Boots' R&D boss busts myths on vitamin D


Boots' Innovation R&D Manager, Clare O'Connor, discusses what consumers should be looking for in their sun care products

Boots' R&D boss busts myths on vitamin D
Clare O'Connor

Clare O'Connor

Sun care is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the beauty sector, with growing awareness surrounding its damaging effects on skin and our health.

But what are the right products to look out for and how can consumer's make sure they're protecting themselves in the right way?

Here, Clare O'Connor, Innovation R&D Manager for sun care at Boots, talks to Cosmetics Business about what's important using sun care products, the societal stigmas surrounding them and and busting myths on vitamin D.

What are the most important elements in a sun care product?

"UVA and UVB protection is the whole raison d’être ensuring you choose a high SPF product suitable for your skin type is the first thing to look for. SPF is only half the story and therefore it is important to also look for UVA protection and choose a product that offers a five star UVA rating, which is the highest level of UVA protection available in the UK. Other elements which are paramount are ease of application.

A product not only needs to feel pleasant on the skin to encourage use in the first place , but making it pleasurable to reapply to drive compliance is an equally important consideration in the product. Sunscreens are generally seen as a grudge purchase something you have to do rather than something you want to do and, therefore, they have to be as convenient and pleasant as possible.

It is also challenging to drive compliance, when with the exception of immediate sunburn, the impact of using a product is more of an insurance policy for the future health and appearance of the skin, than the instant gratification from using a cosmetic product.

What areas do we need consider to improve sun care products?


We live in a constantly changing society, with changes in work and socialising patterns, increasing frequency of international travel, impact of climate change, high density city living, all resulting in  more stresses on our skin than ever before.

The long term impact of some of these modern lifestyles on our skin’s health  are largely unknown and merit more research. Bearing all of this in mind a key focus for us is in providing the right level of protection wherever we are in the world, whatever we are doing and whoever we are to be future facing in our development.

In addition to these areas of research developing the best textures to drive performance on the skin as outlined above, as well as products that perform for longer or protect from more insults.

Could vitamin D be used in sun care? If not, why not?

Vitamin D is produced within the skin via a biochemical process in the presence of sunlight, this is then available via the bloodstream for our bodies to utilise and store. Unfortunately, using pure vitamin D as an ingredient on our skin would have no impact as it cannot penetrate through the skin to get to where it needs to.

Another way would be to include ingredients that drive vitamin D production in the skin into our products. Many of the precursors of vitamin D, however, are not permitted for use on the skin for safety and regulatory reasons and therefore currently the viable alternative to making vitamin D in sunlight would be via supplementation.

What are the effects of UV on the skin?

UV causes long and short term damage to the skin. Shorter term is an increase in skin thickness which can lead to a coarser leathery appearance and sunburn whereas longer term the impact is more deeply in the skin damaging DNA and supporting elastic fibre structures, leading to loss of elasticity, sagging, pigmentation spots and uneven skin tone, wrinkles and skin cancer.

How should consumers differentiate between too much sun and enough vitamin D?

There are always tradeoffs between risks and benefits. The effects of sunlight on the skin are well documented and we know that frequent exposure of unprotected skin to UV light leads to an increase in the probability of suffering skin lesions and skin cancer as well as the more cosmetic effects of photo ageing. However, sun exposure has a positive impact - not just a negative impact - on the body and, therefore, there are many reasons why we should spend some time in the sun. 

Following on from the points above we should therefore never deliberately expose unprotected skin to sunlight in a bid to boost vitamin D levels. The cases of harmful deficiency of vitamin D are incredibly rare and need to be carefully diagnosed rather than it being a widespread problem. The treatment of vitamin D deficiency is via supplementation not deliberate sun exposure. Importantly it is also possible to synthesise vitamin D even while using sunscreen so never take the risk with your skin, spend time outside using sun protection and take a supplement during the winter months."

Earlier this year, Boots' sun care brand Soltan released its first sun awareness campaign in 14 years, likening the permanent UV damage to a tattoo.

Follow the link here to read more from O'Connor and what Boots hopes to achieve with the new initiative.

Boots' R&D boss busts myths on vitamin D
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