University Of Tasmania

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In vitro evaluation of sun protection factors of sunscreen agents using a novel UV spectrophotometric technique

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 22:12 authored by Martin BleaselMartin Bleasel, Aldous, S
A method for the in vitro determination of low- and high-value sun protection factors (SPF) of sunscreens using artificial substrates and a novel pseudo double beam (PDB) mode of operation of a standard double beam UV spectrophotometer is described. The method allows transmittance to be calculated from detector responses of reference and sample beams measured at different gain levels and facilitates the accurate quantification of low levels of electromagnetic radiation transmitted through highly absorbing samples. The spectrophotometer was modified to hold quartz diffusing plates on which a substrate [Transpore™ adhesive tape or human stratum corneum obtained from a skin surface biopsy (SSB)] and the sunscreens to be tested were applied. The PDB mode of operation increased the effective linear range of the detector response of the spectrophotometer by a factor of approximately 20000-fold, enabling the in vitro SPF determination technique to be applied to both high and low SPF value sunscreens. Eight commercial sunscreens with known SPF values ranging from 4 to 77, previously determined by in vivo methods, were tested in vitro using both test substrates and correlations between the in vivo and in vitro values were determined. SPF values determined using the in vitro method correlated well with the known in vivo results (Transpore™ tape, R2 = 0.611; SSB, R2 = 0.7928). The in vitro SPF obtained for one of the tested products differed substantially from the cited in vivo SPF value. Independent in vitro and in vivo re-evaluation of the SPF of this product matched the value predicted by the present method much more closely than the originally cited in vivo value. All determined SPFs were ordered correctly in comparison to in vivo ranking and the technique appeared to correctly identify a sunscreen that had a labelled SPF value that was significantly higher than its true SPF.


Publication title

International Journal of Cosmetic Science










School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology


Blackwell Publishing

Place of publication


Rights statement

The definitive published version is available online at:

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Clinical health not elsewhere classified