Illuminating the Effect of the Local Environment on the Performance of Organic Sunscreens: Insights From Laser Spectroscopy of Isolated Molecules and Complexes

Natalie G.K. Wong, Caroline E.H. Dessent*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Sunscreens are essential for protecting the skin from UV radiation, but significant questions remain about the fundamental molecular-level processes by which they operate. In this mini review, we provide an overview of recent advanced laser spectroscopic studies that have probed how the local, chemical environment of an organic sunscreen affects its performance. We highlight experiments where UV laser spectroscopy has been performed on isolated gas-phase sunscreen molecules and complexes. These experiments reveal how pH, alkali metal cation binding, and solvation perturb the geometric and hence electronic structures of sunscreen molecules, and hence their non-radiative decay pathways. A better understanding of how these interactions impact on the performance of individual sunscreens will inform the rational design of future sunscreens and their optimum formulations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number812098
JournalFrontiers in Chemistry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 Wong and Dessent.

Funding Information:
We thank the University of York and the Department of Chemistry for provision of funds for the OPO laser system used in the studies described. We are also grateful for the computational support from the University of York High Performance Computing service, Viking, and the Research Computing team. We also acknowledge use of the York Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry, which was created thanks to a major capital investment through Science City York, supported by Yorkshire Forward with funds from the Northern Way Initiative, and has more recently received additional support from the EPSRC and BBSRC.

Funding Information:
This work was funded through the Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant RPG-2017-147.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Wong and Dessent.


  • lasers
  • pH
  • photochemistry
  • photophysics
  • rational design
  • solvent
  • sunscreens

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