UV Protection in Skin Care

By Melanie Henson

What ever happened to the “healthy” tan?

At one time, sun-darkened skin was synonymous with attractiveness and good health. Women and men alike went to great lengths to feel the burn-literally. The well-off went regularly to tanning beds, while the less proletariat had to settle for simply lying outdoors on recliners, slathered in a good coating of baby oil.

Today, doctors-and many consumers-cringe at such an image. And it’s no wonder. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one million new cases of skin cancer occur each year, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths.

On the flip side of the coin, there’s vanity. Certain UV rays have been directly linked to premature aging of the skin, including wrinkles, roughness and loss of elasticity.

These combined factors have individuals reaching for the sunscreen, and more and more purchase sunscreen-containing products for daily use.

When it comes to UV protection, visions of white noses and coconut-scented lotions come to mind. That’s all well and good for a day at the beach, according to industry experts. But when it comes to daily-use moisturizers, less is definitely more. Consumers want to have their cake and eat it too. They look for products that will protect the skin from the
hazardous effects of the sun, yet are greaseless, light and noncomedogenic, especially when applied to the face.

Formulating a basic skin care product can be complex. Adding either organic or chemical sunscreen only adds to the complexity. But marketers are finding new ways to make the process quicker, easier and sometimes, less expensive than it was in the past.

Global warming may have more of an impact than stratospheric ozone depletion on ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer risk, according to a report in The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Sun & Skin News. Due to actions taken to limit production and consumption of chemicals, the ozone has not increased UV exposure, according to author Brian L. Diffey DSc of the region medical physics department, Newcastle General Hospital in England. However, global warming creates the well-known “greenhouse effect,” which keeps heat from escaping and allows light in. Potentially, this mean an increased skin cancer risk, he said.

“The gases slow the speed at which ozone holes can close and may also create new holes, allowing through more UV radiation,” explained Dr. Diffey.

He added that vacations to sunny spots are on the rise, leading to “more suntanning, more sunburns and vast increases in long-term sun damage.” Today’s change to warmer conditions could encourage outdoor behavior that will increase population exposure to sunlight and the associated health risks.

What’s so bad about sun exposure, anyway?

Well, as any average consumer can tell you, long-term sun exposure can lead to the dreaded wrinkles and mottled, “leathery” skin. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. Scientists discovered long ago that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can lead to health hazards—the most serious, and well-known, being melanoma, or skin cancer.

This is far from a new discovery, but contemporary research has revealed that even one serious sunburn during childhood can have permanent effects, and that these are cumulative with subsequent exposures.

At the other end of the spectrum, science tells us that some sun exposure is a positive thing; the sun can help ward off depression and enables us to process vitamin D.

So what’s the solution? The answer can only be safe sun exposure. In other words, there’s no need to hide in the house with the shades drawn, but when outside, the harmful aspects of the sun—specifically, UVA and UVB—must be blocked.

Experts maintain that even on hazy days, UV danger exists, and many say the skin should be protected daily, summer and winter alike. This can be a problem for women especially, as most sunscreen products are too heavy to wear daily on the face and makeup cannot easily be applied over them.

Enter the daily-use, UV-protectant facial moisturizer. These have grown in popularity over the years to become almost an afterthought in many women’s morning routines. “Daytime” skin care formulas are expected to contain SPF as low as eight but can range as high as 20 in some products. Since formulating with sunscreens is tricky, marketers must either have formulating and testing labs on the premises, or send products out to independent laboratories to ensure that what the consumer asks for, is what she is getting.

Many companies also confront issues when attempting to market such products internationally. In these cases, products must conform to both U.S. standards and the regulations imposed by the country of export.

“As a global company, we need to use sunscreen actives that are permitted in the local and regional markets,” said Rob Kalafsky, executive director, Avon Skincare R&D. “(For instance), the UK has high SPF protection demands, while Germany and Italy still favor the lower SPF sun protection products. We need to satisfy the various consumer needs across markets.”

Global marketing must also take into account regional views on what a skin care product should look, feel and act like. “In Asia, for example, the formulations must be lightweight, contain high levels of inorganic sunscreens and be supportive of their skin and usage demands,” Mr. Kalafsky said. “The critical point focuses on consumer acceptance and compliance with usage directions to insure protection.”

Before any of these products can be packaged off and shipped either locally or farther afield, marketers must be sure they do what they say. With its strict regulations and guidelines, there is no margin for error when it comes to SPF claims.

This isn’t always easy to accomplish, according to formulators contacted by Happi. Ensuring that a product protects at minimum levels as stated on the label requires a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

Even with SPF incorporated and verified, skin care products have another hurdle: they must be aesthetically pleasing. White, zinc oxide-covered noses and heavy formulations have no place in daily moisturizers, so sun-protective skin care products must be formulated with extra care.

“There is much more involved in creating a skin care product that claims SPF, than in formulating just a basic skin care product,” pointed out Juliana Lipe, cofounder of Essencia, Shreve-port, LA. “In our case, it was even more difficult because our company mission is to create products that are as natural as possible.”

In the end, “we chose titanium dioxide,” Ms. Lipe said, “because it is a physical sunblock rather than a chemical one. It’s very close to zinc oxide in its protective capabilities; it literally puts a physical block between skin and the sun.”

Unfortunately, titanium dioxide (TiO2) can appear white, a definite drawback from an aesthetic standpoint. Particle Science, located in Pennsylvania, worked with Essencia to find the perfect solution: a micronized form of TiO2. “You can’t use TiO2 in its mineral form for this type of application,” Ms. Lipe explained. “Not too many people want white stuff all over their bodies. But the micro-fine particles eliminate this problem.”

All in all, it took a year for the company to develop a product that could be called both natural and UV-protective. The product, Sandalwood Moisture Therapy, is lightweight, contains SPF 15 and can be used on both face and body, according to executives.

“We use a blend of sweet almond oil, virgin coconut oil, mango butter and vitamin E in this formula as the oil phase,” Ms. Lipe said. “The water phase utilizes hydrosols.”

Hydrosols are truly an innovation in the natural products industry, according to Ms. Lipe. They are a byproduct of the essential oil extraction process. Using steam distillation, the oils in a plant material rise, separating from the water. What is left is water that is rich in plant essence, constituting the hydrosol fraction.

Micronized TiO2 works well with this suspension, according to Ms. Lipe. “The product absorbs so quickly into the skin, you’d never know the TiO2 was there,” she said. “It not only has SPF, but it’s also very good for the skin; it has tons of natural vegetable oils that the body appreciates.”

Creating a product that was both sun-protective and natural wasn’t easy, but the results were well worth it.

“The process is very involved. There’s a lot of trial and error,” Ms. Lipe cautioned. “Unless you have an independent research staff, you need to rely on outside help; for instance, an independent lab. The product must be tested and must contain the minimum protection factor you’re going to claim on the label. Creating this product was a challenge for us, but it was exciting.”

Source: SpecialChem, www.specialchem4cosmetics.com