Evaluating Search Methods for Identifying Candidates for Novel Biologically Inspired Sunscreens


  • Irene Shen Shanghai High School International Division
  • Thomas Hesselberg Oxford University




Natural, Sunscreen, UV-Protection, Sustainability, Toxicity


As the Earth's ozone layer, which blocks harmful UV radiation from reaching Earth's surface, becomes thinner, sunscreens have become one the most used and most important cosmetic products in recent decades. However, UV filters (both organic and inorganic) in the current synthetic sunscreen are found to affect the marine ecosystem negatively. They pollute the marine environment and cause damage to organisms’ reproductive and digestive systems (from microorganisms to mammals). Here, we use biologically inspired design with a problem and sustainability-driven approach to identify a possible plant or animal-inspired ingredients that could be extracted and used to obtain high protection from the sun while minimizing toxicity to human skin and pollution of the marine environment. We used Google, Google Scholar, and AskNature to identify solutions and evaluate their effectiveness. While the three search methods did not differ statistically in the number of initial solutions found, Google was perhaps surprisingly the one that generated the most hits. However, in terms of the most promising solutions, AskNature generated the most. We identified nine solutions with a particularly high potential based on their UV absorption and potential for mass production for further development: raspberry seed oil, nanoparticles of ivy rootlets, cuticular wax of dwarf mountain pine,  lichen extract, MAAs from cyanobacteria, MAAs from dinoflagellates, red sweat of hippopotamus, mucus from mushroom coral, and gadusol compound from marine organisms of which we found that nanoparticles of ivy rootlets, lichen extracts, and gadusol to be especially promising. 


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Author Biography

Thomas Hesselberg, Oxford University

Departmental Lecturer in Biological & Environmental Sciences
Course Co-Director for the Postgraduate Certificate of Ecological Survey Techniques
Director of Studies for Biological Sciences
Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

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How to Cite

Shen, Y. H., & Hesselberg, T. (2021). Evaluating Search Methods for Identifying Candidates for Novel Biologically Inspired Sunscreens. Journal of Student Research, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsrhs.v10i3.1646



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