Science

Introduction

ECT1 chemical sunscreen contains a 1% concentration of ectoin, a water-retaining amino acid derivative that effectively protects the skin against pollution and UV-induced damage. It also improves skin immunity and repairs skin inflammation caused by environmental stress factors. 

Mechanism

Human skin is exposed to many harmful environmental factors on a daily basis, such as air pollution, UV radiation, and blue light. They are generally mitigated by our endogenous protective and repair mechanisms. However, as we age, these mechanisms become less effective1. If damage to the skin becomes too severe to repair, it can be irreversible. Therefore, cell-protecting active substances such as ectoin could provide external support and shield the skin from different types of stress. 

Ectoin is a stress protection molecule found in extremophilic microorganisms that thrive in harsh living conditions, such as salt lakes and deserts2-3. In order to retain cellular water balance for withstanding extreme conditions, these microorganisms produce low molecular weight extremolytes, such as ectoin, to bind and transport water into and out of cells and to maintain protein stability4. 

Ectoin, by nature, accumulates and binds to neighboring water molecules. This promotes the formation of the Ectoin-water complex. These complexes form large hydration shells around enzymes, proteins and other biomolecules, providing protection and stabilization4. Ectoin stabilises proteins by residing on protein surface and at the same time binds water to achieve a tighter protein folding.  Ectoin-water complexes also help protect the membrane and stabilise membrane components against stress factors5 

Anti air pollution

Over the years, the impact of air pollution on the outermost skin barrier has been understated. Various skin conditions may occur when the skin makes first contact with air pollutants such as particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5 or smaller), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, nitrogen oxides (NOx) etc6. Ex vivo studies have proven that ectoin provides protection from pollution-induced skin aging, damage, and pigmentationby reducing the gene expression of pollution-induced biomarkers (MMP1, POMC, and Cyp1A1)7. 

Anti UV radiation 

Solar UV radiation can be subdivided into UVA, UVB and UVC components. As the atmospheric ozone absorbs UVC, ambient sunlight is predominantly UVA (90%-95%) and UVB (5%-10%).  

UVA radiation is commonly related to skin aging and tanning as it activates a cascading effect within skin cells. Exposure of human keratinocyte with UVA triggers the expression of pro-inflammatory genes such as intercellular adhesion molecule-1, ICAM-18-9. In addition, matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) are also activated and degrade extracellular matrix proteins, followed by wrinkle formation10-11. Ectoin utilizes its singlet-oxygen quenching properties to prevent the UVA-induced cell cascade and subsequent cell aging process in keratinocytes and fibroblasts10 

UVB, on the other hand, triggers another cascade of mediators in the skin that together result in an inflammatory response, which is commonly known as sunburn12. If the amount of UVB exceeds a certain threshold, keratinocytes undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death) to avoid damaged DNAs from further propagating and mutating. Such apoptotic keratinocytes are known as sunburn cells (SBCs), which is a possible indicator of potential photocarcinogenicity13-14. Data suggested that ectoin is capable of lowering the chance of getting UV-induced skin damage by reducing the development of SBCs on the human skin15. 

Blue light protection 

Blue light is often associated with the use of electronic devices, yet the largest source of blue light is sunlight. It induces oxidative stress responses and damages DNA in the epidermis and dermis, possibly leading to hyperpigmentation and accelerating skin aging. Several in vitro and ex vivo studies showed the efficacy of ectoin in preventing blue light-induced DNA damage and oxidative stress in cells7 

Immunoprotection 

The skin has its specific immunological defense system – skin immune system (SIS). SIS protects the skin against negative environmental influences such as pathogens and UV radiation. Langerhans cells are key elements of the SIS. They form a dense and branched network over the epidermis. These cells help protect the skin by recognizing antigens and upregulating antibody defense responses. In vivo studies have shown that the langerhans cell network collapsed upon UVA and UVB radiation, indicating a weakening skin immunity. It is also demonstrated that pre-treatment with ectoin results in significant protection of langerhans cells against UV-radiation, suggesting topically applied ectoin could potentially aid skin immunoprotection15-17. 

Repairing effect 

Impaired skin barrier often results in skin dehydration and irritation. This is usually indicated by an increase in transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and skin redness. In a clinical study, topically applied ectoin was shown to be effective in reducing TEWL and redness in irritated skin, suggesting its soothing and repairing efficacy18. Based on its repairing properties and consequential skin barrier restoration, it is also reported that the application of ectoin increases skin hydration and has prolonged moisturizing effect4,11. 

Formulator’s Notes

ECT1 is the first Factiv formula collaboratively developed with a skincare product research team from overseas. Over the past year, the product has undergone repeated discussions and refinements with professionals from Japan.

 

The R&D goal for this product is to address two important aspects of using a sunscreen product. 

 

First, many people are reluctant to apply sunscreen daily due to its heavy and oily texture. ECT1, despite being alcohol-free, its texture can still be extremely light and refreshing, which will not overload the skin easily. With this new product, we hope that sunscreen will become an indispensable asset to your everyday skincare routine. Moreover, ECT1 contains an innovative ingredient Ectoin (non-UV filter), which has been specially selected for its high efficacy in reducing multiple harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin, including sunburn, DNA damage, and premature aging. Combined with the UV filters that chemically block UV radiation, Ectoin enhances overall defensive power against UV radiation, including blue light.

1.Naidoo, K. and Birch-Machin, M.A., 2017. Oxidative stress and ageing: the influence of environmental pollution, sunlight and diet on skin. Cosmetics4(1), p.4.

2.Galinski, E.A., Pfeiffer, H.P. and TRÜPER, H., 1985. A novel cyclic amino acid from halophilic phototrophic bacteria of the genus Ectothiorhodospira. Eur. J. Biochem149, pp.135-139.

3.Lentzen, G. and Schwarz, T., 2006. Extremolytes: natural compounds from extremophiles for versatile applications. Applied microbiology and biotechnology72, pp.623-634.

4.Graf, R., Anzali, S., Buenger, J., Pfluecker, F. and Driller, H., 2008. The multifunctional role of ectoine as a natural cell protectant. Clinics in dermatology26(4), pp.326-333.

5.bitop AG. (no date). Scientific Information – Ectoin®. Witten, Germany. bitop AG.

6.Puri, P., Nandar, S.K., Kathuria, S. and Ramesh, V., 2017. Effects of air pollution on the skin: A review. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology and leprology83, p.415.

7.bitop AG. 2022. Factsheet Ectoin® natural. Witten, Germany. Bitop AG.

8.Grether-Beck, S., Bonizzi, G., Schmitt-Brenden, H., Felsner, I., Timmer, A., Sies, H., Johnson, J.P., Piette, J. and Krutmann, J., 2000. Non-enzymatic triggering of the ceramide signalling cascade by solar UVA radiation. The EMBO Journal19(21), pp.5793-5800.

9.Grether-Beck, S., Olaizola-Horn, S., Schmitt, H., Grewe, M., Jahnke, A., Johnson, J.P., Briviba, K., Sies, H. and Krutmann, J., 1996. Activation of transcription factor AP-2 mediates UVA radiation-and singlet oxygen-induced expression of the human intercellular adhesion molecule 1 gene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences93(25), pp.14586-14591.

10.Buenger, J. and Driller, H., 2004. Ectoin: an effective natural substance to prevent UVA-induced premature photoaging. Skin pharmacology and physiology17(5), pp.232-237.

11.Fligiel, S.E., Varani, J., Datta, S.C., Kang, S., Fisher, G.J. and Voorhees, J.J., 2003. Collagen degradation in aged/photodamaged skin in vivo and after exposure to matrix metalloproteinase-1 in vitro. Journal of Investigative Dermatology120(5), pp.842-848.

12.D’Orazio, J., Jarrett, S., Amaro-Ortiz, A. and Scott, T., 2013. UV radiation and the skin. International journal of molecular sciences14(6), pp.12222-12248.

13.Van Laethem, A., Claerhout, S., Garmyn, M. and Agostinis, P., 2005. The sunburn cell: regulation of death and survival of the keratinocyte. The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology37(8), pp.1547-1553.

14.Assefa, Z., Van Laethem, A., Garmyn, M. and Agostinis, P., 2005. Ultraviolet radiation-induced apoptosis in keratinocytes: on the role of cytosolic factors. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Reviews on Cancer1755(2), pp.90-106.

15.Bünger, J., Degwert, J. and Driller, H., 2001. The protective function of compatible solute ectoin on the skin, skin cells and its biomolecules with respect to UV radiation, immunosuppression and membrane damage. IFSCC Mag4, pp.127-131.

16.Pfluecker, F., Buenger, J., Hitzel, S., Witte, G., Beck, J. and Lergenmueller, M., 2005. Complete photo protection: Going beyond visible endpoints. SÖFW-journal131(7), pp.20-30.

17.Heinrich, U., Garbe, B. and Tronnier, H., 2007. In vivo assessment of ectoin: a randomized, vehicle-controlled clinical trial. Skin pharmacology and physiology20(4), pp.211-218.

18.Kim, B.H., Lee, Y.S. and Kang, K.S., 2003. The mechanism of retinol-induced irritation and its application to anti-irritant development. Toxicology letters146(1), pp.65-73.