shutterstock_238442692Is algae the next big thing in sunscreen ingredients?

New research suggests that they just may be.

When algae’s natural sunscreen molecules, which can also be found in reef fish mucus and microorganisms, are combined with chitosan, a biopolymer from crustacean shells, it stands up well in heat and light, and absorbs both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation with high efficiency.

This is the main finding from a study in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Existing sunblock lotions work by absorbing ultraviolet rays or by physically blocking them, and while a variety of synthetic and natural compounds can accomplish this, most commercial options have limited efficiency, pose risks to the environment and human health, or are not stable.

“[Algae-based sunscreen has] the potential to provide an efficient protection against both types of UV radiations and overcome several shortfalls of the current UV-protective products,” they conclude. “In practice, the same concept can be applied to other biopolymers than chitosan and used to produce multifunctional materials. Therefore, it has a great potential to be exploited in a broad range of applications in living organisms and nonliving systems.”