01 Chemistry Research

This event is limited to the first 18 entries

2019 Topic: The Dos and Don'ts of Sunscreen


Sunlight is essential for life on earth. Without sunlight, there would be no life, but too much sunlight can have harmful effects. When sunlight interacts with our skin, different reactions, both beneficial and harmful for our health, take place. To protect us from the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure, dermatologists strongly advise the use of sunscreen. Many different types of sunscreen are commercially available, offering various benefits – optimized for swimming, safest for children, resistant to sweating, or for optimal tanning. Some claim to be organic; others claim to be safe for marine life. However, are these claims trustworthy - can they be traced back to the ingredients? You will tackle these questions by designing your own sunscreen, carefully choosing ingredients and analyzing their contribution to the total product and testing its effectiveness.  


Part 1 - Conduct Literature Research to Address the following 

  1. What are the positive and negative effects of the sun on skin?
  2. Which properties should sunscreen have in addition to protecting skin from the sun?
  3. The chemistry of sunscreen
    • Various effective ingredients in modern commercial sunscreens
    • The effect of the different effective ingredients on the environment.
    • How the different effective ingredients chemically react with UV light.
    • What SPF is, and how it is measured.

Part 2 - Conduct Original Research

  1. Design a sunscreen you can make from scratch that has the properties you discussed in part 1 B.
  2. Categorize all ingredients in your sunscreen as active and non-active and describe their role in the total sunscreen.
  3. Design a way to test the SPF of the homemade sunscreen that does not involve burning human (or live animal) skin.
  4. Test the SPF of your sunscreen and at least 2 commercial alternatives.
  5. Create a short video showing you making your sunscreen. The video should be under 10 minutes and be of high enough quality to be posted on YouTube for others to view in the future.

Part 3 - Create a Written Report of What You Learned in Parts 1 and 2

A research paper that includes information addressing the following and that demonstrates understanding and information from the literature research above. This should include the following:

  • An introduction describing the role of UV light on life, and its positive and negative effects on human health
  • Describe how sunscreen works, its correct usage, the desired physical properties.
  • List the active ingredients used in common commercial sunscreens. For each ingredient, describe the chemical reaction with UV light and the effect of the ingredient on the environment.
  • Explain what SPF is and how it is measured in the cosmetic industry.
  • Describe the sunscreen you designed: categorize each ingredient as active or inactive and explain why you added each ingredient and its effect on the properties of the total product./li>
  • Explain the method you designed to measure the SPF of the sunscreen.
  • Describe how you used your method to test the SPF of your sunscreen, and the SPF of two commercially available sunscreens.
  • Show and analyze your results.
  • Draw a conclusion on the quality of your sunscreen versus commercial alternatives.
  • Include a link to your video on Youtube in the report. Links sent separately will not be considered.
  • Include a bibliography citing any sources you used for your research, including website links. At least 50% of the cited sources should be primary sources.

Event Day

Teams will make a 3-minute slideshow presentation discussing:

  1. The design of the sunscreen.
  2. The experimental procedure for testing SPF
  3. The results of the experiment.
  4. Conclusions drawn from the results.

Do not include an introduction in the presentation.

Teams should bring sunscreen they created for viewing, as well as any materials showing the results of SPF testing.

Presentations will be scheduled for the morning of the Chemistry Olympics.  (6 minutes maximum: 3 minute prepared presentation + 3 minutes Q&A)  Specific laboratory data collected should be presented to the judges in a graphical/pictorial manner.  Conclusions from experimentation should be clearly supported by the data provided.



IMPORTANT:  Learn about the requirements concerning Primary Sources, formatting and citations for your research paper: Research Guidelines and Requirements

The Chemistry Research Paper must be received by the NJCO Coordinator by the deadline indicated in:: Requirement Overview


Written report (35%) 
  1. Originality (based on turnitin core):  5%
  2. General quality, readability, and accuracy of the report: 10%
  3. Information on active ingredients, their reactions, and their influence on the environment: 10%
  4. Information on SPF and how it is measured: 10%
Experiment and results (35%) 
  1. Design of the sunscreen:  10%
  2. Design of the procedure for SPF testing:  10%
  3. Quality of conclusions drawn:  10%
  4. Video:  5%
Research presentation (30%) 
  1. Quality of presentation (structure, clarity, staying within time):  10%
  2. Explanation of results and conclusion:  10%
  3. Response to questions:  10%