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How Terpenes Enhance Sunscreen and Protect Against Photodamage

Summer is right around the corner, and sun protection is the surprise trend of 2021. Read on and discover how terpenes can enhance sunscreen, sunblock and even protect against photodamage.

While people may have avoided travel in 2020, they didn’t necessarily avoid sunshine. Things like running, cycling, and hiking became the go-to activities for those looking to safely socialize, exercise, and just get out of the house. Those new to these activities, however, gained first-hand knowledge about sunburns and photoaging. That’s why skincare products designed to protect against UV rays are the not-so-surprise trend of 2021.

Dermatologists are well-aware of the damaging effects of the sun’s rays, but it took a drastic change in consumer habits for regular people to reach this same conclusion. Whether they’re reaching for sunscreen or sunblock, their priorities remain the same. Consumers want effective products that don’t leave the stereotypical chalky residue. 

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a product formulist, but certain ingredients may provide enhanced UV protection and even protect against photodamage. That’s right, we’re talking about terpenes. Read on and discover how terpenes can enhance sunscreen, sunblock, and even provide other skin-beautifying properties.

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How Terpenes Enhance Sunscreen and Protect Against Photodamage

In a hurry to get your products prepped for summer sales? Here’s the breakdown of what we’re covering today...

  • Sunblocks, also known as physical sunscreens, use ingredients like titanium oxide or zinc oxide to create a barrier that blocks UV rays from penetrating the skin.
  • Sunscreens, or chemical sunscreens, use chemical ingredients to “screen” or filter UV rays by absorbing them before they penetrate the skin. 
  • As long as a consumer doesn’t have sensitivities to any of the ingredients, both are good options for protecting skin from harmful UV rays and avoiding photodamage.
  • Photodamage (aka photoaging, sun damage, or solar damage) is what happens when the sun’s rays damage and age skin. Over time this can lead to fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, broken capillaries, uneven texture, and loss of skin elasticity.
  • D-Limonene, however, can protect against UVB rays when administered both orally and topically. Of the two, however, topical d-limonene is more effective.
  • On top of that, d-limonene has other skin-beautifying properties that can enhance sun protection products (penetration enhancement, anti-inflammation, antioxidant, etc.). 
  • Terpene blends like our Green Tea and Wild in the Street Sherbert include d-limonene along with a variety of other terpenes that have skin-beautifying properties.

Terpenes Can Enhance Sunblock and Sunscreen in Several Ways - Abstrax Tech

Sun Protection 101

If you’re new to sun protection, there are a few key items you’ll want to be familiar with. First, there’s a difference between sunscreen and sunblock. 

Sunblock is exactly what it sounds like. It blocks the sun’s rays and keeps them from penetrating the skin. Also known as physical sunscreens, most of these products use titanium oxide or zinc oxide as the main active ingredient. These ingredients create a thicker, more visible product. While they do a decent job of blocking the sun’s harmful rays, this is what’s behind the stereotypical white, streaky sunblock look. It’s perhaps for this reason that more people tend to opt for sunscreen.

Sunscreen, also known as chemical sunscreen, is much more common. These products “screen” or filter UV rays by using a variety of chemicals that absorb rays before penetrating the skin. This creates a more translucent product, but some UV rays can still get through. Additionally, there are consumers with sensitivities or allergies to some of the ingredients in sunscreens (specifically para-aminobenzoic acid). 

So long as a consumer doesn’t have sensitivities or allergies to any of the ingredients, both are good options for sun protection. The American Academy of Dermatology just recommends that consumers choose products that provide protection against UVA and UVB rays, are at least SPF 30 or higher, and that are water-resistant. When applied properly, both options can help protect against photodamage.

What is Photodamage?

Photodamage (also known as photoaging, solar damage, or sun damage), is what happens when the sun’s rays damage and age skin. We’ve all probably experienced a sunburn or two, but photoaging is a bit different. This can look like fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, broken capillaries, uneven texture, and loss of skin elasticity. 

Yale Medicine Dermatology says, “It happens when ultraviolet (UV) light hits skin unprotected by sunscreen, causing DNA changes at a cellular level. Because photodamage happens in the deepest layers of the skin—the dermis—it can take years before the damage surfaces and becomes visible.” 

The reason it’s so important to select sun protectants labeled “broad-spectrum,” is because they help protect against both UVA and UVB rays. The first can impact everything from the epidermis all the way down into the dermis. This type of damage makes it harder for the skin to produce collagen and elastin fibers. UVB rays, on the other hand, are responsible for DNA damage on the outermost layer of skin. This is also the type of solar radiation that can cause the formation of precancerous cells.

While there are treatments available to help reduce visible signs of photodamage, it can never be removed completely. These options can include chemical peels, lasers, photodynamic therapy, and various topical medications. 

Can Terpenes Enhance Sunblock and Sunscreen Products?

Luckily, yes. 

What’s particularly exciting about terpenes, is that they can enhance both sunblocks and sunscreens while also protecting against photodamage. One terpene, in particular, holds a lot of promise for sun protection.

D-Limonene Terpene Isolate - Abstrax Tech

D-Limonene Can Protect Against UVB Damage

Not only does it smell like mouthwatering, citrusy sunshine, but D-Limonene can also enhance the sun protection properties of a variety of skincare products. A study published in American Association for Cancer Research analyzed just how effective this isolate was at protecting mouse skin against CPDs (cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers) and sunburn. CPDs are the major lesions produced upon exposure of DNA to UVB light.

The mice were administered D-Limonene orally four times a day with varying concentrations and controls. The mice were then exposed to ultraviolet radiation. The mice who were administered 1% d-limonene showed a 54.3% reduction in CPDs, 10% d-limonene showed a 73.4% reduction, and 100% d-limonene showed an 86.1% reduction of CPDs. 

The severity of sunburn was also reduced with greater doses of d-limonene, and “Overall the results indicate that d-limonene protected against sunburn by activating keratinocyte/sebaceous gland-based pathways that fortified and thickened the cornified envelope plus sebum layers on the skin surface by releasing elevated levels of UVR-absorbing proteins that decreased UVR dose to underlying cutaneous tissues.”

While oral administration of d-limonene did provide some protection, the researchers noted that topical d-limonene was more effective. It’s important to remember, however, that some individuals have topical sensitivities to d-limonene. That being said, there are hundreds of terpene blends with varying amounts of D-Limonene for a variety of products.

D-Limonene Has Other Skin Beautifying Properties

On top of the UVB protection, D-Limonene has also been shown to reduce skin inflammation. One study looking at the skin repairing properties of d-limonene suggested that topical application could soothe aching and/or burning skin by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production while also improving wound healing. 

It’s also a powerful antioxidant, which is phenomenal for skin with oxidative damage, and it acts as a penetration enhancer to promote product absorption. Brands like Fifth & Root are already taking advantage of this terpenes’ skincare benefits (not to mention its mood-elevating properties). 

Try These D-Limonene Dominant Blends For Enhanced Skin Benefits

If you want to give your customers a product they rave about all summer, consider using d-limonene dominant terpene blends with other skin beautifying terpenes. For example, our Green Tea terpene blend is made of 24% beta-caryophyllene, 16% d-limonene, and 9% geraniol. The first is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and geraniol is a soothing isolate known for its ability to combat free radicals and reduce signs of aging. 

Greet Tea Terpene Blend - Abstrax Tech

For something a little less subtle, our Wild in the Street Sherbert is jam-packed full of mouthwatering flavor and skin-beautifying terpenes. Limonene and Myrcene make up the majority of this blend, but other terpenes like linalool, camphene, and ocimene provide skin-soothing benefits for those with sensitive skin. Plus, it smells like delicious sweet, creamy sherbert. Bonus!

Wild in the Street Sherbert Terpene Blend - Abstrax Tech


Create Effective Sun Protection Products with Terpenes

Whether you prefer sunblock or sunscreen, these are the types of products you won’t purchase twice unless they WORK. That means it’s up to you to create sun protection products that give your customers the results they’re looking for. Plus, being able to enhance their effectiveness with ingredients that smell so stinking good is an absolute bonus. 

Contact us today if you’re interested in adding terpenes to your products. We’re happy to partner with you for help along the way, or even just give you an expert product recommendation. Whatever the case, we can’t wait to see how terpenes help enhance your products, grow your business, and how they please your customers.

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