Cyanobacteria, which have long been known to have an inherent UV-protective characteristic, provides a promising source of natural ingredients for sunscreens and moisturizers.
Iran researchers, in collaboration with scientists in Swansea and London in the UK, have found the potential of cyanobacteria as a natural and safer alternative to synthetically produced ingredients mostly used in sunscreens and moisturizers.
In an article published in the European Journal Phycology, the team, led by Peyman Derikvand of the University of Isfahan, said that cyanobacteria's inherent ability to thrive in extremely arid conditions with high UV radiation make it a promising source of sunscreen ingredients. These include mycosporine-like amino acids and scytonemin, which provide strong screening protection from long- and shortwave UV radiation, respectively.
The researcher said that extracellular polymeric substances or EPS secreted by cyanobacteria were also found to retain moisture better than synthetically produced variants such as urea, glycerin and propylene glycol.
Additionally, the adoption of organic ingredients for sunscreens decreases the risk of adverse side effects in humans, including contact sensitivity and estrogen mimicking. It likewise helps prevent harmful chemicals from seeping into the environment.
According to the article, cyanobacteria is also more sustainable to produce as they "have higher photosynthetic and growth rates than more complex plants, simple nutritional requirements, and the ability to grow under closed cultivation systems that do not compete with agriculture." Currently, however, mass production for the cosmetic industry is a key challenge because of economic factors.