Photophysical properties of sunscreens are commonly studied in solvent media, which do not mimic the skin, or in complex artificial skin systems, which are difficult to handle. In an earlier study, we showed that polystyrene nanosphere suspensions mimic the mixed polarity environment of skin cell systems. This paper presents a new method to quantify the effectiveness of sunscreens in the polystyrene nanosphere environment. This method utilizes the intrinsic UV-B fluorescence of polystyrene nanospheres. We studied three UV-B sunscreens by this new method and compared their extinction coefficients with observed values in solvent. The values follow the trend observed in solvents, but the ratio of their extinction coefficient in solvent to the value obtained by this new method is 1.3–1.8 instead of 1. This difference might be caused by the mixed polarity or the microgeometry of the nanosphere system. Regardless of the difference in the extinction coefficients, this new system can be used to test hundreds of chemicals for their sunscreening potential in a cost-effective way. One marked advantage of this new method is its ability to test both hydrophobic and hydrophilic sunscreening chemicals in the same environment. This is virtually impossible for current solvent-based models, which require different solvents for hydrophobic and hydrophilic chemicals. The new method also allows the simultaneous evaluation of a host of photophysical properties of sunscreening chemicals.
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Vol. 82 • No. 6