Article by: Perry Romanowski

There was a time when having tanned skin and laying out in the sun’s rays was considered healthy. However, the dangers of UV rays are becoming more apparent as cases of melanoma have risen dramatically over the past three decades. These sobering statistics have prompted people to avoid the sun’s rays and use UV-blocking skin lotion. While this may lower the risk of developing skin cancer, what many people do not consider is that the skin on their face is constantly vulnerable to UV damage as they go about their daily activities, even if they wear makeup. As such, today’s cosmetic products should be formulated with UV protection, no matter if they are meant to cover blemishes or balance the complexion.

How UV Protection Works

Understanding of how UV protection works to guard the skin against damage and dangerous growths that may develop into melanoma is paramount to creating effective formulations. UV rays create molecules called free radicals, which are highly unstable and unbalanced. When free radicals invade unprotected skin, they begin to scavenge missing elements from healthy skin cells. As a result, functioning cells begin to behave abnormally and are eventually destroyed.

Free radicals also destroy collagen and elastin, the two proteins in the skin that keep it firm and elastic. When many free radicals enter unprotected skin, wrinkles, dark spots, and other signs of premature aging begin to appear. Eventually, some damaged cells begin to mutate, which can lead to melanoma. UV protection blocks free radicals from entering the skin by reflecting the sun’s rays and protecting healthy cells.

Choosing a UV Protection Level

UV protection should be an element of any cosmetic formulation; however, not all ratings are equal and some are not even sufficient enough to properly protect the skin. Some existing foundations, BB creams, and lotions currently include SPF 15 protection. However, many dermatologists assert that this is not enough, especially for those who spend a great deal of time exposed to the sun’s rays. While research shows that SPF 15 may be strong enough if applied in thick layers, it is not suitable as a cosmetics additive due to how most foundations and creams are applied. To create cosmetics formulations that protect the skin from the sun, SPF 30 or more should be included.

Natural UV Ingredients

A large percentage of cosmetics consumers today are concerned about applying ingredients to their skin that may prove harmful in the long run. As a result, today’s cosmetics’ formulations should include natural UV solutions that consumers will feel confident about using. Breakthroughs in natural UV protection are being introduced all the time and some of the most recent discoveries include:

Propolis, which is a natural sealing element made from bee pollen
Elements from the alder buckthorn tree, which is native to the UK, Asia, and Africa
Buriti oil, which is extracted from the moriche palm of South Africa

In order to keep formulations safe, formulators should carefully consider how these elements might react with other ingredients before using them.

Other Natural UV Alternatives

Other natural UV ingredients proven to offer limited UV protection include vanilla extract, raspberry, and aloe vera. All of these ingredients are a viable alternative to the usual standbys of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide; however, it is important that each of their individual strengths and longevity be considered, especially when creating long-lasting cosmetics like foundation. Today’s makeup users require that their cosmetics last throughout the day with little need to reapply, and this should include the ingredients included for UV protection.

Providing Different Levels of UV Protection

Creating a variety of cosmetics products that provide UV protection is necessary in order to serve a more diverse range of consumers. After all, no two individuals have the same skin type and may require more or less protection depending on where they live, how often they are exposed to the sun, their complexion, and whether they have any existing skin conditions that makes applying cosmetics a challenge. For example, an individual living in the UK may only need foundation with SPF 15 as opposed to someone living in El Paso, TX where the sun is particularly powerful many months out of the year and who may need cosmetics with an SPF of thirty or more.

The necessity of creating diverse formulations should be considered an industry standard as experts in bioscience, such as Bruce Eaton, consistently create new patents in the field in order to offer products to a wider range of individuals. Not only does this improve consumer happiness, it gives formulators the chance to come up with new and unique ways to use UV ingredients as they create effective products.

UV Protection Should Be for Everyone

No matter which UV-blocking ingredients cosmetics formulators choose to include in their products, each formulation should include at least some level of protection. Not only will cosmetics with UV protection lower the risk of melanoma, they will also prevent the formation of wrinkles and age spots. As a result, consumers will need less coverage and be able to stretch their cosmetics budget and keep them loyal to a formulator’s product.


About the Author

Perry Romanowski

Perry has been formulating cosmetic products and inventing solutions to solve consumer problems since the early 1990’s. Additionally, he has written and edited numerous articles and books, taught continuing education classes for industry scientists, and developed successful websites. His latest book is Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry 3rd Edition published by Allured.


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    Thanks for your informative article. Here is a question about the sentence “UV rays contain molecules called free radicals, which …….”. I don’t understand why UV rays contain free radicals rather than stimulate skin to generate free radicals. Thanks again!

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Thanks for pointing that out. It is a typo and should say “create”

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    It is important to note that adding UV blockers to cosmetics makes them drugs. The requirements for a company to make cosmetics vs drugs are very different according to the FDA.

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      Perry Romanowski

      Great point!

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    Hi Perry,

    Thanks for putting all these points together. Just out of curiosity how confident are you that these natural options (raspberry, vanilla, and others) will provides UV protection and actually they themselves won’t degrade in sun?

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      Perry Romanowski

      I wouldn’t be confident that the natural options will provide adequate protection. It’s better to use proven ingredients. These natural options are simply good adjunct ingredients that may help boost standard ingredient’s effectiveness.

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    Thank you for raising the important issue of UV protection! Though we are in 100% agreement that the public needs to start taking sun protection more seriously, I’ve actually heard a number of arguments against putting UV blockers (especially chemical filters like avobenzone, etc) in makeup. I’m really curious to hear your expert perspective on this. Given that a) many people are sensitive or allergic to chemical UV filters, b) the majority of people don’t apply anywhere near enough makeup to achieve proper protection, and c) I understand some UV filters can destabilize each other (so if your primer and foundation have incompatible UV filters you’re out of luck), it’s always seemed as though the best option is to leave SPF out of makeup entirely and encourage the public to wear a properly applied sunscreen under their makeup. That said, you are the expert here and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Thank you again for another interesting post as always!

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    Very interesting … I know sun block creams are good and they protect our skin but I always feel they make us darker

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