Milkweed may hold natural sunscreen potential

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Uv rays Protection

The modified oil of the milkweed seed may help protect the skin against UV rays, according to scientists with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Investigations into the commercial applications of Asclepias syriaca​, native to much of North America, have always focused on the potential of the plant’s silky floss as stuffing, but now Rogers E. Harry-O-Kuru believes it might find its place in the cosmetics industry.

Using a process that has been patented by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Harry-O-Kuru modified the seed oil to a form that protects against UV radiation.

Protect against UVA and UVB

Laboratory tests suggest that the modified oil can protect against a wide spectrum of UV rays and the researcher claims that the protection profile can also be modified.

“Looking at the UV scan the oil covers up to approximately 370nm and down to the shorter wavelength regions. We also found that you can modulate this and intensify the lower wavelength region,”​ he told CosmeticsDesign.

Furthermore, because the oil and the additive used to modify it are both natural the product is biodegradable, so when the material eventually washes off the body it will be broken down by micro-organisms, he explained.

Harry-O-Kuru also notes that the oil is unlikely to be toxic when applied to the skin as such a small amount is needed to have a protective effect.

Good moisturizing qualities

In addition to its UV protecting potential, the oil may also find uses as a moisturizing base for skin and hair care products.

“The base of milkweed oil is very unsaturated, much more so than soybean or palm oil. I then modified the oil to make it more stable, and in its more stable form it is a very good moisture retainer,”​ explained the researcher.

The ARS are now looking for an industry partner to develop the technology further.

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