Artificial Skin Has Real Appeal

2 March 2010

Not using sun protection is a big mistake according to Gavin Greenoak, Honorary Senior Lecturer at The University of Sydney's School of Physics. Greenoak who has been researching sunscreen products for over 30 years says there's been a major awareness raising campaign in the dangers of UV rays exposure since he first started his research into this area. "Sunscreens are now a part of Aussie life but they still must be tested on humans which is fraught with hazard and liabilities."

MimSkin the artificial substrate developed by the Applied Physics Group. Photo credit: Dr Richard Tarrant.
MimSkin the artificial substrate developed by the Applied Physics Group. Photo credit: Dr Richard Tarrant.

Greenoak, who's also Managing and Scientific Director of the University's Australian Photobiology Testing Facility (APTF), thought there must be a better way. Teaming up with Dr Richard Tarrant and Professor David McKenzie from the School of Physics the group developed an artificial substrate known as Mimskin. It has taken a decade of research but Greenoak is pleased with the progress that's been made towards replacing human testing.

"Sunscreens are filters on the surface of the skin. Most sunscreen emulsions when rubbed into skin break up before re-settling on the surface. It can take up to 30 minutes before skin is optimally protected by a sunscreen. Mimskin aims to mimic skin's surface characteristics in order to accurately gauge the effectiveness of a product."

The APTF is the premier testing facility for sunscreens in Australia. "Any sunscreen manufacturer who wants to make a claim as to the effectiveness of their protection [SPF] and broad-spectrum characteristics must be product tested before it can be labelled. This has meant exposing people to very high intensity solar simulated UV in the laboratory."

Mimskin's objective is to replace testing on people. "We've come a long way with the development of Mimskin. I hope that we might soon have a universally applicable artificial skin that can be used in the effective testing of sunscreen products and save real skin being harmed."

Even though he's an avid fan of protecting skin in the sun Greenoak, who is also the President of the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists, does recommend getting some sun. "Ten minutes at the beginning or end of the day will keep up your Vitamin D levels. However too much sun can lead to skin cancer, sunburn and premature ageing." Ouch! And fake tans? "Better to fake it than bake it," agrees Greenoak, "but remember there's no protection from the sun in those tans unless labelled as a sunscreen as well."

Contact: Alison Muir

Phone: 02 9036 5194

Email: 371823295b3a77341221456f0a1e160c20374b131222641810