Suncreen products are a part of everyday life for millions of people and while it offers protection from skin cancer there are growing concerns that it is causing health problems for people with darker skins

Skin has different shades of colour due to the presence of a protein called melanin. The melanin in the skin affects the way different skin types respond to sun damage and tanning.

Melanin in black skin offers some protection from sun but reduces Vitamin D absorption compared to white Caucasian skin which has low melanin and more efficient vitamin D absorption.

This is a concern for black people as Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and cardiovascular system as well as supporting the body’s immune system. Studies in North America have suggested nearly a billion people are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.

From our research it looks as if the notion all sun protection products are good and suitable for every skin type may be wrong.

Hexis Lab is at the forefront of innovation using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data driven approach to access information from thousands of databases to identify suitable formulations for different skin tone, delivering the desired consumer aspiration of the personalised skin care solutions. We are digging deeper into the science of how different skin types respond to sun damage and accurately measuring individual responses.

We believe that the results of this project will inform guidelines and policy for future products development. It will also improve communication with the consumers and facilitate the development of better products from cosmetic companies.

Our research is testing different ingredients used in sun care products, in particular looking at the effect on different skin types among ethnic groups. So far, the results are showing each skin type responds differently to the chemicals used in skincare products.

Interestingly everybody responded differently under similar conditions. A study in South African showed the incident of skin cancer in black skin is very low, less than 1% in 100,000 when compared to white skin type under similar conditions. Also, occurring at lower extremities of the body. This points out there is a gap in our knowledge on how different skin types respond to sun damage and need to improve guidelines for darker skin tones.

There is a massive gap in communication and there is a need to address growing concerns amongst the medical profession and indeed consumers on the composition of some sunscreen products. The regulators need to address the conflicting messages in the public domain on

  • benefits of sunscreen for the darker skin
  • issues with Vitamin D absorption
  • potential toxic side effects of some sun care ingredients
  • emerging new data that some ingredients used as sunblock is damaging the environment such as the coral reefs

Consumers will benefit from more research and development of safer ingredients that benefits the consumer and the wider environment.

Hexis Lab is pioneering research system which will help product developers to test effective solutions and the individual skin type responses to sun care products.