Conversations with Dr. Harry Sarkas of Soléscence

The landscape of safe, effective sunscreens is challenging and rapidly evolving with strict regulatory guidelines and demands for sheer formulations. On June 8, 2021, Aprinnova invited Dr. Harry Sarkas, Chief Scientific Officer at Solésence, to join the Beauty Renaissance series and shed light on the latest FDA regulatory outlook, formulation insights for developing non-whitening, high performance suncare products, and criteria for selecting clean suncare ingredients. Below are key takeaways from the conversation available on demand now.

The FDA’s Proposed Ruling Shifts Suncare Formulation

Sarkas highlighted the FDA’s proposal on February 21, 2019, which re-classified zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the only Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective (GRASE) ingredients. 12 additional chemical filters require additional data before a GRASE determination. Sarkas discussed how these new proposed categories will push the industry to establish more safety data for those 12 ingredients. Sarkas also described how minerals have come to the forefront for formulations, particularly given their potential for less regulatory friction.

Consumers Demand Clean, Silicone-Free, Non-Whitening Formulas

Mintel reports that 42 percent of adults who purchase clean beauty and personal care products view clean beauty as safer than traditional products. These perspectives hold true for suncare as well. Because the FDA has vouched for the mineral dispersions, consumers feel more comfortable with these options.

Consumers also opt for products that are aesthetically pleasing to use. Instead of chalky white products, consumers want moisturizing, invisible suncare. Sarkas suggests brands formulate innovatively, using new delivery methods like Neossance Squalane to ensure effective protection without a white cast. A sheer finish also allows brands to increase inclusivity for their consumer bases. Further, aesthetically pleasing products also promote ongoing use by consumers and future repurchases.

Clean Criteria for Suncare and Formulation Strategies

Sarkas defines clean beauty in terms of suncare as:

  • Safe for human skin: A product does not cause irritation or sensitization.
  • Effective: The SPF protection must be adequate and accurately measured — consumers have seen multiple brands’ SPF fail to retest at the advertised level. The final formulation should offer skin benefits beyond sun protection like moisturization and anti-aging.
  • Sustainable: Environmental awareness and sustainable sourcing are key tenets of clean beauty.

A good mineral sunscreen must provide adequate protection without interfering or disrupting other elements in the formula or routine. To that end, brands should formulate with ingredients that do not have any photoreactivity, a common producer of skin-damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS). Sarkas cautions that fragrances — synthetic or natural — are photoreactive by nature and should be withheld from formulations.

There are many brands out there that have high contents of UV filters, yet they do not provide a high SPF. Instead, they offer lackluster SPF with a significant white cast. The key is in how the product is formulated and how the actives are delivered. Emollients significantly impact skin compatibility of products. Sarkas highlights that emollients like Neossance™ Squalane offer skin therapeutic benefits while remaining completely inert in terms of ROS. The chemical structure of Squalane has no active groups that could be modified to generate ROS. Squalane is also very similar to the skin’s natural sebum, and it can be a great carrier for the actives like UV filters titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Clean Suncare Answers Consumers’ Demands with Safety

Brands can formulate sunscreens with the conscious consumer in mind. Consumers will opt for products they believe are safe —  those made with GRASE zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Brands can effectively deliver these filters in a non-whitening format using trusted emollients like Squalane. To learn more of Sarkas’ insights into clean suncare and winning formulations, watch the recorded episode available on demand.

About Dr. Harry Sarkas

Dr. Harry Sarkas has over 25 years of direct experience in material synthesis, production, characterization, and product development. He is an inventor or co-inventor on 18 U.S. and foreign patents — including Solescence’s Active Stress Defense technology — and has authored over 40 technical publications. At Solescence, he has been involved in the technology platform development around sunscreen actives, claims substantiation, and many regulatory issues.

More Information on the FDA’s Proposal:


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