Delving Deeper into Sunscreens

Sunscreen should be a crucial part of our skincare routine, providing protection against the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun—both outdoors and indoors. However, as awareness about the environmental impact of skincare products grows, it becomes important to delve deeper into the ingredients that make up sunscreens. We will explore the various components of sunscreens, their effectiveness, potential environmental impacts, and the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between sun protection and environmental sustainability.

 

Types of Sunscreens

Sunscreens generally fall into two categories: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens contain compounds that absorb UV radiation and transform it into heat, releasing it from the body. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients include avobenzone, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. On the other hand, physical sunscreens use mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to create a protective barrier on the skin, reflecting UV rays away.

The effectiveness of sunscreen ingredients has become an important consideration for consumers. FDA-approved ingredients, such as avobenzone, octocrylene, and zinc oxide, and others are reviewed to ensure their safety and efficacy. However, recent concerns have arisen about certain chemical sunscreen ingredients because they may be absorbed into the bloodstream. Others, such as oxybenzone, has potentially been linked to coral reef damage. Researchers are actively exploring alternative formulations to address these concerns.

 

Consumer Concerns With Sunscreens

The environmental impact of sunscreen use has gained significant attention in recent years. Studies suggest that some chemical sunscreen ingredients can contribute to coral bleaching and negatively impact marine ecosystems. To address this, Hawaii and other locations have banned the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Furthermore, most chemical sunscreens are not natural or biobased. The synthesis of these compounds typically involves starting materials derived from petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are chemical compounds derived from petroleum, which is a fossil fuel composed mainly of hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons, which consist of carbon and hydrogen atoms, are the building blocks of various organic compounds. Petrochemicals play a crucial role in the production of a wide range of products that are integral to modern life. This includes chemical sunscreens. With the current market demanding more sustainable products, the search for environmentally friendly alternatives has led to the development of both “reef-safe” and biobased products for sunscreens, which avoid harmful ingredients and prioritize environmental sustainability.

Furthermore, some products, such as oxybenzone, in addition to their impact on coral reefs, have been criticized for potential hormone-disrupting effects. As a result, consumers are seeking alternatives that offer effective sun protection without compromising health or the environment. Researchers are actively exploring alternative sunscreen formulations that balance sun protection with environmental sustainability. Additionally, plant-based ingredients and antioxidants are being incorporated into sunscreen formulations to enhance protection and minimize environmental impact.

 

Physical Sunscreen Alternatives

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens have challenges in achieving extremely high SPF compared to their chemical counterparts. The difficulty arises from the limitations associated with the particle size of these minerals and in FDA restrictions on the maximum amounts that can be used in a consumer product. In general,larger particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are more effective at blocking UV rays, leading to higher SPF values. However, larger particles are also more

likely to result in a visible white cast on the skin, making them less aesthetically pleasing. This presents a trade-off between achieving a very high SPF and avoiding the characteristic whitening effect.

Additionally, there are concerns that the smaller available sizes of physical sunscreens, nanoparticles, may be toxic and require further study therefore many companies ban their use. Ultimately, the challenge remains in striking the right balance between achieving a high SPF and maintaining the cosmetic preferences of the sunscreen. While they

may not always reach the extremely high SPFs associated with some chemical sunscreens, mineral sunscreens are valued for their broad-spectrum protection, suitability for sensitive skin, and reduced environmental impact.

 

SPF Boosters to the Rescue

There are alternative options to increasing SPF in sunscreens, which are SPF boosters that help improve their ability to shield the skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation. These boosters are often added to sunscreen formulations to increase the overall SPF value, providing consumers with stronger protection against both UVA and UVB rays. One common class of SPF boosters are antioxidants. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals generated by UV exposure, which can contribute to skin damage and aging. By incorporating antioxidants or botanical extracts into sunscreen formulations, manufacturers can enhance the sunscreen’s ability to combat oxidative stress caused by UV radiation. This additional protection complements the primary UV-blocking agents in the sunscreen.

While many SPF boosters are chemically derived from petroleum products, there are very few natural or biobased sources. Ferulic acid, a plant derived photoprotectant, is a potent antioxidant that has gained significant attention in the skincare industry for its ability to neutralize free radicals and protect the skin from oxidative stress. Extracted from various plant sources, such as rice, corn or other sources, ferulic acid is now recognized as a valuable ingredient in skincare formulations.

One of the key benefits of ferulic acid is its ability to enhance the photoprotective properties in formulations. When combined with other antioxidants like vitamins C and E, ferulic acid creates a harmonious effect, boosting the overall effectiveness of the product in shielding the skin from the damaging effects of the environment. UV exposure generates free radicals in the skin, leading to premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancers. Ferulic acid helps combat these free radicals, reducing the oxidative damage caused by UV rays.

Ferulic acid is known for its photostabilizing properties. It can enhance the stability of certain sunscreen ingredients, particularly those prone to degradation when exposed to sunlight. This contributes to the longevity of the sunscreen’s effectiveness, ensuring that it maintains its protective qualities over extended periods of sun exposure. In addition to its antioxidant and photostabilizing benefits, ferulic acid may also have anti-inflammatory properties. This can be particularly beneficial in sunscreens, as it helps lessen inflammation caused by UV exposure, providing soothing effects to the skin.

Unfortunately, formulating with ferulic acid has many challenges due to its inherent properties. It is not soluble in water or lipids and in its free form is an acid, making it a difficult ingredient to incorporate into a wide range of skincare formulations The inability to dissolve in water makes its integration difficult, limiting its use in conventional formulations such as moisturizers and toners. Additionally, its insolubility in lipids poses challenges for oil-based formulations, impeding its potential application in various skincare products.  In plants, there is very little free ferulic acid where it is bound up in lignin and cellulosics.

 

A New Discovery

Taking direction from nature FeruliShield™, an advanced biotech ingredient, was developed as a significant improvement over conventional ferulic acid in personal care products. Derived from nature’s photoprotectant and antioxidant, ferulic acid, FeruliShield’s ferulic acid moiety is enzymatically linked to soybean oil and coconut oil to create a feruloyl glyceride.  This signifantly simplifies the formulation processes and enhances effectiveness in a range of applications. This innovation not only serves as an SPF booster, reducing the white cast associated with ZnO or TiO₂-based products, but it also acts as a rapid antioxidant, safeguarding the skin from environmental damage. Beyond its antioxidant properties, FeruliShield extends the longevity and efficacy of active ingredients, addressing a limitation often faced by ferulic acid in cosmetic and personal care formulations.

FeruliShield’s stability, ease of formulation, and lipophilic nature contribute to its role as a long-lasting shield against environmental damage, preventing photodegradation and oxidation. This not only aids in maintaining the efficacy of other active ingredients but positions FeruliShield as a versatile SPF booster. Its certification as a USDA Certified Biobased product aligns with the growing demand for sustainable options, emphasizing the commitment to environmentally conscious practices.

Backed by over a decade of scientific research, FeruliShield’s efficacy is well-documented in peer-reviewed journals, while computer modeling studies highlight its surface-based protection, staying on the skin’s surface for optimal impact without absorbing into the skin. Its liphophilic nature further ensures ease of formulation in both water-in-oil (w/o) and oil-in-water (o/w) formulations, making FeruliShield a versatile and effective addition to clean and science-based beauty regimens, aligning with the contemporary emphasis on sun protection and overall health preservation.

 

Conclusion

As researchers delve into innovative approaches to enhance sun protection and address challenges associated with prolonged sun exposure, feruloyl glycerides emerge as a promising ingredient that complements the existing arsenal of UV filters and boosters in sunscreen formulations. Its multifaceted benefits, including antioxidant properties and photostabilization, make it a valuable addition to skincare products. These not only enhances protection against the harmful effects of UV radiation but also contributes to overall skin health.

In our ongoing commitment to prioritize sun protection, it becomes imperative to stay informed about the ingredients in our sunscreens and their potential impact on both our health and the environment. The industry’s shift towards more sustainable options and the development of innovative formulations underscores the importance of finding a balance between effective sun protection and environmental responsibility. Through making informed choices, we can safely enjoy the sun while actively contributing to the preservation of our planet.

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122478/

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun

https://coralreef.noaa.gov/

https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/

https://www.aad.org/media/stats-sunscreen

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