Seaweed sun defence: Preventing sun-induced skin damage with algae-derived bioactives

This project is investigating the potential of algae bioactives to prevent and improve the outcomes of sunburn. Current sun protection products aren’t fully-effective and have damaging side-effects and negative environmental impacts.

I Stock 540365558 CREDIT Ruslan Dashinksky

Background

Sunscreen, make-up and lip care products contain ingredients that can filter UV rays. However, these products can have damaging side-effects and are being banned due to their environmental impact on corals and other marine life.

Some Aotearoa New Zealand algae have compounds – or bioactives – that protect them from UV damage. Some of these compounds are used overseas in high-value “natural” sun-care products.

With the sunburn prevention market projected to grow by over NZ$4 billion globally by 2022, there is an opportunity to develop innovative products and create opportunities for Aotearoa New Zealand’s blue economy.

This project is part of the New Zealand government’s Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge / Ko ngā moana whakauka.

Project details

This project is investigating algae’s potential to prevent and treat sunburn in new ways beyond simply blocking damaging UV light. These include potentially interaction with the processes underlying the sunburn process and modulating this for beneficial effects.

Mātauranga Māori and western science will help identify which native and endemic seaweed and algae species are best developed for innovative, environmentally friendly sunscreen protection.

This work draws on the traditional role of algae in rongoā / Māori medicine. It has been co-developed with Wakatū Incorporation which has interests in aquaculture and high-value natural products.

The project includes an 18-month marine farm seaweed biodiversity study to collect samples, identification of seaweed and algal species, analysis, and a proof-of-concept for commercialisation.

What they hope to achieve

This project will build on knowledge that suggests algal bioactives can help protect against sunburn.

It will reveal more about algal biota, assessing them as alternatives to current molecules that have a range of associated issues.

This project will help to diversify aquaculture activities, provide employment, improve ecosystem health, and develop a seaweed aquaculture industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I Stock 540365558 CREDIT Ruslan Dashinksky
Credit: iStock / Ruslan Dashinksky

Resource

Seaweed sun defence: Preventing sun-induced skin damage with algae-derived bioactives

Read more about this project and how it is investigating the potential of algae bioactives to prevent and improve the outcomes of sunburn