Sunscreen Products and Photoageing

Time: 2:30 pm - 3:00 pm

Date: 14 November

Mycosporine like amino acids (MAA) have potential as natural biocompatable sunscreens

Solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) has adverse effects on human health such as sunburn, skin cancer and photoageing.  The outcomes are the result of molecular damage such as DNA photolesions and oxidative stress. The use of sunscreens can prevent short term and long term adverse effects, as well as damage to DNA1. Synthetic sunscreen filters are designed to be stable. This may result in their accumulation in fragile marine ecosystems and damage to marine species2. This raises the urgency of developing biocompatable sunscreens and one option is the development of algal mycosporine like amino acids (MAA) that are natural UVR filters and antioxidants. Laboratory studies in skin cells and chemical systems have shown that MAA offer protection against UVR-induced damage to DNA and oxidative stress3. They also inhibit the UVR-induced expression of genes associated with inflammation (sunburn) and photoageing. Furthermore, MAA activate skin cells’ natural antioxidant defence mechanisms4. These data suggest that MAA have potential as natural biocompatable sunscreens with the added benefit of antioxidant properties.

Learning Outcomes
Solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) causes short term and long term damage to the skin

  • Sunscreens are designed to prevent sunburn, but their use can prevent many other harmful endpoints
  • Synthetic sunscreens are designed to be stable but this may result in their accumulation in fragile marine ecosystems
  • The European Chemical Agency has raised ecological and health concerns on 8 of the 16 most commonly used sunscreens in Europe (so-called CoRAP list)
  • Mycosporine like amino acids (MAA) are natural photostable UVR filters found in marine algae
  • MAA are accumulated in the food chain and are preferentially found in UVR-exposed tissues such as skin, eyes and eggs
  • Apart from their UVR absorbing properties, MAA are chemical and biological antioxidants, and enhance natural antioxidant defence mechanisms
  • MAA have the potential to be developed as natural eco-friendly sunscreen filters with the added benefit of antioxidant properties


1          Young AR, Greenaway J, Harrison GI et al. Sub-optimal Application of a High SPF Sunscreen Prevents Epidermal DNA Damage in vivo. Acta dermato-venereologica 2018.

2          Lawrence KP, Long PF, Young AR. Mycosporine-like Amino Acids for Skin Photoprotection. Curr Med Chem 2017.

3          Lawrence KP, Gacesa R, Long PF et al. Molecular photoprotection of human keratinocytes in vitro by the naturally occurring mycosporine-like amino acid palythine. The British journal of dermatology 2018; 178: 1353-63.

4          Gacesa R, Lawrence KP, Georgakopoulos ND et al. The mycosporine-like amino acids porphyra-334 and shinorine are antioxidants and direct antagonists of Keap1-Nrf2 binding. Biochimie 2018.


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