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Did you Know Plants Make Their own Sunscreen? - What That Might Mean for You

by kelly / January, 14 2015 01:30

We love the sun at Block Island Organics but we are all about playing smart and safe in the sun.  The sun is powerful, protection from it is important and there are numerous studies proving that sunscreen prevents skin cancer and skin aging.  In our latest suncare smarts series we discuss a new study that reveals plants make their own "sunscreen".  Yes even plants need protection from the sun just like you and me.


Plants need the sunlight to make food - remember high school science and the word photosynthesis?  However plants also need to protect themselves from getting burned by the sun's rays.  The sun's rays can actually damage a plant's DNA and prevent the plant from developing properly.  As a result, researchers at Purdue University recently discovered that plants produce a natural "sunscreen" that shields them from sun damage.  This shield is made up from molecules called sinapate esters that plants produce and send out to the outer layers of their leaves.  This creates an invisible barrier against UVB radiation. 


You might be asking from here then how do plants use the sunlight to photosynthesize while at the same time block themselves from the sun's ray.  Good question.  The researchers at Purdue also found that the sinapate esters block UVB while also absorbing the light needed for photosynthesis.  Pretty cool of mother nature!  These sinapate esters are capable of absorbing radiation at every wavelength across the UVB spectrum while letting other wavelengths of light necessary to the plant slip through.  Of course us humans differ in that we need broad spectrum sun protection from both UVB and UVA radiation.  Unfortunately the report summary didn't mention UVA protection, so I'm not sure if it was studied.


All this new research is exciting.  For one, some speculate it might help scientist protect plants from the effects of climate change.  Second, this study could even mean advancements in sunscreen products for people.  Today consumers have two options for sunscreen: mineral like ours and chemical. Who knows one day you might be able to buy a plant based sunscreen with broad spectrum protection.  Go science!

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