Q&A with BASF on innovations in sun protection

Q&A with BASF on innovations in sun protection

What are the most important trends in sun care right now?

To help our customers create innovative products that really meet consumers’ needs and desires, we keep track of relevant scientific developments and, crucially, current and future market trends. We are constantly looking for efficient suppression of radical formation, improved sensory features and, increasingly important, higher environmental compatibility. The environmental aspect can be addressed by the selection of most efficient UV filters with better environmental profile, used at lowest possible concentrations.

Talking of low UV filter concentrations – how does that affect the final product?

Of course, we do not compromise on performance. In fact, a low UV filter load even helps us meet consumers’ increasing demand for effective sun protection that feels as light as possible. Usually, this result is not easy to achieve, since an increase in the SPF value typically requires a higher UV filter load that, in turn, often leads to oily or greasy formulations. However, with the right UV filter combination, we achieve effective results: an SPF50 formulation can be based on more than 30% UV filters, but depending on the filters selected, the same performance can be achieved with only 15% UV filters. Our goal has always been to develop molecules that provide stronger protection while reducing material usage. All our newly introduced UV filters provide the same levels of protection but allow for a lower filter load. What’s more, BASF not only offers the broadest portfolio of UV filters in the market but also a wide range of emollients and emulsifiers that pave the way for formulations with pleasant sensory properties meeting the consumers’ demand.

What other challenges do formulators currently face?

Formulating sunscreens has become increasingly complex. This is partly due to the stringent regulatory background. When it comes to UV filter choice, the strictest limitations are in the US market, where no new UV filter has been approved for decades. But consumers’ awareness of the harmful effects of UV light on human skin has increased, too – and with that also consumers’ expectations on the performance of sunscreens. Sun protection has two pillars, beauty and health. To be successful on the market, sun care products need to meet various requirements: a high SPF value and UVA protection, water resistance, photostability and, as mentioned earlier, certain sensory properties. Still, there is no one size fits all approach. Even for one and the same person, requirements may differ. Balanced sun protection is key: from low SPF products for short sun exposures in the morning or evening to products with very high SPF for high intensity light or longer stays in the sun. What’s more, there are also major regional disparities. Due to the differing preferences of the end consumers, it is not possible to develop sun care formulations that can be brought to the global market without regional adaptation.

What are the most important regional differences that sun care formulators need to consider?

We are monitoring the market globally as newly developed technologies – often in Asia – are transferred to Europe, and vice versa. The formulation is, however, very much dependent on the customer in focus and their request. In Europe, the dominant market for UV filters is beach care, so sunscreens are very much performance and safety driven. In such areas with dryer climatic conditions, heavier formulations with high protection factors and water resistance are perceived as more caring. In Asia however, sun care products are mainly used in the daily skin care routine, making sensory properties much more important. So, for hot and humid climates, light and dry sensory are key parameters. And to make things even more complicated, the selection of approved UV filters and the maximal concentrations that can be used vary in different regions – as do the performance requirements for identical claims.

BASF claims to be the leading supplier for UV-filters. In what way does your sun care offering differ from that of your competitors?

BASF brings together leading expertise in UV protection, beauty and skin care to help create the products that people want. Being an innovation driving company in sun care, we continue to bring new products to the market despite the complex regulatory background. Four out of five recently approved UV filters on the market are BASF developments. We are recognized for our high competence in all areas of sunscreen development, from research competence to product development and all the way to regulatory questions. Our aim is to offer our customers tailor-made solutions, whether in terms of claim substantiation, sensory requirements, application forms or fulfilling market requirements. In doing so, we take advantage of our broad portfolio of ingredients used in sun protection: an extensive UV-filter portfolio combined with a broad range of emollients, emulsifiers, polymers and actives. Being positioned in that way, we offer complete sun care solutions to our customers matching their specific needs. That’s what we call our 360° approach to sun protection.

Can you name a concrete example of how you support formulators during development phase?

We have recently launched a new generation of BASF’s Sunscreen Simulator, the digital lab for sun care formulations. Free of charge, our internet-based solution enables formulators to explore the performance of sunscreens under development before starting costly in-vitro and in-vivo studies. Thanks to this virtual prototyping, we help our customers not only save money but also reduce their products’ time to market. The tool provides real-life calculations and insights into aspects like photo interaction between different UV filters to confirm photostability, or the effects of boosting through UV filter partitioning into water and oil phases and scattering of particulate UV filters. The updated version allows users to customize their simulator platforms according to individual needs by adjusting factors such as SPF and UVA metrics, region and application amount. After initially being presented more than 20 years ago, our Sunscreen Simulator has undergone continuous improvement and has long since become an industry benchmark.

 Learn more about Sun Protection by BASF, and watch their video update

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