There was a time when consumers had one major (though, in my opinion, increasingly easy) decision to make when shopping for sunscreen: chemical (boo) or mineral (yeah!). But there soon may be much more to consider. With new research backing the UV-protective properties of plant-based ingredients like caffeine and grapes, the natural sun care and nutricosmetics industries could start introducing innovative, multifaceted products utilizing these ingredients.
All summer long, I’ve been covering what to look for in natural sunscreens (and then covering every inch of my body in my favorite mineral-based picks, MyChelle Sun Shield Coconut SPF 28 and Badger SPF 30 Unscented). Simultaneously, I have carefully tracked the latest trends in nutricosmetics, notably what I think will be the most effective way for manufacturers to both get consumers on board and utilize efficacious nutrients: pairing topicals with ingestibles. Now, emerging research is connecting the dots between the two, supporting the consumption of plant-based, UV-protective ingredients as well as their application to the skin for dual sun protection.
First, support for my morning vice, coffee, as an up-and-coming sun care ingredient: Research has shown that when ingested, caffeinated beverages may help fight UV-related skin cancer. And now a new study from Rutgers University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that applying the ingredient topically also offers UV-fighting potential. According to the research, caffeine guards against certain skin cancers at the molecular level by inhibiting ATR, a protein enzyme in the skin. When researchers applied caffeine topically to mice, the mice developed 72 percent fewer squamos cell carcinomas, a form of skin cancer.
Now, support for my evening vice: the grape. Resveratrol, found in the skins of grapes (and therefore in wine; however, not in efficacious quantities), as well as in raisins and peanuts, has been gaining attention as a key antiaging ingredient for its ability to fight free-radical damage. Research also has supported topical resveratrol as a UV-protective ingredient; a new study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that grape flavonoid antioxidants also help prevent UVA and UVB damage when applied topically.
Because sun care is such a priority for natural products consumers (experts repeatedly say protecting your skin from rays is the number-one thing you can do to prevent premature aging), I think there is big potential for manufacturers to tap into the UV-protective qualities of these up-and-coming, research-backed plant ingredients when formulating and marketing their products. And as a result, we may see more acceptance, growth and innovation in the nutricosmetics category.