The trend has been further supported by significant growth in the naturals sector and consequently in the search for natural active ingredients. Unlike conventional sunscreen ingredients, which block or absorb UV rays, this new generation of ingredients aims to protect against the damage UV radiation can do inside the cells. Manufacturers and researchers are clear however, that these compounds are designed to complement conventional sunscreen protection rather than stand alone as a protective mechanism. Antioxidant protection against the free radicals that are produced from sun exposure is provided by many of these ingredients, whilst others work by stimulating the cells own protective mechanisms against damage. Antioxidants to protect against UV damage Two compounds seen this year promise to provide double protection against UV radiation by both absorbing the rays and protecting against free radical damage. Israeli Biotechnology Research's (IBR) topical applications and oral supplements contain the carotenoids phytoene and phytofluene and promise to provide UV protection. The phytofluene molecules absorb light in the UVA range and emit light in the visible range - therefore reducing the energy of the light from the shorter, harmful wavelengths to the less harmful, longer wavelengths, according to the company. In addition, the ingredients help to limit the damage to the DNA caused by free radicals produced from sun exposure. Furthermore, both phytoene and phytofluene appear to inhibit melanin synthesis under UV induced conditions, a positive quality as melanin, when irradiated with UVA rays, tends to result in the formation of damaging free radicals. Similarly, research published this October in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science highlighted a black tea extract that both absorbs rays and protects against DNA damage. Researchers found that when the extract was topically applied to skin that was then exposed to UV radiation, no skin reddening occurred. The researchers put this down to the extract's absorption of UVB rays, those most likely to lead to sunburn. Black tea also exhibits skin repair properties due to its antioxidant components, according to the researchers, who reference a large body of literature that suggests black and green tea help repair UV induced skin damage. Broccoli extract stimulates cell's protective mechanisms A further advance by researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore was the discovery that broccoli extract may help protect against UV damage by stimulating the cell's own protective mechanisms. Sulforaphane, found in the broccoli extract can reduce UV damage by up to 37.7 per cent, according to the research published in October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Protective mechanisms evoked in cells include inhibition of the activation of procarcinogens (inactive carcinogens that can be activated when in the organism), disposal of damaged and potentially neoplastic cells (cells that proliferate without control) by cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, and the suppression of inflammatory responses. Furthermore, the study suggested that treatment with broccoli extract has a long lasting effect, as it up regulates the longer lasting proteins of the cell's innate protective system, that continue to work long after the extract has been removed from the system. Wafik S El-Deiry, in a comment in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, said that sulforaphane extracts might be added to sunscreens and may represent the future evolution of sunscreens.
The year has seen increasing research into natural possibilities for sun care that focus on protecting the DNA from UV damage rather than blocking UV rays like conventional sunscreens.