Next Gen Sunscreen May Mean a Second Skin
By Lila Sahija
We recently reported research that found that pool water can break down sunscreen into toxic chemicals, leaving everyone without a good option for summer sun protection. But the answer may be on the horizon — in a very unexpected way.
Researchers at the State University of New York, Binghamton, have developed a coating made out of DNA that gets better at protecting skin from ultraviolet light the more it’s exposed to the sun.
“Ultraviolet (UV) light can actually damage DNA, and that’s not good for the skin,” said Guy German, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Binghamton University. “We thought, let’s flip it. What happens instead if we actually used DNA as a sacrificial layer? So, instead of damaging DNA within the skin, we damage a layer on top of the skin.”
German and a team of researchers developed thin and optically transparent crystalline DNA films and irradiated them with UV light. They found that the more they exposed the film to UV light, the better the film got at absorbing it.
“If you translate that, it means to me that if you use this as a topical cream or sunscreen, the longer that you stay out on the beach, the better it gets at being a sunscreen,” German said.
As an added bonus to UV protection, the DNA sunscreens can store and hold water much more than uncoated skin. When applied to human skin, they are capable of slowing water evaporation and keeping the tissue hydrated for extended periods of time.
German intends to next test the material as a dressing that could help wounds heal faster by sealing in moisture. If all of this sounds like something out of the future, that’s because it is; it will be some time before either of these uses are thoroughly tested, developed and approved (if they ever are). But it’s nice to know that, at a time when one in every three cancers diagnosed worldwide is a case of skin cancer, researchers are actively looking into nontoxic sunscreen options.