Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 November 2019

Sunscreen could last 10 times longer in the future thanks to a sun-protecting plant molecule

The naturally derived ingredient is protective to both humans and the planet

Researchers have discovered properties in a molecule found in plants could make sunscreen last 10 times longer than normal. Getty Images
Researchers have discovered properties in a molecule found in plants could make sunscreen last 10 times longer than normal. Getty Images

A sunscreen that could last 10 times longer than usual is a future possibility, if only we harness the powers of a sun-protecting group of chemicals found in plants, scientists claim.

Chemists at the University of Warwick, along with researchers in France and Spain, have conducted research into the green molecule that absorbs ultraviolet light found in foliage, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Known as diethyl sinapate, the molecule absorbs UV light and uses the resulting energy to shake at a speed of 100 billion twists per second, a move researchers have likened to the flick of a flamenco dancer's wrist. This deflects radiation before it can cause any harm.

The scientists also found that it degraded at three per cent over the course of two hours, compared with today's suncreams that deplete by 30 per cent in that same amount of time. This means its coverage has the potential to last up to 10 times longer than products we use now.

Researchers believe this type of sunscreen will not only protect human health, but also the health of our planet. It is naturally derived and could result in a far more eco-friendly product that doesn't use ingredients toxic to wildlife and humans, nor cause further coral bleaching.

“We have demonstrated a highly attractive avenue is ‘nature-inspired’ UV filters, which provide a front line defence against skin cancer and premature skin ageing,” said Professor Vasilios Stavros, of the University of Warwick and co-author of the study.

Amidst escalating concerns about their impact on human toxicity and ecotoxicity, developing new UV filters is essential

Professor Vasilios Stavros, University of Warwick

A highly protective sunscreen absorbs light and then transforms that into "harmless heat", the academic explained. On the other hand, a less protective sunscreen absorbs light and then breaks it down into something else entirely; something we don't want. The molecule in question generates plenty of heat, which Stavros says is "really crucial".

“Amidst escalating concerns about their impact on human toxicity (e.g. endocrine disruption) and ecotoxicity (e.g. coral bleaching), developing new UV filters is essential.”

Professor Florent Allais and Dr Louis Mouterde, URD Agro-Biotechnologies Industrielles at AgroParisTech, who collaborated with Warwick University on the research, added: “Indeed, this molecule has excellent long-term properties while exhibiting low endocrine disruption and valuable antioxidant properties.”

The next step is for researchers to test the molecular cream on human skin.

Updated: October 20, 2019 12:27 PM

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