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Sun protection: the unloved lifesaver

Under ideal conditions, today’s UV filters have the capacity to protect even the most sensitive skin against high levels of UV radiation. Yet the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise, with between 2 and 3 million cases of non-melanoma and 132,000 cases of melanoma cancers globally each year. At DSM, we aim to reduce these numbers by maximizing the life-saving potential of sun protection products.
Sunscreen feel

The gap between theory and practice

Research confirms that sunscreen products often fail to deliver the expected performance for two main reasons, the first being under-usage by consumers.

Surveys reveal people are reluctant to apply sufficient sunscreen because it makes them feel sticky and uncomfortable and leaves them with greasy hands, making everyday tasks awkward. Survey respondents also revealed that they considered regular daily use of sun care products time-consuming, and that they felt that sun care products were interfering with their normal, day-to-day beauty regime.

Sensory modifiers

An appealing solution

To achieve high SPF levels, sunscreen formulations must contain a high proportion of oily UV filters. Changing the formulation to reduce oiliness would risk compromising performance. As an alternative, at DSM we have developed a range of sensory modifiers – ingredients that reduce the sensation of oiliness, and leave the skin feeling pleasantly dry and silky. These ingredients can be easily and effectively added to existing formulations without affecting performance.

DSM’s sensory modifiers are developed in close collaboration with our own panel of highly skilled sensory experts. They rigorously test sun care products for their sensory attributes – how they look and feel on the skin on application and after drying – and provide descriptive and objective sensory analyses for all formulations.

Breakthrough in integrated protection

The statistical data generated has already provided breakthrough findings leading to attractive prototype products, including our “Touch ready sun lotion” and “Beach dream sun lotion”.

Thanks to DSM’s sensory modifiers, oily high-factor UV filters can be incorporated into skin care products ranging from simple moisturizers to advanced, multi-functional face creams – without adversely affecting consumer acceptance. This allows sun care to become an integral, “automatic” part of the daily skin care routine.

Film formation in the application process

Film formation

A second reason – besides under-usage – why sun care products don’t perform as they should is sub-optimal film-forming of sunscreens on the skin.

The skin’s surface is relatively rough, causing the sunscreen to form a very irregular film – which considerably diminishes its protective effect. DSM therefore also investigates the flow of sunscreens on the skin, with the aim of improving performance.

Our research includes the use of sophisticated in silico computer modeling tools. They reveal that post-application flow has little effect on the resulting film. Instead, sunscreen performance depends heavily on the application process itself.

Pressure during application and the length of time spent distributing sunscreen were found to encourage the product to settle in the furrows rather than on the plateaus on the surface of the skin, driving performance down. DSM is now focusing research on the application phase to investigate novel performance-enhancing strategies that can protect people even better from the risk of skin cancer.