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Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:08 am
Occupation: Teacher

Testing Sunscreen Without Sunlight

Postby sfranklin1379 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:21 am

I am a teacher interested in testing the effectiveness of sunscreens with my students and I was wondering if there is a way to do this without going outside. I was thinking of investing in some UVB lights (similar to the ones used for terrariums). I also do not have a UV detector but I do have UV color changing beads and I was wondering if there was a way to use those to get a general idea of how effective each sunscreen is based on the amount of color change. I do not have a budget to work with so I am trying to do all of this without spending a lot of cash. My goal is to use this experiment to compare coral-safe sunscreens to sunscreens containing benzophenones and tie it into a lesson on ocean conservation but if anyone has an idea for a different experiment that could work with my lesson and involves sunscreen I would love to hear suggestions.

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Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 am
Occupation: Retired molecular biologist, university researcher and teacher

Re: Testing Sunscreen Without Sunlight

Postby SciB » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:59 pm

Hi and welcome to Scibuddies!

Your experiment plan sounds good, but you will have to try it to be sure. There are details you will need to work out like how much sunscreen to apply and what you will put it on, how long to expose the sunscreen to the UV lights, how close the lamp has to be to cause a color change to the beads, whether or not you need to control the temperature, etc.

If everything works out OK and you are able to compare the UV absorption of the different types of sunscreen, you could also do an experiment to compare their resistance to washing off in salt water. I think you could apply the sunscreen to whatever you will use in place of skin, measure the UV transmission, then rinse it in sea water for a specific length of time and measure the UV transmission again. You could do this several times to see how long the different sun-blocks continue to work.

Hope this helps. If you have more questions, please ask.

Good luck!


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