Its official: make sure that your sunscreen comes with antioxidants. A new study by the American Academy of Dermatology says that sunscreens are providing ‘passive’ protection by absorbing or reflecting harmful UV rays from the skin. But by adding antioxidants to sunscreens, they could offer a second, ‘active’ level of protection.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), urges the use of a sunscreen that provides protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. And it certainly doesn’t advocate just relying on antioxidants.  However, it does back antioxidants as a way of boosting our natural immunity to sun damage.

Dr Steven Q Wang, who presented the research to the AAD said: “Adding antioxidants to sunscreen is an innovative approach that could represent the next generation of sunscreens, which would not only filter UV radiation, but also offer other tangible skin health benefits.

“Theoretically, supplementing sunscreens with antioxidants could boost the body’s natural defense against the formation of UVA-induced free radicals; therefore serving as a second layer of protection against UV radiation that passes through the first layer of UV protection.”

He stressed though that it was a challenging task to determine the final concentration of antioxidants in each product and differentiate their free radical protection.

“This is an exciting area of research in sunscreens. However, we believe further study is needed to gauge the benefits of incorporating antioxidants in sunscreens,” explained Dr. Wang.

There is some existing research though on the role of antioxidant ingredients and sun protection, including a study from 2004 that said that vitamins C and E and α-lipoic acid have  been shown to reduce inflammation following sunburn in human skin, be protective after sun exposure, and prevent UV light immunosuppression. Beta carotene may also reduce photosensitivity.

My personal experience is that in the last couple of years of fairly intensive antioxidant use, my face gets much less sun burned than it used to - even though I don't wear sunscreen every single day. Now I just need to get my arms and décolleté up to the same level. Now what was I saying about how far you can eke out a bottle of E’shee. It should be noted that my sunscreen of choice, Suntegrity, does have several antioxidants including pomegranate and astaxanthin, which is an absorber of specific ultraviolet sunlight rays that may contribute to skin aging and cancer.