Whether you have a pale or dark complexion, no one is 100% immune to sun burns, photo-damaged skin, or skin cancer. Skin cancer is the worst consequence of sun exposure, and you can defend yourself through sun-protective measures. The problem is sun-protective measures such as wearing a hat and sunscreen are pre-emptive. Sun protection prevents future sun damage. But what can you do for your skin if the damage has already happened? The gold standard for treating sun damage is still "put some aloe on it." The problem with aloe is that it only makes the burn feel better. Yes, a sunburn is unpleasant, and the insidious part lies beneath at the DNA level. When DNA becomes damaged from UV exposure you become vulnerable to skin cancer.
Skin Cancer and Prevention
Skin cancer is the abnormal replication of skin cells. Normal skin cells become cancerous when they ignore the body's signals telling them to stop replicating and to die (apoptosis). What causes normal skin cells to go rogue? 90% of skin cancers are due to unprotected UV exposure (Gallagher). UV rays are harmful, cancerous radiation but can only penetrate the skin (de Gruijl). When UV rays hit unprotected skin cells, the radiation damages the DNA housed within the skin cells. When a cell's DNA becomes damaged the cell cannot function as normal, it replicates indefinitely, and forms a tumor (de Gruijl). UV exposure can come from both the sun and from tanning booths. We can all go our entire lives without entering a tanning bed, but no one will go their entire life without ever seeing the sun.
The days of sun-baking at high noon with a foil reflector are over. Health is in (and hopefully here to stay) so it’s now in vogue to reach for the SPF instead of the tanning oil. Despite sunscreen’s prevalence, popularity, and (in the United States at least) common knowledge that skin cancer is caused by sun exposure, skin cancer is still the most common cancer (Cancer). Therefore, sun protection is not enough, we need sun-reversal. We need skin care that focuses on reversing the UV damage our skin cells have incurred through inadequate or absent sun protection. But where is the UV-damage reversing skin care? It isn’t on the shelf next to the sunscreen, but it certainly should be.
A New Skin Type Care
My search for UV-damage reversing skin care began with a sunburn. I have a pale complexion and live in Southern California. I am aware of my vulnerability to the sun, and have worn sunscreen every day for the past 12 years. One day, while laying on a beach in Florida, I decided to exfoliate my skin with the sand and rubbed my sunscreen off. I didn’t realize my mistake until several hours later when I felt the heat radiating from my lobster-red legs. I went to the drugstore to see if any remedies were available and all I found was sunscreen and aloe. Well it was too late for sunscreen, and the aloe didn’t quell my real concern: the underlying UV damage done to my skin.
Since no UV-damage reversing skin care existed (to my knowledge), I decided to make my own. The formulation began like all of my other formulations: with published research. My university credentials provide access to every scientific publication in available, so I gathered as much research on natural ways to mitigate or reduce UV damage as I could. Here is a summary of my findings:
- Broccoli sprout extract inhibited skin carcinogenesis (cancer formation) in mice who were exposed to UV radiation (twice weekly exposure for 20 weeks). Groups of mice were treated topically with broccoli sprout extract on their backs. After 20 weeks of UV exposure, there was a 100% tumor incidence 100% in mice not treated with broccoli sprout extract while tumor burden, incidence, and multiplicity were reduced by 50% in for the mice who received the broccoli sprout treatment (Dinkova-Kostova 2006).
- Ginseng has photo-protective effects when applied to skin cells. Specifically, ginseng extract decreased expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, enzymes that are triggered by UV-A/B exposure and break down collagen (Mukherjee 2011, Kim 2014, Hwang 2017).
- Polygonum aviculare extract showed inhibition of cellular senescence (aging) of human fibroblasts (skin cells). Senescence is a natural part of aging and is accelerated by UV exposure. (Yang 2014,2015). Furthermore, Polygonum aviculare has strong antioxidant activity and DNA-protective properties to protect against sun-induced UV damage (Hsu 2006).
- Green tea applied to skin of UV exposed mice showed a significant decrease in free radical production and prevented UVB-induced depletion of enzymes with antioxidant activity. Green tea also protected DNA from UV light-induced oxidative damage and UVA-induced photochemical damage (Katiyar 2001).
- Cordyceps extract was found to have a protective effect on UV-exposed skin cells. When topically applied, cordyceps extract reduced cellular senescence and cell death (apoptosis) (Park 2014).
- Bilberry extract is capable of reversing damage done to skin cells by both UVA and UVB rays by scavenging for free radicals, and protects against pre-mature cell death (Calò 2014, Svobodová 2008).
- Cilantro (curcumin) extract protects against UVB-induced photo-aging by preventing collagen from breaking down due to the UV exposure (Hwang 2014).
I took all of these findings, ordered the ingredients, and added some emollients for added moisture. The result is UV-R, a serum specific to reversing UV damage.
I have been using UV-R every day for about three months and my skin looks fantastic. The serum even helped with a minor sunburn that was the result of driving around all day in my convertible and forgetting to put sunscreen on my nose (don't know how I missed that). The next day the burn was completely gone, I had no skin peeling, or even a tan. My skin looked like it had never seen the sun in the first place. If it weren't for the serum, all I would have is aloe and regret. And that doesn't do much.
Calò, R. and Marabini, L., 2014. Protective effect of Vaccinium myrtillus extract against UVA-and UVB-induced damage in a human keratinocyte cell line (HaCaT cells). Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 132, pp.27-35.
Dinkova-Kostova, A.T., Jenkins, S.N., Fahey, J.W., Ye, L., Wehage, S.L., Liby, K.T., Stephenson, K.K., Wade, K.L. and Talalay, P., 2006. Protection against UV-light-induced skin carcinogenesis in SKH-1 high-risk mice by sulforaphane-containing broccoli sprout extracts. Cancer letters, 240(2), pp.243-252.
Hsu, C.Y., 2006. Antioxidant activity of extract from Polygonum aviculare L. Biological research, 39(2), pp.281-288.
Hwang, E., Lee, D.G., Park, S.H., Oh, M.S. and Kim, S.Y., 2014. Coriander leaf extract exerts antioxidant activity and protects against UVB-induced photoaging of skin by regulation of procollagen type I and MMP-1 expression. Journal of medicinal food, 17(9), pp.985-995.
Hwang, E., Park, S.Y., Yin, C.S., Kim, H.T., Kim, Y.M. and Yi, T.H., 2017. Antiaging effects of the mixture of Panax ginseng and Crataegus pinnatifida in human dermal fibroblasts and healthy human skin. Journal of Ginseng Research, 41(1), pp.69-77.
Katiyar, S.K., Afaq, F., Perez, A. and Mukhtar, H., 2001. Green tea polyphenol (–)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate treatment of human skin inhibits ultraviolet radiation-induced oxidative stress. Carcinogenesis, 22(2), pp.287-294.
Kim, M.R., Lee, H.S., Choi, H.S., Kim, S.Y., Park, Y. and Suh, H.J., 2014. Protective effects of ginseng leaf extract using enzymatic extraction against oxidative damage of UVA-irradiated human keratinocytes. Applied biochemistry and biotechnology, 173(4), pp.933-945.
Mukherjee, P.K., Maity, N., Nema, N.K. and Sarkar, B.K., 2011. Bioactive compounds from natural resources against skin aging. Phytomedicine, 19(1), pp.64-73.
Park, J.M., Lee, J.S., Lee, K.R., Ha, S.J. and Hong, E.K., 2014. Cordyceps militaris extract protects human dermal fibroblasts against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis and premature senescence. Nutrients, 6(9), pp.3711-3726.
Svobodová, Alena, et al. "Bilberry extract reduces UVA‐induced oxidative stress in HaCaT keratinocytes: A pilot study." Biofactors 33.4 (2008): 249-266.
Yang, H.H., Hwangbo, K., Zheng, M.S., Cho, J.H., Son, J.K., Kim, H.Y., Baek, S.H., Choi, H.C., Park, S.Y. and Kim, J.R., 2014. Quercetin-3-O-β-d-glucuronide isolated from Polygonum aviculare inhibits cellular senescence in human primary cells. Archives of pharmacal research, 37(9), pp.1219-1233.
Yang, H.H., Hwangbo, K., Zheng, M.S., Cho, J.H., Son, J.K., Kim, H.Y., Baek, S.H., Choi, H.C., Park, S.Y. and Kim, J.R., 2015. Inhibitory effects of (−)-loliolide on cellular senescence in human dermal fibroblasts. Archives of pharmacal research, 38(5), pp.876-884.