This sunscreen is drastically overpriced for what you get, and that makes it potentially dangerous. Before we explain why, what is truly sad is the fact that this is sold by a dermatologist (Dr. Audrey Kunin), which makes the farfetched claims for this product even more distressing.
Back to why the price makes it dangerous: We know that all sunscreens must be applied liberally to be effective. How liberal are you going to be with a sunscreen that costs $85 for 1 ounce? If you applied this as you should, you would use it up in about a month, which means the expense would add up to over $1,000 per year!
DermaDoctor (in an improbable leap of marketing nonsense) justifies their price by claiming that the formula uses “solar-powered technology” to change skin-damaging UV light into harmless red light. But, solar-powered technology has nothing to do with red light.
The company explains that their product works the way solar panels on a roof work to heat a home. There is nothing about this sunscreen that has anything to do with solar panels. Solar panels are made of semiconductors treated with silicone that form an electrical field. They also have electrical conductors. When light strikes a solar panel, some of it is absorbed by the semiconductor material and then transferred to the attached electrical conductor, which produces electricity. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but you can see there is no way on earth that it has anything even remotely to do with skin care.
Back to the ridiculous red light claim for a moment. According to the company, the plant extract of Morinda citrifolia (commonly known as noni fruit) contains a component that is able to capture the sun’s rays and convert their energy into “a highly focused visible red wavelength of light” equivalent to that of an LED used in a doctor’s office. But in the real world, that isn’t possible.
UVA and UVB radiation are the sun’s rays that we cannot see, but that seriously damage our skin and eyes over time. UVA rays have a wavelength of 320 to 400 nanometers (nanometer is a unit of length we use to measure the wavelength of light), UVB rays about 290 to 320 nanometers. Red light, which is visible light, has a wavelength of around 600 nanometers. You can’t take the invisible rays of the sun and turn them into visible light—it is beyond the laws of physics.
Even if this David Copperfield hocus-pocus were possible, red light doesn’t do much for skin anyway. Red light is the same light emitted by the digital clock next to your bed, and that certainly isn’t making anyone younger. Even the in-office photodynamic therapy treatments that emit red light aren’t all that effective for making skin look younger.
What we know about Morinda citrifolia is that it can, like dozens and dozens of plant extracts, vitamins, and other forms of antioxidants, provide an extra measure of UV protection by virtue of their antioxidant components (Sources: Journal of Natural Medicine, July 2009, pages 351–354; Natural Products Research, November 2007, pages 1199–1204; and Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, June 2003, pages 2499–2502).
Of course, that isn’t the same as converting UV light into harmless energy that can somehow help your skin look younger, but if you’re going to charge this much money for a product you better have a good story.
Although this product includes avobenzone for reliable UVA protection and has a lightweight cream texture suitable for normal to dry skin, the formula contains a couple of problematic plant extracts that make it less desirable (assuming the price isn’t enough to dissuade you). Both arnica and pellitory are problems for all skin types. The latter can stimulate nerve endings in skin, leading to redness and irritation in the form of a hot, burning sensation. Pellitory also is a particularly bad plant extract for anyone with ragweed allergies (Source: www.naturaldatabase.com).