A Safer and Potent Skin Care Product


Marcus Weck, PhD
Professor Of Chemistry, NYU

Driven by rising awareness over the importance of protection against harmful UV rays of the sun, sun care products like sunscreens have seen an exponential growth in demand. Sunscreens are designed to protect the skin against harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Avobenzone, the active component in many sunscreens and the only FDA approved UVA-A filter (to protect from premature aging and skin cancer), is currently the world's most popular active ingredient. Despite its widespread use, Avobenzone has several inherent drawbacks, the most noted of them is both its inherent instability and toxicity associated with its degradation during prolonged exposure to sun or chlorinated compounds in the water. Due to their small size, these breakdown products can easily break the skin barrier exposing humans to carcinogenic compounds. 

Moreover, avobenzone and oxybenzone, synthetic molecules commonly used in chemical sunscreens are also known to be toxic to corals, algae, sea urchins, fish and mammals: A single drop of these compounds in more than 4 million gallons of water is already enough to endanger organisms. Unfortunately, its concentration in coastal water is already significantly higher than its toxic limit, though not yet deadly, and might be accelerating coral bleaching. To save their marine ecosystem from further destruction, lawmakers in Hawaii has now passed a new law banning chemical sunscreens containing oxybenzone and another harmful ingredient, octinoxate. 


This technology provides a method to stabilize Avobenzone by using a specialized polymer based scaffold called dendrimer, which have several applications in cosmetic formulations. 

The methodology designed by Dr. Marcus Weck and his group at NYU involves a chemical modification of the Avobenzone to support it on the polymeric scaffold. The resulting polymers have been tested for UV activity and light stability and have been validated through a number of characterization methods including 1H-NMR, 13C-NMR spectroscopies.

Characterization studies, demonstrate that such polymeric stabilization increases the lifespan of Avobenzone and hence, would have a dramatic effect on the efficacy of the Avobenzone-based sunscreen products. Further the modified Avobenzone was found to be twice as potent than its native form. The novel dendrimer based Avobenzone conjugates expand the possible applications of the dendrimers for other cosmetic applications. 



Sadhana Chitale,

Senior Director Life Sciences,

NYU Technology Ventures and Partnerships