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Business, STEM

The Heat And Sunscreen Are On

Source: PBS News Hour

Source: PBS News Hour

The heat is on here in Arizona and the desert southwest. We have had three weeks of triple digit temperatures, and summer doesn’t officially arrive for another week. Those of you who are familiar with this environment know that it is highly recommended that one minimize direct exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. As an example, a quick walk outside to the trash dumpster during this high heat period is long enough for my skin to get licked by the sun.

I wear sunscreen year-round, however I take special precaution during the summer months. After picking up a large tube of sunscreen recently, I decided to look up the new sun protection product – Harmonized H2O UV Neutralize. It is being marketed as a drinkable sunscreen made by Osmosis Skincare with claims to provide the equivalent of SPF 30. Remember, UV stands for ultra-violet, and SPF is sun protection factor.

The concept of a drinkable sunscreen product is a little more than interesting. I can definitely see an upside to a product like this. Most sunscreen products come in creams, lotions, and oils, and in recent years some sprayable versions have been added to store shelves. The challenge with these products is that it washes or wears off with perspiration or water, especially while swimming, therefore a drinkable sunscreen that can’t be easily washed off by water or perspiration has great appeal to many consumers, especially parents with children of all ages and those who work outside.

Most experts recommend a product with an SPF of 30 or greater. How does the new drinkable product work? For starters, I went to the Osmosis Skincare website to get their pitch on this new product. Here’s what I found [Ref 1]:

HarmonizedWaterUV Neutralizer-Tan:
Achieve UV 30 protection before the sun even hits you with our innovative new technology that isolates the precise frequencies needed to neutralize UVA and UVB. Available in Tan Enhancing and No Tan Enhancing formulas.

Results:
o Neutralizes UV radiation
o Allows for increased sun exposure (30x more than normal)
o Enhances tanning effect from the sun

Directions For Use:
Take 2 ml every 4 hours while in the sun (preferably with 2+ oz of water). Wait 1 hour before exposure to the sun. Monitor sun exposure carefully. Take second dose if still in sun 3 hours after first dose. For extended intense exercise outdoors or if taking sun-sensitizing medications, use alternate protection after 30-40 minutes.

The product claims to have an SPF of 30, and blocks UVA and UVB. However, there is one piece of information that is obviously missing from the product label: Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, the product is sold only thru skincare professionals.

The company also states that results will vary according to your weight. I suppose that makes sense since it is a drinkable product. Would a person that weighs 60 kilograms (kg) get more sun protection than someone who weighs 100 kg? How would you factor the difference for this product?

Before we draw an early conclusion to this new drinkable sun tan potion, here’s the first question I would ask: How does sunscreen products work? The primary objective of any reputable sunscreen product is to protect the skin from UV rays.

There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. Both are invisible forms of radiation emitted from the sun.

“UV rays can damage the skin’s DNA and increase the risk of skin cancer, while accelerating the aging process, and creating wrinkles and pigmentation,” states Steven Wang, director of dermatological surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at Basking Ridge, N.J. UVA rays have a shorter wavelength closer to that of visible light and penetrate deeper into the skin, generating free radicals. This can lead to longer lasting damage. Titanium oxide, for example, is a good UVB, but not a good UVA blocker. UVB rays, which can damage the cell’s DNA, are known for burning the skin. [Ref 2]

According to Stefan Wawzyniecki, a professor and chemist at the University of Connecticut and the American Chemical Society, [Ref 2] “There are two common types of sunscreen available to most consumers: inorganic and synthetic, and they work by either blocking or absorbing [UV] rays. Inorganic sunscreen is made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and it reflects and scatters UV light rays. The tiny particles of oxides act like reflectors of the harmful UVB rays, which are the ones that cause the skin to burn.”

Synthetic sunscreen lotion was developed as an alternative to the thick and greasy inorganic versions. These lotions are made up of complex molecules that undergo chemical reactions with the sun’s rays, and they have awkward, unpronounceable names like octylmethoxycinnamate, and 4-methylbenzilidine camphorm. [Love that organic chemistry.] The chemicals in the sunscreen absorb the UV rays and then release the extra energy as heat. [Ref 2]

An IBISWorld snapshot of the Sunscreen Manufacturing Industry in the U.S. shows average sales growth of 4% between 2007 to 2012. There are 61 businesses that generate more than $1 billion in revenue. The industry expects to see more growth as consumers continue to value the attributes of sunscreen products on their health and daily activities.

Now that we know how regular sunscreen works and the industry is continuing to grow with the addition of new entrants, let’s take a closer look at the drinkable potion that is being touted by Osmosis Skincare. According to a press release from the company, their new product, UV Neutralizer Harmonized Water, uses purified water “imprinted with unique vibrational waves that isolate out the precise frequencies needed to protect you from UV rays.”

Osmosis Skincare’s founder and general practitioner, Ben Johnson, M.D., told TIME magazine that the water blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays by “making the water molecules just below the surface of your skin vibrate, emitting frequencies that cancel out the burn-causing frequencies.” So, let me see if I have this right: they start with purified water that has just about anything of value to the body taken out of it. They add some type of vibrational waves that oscillate at the right frequency and miraculously make it to the dermis layer of the skin to protect it from UV rays. Where can I buy that?

New York dermatologist Dr. Jessica Krant told the Huffington Post the products are “totally unsubstantiated pseudoscience” that “do not list any active ingredients anywhere publicly available that might suggest true efficacy in any kind of protection from sun damage.” (The company lists the ingredients as “Distilled Water, Multiple Vibrational Frequency Blends.”) Krant added that “even known oral antioxidants that can provide some protection from the sun are not able to achieve more than a few notches of SPF protection from UVB rays.” [Ref 3]

Equate-SunscreenAnother critic questions the application method: oral ingestion is equivalent to “treatment” being applied to the entire body when the area in question is the external dermis or skin. Given the lack of scientific testing that is needed here, this is a product that is not yet ready for primary consumers in the market place. I am sure that I am not the only one that is interested in seeing further testing and development of this drinkable sunscreen product.

However, at $30 for a 3.38-ounce bottle, I am sticking to my Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen Lotion that has an SPF 50 and screens out UVA and UVB rays. It cost about $6 for 16 fluid ounces.

References:

1. Osmosis Skincare website: http://www.osmosisskincare.com/HarmonizedWater-UV.aspx

2. Just Ask: How Does Sunscreen Work?, by Jenny Marder, PBS News Hour – The Rundown, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/just-ask-how-does-sunscreen-work/, December 14, 2010.

3. Let’s Talk About That Drinkable Sunscreen That’s Said To Provide SPF 30-Like Protection; Ron Dicker, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/19/drinkable-sunscreen_n_5351851.html, Updated: 05/20/2014 2:00 pm EDT

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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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