UV Protection in Skin Care Products

November 14, 2005

Formulations often contain organic or inorganic sunscreens or both. Now more products promise to improve UV-damaged skin with antioxidants and other ingredients.

Consumers have an arsenal of materials, including hydroxy acids, peptides and antioxidants, at their disposal to combat the signs of aging. While they all can play an important role in keeping the skin looking its best, the first and most important line of defense against UV damage is still organic and inorganic sunscreens. Although there have been many advances in anti-aging, experts agree that the easiest way to keep skin looking young is to avoid damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Cosmetic formulators certainly understand the benefits that come from incorporating UV protection into skin care product. Nearly every brand of foundation on the market contains some kind of UV block or filter—and that, say most industry experts, is a good thing.

“Consumers are quite savvy when it comes to understanding the role that UV plays in accelerating aging of the skin,” observed Lori Bush, president of Nu Skin, Provo UT. “But we still have a ways to go explaining the difference between UVA and UVB.”

She noted that SPF measurements reflect UVB, “yet we preach the dangers of UVA radiation, which is present for a greater portion of the day and plays a highly significant role in the aging process.”

The damage caused by UVA leads to much more than wrinkles. During the past 10 years the number of cases of melanoma has increased more rapidly than that of any other form of cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, New York, NY. More than 51,000 new cases are reported to the American Cancer Society each year. That’s alarming enough, but experts say many more cases go undetected.

“It is critical for people to use face care products with UV protection in the form of SPF to protect themselves from skin damage,” noted Anthony Johnson, manager of skin bioscience, Unilever Home and Personal Care. “In order to provide adequate sun protection, skin care products should contain a broad spectrum UVA screen in addition to traditional UVB sunscreens to block the sun’s harmful UV rays. A good moisturizer with SPF 15, like Dove Day lotion or Day cream, provides a sufficient amount of protection for everyday use.”
One SKU in the Olay Regenerist line provides UV protection.

UV Protection in New Places
Cosmetic chemists are doing their part to slow down the outbreak of melanoma cases. Most foundation, moisturizer and lip color lines on the market today feature at least one SKU that contains UV protection. Not only are consumers demanding these products, but formulators say that working with sunscreens is easier than ever.

“Formulating with organic/inorganic sunscreens isn’t a problem anymore, like it was years ago,” noted Domnica Cernasov, vice president, research & development, basic/applied research, Coty. “Today, the chemists are much more trained in the chemistry of the chemical absorbers, as well as how to deal with ultrafine TiO2 and ZnO. The major problem would be to obtain certain aesthetics with the high SPF, to replicate the texture, feel and application of a non-OTC cream or lotion.”

Of course, most of the chemistry used to create skin care products with UV protection got its impetus from products designed for the beach. Although these beachwear products have provided good protection for decades, there is always room for improvements. And, as has happened in the past, some of the technology that is developed for sun and surf will ultimately find its way into skin care products that provide UV protection.

Ken Klein, president of Cosmetech Laboratories, noted that formulators are trying harder than ever to optimize their sunscreen formulations. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to combine inorganic and organic sunscreens.

“The inorganics, in addition to their own ability to act as UV absorbers via a semiconductor effect, increase the optical path length and thus enhance the efficiency of the organic absorbers. Thus the total percentage of sunscreen can be dramatically reduced,” commented Mr. Klein.

Another area that continues to show promise, according to Mr. Klein, is the use of “intelligent” emollients; e.g., ingredients (typically more polar esters) that not only enhance the skin feel attributes of the product, but also have other functions, including:

• improved spreading characteristics;

• improved particulate (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) dispersion and minimized reagglomeration and

• a positive effect on the UV curve by shifting it to a more effective position, thereby raising the “effective” extinction coefficient.

Mr. Klein added that these materials can also reduce photodegradation as detailed in studies by Craig Bonda of C.P. Hall. These emollients can also reduce organic sunscreen agglomeration through solubility parameter matching, which was described by Chris Vaughan of SPF Consulting.

“We also see more intelligent use of film-formers to thicken the residual sunscreen on the skin and thus maximize the SPF,” said Mr. Klein. “Lastly, some polymers have been developed to minimize sunscreen penetration and thus reduce the possibility of irritation while further increasing the sunscreen efficiency. Sunscreen formulators have gotten much smarter and who knows quite where it will end.”

Tru Face Revealing gel contains a cocktail of ingredients that are designed to reverse the damage caused by UV radiation.

Enough’s Enough?
Applying the proper amount of UV protection for the beach or other outdoor activity is the most sensible thing one can do to protect skin health. But there has also been a rush to add UV protection to cosmetics and skin care products, a movement that not every observer is sure is necessary.

According to Shyam Gupta, president of Bioderm and director of research and development at Arizona Natural Resources, the use of sunscreens in cosmetics, especially color cosmetics, is overdone.

“The current anti-aging craze is driving the use of sunscreens in every consumer product—except perhaps drinking water!” joked Dr. Gupta. “Foundations are used both during the day and night. I do not believe there is sufficiently harmful level of UV in the nighttime to warrant the use of sunscreens in a foundation product.”

At the same time, however, Dr. Gupta applauded the inclusion of proper antioxidants in a sunscreen as most appropriate, along with the addition of an anti-inflammatory agent.

Nu Skin’s New Idea
Although inorganic and organic sunscreens are the first line of defense against UV damage, more cosmetic chemists are researching ways to improve skin that’s already been damaged by the sun. This fall, for instance, Nu Skin will introduce Tru Face Revealing gel featuring polyhydroxy acids that, company executives insist, provide all the cell renewal properties of hydroxy acids without the irritation that often occurs with alpha hydroxy acids.

In addition, Tru Face Revealing gel contains lactobionic and gluconolactone acids that enable even irritated and sensitive skin to benefit from the cell renewal properties of hydroxy acids without the stinging or burning associated with these ingredients. According to the company, lactobionic acid acts as a powerful antioxidant and chelates excess iron in the skin, thereby reducing potential oxidative damage.

“Transitional metals in the skin have a positive and negative component,” explained Nu Skin’s Ms. Bush. “You want to derive all the benefits from these metals, but when the metals have completed their biological reactions, you want to neutralize them.”

As an antioxidant, lactobionic acid also helps repair damage caused by UV radiation and gluconolactone acid reduces the appearance of pore size and the visible effects of photoaging to improve skin texture and radiance.

“Tru Face Revealing gel will not protect skin from UV radiation, but it does help repair or improve some of the changes associated with skin as a result of UV damage,” noted Ms. Bush.

Nu Skin is not the first company to formulate a skin care product that does its best work after the sun goes down. Many of today’s skin care products contain one type of ingredient or another that promise to help reduce the damage already done by UV radiation.

For example, in April Procter & Gamble introduced Olay Regenerist with Olay-exclusive amino-peptide complex to help regenerate skin’s appearance without irritation, by renewing the skin’s outer layer one cell at a time, according to the company.

The amino-peptide complex is a combination of vitamin B3, allantoin, pro-vitamin B5, vitamin E and green tea extract. The three-item line also includes a lotion that provides UV protection.

Unilever, one of P&G’s biggest competitors, expanded its presence in the anti-aging segment in a big way with the recent launch of Dove Essential Nutrients. The nine-item line of cleansers, moisturizers and toner includes two products that boast SPF 15 protection: day lotion and day cream. But all the products contain a proprietary complex of lipids, amino acids, minerals and vitamins A, E and B5. According to Unilever, the brand could capture 10% of the U.S. facial care market within five years. If those predictions are correct, then Dove Essential Nutrients would become a $200 million business.

Green tea, as has been widely reported, is an excellent source of antioxidants. As a result more skin care products are incorporating this ingredient, along with grapeseed, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene—all of them already available in many of the foods we eat—and that’s no coincidence, according to Ms. Bush of Nu Skin.

“The world of nutrition and the world of skin care are coming together and the breakthroughs are coming out of the nutrition area” she observed. “Skin is an organ and people are appreciating the advances being made about how nutrition helps skin.”

In March, Nu Skin reported on the effects of a combination of topical and oral forms of green tea extracts on the histology of skin. The study, conducted with Stanford University’s School of Medicine, revealed that histologically, there was a significant improvement in the skin’s elastic tissue content.

Today, UV protection is no longer an option in formulating a skin care product. Consumers expect at least one SKU in every line to provide some sort of protection. Now, chemists are developing products that can help restore some of the properties that are damaged by UV rays.

In the future, researchers may design products that can help skin fight off the damage before it ever takes place. Perhaps, a capsule with UV blocking and antioxidant materials? Sounds far-fetched, but as the gap between skin care and skin nutrition narrows, chemists may discover many ways to keep skin looking great.