In the cosmetic world, the sunscreen category represents a sensitive segment in many respects. From a health point of view, brands need to convince as many people as possible to adopt UV protection gestures, with a range of products that are safe, accessible and suitable for everyday use. Whether light or dark, all skin types are affected. Yet, to date, only two out of five people protect their skin from the sun (Yougov Study - 2019), even though UV exposure is known to be the main cause of skin cancer (2 to 3 million new cases each year according to the WHO).
Consumer awareness is however rising steadily with, in particular, a significant 58% increase in the use of SPF 50 and 50+ products in France. The consumption of daily photo-protection products is also evolving in parallel, with 43% increase in 2019 against + 8% for other sunscreen categories, according to L’Oréal.
Netlock, targeting the best possible protection
Fully aware of these issues, L’Oréal’s Research & Innovation laboratory has worked on its formulas in order to ultimately achieve the best possible protection, namely to cover the entire spectrum of UVA/UVB rays while ensuring a comfortable application and long wear properties over time. "Traditionally, sun filters are located in the oil droplets of emulsions, but they won’t be able to do a proper job if these droplets don’t cover the skin areas properly. Our objective was therefore to ensure an optimal distribution, to fit skin reliefs and offer stability over time," says Stéphane Douezan, Head of the Photoprotection Development Laboratory at L’Oréal and inventor of the Netlock technology.
After three years of research, the laboratory identified an "ideal" polymer, co-developed with its active ingredients suppliers. This polymer gels and stabilizes the droplets containing the filters, thus forming an extremely tight and protective structure. The Netlock technology anchors the filters in an ultra-thin film, invisible on the skin, thus giving formulas increased efficiency, but also higher resistance to water, sweat, sand, while preventing product migration in the eyes.
The potentially negative impact of sunscreens on coral bleaching, which would eventually lead to their disappearance, is an additional challenge to formulators. To this outstanding issue, L’Oréal replies by confirming that its formula has no impact on ecosystems. "L’Oréal researchers only use ingredients that do not present foreseeable risks for the environment," says Marc Léonard, Director of the Group’s Environmental Research Laboratory. The teams rely on the data provided by their ingredient suppliers, or even on their own ingredient biodegradability tests. According to Marc Léonard, only a small fraction of sunscreen products are found in water in extremely low doses, with no consequences.
Finally, backed by supporting studies, the group challenges the idea of a proven effect of sunscreens on corals. "Coral bleaching mostly results from global warming, the poor purification of urban effluents and industrial waste, but also to the leaching of agricultural land, which during tropical rains, deposit sediments, fertilizers and pesticides inside lagoons," says Marc Léonard.