Human skin was better resistant to the sun before there were sunscreens and umbrellas: an anthropologist explains why

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Nina G. Jablonski, Penn State

(THE CONVERSATION) The human being has a conflictive relationship with the sun. People love the sun, but then it gets hot. The sweat enters your eyes. Then there are all the protection rituals: the sunscreen, the hats, the sunglasses. If you spend too much time outdoors or haven’t taken enough precautions, your skin lets us know with a burn of rage. First the heat, then the pain, then the regret.

Were people always so obsessed with what the sun would do to their bodies? As a biological anthropologist who has studied primate adaptations to the environment, I can tell you that the short answer is “no,” and it wasn’t necessary. For eons, the skin resisted the sun.

Skin, between you and the world