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What does “good for the skin” really mean?

UV radiation harms health, sunscreen helps. What sounds like a simple version of "cause, effect and solution" turns out to be much more complex on closer inspection. After all, not every sunscreen that protects is ultimately good for the skin and body. What you should look for when choosing a suitable, skin-friendly sunscreen is explained to you in this blog by Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Wolfgang G. Philipp-Dormston.

He is a dermatologist and skin cancer specialist and heads our scientific advisory board. With his specifications, he has defined the science behind 'Pure Protection For the Skin.

A basic question to start with: Why is sun protection so important?

Philipp-Dormston: "With around 300,000 new cases every year in Germany alone, skin cancer is the most common cancer of all. Based on data from six cancer registries, approximately 213,000 cases are non melanoma skin cancer. In addition, the number of Germans newly affected by black skin cancer (malignant melanoma) each year increased fivefold between 1970 and 2015 - and the trend is rising.

Yet a large proportion of all new cases would be preventable simply through proper behavior and the consistent use of appropriate UV protection."

Is UV protection only used to prevent skin cancer?

Philipp-Dormston: "No, because here we differentiate between different wavelengths at which ultraviolet light hits the skin: The short-wave, higher-energy UV-B rays penetrate the uppermost layer of skin (epidermis) and can cause sunburn as well as DNA damage. Their intensity is influenced by parameters such as altitude or weather conditions, time of day and season. The long-wave, lower-energy UV-A rays, on the other hand, have a constant effect, especially throughout the year, and do not even stop at window glass. They reach one layer deeper into the dermis and are primarily responsible for premature skin ageing - but can also be the cause of skin cancer.

A high-quality sunscreen must therefore reliably protect against both UV-B and UV-A radiation. A product whose UV-A protection corresponds to at least one third of the UV-B protection may bear the UV-A label. In the case of eco elio, for example, this is a so-called broad-spectrum protection with sun protection factor 50 and a high UV-A content."

Why does good protection not automatically mean good for the skin and body?

Philipp-Dormston: "Good UV protection in the sense of effective and efficient is achieved through the use of UV filters. The problem: Many conventional sunscreens contain filters that are harmful to health! These are considered to be potentially hormone-active and/or organ-damaging and, in the case of octocrylene, also contain the suspected carcinogenic decomposition product benzophenone. Caution is also advised with the UV filters homosalate, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate and benzophenone-3. However, not only these synthetic chemical filters, but also so-called mineral filters such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide give cause for concern. They are used in the form of nanoparticles, which in turn can cause damage to genetic material and organs as well as inflammation via absorption into the body (e.g. via the lips and mouth in the case of creams or respiration in the case of sprays).

In the development of the evidence-based formulation for eco elio, nanoparticles were deliberately avoided. Instead, eco elio relies on filters classified as harmless to health (purely synthetic, also called organic), which are both highly effective and photostable, as well as particularly environmentally friendly (EcoSun Pass® approved)."

What other ingredients should I look out for in terms of skin compatibility?

Philipp-Dormston: "Apart from UV filters, when choosing an adequate sunscreen, it is essential to look out for certain ingredients that are used, for example, for durability reasons, for improved galenic (consistency and skin feel) or for fragrance. Some of these have skin-irritating, allergenic and/or hormone-active effects. These include: PEGs, parabens, microplastics (solid and liquid), silicones, and fragrances. If possible, these should be avoided.

All these unnecessary and problematic substances are not found in the formulation of eco elio. The cream is thus suitable for the most sensitive skin types, including children and allergy sufferers."

What is behind the term "dermatologically tested"?

Philipp-Dormston: "Many manufacturers advertise with the label "dermatologically tested", visually presented as a kind of certificate, and thus suggesting to the consumer that their product has been confirmed as effective or compatible by a qualified body. However, testing on humans under the supervision of a dermatologist is simply a prerequisite for the approval of a cosmetic product within the EU - without the specification of further implementation and quality criteria (e.g. number of persons tested, or even a positive or negative result).

eco elio, on the other hand, has also been tested by the German Allergy and Asthma Association (DAAB). Here, extremely strict criteria are applied, such as the categorical exclusion of potent allergens and independent testing of tolerance in allergy sufferers. eco elio sunscreen is proven to be well tolerated, safe and bears the official DAAB logo 'tested and recommended'."

How can consumers find out about the skin compatibility of a product?

Philipp-Dormston: "In addition to observing meaningful certificates such as that of the DAAB, consumers can subject the ingredients of a product to a quick, uncomplicated INCI check with the help of apps. Suitable providers in the cosmetics sector include Hautschutzengel, CodeCheck, ToxFox or Yuka. Although it is better to look twice and not to trust blindly, the results usually provide a good guide.

After everything that does not belong in a skin-compatible UV protection - is there also a really useful addition?

Philipp-Dormston: "Yes, absolutely! This is clearly the cosmetic "power ingredient" Niacinamide. Because the vitamin B3 derivative proves to be a scientific cell protector and a real jack-of-all-trades when it comes to skin care and protection: for example preventing premature skin ageing, strengthening the protective function of the skin and moisturising it. Pores are minimized, impurities or pigmentation spots are reduced.

It is important that the formulation contains the active ingredient in a relevant amount - as is the case with eco elio with 4% niacinamide."

A final conclusion?

"For me as a physician and scientist, the maxim when it comes to sun protection is: No compromises! Efficacy, safety, and a sense of responsibility toward people and our environment are what define the quality of a product. At the same time, it needs to be accepted by the consumer so that he or she is happy to use the sunscreen consistently. That's why eco elio was designed with a light texture that spreads well and is absorbed quickly - in a "pure, clean way", without any ingredients classified as hazardous!"

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