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Wise Words From the Bench with Gavin Greenoak
By: Katie Anderson
Posted: April 9, 2012, from the August 2012 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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C&T: How has this information revolution impacted sunscreens?
I thought PABA was an excellent sunscreen. No one ever used PABA on its own, but suddenly manufacturers were claiming products to be PABA-free, which was based mainly on media interpretation. The industry lost a good active. It is interesting how products can attract bad press and beyond a certain point, there is no way to recover. Also, people still think that above SPF 15, one [gains little] more protection, and this is completely untrue, as the relationship is linear. Misunderstandings like this are difficult to budge once they become entrenched and represent quite a challenge educationally, in terms of sunscreen use. This has also been [further] complicated by the growing understanding that sunlight exposure is necessary to health.
C&T: How has globalization affected the sun care industry?
In Australia, the only people naturally adapted to the high levels of sunlight are the Aboriginals, who have darkly pigmented skin. [In contrast,] there are many people with lightened skin, adapted to Northern hemisphere levels of sunlight. The advent of globalization has created the desire to have global sun care regulations to somehow fit all nations and all people. In Australia, [formulators] tailor actives and objectives to the particular problems of Australia, and this does not fit with the global model.
C&T: What technologies have revolutionized sun care?
The most significant innovation has been the interaction of the inorganic sunscreens titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and their ability to extend protection across the entire UV spectrum. [However,] they also led to the desire for natural sun care, presenting challenges for formulators.
C&T: What technology has advanced sun care testing?
Sunscreen testing has involved exposing humans to high intensity UV light, and it is difficult to describe this method as anything but barbaric. The in vitro road is the road of the future,[but] it is a huge challenge to come up with an in vitro method that is acceptable. I have every confidence that it will happen, and we have been working on it for years. I would say within a decade, we will not be using human [subjects]. Many other forms of testing [also] currently conducted on human skin will become in vitro.
C&T: What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
Australia had an SPF 15 ceiling that was based on the [previously described] misconception that one does not get much more protection above SPF 15. I fought for the scientific understanding of how sunscreens work. They are like filters, not blocks, and they do not “run out” like batteries. I am proudest of my educational efforts. It is critical for the industry to have the best understanding of the products they are using as much as the consumer. This particular effort is certainly not complete but very important.