The Sun Protection Conference 2021 that was held on November 25th and 26th in London by the Royal College of Physicians brought 100 top physicians, chemists and dermatologists’ experts in the sun protection and skincare product sector. It was titled “2020: Looking ahead – a decade of innovation in sun protection”. Throughout the event, we all realized that over the last decade of innovation in the sun care industry a lot has changed, both the current status and future of the scientific aspects of sun protection technology were discussed.
Following a decade of innovation in the sun care industry, we realize a lot has changed. Unfortunately, conflicting knowledge from the past regarding UV radiation (UVR) and filters alongside the damaging effect of sun exposure has led to the misconception of the consumers and increasing rates of skin cancer.
Our role as scientists is to expose the public to accurate facts and educate the consumers to apply sunscreen during exposure to the sun.
The UVR from the sun can be classified according to its wavelength, UVA1 (340-400 nm), UVA2 (320-340 nm), UVB (280-320 nm), and UVC (200-280 nm). UVC, which is the most damaging type, fortunately, has the shortest wavelength which is filtered by the atmospheric ozone. UVB and UVA are the most biologically relevant wavelength causing visible damage to the skin (photoaging), such as sunburn, pigmentation changes, decreased elasticity, broken capillaries, and wrinkling. More adverse effects of sun exposure are inflammation, immunosuppression, DNA damage, production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and multiple types of skin cancer. UVB has a medium wavelength that reaches our skin but cannot penetrate the first layers. Because of the high erythemal energy, UVB is responsible for tanning, sunburn, and skin aging caused by unprotected exposure to the sun. UVA, on the other hand, has the longest wavelength which can penetrate the deeper skin layers, reaching dermal fibroblasts, causing an indirect risk for cancer because of an increase in ROS. Although it has the lowest energy among all the UVR types, it accounts for 95% of the UVR reaching the earth, therefore poses a significant risk.
It is very important to know that although many UV filters in sun care products are very efficient against UVB; they do not always cover the entire spectrum of UVA radiation.
Recent FDA guidelines were addressing the needs for broad-spectrum UV-filters, including UVA protection, water-resistance formulation and requirements from manufacturers to indicate the time duration of protection on the product as well as the sun protection factor (SPF).
During the conference, we also understood how important it is that the formulation will feel good on the skin, as this is one of the main factors that encourage the customer to apply the cream again and again.
The education of the customers is extremely important. Conflicting information about vitamin D deficiency due to low sun exposure may encourage some to expose themselves to the sun without applying sunscreen. In addition, the toxic effects of some UV filters cause fear, without knowing what UV filters might be toxic and whether these claims even have any scientific ground.
But the future looks bright! Many exciting technologies are expected to reach the manufacturers and customer market soon! Among them is facial UV imaging to better understand and improve sunscreen performance, UV and pH wearable sensors and digital technology supporting sun protection with better vitamin D absorption.
During Sharon Laboratories’ presentation, we showed our latest studies in sunscreen preservation. In our study, we reported novel information about certain organic UV filters and their effect on the preservative system efficacy. The data that was presented strongly suggests that certain UV-ﬁlters can provide a source for bacterial resilience against common preservatives in sunscreen formulations, for which an adequate preservation system is required.