An Exclusive Interview With Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw

Protect Your Skin
with a Unique Sunscreen

unbathing used to be a national pastime. It is now widely recognized, however, that too much sun exposure significantly increases our risk for skin cancer. Even a small daily exposure can be too much when the damage accumulates over a long period.

The skin is the frontier of our immune system, serving a wide variety of protective roles. It is therefore especially important to be kind to it. With this is mind, life extension scientists Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw set out to develop a sunscreen that would not only protect our skin but also help reduce the aging effects of sunlight.

LE: As the summer approaches and we spend more time outdoors, we're told to guard ourselves against excessive exposure to the sun. Isn't skin cancer directly related to sun exposure?

DURK: Yes. The most common type of skin cancer it can cause is basal cell carcinoma. The two other types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and the deadly, pigmented malignant melanomas, are also related to solar ultraviolet radiation, but not as frequently.

Of the different types of ultraviolet radiation (UV), there's UVB, which can help induce production of vitamin D but can also cause a lot of damage to your skin. Avoid UVB and take your vitamin D precursor in the form of a dietary supplement.

The longer-wavelength (lower-energy) UVA radiation, however, is a mixed bag. The higher-energy end of its range can cause photoaging, which is similar to the damaging effects of smoking that result in wrinkles. Both smoking and UV induce enzymes that destroy the conective-tissue matrix. UVA also contributes to the destruction of elastin, a special type of connective tissue in your skin. Damaged elastin reduces elasticity, causing more wrinkles and saggier skin.

However, UVA does some good too. Its lower-energy wavelengths can actually help repair a type of DNA defect known as DNA dimers, which cause genetic damage that can result in skin cancer.* Moderate amounts of UVA can induce the production of the dark pigment melanin, which protects your skin from further damage. And the tan it produces looks good.

*Topically applied polyphenols, such as are found in macadamia nut oil, have been found to prevent the formation of thymine dimers. Katiyar SK, Perez A, Mukhtar H. Green tea polyphenol treatment to human skin prevents formation of ultraviolet light B-induced pyrimidine dimers in DNA. Clin Cancer Res 2000 Oct;6(10):3864-9.

LE: Can a sunscreen reverse skin damage?

DURK: Yes. People with sun-damaged skin will find that, by regularly blocking UVB with a good sunscreen, their skin will gradually improve in appearance. It will start looking younger, and scaly skin patches as well as unsightly blotches caused by overexposure will gradually fade away. Aging, to a considerable extent, is the accumulation of unrepaired or incorrectly repaired damage. You can slow down the rate of damage, or even slowly reverse some of it, by increasing your rate of repair.

LE: How can your new sunscreen help do this?

DURK: It is a formulation comprised principally of several carefully chosen sunscreen actives,** the potent antioxidant vitamins A, C, D, and E in topically available forms, and luxurious macadamia nut oil.

**Octyl p-methoxycinnamate, titanium dioxide, octyl salicylate, and methyl anthranilate.

The sunscreen actives were selected to allow some of the sun's beneficial rays to come through while blocking most of the damaging ones. The nutrients were added to help prevent abnormal cell growth and to nourish your skin. We use macadamia nut oil to prevent dehydration of the skin and for the superior antioxidant properties of the natural phenolic compounds it contains. All these ingredients are delivered to your skin by a technology that is unique for sunscreens, as far as we know.

SANDY: Thus, our sunscreen shields you from the sun and enriches your skin, while offering dramatic waterproof benefits - all without that greasy, sticky feeling.

DURK: The most fundamental difference in our sunscreen is that, unlike other waterproof sunscreens, it has no emulsifiers, and why it stays on until you do wash it off with soap. These compounds are like detergents, which make water and oil mix, thereby forming an emulsion that goes onto your skin easily, after which the water evaporates. But because the emulsifier is still there, when you go into the water, it's just like washing yourself off with soap, and off goes the sunscreen. That is why our sunscreen has no water and no emulsifiers, and why it stays on until you do wash it off with soap.

We dissolve the fat-soluble ingredients in isopropyl alcohol (the main component of rubbing alcohol), which evaporates entirely in seconds, leaving nothing behind that will tend to remove the active ingredients absorbed into your skin. The scientist who runs the laboratory where we first had our sunscreen formulation tested for its SPF (sun protection factor) value was amazed to find that it was just as effective after exposure to the waterproof protocol as to the dry protocol. His lab had tested about 8000 sunscreens, and they had never found one that didn't lose a significant amount of effectiveness in this comparison.

SANDY: Our sunscreen contains no PABA esters and no benzophenone compounds, even though they're FDA-approved, because they can cause photosensitivity. Between 20 and 40% of women who put benzophenones on their skin get sun bumps - an allergy that's activated by the sun.

LE: What is the SPF value of your formulation?

SANDY: Our sunscreen is rated 17, meaning you can take 17 times as long an exposure to the sun as normal before you get a sunburn. We could have used more of the actives and achieved an SPF of 20 or 25 or 30, but there are two problems with that.

First, the product would become too sticky; with enough actives, it would even approach the stickiness of honey. Second, with the higher concentrations there would be a greater chance of skin irritation or even allergic reaction.

We know from epidemiological studies, by the way, that moderate exposure to the sun on a regular basis is less likely to cause skin cancer than occasional exposures totaling the same amount of UV energy.

DURK: Researchers have reported that high-SPF sunscreens do not seem to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Moderate exposure may even induce a protective mechanism. So, when designing our new lotion, we decided to allow a significant amount of the longer-wavelength, lower-energy portion of the UVA spectrum through while blocking the shorter-wavelength, higher-energy portion of that spectrum, as well as 94% of the UVB spectrum, which has shorter wavelengths (higher energies) still.

LE: How waterproof is it?

DURK: It's very waterproof. In the middle of the summer, Sandy and I went Jet Skiing at a high-altitude southern California lake, all day under the hot sun without a cloud in the sky. To protect ourselves, we used a sunscreen that was designed for surfers.

SANDY: It sticks like axle grease.

DURK: And even though Sandy and I reapplied every hour or so, we got badly sunburned: we both peeled, and I blistered. After a couple of hours, our Jet Skis were so slippery that if you gunned them, they'd shoot right out from under you, like greased pigs. It was then that we decided to create our own sunscreen.

SANDY: First we did a literature search at the National Library of Medicine about the effects of ultraviolet light on the skin and about the efficacy of various active sunscreen ingredients. We ended up reading just about everything that was in print in the English language on the subject. Then we went to work on this project.

Our goal was a completely waterproof product, good enough for surfing, yet better able to withstand the water spray coming over the bow of a Jet Ski at 35 miles an hour, hour after hour. And we think we've achieved that goal.

LE: Does it also hold up in a hot tub or a hot spring?

DURK: Yes. Sandy and I are hot-spring nuts. We have three hot springs and a couple of warm springs in Nevada, and we've found that hot water is very tough on sunscreens, melting them right off. But we've tested it in water as hot as 116°F, and it actually stays on.

LE: What about the isopropyl alcohol in your sunscreen?

DURK: The concentration is about the same as you have in rubbing alcohol (which is 70%). It doesn't irritate your skin, and it evaporates rapidly, leaving the main ingredients behind, along with your natural skin oils. Rubbing alcohol has a long history of safe use over the entire body. With normal application, there's no problem of irritation on normal skin - there's no drying out.

LE: Will a second application of sunscreen increase its effectiveness?

DURK: Perhaps somewhat, but not a lot, because your skin can only absorb so much, and the excess ends up as such a thick layer that it gets wiped off. Those with fair skin require more protection. A friend of ours who has the fairest Type I skin used to burn regularly and ended up with a huge basal cell carcinoma. But with our sunscreen, he no longer burns when he goes into the mountains to collect mushrooms, even at elevations up to 9000 feet.

LE: Can women use makeup with your product?

SANDY: Yes. Put the sunscreen on first, before your makeup, as well as before our other skin products.

LE: How do you apply your sunscreen?

DURK: Just spray it on. For my face, rather than getting it all over my hair, I spray some into the palm of my hand and use my fingertips to apply it. Don't get it or the alcohol vapor in your eyes. If you want to spray it on your face, close your eyes tightly and wait until the alcohol evaporates before you open them.

LE: What about the macadamia nut oil?

DURK: We selected macadamia nut oil because it has high levels of palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to have a remarkable antioxidant effect on the skin. Just as monounsaturated oils are heart-healthy, they are also skin-healthy.

Mink oil has been used in cosmetics for at least 200 years because it is one of the richest natural sources of palmitoleic acid, but guess what? Macadamia nut oil beats the mink oil in that department, which is why we chose to use it.

LE: Of the two different versions of your new product - the rich and the light - how do we know which one to use?

DURK: The only difference between the two products is that the rich has twice the amount of macadamia nut oil found in the light. The rich is intended more for beach use and ocean swimming. In dusty environments, such as Nevada, I prefer the light version, because there's less of a problem with getting dust caked all over me.

The rich version is going to provide you with more protection from saltwater. In a certain sense, saltwater is drying, because it has a higher concentration of electrolytes than your skin cells do. Saltwater actually dehydrates your skin, damaging its barrier function and allowing algae and other potentially harmful organisms to get at its living part. The extra-rich macadamia nut oil forms a barrier between you and the saltwater, protecting your skin from dehydration. It's like wearing an invisible rubber glove.

LE: It's very clear that your product is a unique sunscreen that offers superb protection against the damaging rays of the sun for a wide variety of challenging climates. It's so waterproof that it will not wash off, even when riding a Jet Ski, making it economical to use. Furthermore, it also applies easily, acting to create a superior moisture barrier that leaves your skin feeling incredibly soft and healthy. As far as the bouquet is concerned, its natural cinnamon-macadamia nuttiness will make you think you're on vacation in Hawaii.

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