ones to preserve light and fair skin that was considered a symbol of beauty. So, they used several natural ingredients and products to protect their skin, especially from the harsh desert sun. One such combination included rice bran that actually contains UV-absorbing gamma oryzanol and jasmine that repairs damaged DNA. These references were found on the ancient papyrus scrolls and tomb walls.

 Olive Oil

The ancient Greeks used large brimmed hats and veils to dodge the sun and also rubbed olive oil on their face and skin as the first line of defence against the harmful rays. All the olive oil did was make the skin very soft and offered no protection against sun at all.


In 1897 Tannin was dubbed as a substance providing skin protection from ultraviolet rays by Otto Veiel of Austria. Tannin is a yellowish-brown plant-based substance with an effect to darken the skin but provide excellent sun protection. However, this side effect led many to not use it often.

 Extract of Western Hemlock

‘Tsuga heterophylla’ is a coniferous tree found in the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest. Its extract was used by the Makah and Hesquiat peoples as an effective remedy for sun protection and burn.

Coppertone sunscreen and Gletscher Crème were some early formulated modern sunscreen products that enabled people to enjoy sunny days without distresses

Priyadarshini Kaul

Priyadarshini Kaul Mishra has two Master’s Degrees in English Literature and History. She is actively following her passion for the language by being a content creator since many years now. Besides this, Priyadarshini is a true bookworm at heart and tries to be an avid reader despite being a full-time mother now. She is also a professionally certified baker and puts on the oven mitts every now and then.
Back to top button