I started off this weekend like I do every weekend, shopping for sunscreen. I came across a new brand that I have never encountered before. Dr. Dan’s “chemical free” sunscreen developed by a leading dermatologist, and I was instantly sold.
Once I got home and applied my new sun block I started to wonder, “What does Dr. Dan really mean by chemical free? Was he actually able to create a sunscreen using no chemicals? If so what exactly is in my new sunscreen?” Of course I had to do some research to find the answers to my questions.
On pondering these questions I remembered my Chem 131 class earlier in the week and I learned that all material is made up of chemicals. My first instinct then was to call Dr. Dan a liar. But I resisted, I decided to try to hear Dr. Dan out and understand what he meant by “chemical free”. After all he is a leading dermatologist maybe I could learn a thing or two.
I found out that maybe he was trying to convey a different message because clearly this product can not be chemical free. Everything has chemicals in it. Rather, everything is chemicals! I believe that Dr. Dan was using a marketing technique that is not quite true. He was trying to tell his customers that his product was safe. He wanted them all to know that there are no harmful chemicals in his sunscreen. He did not want people to worry about the effects of the sunscreen that they would be putting on their skin. He is a dermatologist producing sunscreen, obviously he cares about keeping skin healthy. He would not want there to be anything bad in his product. Actually this product is made of all natural chemicals.
He could have used many other expressions rather than “chemical free” to convey his message to his customers, because this term is clearly not true. If it was chemical free it would just be a bottle of a perfect vacuum and that clearly will not help protect anyone from the sun. I believe Dr. Dan should have used a different marketing technique like saying, “all natural” or “no harmful chemicals”. That would have been more accurate and conveyed the same message without annoying the chemist of the community.
So why did this happen? We see products all the time that make these claims. If you walk through a super store you will see makeups, lotions, shampoos, even foods often claiming to be chemical free. This is just to warn the people that these products are safe because we are scared of harmful chemicals as we should be. We want to take care of our bodies as best we can and there are plenty of chemicals that are not good for us. However, this term “chemical free” should not be used because it is not accurate. It can confuse many people that have not had the basics of chemistry explained to them, unlike those lucky enough to be enrolled in Chem 131.