DALLAS — The world is awash in the use of beauty products.
And while we’re all pretty sure our skin is a little brighter than average, how do we know what the best products are?
A new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that, when combined with natural light, some products are likely to cause skin to look and feel a little more natural than others.
A review of more than 50 years of scientific literature revealed that certain types of products — including natural light-sensitive cosmetics, vitamin and mineral supplements, and skin care products — tend to have more of an impact on the appearance of skin.
What do these products do?
Researchers looked at data from the U.S. National Skin Cancer Registry from 1960 to 2013.
In addition to measuring sun exposure, the registry tracked the presence of UV rays from the sun and the amount of time that skin was exposed to the sun.
The researchers also tracked skin-damaging factors, such as excessive sun exposure and sunburns, and the appearance and function of skin’s collagen, a type of protein found in collagen.
To look at the impact products had on the skin’s appearance, the researchers analyzed the skin of more then 500,000 women from the registry.
They found that certain products — and a subset of them — were more likely to have an impact than others on the amount and type of sun exposure experienced.
“Our findings demonstrate that skin lightness is strongly associated with sun exposure,” said study author Dr. Julie Schoen, a professor of dermatology at UT Austin.
“A lot of these products may be used to achieve this.”
When looking at the light-based products, the research team found that light-scaled products tended to have a positive impact on skin lightening.
Light-scaling means that the light reflects off the skin much more than a more traditional dark-scalable product.
“If you’re using a product that reflects light much more efficiently, that can make it more efficient at darkening skin,” Schoen said.
“A lot more products have light-reflecting components than dark-reflective ones,” said Dr. Sarah W. Buehler, associate professor of skin biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and co-author of the study.
Buehler said some of the factors that light products may have are that they’re less sensitive to light and they can’t absorb light as well as dark-scale products.
She said it also may be possible that light reflecting off a sunscreen or light-emitting dyes may not reflect back as well to the skin as the dark-stage products.
In other words, while some of these light-containing products may provide light, they also may have the potential to cause more problems than they’re supposed to.
“They are more likely than others to have potentially harmful effects,” Buehl said.
The researchers say that the products they analyzed are just a subset, and that there may be other factors at play.
They also note that the research isn’t comprehensive enough to be conclusive about the health effects of certain light-light products.
“In terms of light-sensitizing, it doesn’t mean we’re going to see a bright-skinned person,” Schon said.
“The light-dark cycle is very different.”
What’s more, the products analyzed were not the same for every woman.
For instance, some women had lighter skin, but others had darker skin.
They used different types of sunscreen, which could potentially impact their skin tone.
“We’re really just starting to understand the skin-lightening effects of different types,” Bueshler said.
What’s the takeaway?
Schoen thinks it’s important to be aware of how much of the light you’re getting is absorbed.
And she also says that when it comes to the amount absorbed, “it’s not all sunshine.”
“It’s not just sunscreen and light,” she said.
Some women may benefit from using more of these sunscreens.
Bueshl said there is evidence that certain sunscents — like red and yellow sunscapes — have more UV-blocking properties than other types of sunscabs.
“When it comes down to the UV-light absorbers, red and orange are probably the most popular,” she explained.
“So if you use those, it will help you absorb more of the UV light that’s going into your skin.”
“In general, we know that it’s good to be exposed to light,” Schuehler added.
“But we’re still not quite sure if there are all that many benefits that we can have by getting that exposure.”