As our skin is exposed to more and more of the sun’s rays, especially UVA and UVB radiation, DNA within skin cells are broken down due to oxidative stress, which causes skin’s elasticity to wear. A study out of Newcastle University revealed the antioxidant Tiron could be the anti-aging miracle we need to keep our skin looking younger, even into old age.

Although ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) is considered the leading cause of skin reddening and sunburn, recent studies show that ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) has the ability to penetrate the skin's surface, damaging our skin through oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, also known as free radical stress, is caused by an imbalance between reactive oxygen species that results in the deterioration of DNA and ultimately collagen, elastin, and the skin’s supportive fibers. When collagen in the body is broken down, the skin will start to lose its elastic quality, causing wrinkles.

"To discover that Tiron offers complete protection against UVA damage is exciting and promising, however, it is early days as Tiron is not a naturally occurring compound and has not yet been tested for toxicity in humans although there have been a few studies on rats," said Mark Birch-Machin, professor of molecular dermatology at Newcastle University, in a press release.

Birch-Machin and his colleagues from the university compared Tiron’s effect on UVA radiation exposure and free radical stress against other antioxidants, including resveratrol found in red wine, turmeric found in curry, lycopene found in tomatoes, antioxidants found in green tea, and cosmetic creams. The research team focused on each antioxidant’s effect on mitochondria, also known as the batteries of skin cells.

Researchers treated skin cells with each of the antioxidants and exposed them to a dose of UVA equivalent to what we would experience on a warm summer’s day. Skin cell damage was assessed by copying DNA through a polymerase chain reaction machine. Tiron was able to provide 100 percent protection against mitochondrial DNA damage, including 100 percent UVA protection and 100 percent protection against oxidative stress.

Other antioxidants that were compared against Tiron did not have the same success rate with preveting UVA damage. Resveratrol was only able to protect the skin against 22 percent of both UVA and oxidative stress, and curcumin offered eight percent protection against UVA and 16 percent oxidative stress prevention. Researchers say the next step in developing a viable Tiron based sunscreen will be testing the toxicity of compounds based off of the antioxidant’s makeup.

"This finding on Tiron provides us with a platform to study an antioxidant - preferably a naturally occurring compound with a similar structure which could then be safely added to food or cosmetics," said Dr. Anne Oyewole, also from Newcastle University.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 95 percent of UV radiation that reaches Earth’s surface is UVA. UVB radiation may be more intense than UVA, but we are exposed to UVA 30 to 50 times more than UVB. Tanning beds, which emit UVA doses as much as 12 times that of the sun, have been linked to a 75 percent increase in melanoma risk among teenagers and adolescents. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, causes over 8,000 deaths in the United States each year.

Source: Oyewole A, Wilmot M, Fowler M, Birch-Machin M. Comparing the effects of mitochondrial targeted and localized antioxidants with cellular antioxidants in human skin cells exposed to UVA and hydrogen peroxide. FASEB. 2014.