LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Southern California can be appealing to residents and visitors alike for its beaches, parks, and outdoor attractions.
But as with any other region of the world, extra precautions should be taken against dangerous exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, especially when outdoors for an extended period of time.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country, especially among young adults, and melanoma is responsible for the highest number of cancer-related deaths.
In an effort to help end the skin cancer epidemic, Allen Starnes, Gabe Valente, Geoffrey Olson, and Tyler Church Haggstrom worked to create a sunscreen initiative to help raise awareness about the harmful effects of the sun.
As a result, the group of Los Angeles men developed Sun Shield, which is being billed as the world’s first automatic outdoor sunscreen dispenser.
“Sunscreen and skin cancer tend to be an afterthought, so we put a lot of attention into making this product different,” Valente explained. “It’s something people can engage with and youth gravitate to. Most importantly, it takes out all excuses for not wearing sunscreen.”
The Sun Shield is designed to make sunscreen easily accessible to anyone outdoors at no cost. The machine is encased in bright yellow weather resistant housing and is intended to catch the public’s eye.
“We started by developing a unique and interesting design so people would want to know what this machine was at first glance,” Valente said. “We brought in toy designers from Mattel and Hasboro as well as electrical engineers from Boeing to make sure that whenever this product is used it works, plain and simple.”
Each Sun Shield holds one liter of sunblock, which equates to around 500 applications, and operates on a rechargeable battery.
The motion-activated dispensers currently offer 30 and 50 SPF sunscreens that are hypoallergenic and mineral-based. Available brands range from Banana Boat and Blue Lizzard to Garden Goddess Mineral Blend.
“Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours and most people forget to wear [it],” said Valente. “The convenience aspect of our machine is very beneficial to everyone. Most people don’t realize how harsh the sun is until they have spent an hour or two outside.”
“Our sunscreen dispensers teach the public about skin cancer and the importance of going to get a skin check from a local dermatologist,” he added. “We try to be as integrated in the melanoma community as possible because we see ourselves as the platform for people to use to get their voices heard and noticed.”
Since launching in December, Sun Shield machines have provided free sunscreen to beachgoers in Hermosa Beach, students at a school in Hollywood, shoppers at the Manhattan Beach farmer’s market on Tuesdays, visitors of the Griffith Park Observatory and more than 100 locations nationwide.