Antioxidants as Sunscreen Enhancers

The importance of sunscreen use has been clearly established. What is also clear is that sunscreen use alone is not enough to protect against premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. Trying to get most people to stay out of the sun altogether is both unreasonable and impossible. There needs to be a balance between time spent in the sun and measures to minimize damage due to excessive sun exposure.

Dermatologists have come up with a few simple guidelines:

  • Try to avoid being outside between the hours of 11am and 2pm
  • Wear a hat with at least a four inch brim
  • Wear sun-protective clothing
  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 (applies only to UVB)
  • Use a sunscreen that also has protection against UVA

We are now also able to offer additions, in the form of antioxidants that may make sunscreens more effective in doing their job of protecting against sunburn, photo aging and skin cancer.

Recent studies have shown that a complex of vitamin A, vitamin E, magnesium and other antioxidant ingredients markedly improved the effectiveness of sunscreens. This means that less sunscreen might be needed to achieve the desired protection. Many currently available formulations claim to contain antioxidants such as those mentioned, however they are usually at ineffective concentrations and are not usually stable, so that once the ingredients are exposed to light they become inactive.

Another antioxidant, topical vitamin C, also offers significant value for enhancing the skin’s ability to protect against sun damage. By applying these antioxidants directly to the skin, instead of taking them by mouth, there is a much greater concentration locally, within the skin, where it is needed, without risking any toxicity to the rest of the body. In order to guarantee an effect, it becomes essential to have formulations that are stable and in concentrations proven to have an effect. For vitamin C, studies have shown that L-ascorbic acid with a concentration of 20 percent and a pH of no greater than 3.5 (read the labels). Studies are underway and seem very promising for the other antioxidant formulations. These would likely be available only from the Dermatologist who would be in the best position to determine which formulation would be best for each individual.


  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A (retinol, retin-a)
  • Magnesium
  • Panthenol (vitamin B family)
  • Grape seed extract
  • Beta-glucan
  • Superoxide dismutase


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