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and ... Soy
By Jan Suszkiw
December 4, 2002
Soybean oil is the main ingredient
in a new, all-natural skin and hair care product formulated to block the sun's
The product, SoyScreen, is the invention of Joe Laszlo and Dave Compton,
Agricultural Research Service chemists
in Peoria, Ill., who are exploring new, value-added uses for commodities,
especially soy oil. By one estimate, the U.S. soy industry generates 800
million pounds of surplus oil each year. With private industry help, the
researchers hope to exploit this surplus as a natural alternative to chemical
sunscreen ingredients now used in lotions, lip balms and other skin/hair care
Soy oil itself doesn't offer sun protection, so the researchers figured out
how to chemically connect it to ferulic acid, an antioxidant abundant in oat
bran and other natural sources that absorbs ultraviolet (UV) light. Their
approach also makes ferulic acid more lipid-like, so it doesn't dissolve in
water, such as during a swim.
SoyScreen is also environmentally benign, and the method for making
it--biocatalysis--uses recyclable enzymes instead of harsh solvents, notes
Laszlo, at ARS' National Center for
Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria.
In studies there, the scientists ran Sun Protection Factor tests comparing
SoyScreen to four commercial sunscreens: oxybenzone, dioxybenzone, octyl
methoxycinnamate and padimate-O. The latter two scored highest for UVB
absorbency at wavelengths of 290-320 nanometers, a range that can cause
short-term exposure problems, such as sunburn from a day on the beach.
SoyScreen, however, offered the best overall protection against both UVB and
UVA, another type of sunlight radiation that can cause long-term exposure
problems, such as skin cancer.
ARS, which patented SoyScreen on behalf of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, is
negotiating an exclusive license with a company. A longer article about the
natural sunscreen appears in the
December issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is USDA's main scientific research agency.