It claims that sunscreens that filter UV rays are providing ‘passive’ protection by absorbing or reflecting harmful UV rays from the skin. By adding antioxidants to sunscreens, it is believed that these combination sunscreens could offer a second, ‘active’ level of protection.
These were all findings based on the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Protection against skin cancer
It urges people to use a sunscreen that provides protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, as the development of the two can lead to skin cancer.
"Our research found that a product with high UVA protection blocks or absorbs more harmful radiation from the UVA spectrum and reduces the total amount of free radicals generated in the skin," said Dr. Steven Q. Wang, MD, director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, N.J.
"Exposure to UVA rays and UVB rays can lead to the development of skin cancer. This is why choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects the skin from both types of rays is so important."
The study found that in addition to protecting the skin from UV exposure that causes skin cancer, current broad-spectrum sunscreen products offer protection from free radicals, which are molecules that cause skin damage and aging, and the majority of the protection is from UV filters rather than antioxidants.
Welcomes the FDA monograph
Wang also added that the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new sunscreen rules announced earlier this year will make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions about choosing sunscreens with UVA and UVB protection.
By June 2012, manufacturers are required to follow specific testing and labeling rules for making a broad-spectrum claim in a sunscreen and indicating which sunscreen products can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging.
While not necessary for UV protection, the study claims that antioxidants could boost the body's natural antioxidant reserve and stop any free radicals generated from UV that pass through the filters.
"Adding antioxidants to sunscreen is an innovative approach that could represent the next generation of sunscreens, which would not only filter UV radiation, but also offer other tangible skin health benefits," said Dr. Wang.
Works in theory…
"Theoretically, supplementing sunscreens with antioxidants could boost the body's natural defense against the formation of UVA-induced free radicals; therefore serving as a second layer of protection against UV radiation that passes through the first layer of UV protection."
Due to the unstable nature of antioxidants when added to sunscreens and that there is no single test to sufficiently measure their concentrations, Dr. Wang stressed that it was a challenging task to determine the final concentration of antioxidants in each product and differentiate their free radical protection.
"This is an exciting area of research in sunscreens. However, we believe further study is needed to gauge the benefits of incorporating antioxidants in sunscreens," he explained.