Blog – KindofStephen https://kindofstephen.com A cosmetic chemist's blog on the latest skin care and cosmetic research, ingredients, and beauty news Fri, 13 Jul 2018 16:54:35 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 https://i1.wp.com/kindofstephen.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/cropped-profile-2.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Blog – KindofStephen https://kindofstephen.com 32 32 114122149 Urban particulate matter in air pollution penetrates into the barrier-disrupted skin and produces ROS-dependent cutaneous inflammatory response in vivo https://kindofstephen.com/urban-particulate-matter-in-air-pollution-penetrates-into-the-barrier-disrupted-skin-and-produces-ros-dependent-cutaneous-inflammatory-response-in-vivo/ Fri, 13 Jul 2018 05:00:03 +0000 https://kindofstephen.com/?p=2955 Anti-pollution or anti-particulate matter has become a huge buzzword in cosmetics. Pollution and particulate matter have been linked to many negative health effects (mainly cardiovascular) and while the link to skin health and acceleration of ageing are logical…does the data support it? There have a been a few correlational studies that have shown that people […]

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Anti-pollution or anti-particulate matter has become a huge buzzword in cosmetics. Pollution and particulate matter have been linked to many negative health effects (mainly cardiovascular) and while the link to skin health and acceleration of ageing are logical…does the data support it?

There have a been a few correlational studies that have shown that people living in areas with higher levels of pollution exhibit more signs of oxidative stress in skin lipids and some have even correlated it with increased wrinkling. But what’s the mechanism and can particulate matter even penetrate the skin?

A group of researchers from Seoul used an in vivo mouse and in vitro keratinocyte model to study this.

First was the collection of particulate matter from the air. To do this they set up a vinyl tarp on a rooftop near a busy intersection to collect dust. The particulate matter was then purified and separated to be used in the experiment. The majority of the particles ranged from 200 to 300 nm. Particulates found included: Naphthalene, biphenyl, acenaphthylene, acenaphthene, fluorene, dibenzothiophene, and 28 others identified.

For the in vitro portion of the experiment, cell cultures of human primary keratinocytes were performed with varying concentrations of the particulate matter. The cells absorbed the particulate matter, and the researchers found a concentration-dependent increase of inflammatory cytokine IL-8 and collagenase MMP-1. They also found that the addition of an antioxidant, n-acetyl cysteine, was able to suppress this effect.

In the in vivo portion of the experiment, the researchers used mice that did not produce melanin and divided them into two skin conditions: One with their skin intact, and another with barrier-damaged skin. To damage the skin barrier they stripped the skin 10 times with tape to remove layers of the stratum corneum. The particulate matter was applied 10 times over 2 weeks and included a skin penetration enhancer (DMSO).

While the in vitro results may be “scary”, the in vivo results were milder. Particulate matter was shown to penetrate into the intercellular space of the barrier-disrupted mice, but not the intact mice. Particulate matter was found in hair follicles of both, but there was no epidermal penetration of the particulate matter in the intact mice.

The researchers did find an increase in inflammation in the particulate matter treated skin compared to skin not exposed- whether or not the sin was intact or tape-stripped. However, the inflammation was much more severe in the tape-stripped group. The researchers also showed that intradermal n-acetyl cysteine was able to ameliorate the increase in inflammation caused by particulate matter, but they did not perform this portion of the experiment on the intact mice. It’s likely this same treatment will have a similar effect in the intact mice, but it is unknown.

The researchers also point out some issues with their own experiment: The concentration of particulate matter may not reflect the amount that a person would be exposed to and that their sampling of particulate matter had a high concentration of sulfur which may be unique to their location. It’s also important to remember that mice are not humans, and we may react differently.

While it’s likely that the addition of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants may help attenuate some of the potential inflammation caused by pollution and particulate matter, it’s unknown which chemicals and what combinations are most effective for humans. There’s also no standard measurement to gauge a protective effect so it is impossible to compare one product to another. Again, we see another case of the marketing being ahead of the science.

Source: Jin Seon-Pil, Li Zhenyu, Choi Eun Kyung, Lee Serah,
Kim Yoen Kyung, Seo Eun Young, Chung Jin Ho, Cho Soyun.Urban particulate
matter in air pollution penetrates into the barrier-disrupted skin and produces ROSdependent
cutaneous inflammatory response in vivo.Journal of Dermatological Science
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdermsci.2018.04.015

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Skin penetration of Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): Part II https://kindofstephen.com/skin-penetration-of-ascorbic-acid-part-ii/ Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:00:48 +0000 https://kindofstephen.com/?p=2627 “Applying 15% Vitamin C for three consecutive days creates a reservoir effect in the skin.” Firstly, I want to remind you that this study was done on pig skin – not humans. The way that ascorbic acid is stored and metabolized in pig skin may vary from human skin. Most animals, like pigs, are able […]

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“Applying 15% Vitamin C for three consecutive days creates a reservoir effect in the skin.”

Firstly, I want to remind you that this study was done on pig skin – not humans. The way that ascorbic acid is stored and metabolized in pig skin may vary from human skin.

Most animals, like pigs, are able to synthesize their own ascorbic acid from glucose, but humans cannot. It’s possible that this data from pigs will be similar to human data, but it’s also very possible that it won’t be. Neither has been proven yet. Presenting an assumption as truth is misleading – but often done in marketing.

I also want to remind you that the way that the ascorbic acid was applied to the skin was not the same way that we apply our skincare. In these experiments, the ascorbic acid solution was applied with a Hill Top Chamber, which occludes the skin, reducing evaporation and theoretically enhancing skin penetration.

For this part of the experiment, Pinnell and his group applied a 15% ascorbic acid solution at pH 3.2 to pig skin for 5 days with a Hill Top Chamber. After the 5th day, application of the ascorbic acid was stopped and ascorbic acid levels in the skin were monitored for an additional 5 days.

After the 3rd day of application of the ascorbic acid serum, the ascorbic acid levels in the skin do appear to reach a peak around 1100 pmol/mg. The deviation around the mean does appear to be reducing with each further day between the 3 subject pigs.

We do need to consider if this theoretical peak amount of ascorbic acid is reached in real-life situations. The living conditions of the pigs in the study were not described, so it’s possible that they were not exposed to natural daylight. It’s understood that UV exposure reduces the amount of ascorbic acid in the skin. UV increases the production of free radicals in the skin, and ascorbic acid is part of the natural antioxidants in the skin which help neutralize these free radicals.

In an experiment using human skin models, it was found that exposure to 16.9 joules/cm² (About 12 minimal erythemal dose equivalent) of UV reduced ascorbic acid levels in the skin model by almost ⅓. This was a higher amount of UV exposure the experimenters expected, they were also unable to detect dehydroascorbic acid in the skin. The study does have some issues which “may be explained by the high levels of ascorbate present in the [tissue] medium…added by the manufacturer to increase collagen synthesis”.

“Vitamin C remains in the skin for 3-4 days and doesn’t wash out”

This marketing claim may be due to some confusion of the term “washout”. In drug experiments a “washout period” refers to the period of time when treatment is stopped, it does not necessarily mean that the skin is washed out.

After applying the 15% ascorbic acid solution to the pig skin, they discontinued application and monitored ascorbic acid levels in the skin. Unfortunately, the methodology in this portion of the experiment isn’t explicitly described. It is unclear, for example, if the pig’s skin was washed each day. The washing procedure is described as “…at the end of the experiment, the formulation was washed vigorously from the skin with water.”

Because most of us use surfactant based cleansers to wash our skin, this data may not be as applicable as the pig’s skin was washed with only water. However, the pig’s skin was removed of stratum corneum before ascorbic acid measurement and the lower layers of skin are likely less affected by the washing and surfactant based-cleanser.

Based on this data, the half-life (the amount of time it takes for the detected ascorbic acid levels to drop by half) was estimated at around 4 days. But as mentioned above, it’s unclear what the living conditions of the pigs were and whether or not they were exposed to sunlight which reduces antioxidant levels in the skin.

Can Vitamin C derivatives increase levels of Vitamin C in skin?

The last portion of the Pinnell experiment looked at whether or not the topical application of Vitamin C derivatives could increase levels of Vitamin C as ascorbic acid in pig skin.

For 24 hours, solutions of dehydroascorbic acid, 10% ascorbyl-6-palmitate, 12% magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and 15% ascorbic acid were applied to pig skin. Compared to control, only the 15% ascorbic acid solution created a statistically significant increase in ascorbic acid levels in the skin.

For the derivatives, there was no statistically significant difference between the application of the derivative and control (no application of derivatives or Vitamin C) – which implicates that, at least for pig skin, these specific derivatives do not convert to Vitamin C.

For the solutions of dehydroascorbic acid, pig skin levels of ascorbic acid were 7.51 ± 3.34 pmol/mg for 20 mM dehydroascorbic acid and 8.70 ± 2.13 pmol/mg for 1 M dehydroascorbic acid. Where no dehydroascorbic acid was applied levels of ascorbic acid were 9.24 ± 3.55 pmol/mg.

In conclusion…

It surprises me how influential this one study on ascorbic acid applied to pig skin has become in terms of marketing language for brands.

Even later studies with Dr. Pinnell as an author leave out that the data are collected from pig skin, “Following topical application, once the skin is saturated with L-ascorbic acid, it remains with a half-life of about 4 d (Pinnell et al, 2001).”

While this experiment is some of the best data we have in terms of ascorbic acid penetration based on formulation, the key point to remember is that human skin cannot be assumed to behave the same as pig skin.

So if you see a claim similar to “15% Vitamin C at pH 3.5 is the most effective concentration”, please imagine me beside you whispering “…for pigs”.

Edit: An error was made in the original version published, pigs can synthesize Vitamin C from glucose, but humans can not. Guinea pigs also cannot synthesize their own Vitamin C.

Edit: An error was made in the original version published, pmmol was corrected to pmol.

Source: Pinnell, S. R., Yang, H. , Omar, M. , Riviere, N. M., DeBuys, H. V., Walker, L. C., Wang, Y. and Levine, M. (2001), Topical L‐Ascorbic Acid: Percutaneous Absorption Studies. Dermatologic Surgery, 27: 137-142. DOI: 10.1046/j.1524-4725.2001.00264.x

Podda, M., Traber, M.G., Weber, C., Yan, L., Packer, L. (1998), UV-Irradiation Depletes Antioxidants and Causes Oxidative Damage in a Model of Human Skin, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 24: 55-65. DOI: 10.1016/S0891-5849(97)00142-1

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Skin penetration of Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): Part I https://kindofstephen.com/skin-penetration-of-ascorbic-acid/ Thu, 24 May 2018 12:45:44 +0000 https://kindofstephen.com/?p=2584 Today I wanted to look at a research paper primarily led by Dr. Sheldon R. Pinnell. He is one of the founders of Skinceuticals and contributed much of the early research on the use of Vitamin C as ascorbic acid on skin. He and his group also discovered the synergistic effect of Vitamin C, Vitamin […]

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Today I wanted to look at a research paper primarily led by Dr. Sheldon R. Pinnell. He is one of the founders of Skinceuticals and contributed much of the early research on the use of Vitamin C as ascorbic acid on skin. He and his group also discovered the synergistic effect of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Ferulic acid – which is commonly used in many products on the market today.

The data from this paper is often quoted in marketing material for Vitamin C serums, but one extremely important piece of information is often left out – the data was collected from pigs, white Yorkshire pigs to be exact.

Many people also have ethical concerns when it comes to the use of animals in cosmetic research. Synthetic and lab grown human skin equivalents are being researched and tested which will one day replace the use of animal as well as human testing in cosmetics.

It should be clear that human skin and pig skin are not the same, but they do have similar properties which is why it is often used in experiments. However, one should never assume that data from a pig can be assumed to be the same for a human. The movement and deposition of chemicals often differs between human and pig skin.

From my searches, I haven’t been able to find similar research performed on humans. This paper in particular has led to some of the often quoted “rules” about ascorbic acid.

“Ascorbic acid must have a pH below 3.5 for effective penetration.”

Pinnell and his group tested a 15% ascorbic acid solution adjusted to different pHs ranging from 2 to 5. The 15% ascorbic acid solutions also contained 2% zinc sulfate, 0.5% bioflavonoids, 1% hyaluronic acid, and 0.1% citrate.

While the control situation wasn’t described it’s likely either the vehicle (product without the ascorbic acid) or a water solution was applied to the skin. The control measurement shows that there is some inherent levels of ascorbic acid already present in the skin from the diet.

The test solutions were applied to the pig skin using a Hill Top Chamber. A Hill Top Chamber is a small and round disk which is placed on the surface of the skin, the product is placed in the chamber or a piece of fabric is soaked in the testing material, and the entire chamber is then sealed. This reduces loss of product from evaporation and is a common method of performing occlusive test patches.

The ascorbic acid solutions at pH 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, and 5.0 were performed on three pigs, however the control, pH 2, and 4.5 were only performed on two pigs.

The Hill Top Chamber was soaked with 0.2 mL of the ascorbic acid solution then sealed for 24 hours. After this period of occlusion, the skin washed then stripped of the stratum corneum and then small pieces of the skin was removed and tested for ascorbic acid content.

As you can see from the data, the amount of ascorbic acid found in the skin was much higher in ascorbic acid solutions at pH 3.5, 3.0, 2.5, and 2.0. The researchers theorize that it is due to the pKa of ascorbic acid which is 4.2. When the pH of a solution containing ascorbic acid is lower than its pKa more of the ascorbic acid will be protonated. Protonated ascorbic acid is neutrally charged which may allow it to enter the skin more easily.

It’s important to notice the error bars on the amount of ascorbic acid absorbed at pH 2.0. There is considerable deviation from the mean in the results even though it was only tested on 2 subjects. More test subjects would provide a clearer idea of how much ascorbic acid would penetrate at pH 2 on an average population of pigs.

Statistical differences also weren’t calculated between the data points, for example it’s difficult to tell from the way that the data is presented if there is a change in ascorbic acid content between the control, pH 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 – even if they look different on the graph. Likewise, it’s difficult to tell if there is an increase in ascorbic acid penetration between pH 3.0 and pH 2.5 – despite the trend with pH 2.0 pushing you towards that inference. It’s likely that there is a statistically significant difference between absorption between pH 3.5 and 3.0, but a larger study would provide us  with more confident answers.

So based on this data, many further studies and brands have assumed that a pH below 3.5 results in considerable more skin penetration of ascorbic acid on humans – despite these results being performed on pigs, and relative low strength of the study. If the reason why ascorbic acid is more easily absorbed into the skin is due to the pKa then this would likely hold true for humans as well.

This assumption is often presented as fact, which is misleading. It also doesn’t take into account other factors present in a cosmetic product, such as penetration enhancers. Encapsulation, surfactants, and solvents could increase (or decrease) the amount of ascorbic acid absorbed into the skin regardless of the product’s pH.

In this experiment, the stratum corneum was removed before measurements of ascorbic acid to test for deep penetration of ascorbic acid. It’s possible that some of the benefits conferred by topical application of ascorbic acid aren’t facilitated by deep penetration, the antioxidant and photoprotective effect of ascorbic acid may still occur when it is present in or on the stratum corneum. Other benefits like reduction of hyperpigmentation and an increase in collagen production are likely dependent on penetration past the stratum corneum.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find further studies on humans or otherwise to provide answers to these questions.

“Ascorbic acid serums must be at least 10% to be effective”

After the first experiment of testing 15% ascorbic acid with different pHs, Pinnell and his group tested how concentration of ascorbic acid affects skin penetration. This time they tested 7 ascorbic acid solutions with varying concentrations all at pH 3.2. The concentrations of the rest of the formulation are assumed to be the same as the previous experiment.

The ascorbic acid solutions were applied in the same manner, with a Hill Top Chamber for 24 hours, followed by washing, stripping, and then assessment.

The maximum amount of ascorbic acid penetration was seen when 20% ascorbic acid at pH 3.2 was used.

All concentrations were tested on 3 pigs, and there is quite a bit of deviation from mean between absorption among the 3 pigs tested. This makes it difficult to assess the true difference in absorption between a 10% and 15% ascorbic acid, and a 15% and 20% ascorbic acid.

Absorption also seemed to peak at 20%, the 25% ascorbic acid solution penetrated less than the 20%, and the 30% even less so. The researchers did not explore or hypothesize on why this occured, and I’ve been unable to find an answer in any later research as well.

While 20% ascorbic acid certainly led to the greatest increase in levels of ascorbic acid, the 5% solution still increased ascorbic acid levels in the pig skin by about 6 fold.

It’s very important to remember that the way that this experiment was performed does not mimic the way that ascorbic acid solutions are often applied to the skin. With the Hill Top Chamber, the solvent’s (in this case water) evaporation is reduced – whereas when we apply it to the skin the solvent evaporates. What this means is that the kinetics of ascorbic acid penetration into the skin may not be the same.

For example, if half of the solvent of a 10% ascorbic acid solution evaporates, it is equivalent to a 20% ascorbic acid solution – the total amount of ascorbic acid by mass is the same, but the concentration has changed. This may mean that we could see a different maximum absorption by concentration in an experiment where the solvent was allowed to evaporate the way that it is often applied.

Human clinical trials with “low” ascorbic acid concentrations, 3% ascorbic acid cream and a 5% ascorbic acid cream, were able to show statistically significant improvements on measurements of photodamage and photoageing in their study groups.

Another thing many people hold on to is the concept that their products must be working at “maximum efficiency”, unfortunately this is unrealistic and there’s going to be variations in the amount of ascorbic acid that penetrates your skin with each application – even the amount that you apply to your skin will vary each time. This is why good cosmetic studies are performed over a longer period of time.

For example, if we look at the 20% concentration, the pig skin concentration of ascorbic acid increased to about 1100 pmol of ascorbic acid per mg of pig skin, which is about 0.19 μg ascorbic acid per mg of pig skin. 1.0 mg of a 20% ascorbic acid (w/w) contains about 1135589.37 pmol of ascorbic acid, if that helps give you a sense of the “efficiency”. In these experiments, 200 μL or 0.2 mL solution was used in total for each application, which contains about 227117874.1767 pmol of ascorbic acid if we assume density of the solution (w/w) is 1.

Higher concentrations of ascorbic acid may lead to more irritation (measured by skin redness or erythema), but I haven’t found any studies that looked at this specifically.

Continued in Skin penetration of Ascorbic Acid: Part II

Source: Pinnell, S. R., Yang, H. , Omar, M. , Riviere, N. M., DeBuys, H. V., Walker, L. C., Wang, Y. and Levine, M. (2001), Topical L‐Ascorbic Acid: Percutaneous Absorption Studies. Dermatologic Surgery, 27: 137-142. DOI: 10.1046/j.1524-4725.2001.00264.x

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Should you avoid sunscreens with Avobenzone? https://kindofstephen.com/should-you-avoid-sunscreens-with-avobenzone/ Thu, 10 May 2018 12:45:16 +0000 https://kindofstephen.com/?p=2642 I’ve received quite a few questions about the organic sunscreen chemical Avobenzone over the years and I wanted to shed some light on one of the most common concerns – its photodegradation in UV. These concerns are usually raised by websites that say things like, “Avobenzone degrades in the sun, resulting in the release of free […]

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I’ve received quite a few questions about the organic sunscreen chemical Avobenzone over the years and I wanted to shed some light on one of the most common concerns – its photodegradation in UV. These concerns are usually raised by websites that say things like, “Avobenzone degrades in the sun, resulting in the release of free radicals that may actually increase the risk for cancer.”

What these quotes often leave out is the context, which is important in understanding why Avobenzone is so commonly used in sunscreens and why it is effective.

Avobenzone or butyl methoxydibenzoyl methane is an organic sunscreen that absorbs in the UVA region and has global approval. Among the sunscreen chemicals available in the US it is the strongest and most effective UVA absorber. Avobenzone exists in two chemical forms when in solution, the enol form and the diketo (or keto) form.

When exposed to UV light some Avobenzone in the enol form can be changed into the keto form – however this is slowly reversed once Avobenzone is removed from UV light.

In its keto form Avobenzone is susceptible to photodegradation from UV light. The energy from UV light causes structural changes in the Avobenzone that can lead to breakdown products. In many cases, those breakdown products no longer effectively absorb UVA and UVB (some of them will absorb UVC). Some of these breakdown products are also thought to be irritants. The other concern is that some singlet oxygen can also be formed – a reactive oxygen species which can damage DNA and cells.

The above only relates to Avobenzone on its own though, the material that Avobenzone is dissolved into and other chemicals in the formula can change how easily Avobenzone photodegrades. Other modifications like encapsulating Avobenzone have also been tested, though the benefit is often reduced contact between Avobenzone and the skin – not photostability.

Photostabilizers generally work by absorbing energy from the Avobenzone before it becomes unstable and breaks and down. Effective photostabilizers will then be able to take this energy and dissipate it in safer forms, most often heat.

A company that produces Avobenzone, DSM Nutritional Products, performed a study testing different photostabilizers and their effect on Avobenzone’s phostability. The most commonly used and known photostabilizer of Avobenzone is the organic sunscreen chemical Octocrylene, but there are other photostabilizers that don’t act as sunscreens such as Polyester-8 and Polysilicone-15.

To perform the test, 4% Avobenzone and different photostabilizers were dissolved into a mixture of 70% ethanol, 15% caprylic/capric triglyceride, and 15% C12-15 alkyl benzoate. The solutions were placed on glass slides at a density of 2 mg/cm2 then exposed to 25 MED (Minimal Erythemal Dose, 1 MED defined by the US FDA as 200 Joules/Meter2) units of UV light. After exposure, the amount of Avobenzone remaining was determined.

What the researchers found was that the combination of 4% Avobenzone and 3-5% Octocrylene maintained 90% of the Avobenzone after 25 MEDs of UV light. Based on this, they tested different combinations of Octocrylene and other photostabilizers to see how well they stabilized Avobenzone.

They found that 3.6% Octocrylene with 4% Bis Ethylhexyloxyphenyl Methoxyphenol Triazine or 4% 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor were able to completely stabilize the Avobenzone after 25 MED of UV.

There’s currently no global standard on photostability, different regions have their own standards. In the US as part of the Broad Spectrum test, sunscreens are pre-irradiated with 4 MED before testing.

Just like how some chemicals can increase the photostability of Avobenzone, others like Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate) are known to speed up the photodegradation of Avobenzone. This paper is often misquoted to include Oxybenzone (2-Hydroxy-4-Methoxybenzophenone), often mischaracterized as not photostable, as a chemical that increases the photodegradation of Avobenzone, but it was included as an internal standard to allow comparison between samples – as it did not photodegrade in the experiment.

What matters when it comes to the protection offered by a sunscreen are the values and ratings determined from standardized tests like SPF, PPD, Broad Spectrum, etc and not the appearance of an ingredient on the INCI.

Basing assumptions on INCI is dangerous, as the only way to truly know is to test the products. An experiment on 6 different commercial sunscreens on their photostability highlights this. 4/6 of the organic sunscreens tested exhibited a decrease in photoprotection after UV exposure. Of the two photostable organic sunscreens one contained a combination of Avobenzone and 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor and the other Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Mexoryl SX, and Titanium Dioxide. The one inorganic sunscreen tested was shown to be photostable after UV exposure.

Keep in mind, this study tested commercial sunscreens available in 2006, where photostability was a relatively newer concern for sunscreens and standards had not yet been defined. It was around this time that Neutrogena began marketing its Helioplex patent, a photostable combination of Avobenzone, Diethylhexyl 2,6-Naphthalate, and Oxybenzone. The Helioplex US patent was granted in 2002 and other patents for increasing photostability of Avobenzone are present as early as 1999, when the US FDA finalized the use of Avobenzone in sunscreens.

While we still do not have a global standard for photostability, the options for and knowledge to stabilize sunscreens has grown considerably. It also still very important to reapply your sunscreen throughout UV exposure, this compensates for any protection lost through photodegradation as well as physical changes in the film of sunscreen on the skin.

Source: C. Mendrok-Edinger, K. Smith, A Janssen, J. Vollhardt. The Quest for Avobenzone Stabilizers and Sunscreen Photostability, Cosmetics and Toiletries, http://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/formulating/category/suncare/premium-the-quest-for-avobenzone-stabilizers-and-sunscreen-photostability-214405251.html

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Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen https://kindofstephen.com/everybodys-free-to-wear-sunscreen/ Wed, 28 Mar 2018 14:35:15 +0000 https://kindofstephen.com/?p=2522  You’ve probably seen this photo of a man who received chronic UV exposure on the left side of his face over the course of 28 years working as a truck driver. While this shows the effect that UV has on the skin, what’s important to keep in mind is that windows only block UVB […]

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You’ve probably seen this photo of a man who received chronic UV exposure on the left side of his face over the course of 28 years working as a truck driver. While this shows the effect that UV has on the skin, what’s important to keep in mind is that windows only block UVB light whereas UVA is often passed through.

Chronic UVA exposure can result in thickening of the epidermis and stratum corneum, as well as destruction of elastic fibers.

Unfortunately, for those of us living in Canada, the US, and Australia the amount of UVA protection offered by sunscreens is only given in relative terms. The UVA circle logo, for example, let’s you know that the UVA protection is at least 1/3rd of the SPF protection of the sunscreen, but it’s not as informative as a UVA protection factor (UVAPF) or persistent pigmentation darkening (PPD) number. While the PA system used in some Asian countries is based on a PPD number, the data is compressed into categories.

My personal thought is that the UVA protection should be as close to the SPF protection as possible. These are the sunscreens that I personally recommend; based on UVA protection, how they feel and wear on the skin, and affordability. While there are many great sunscreens out there, many of them are too expensive for me and I end up “rationing” them – which is a no-no when it comes to sunscreen application.


Bioderma Photoderm MAX Spray SPF 50+ with UVAPF 33 is a large sized and affordable sunscreen with a moderately high UVAPF. It is a lipid based formula (Dicaprylyl Carbonate) which spreads easily and is not greasy on the skin. I recommend the larger 400 mL size which comes with a snap lock which makes it easy to travel with. I use this on face and body.

It prices out to about 10 US cents per mL.

Sunscreen filters in bold:

Aqua/water/eau, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Octocrylene, Methylene Bis-benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol [Nano], Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Cyclopentasiloxane, Methylpropanediol, Ectoin, Mannitol, Xylitol, Rhamnose, Fructooligosaccharides, Laminaria Ochroleuca Extract, Decyl Glucoside, C20-22 Alkyl Phosphate, C20-22 Alcohols, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Sodium Hydroxide, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Pentylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Cellulose Gum, Disodium EDTA.


Ombrelle Ultra Light Advanced Weightless Body Lotion SPF 50 is another affordable sunscreen I recommend. Canada’s Ombrelle was acquired by L’Oreal which is why this product contains Mexoryl sunscreens, which are patented and used exclusively by L’Oreal companies. Because of regulations, the UVAPF or PPD is not able to be listed, but this does have the UVA circle logo. It contains 2% Mexoryl SX which is the stronger UVA absorber compared to Mexoryl XL. It is lightweight, dries quickly, affordable, and easily accessible for Canadians. While it is marketed as a body sunscreen, I use it on my face. It’s much lighter in texture compared to Ombrelle’s other sunscreens marketed for the face.

It prices out to about 12 US cents per mL.

Sunscreen filters in bold

Homosalate: 10%, Oxybenzone: 6%, Octisalate: 5%, Octocrylene: 5%, Avobenzone: 3%, Ecamsul (Mexoryl® SX): 2%. Others/Autres: Aqua, Cyclopentasiloxane, Alcohol Denat., Cyclohexasiloxane, Styrene/Acrylatescopolymer, Silica, Dicaprylyl Ether, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Dimethicone, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Nylon-12 Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Tocopherol, Dodecene, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-8 Laurate, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Poloxamer 407, Caprylyl Glycol, Disteardimonium Hectorite,Disodium EDTA, Lauryl PEG


Sheer Zinc Face Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is a newer sunscreen and contains only Zinc Oxide as its sunscreen filter. Be warned, this has a very strong whitecast and a thick silicone texture which can pill. I find it best to apply this to small areas of the skin while blending thoroughly.

The reason why I recommend this sunscreen, despite its drawbacks, is based on a presentation that Johnson & Johnson gave at the 2017 American Academy of Dermatology’s Annual meeting showing that their 21.6% Zinc Oxide sunscreen had a UVAPF of 30. Other inorganic sunscreens I’ve seen have only been able to reach a UVAPF of about 18-25.

While the Neutrogena Sheer Zinc was not explicitly named, the launch time and Zinc Oxide content of 21.6% suggests to me that this is the product described.

They compared its absorption spectrum, in vitro, with other common inorganic sunscreens and were able to show that it absorbed more UVA in comparison

I must say again how strong the white cast is, hopefully in the future they release tinted versions!

Based on the above chart it’s likely that the tinted Elta MD SPF 41 with 9.0% Zinc Oxide and 7.0% Titanium Dioxide has a UVAPF of around 28, I’ve not personally tried the product, but I do know it is popular. It prices out to about 35 US cents per mL.

The Neutrogena Sheer Zinc prices out to about 15 US Cents per mL.

Sunscreen filters are in bold

Zinc Oxide 21.6%. Others: Water, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Styrene/acrylates Copolymer, Octyldodecyl Citrate Crosspolymer, Phenyl Trimethicone, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Dimethicone, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Glycerin, Ethyl Methicone, Cetyl Dimethicone, Silica, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Flower/leaf/stem Juice, Glyceryl Behenate, Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Cetyl Dimethicone/bis-vinyldimethicone Crosspolymer, Acrylates/dimethicone Copolymer, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.


J.R.S. Gordon, J.C. Brieva, Unilateral Dermatoheliosis, The New England Journal of Medicine (2012), DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1104059

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Adapalene 0.3% may help improve the appearance of atrophic acne scars https://kindofstephen.com/adapalene-0-3-may-help-improve-the-appearance-of-atrophic-acne-scars/ Wed, 21 Mar 2018 12:00:40 +0000 http://kindofstephen.com/?p=2446 A group of researchers sponsored by Galderma, a subsidiary of Nestle, have published the results of a series of experiments looking at the effect that Adapalene had on the prevention and treatment of atrophic scarring as well as acne. Atrophic scarring is caused by a loss of tissue, so they can appear as sunken areas […]

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A group of researchers sponsored by Galderma, a subsidiary of Nestle, have published the results of a series of experiments looking at the effect that Adapalene had on the prevention and treatment of atrophic scarring as well as acne.

Source: Art of Dermatology

Atrophic scarring is caused by a loss of tissue, so they can appear as sunken areas in the skin or even as holes, commonly referred to as ‘ice pick’ scars.

There were three experiments in total, a pilot study with 20 participants that compared Adapalene 0.3% gel compared to a control vehicle, another pilot study with 31 participants comparing Adapalene 0.1% and Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% gel with a control vehicle, and a larger study with 54 participants comparing Adapalene 0.3% and Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% gel with a control vehicle.

All three experiments were pre-registered on ClinicalTrials.gov which helps reduce reporting bias. Often there is no incentive or reason to report on data from an experiment if there is no effect.

I’m going to focus on the latter paper as it has the most statistical power (> 80%) and the most clinically relevant results.

In brief, the experiment using Adapalene 0.1% with Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% gel showed no change in the amount of atrophic scarring after 6 months of treatment, but people using the vehicle control saw an increase in scars (about 2 more scars after 6 months).

In the pilot study with Adapalene 0.3%, participants and investigators saw an improvement in scarring assessments at Week 1 and Week 24.

All three studies found a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in acne lesions for those using any Adapalene based gels.

With the Adapalene 0.3% with Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% gel study, there was a statistically significant improvement in the scar assessment as early as Week 1.

By the end of the experiment at Week 25, there was a 15.5% decrease in a validated scar assessment scale – this worked out to about a mean decrease of 2 acne scars per half of the face.

Participants applied the Adapalene gel to only half of the face and the vehicle control on the other half, the researchers believe that if participants had applied the Adapalene gel to the whole face, there would be a decrease of a mean of about 4 acne scars for the entire face.

For the vehicle control side that contained no Adapalene, participants saw an increase of about 1.5 acne scars at the end of 24 weeks.

In terms of non-validated assessments, the amount of patients who responded to “How visible are the indents or holes to you?” with “A little visible” increased from 37.5% at Week 1 to 62.1% at Week 24.

Because some atrophic scarring can resolve on its own, the researchers believed the decrease in scarring with the Adapalene 0.3% and Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% gel could be due to an increase in the speed of this resolution. For older scars, they believe that the Adapalene gel could be due to remodelling the dermis of the skin (possibly through stimulation of procollagen), improving their appearance.

Another factor would be the reduction in inflammatory acne lesions which could lead to new atrophic scarring formation.

The researchers point out that scar improvement was seen past 3 months, and that people using Adapalene may consider using the product for longer than 6 adapalene to help improve and prevent the appearance of atrophic scarring

In the US, Adapalene is now available over-the-counter as Differin with Adapalene at 0.1%. If you have moderate-to-severe acne with atrophic scarring you may consider speaking to your doctor and getting a prescription for the stronger 0.3%.

In terms of other retinoids, the researchers point out that there isn’t much research on topical use and improvement in atrophic scarring. For tretinoin I did find two studies, but they included other interventions in combination with the tretinoin. One used iontophoresis to enhance the penetration of tretinoin, and another used tretinoin in combination with microneedling. Both studies found improvement in atrophic scarring. Adapalene and other retinoids activate some of the same receptors, and since topical use of tretinoin has shown to increase procollagen as well, it’s likely that it will provide improvement on atrophic scarring as well.

B. Dreno, J. Tan, M. Rivier, P. Martel, R. Bissonnette, Adapalene 0.1%/benzoyl peroxide 2.5% gel reduces the risk
of atrophic scar formation in moderate inflammatory acne:
a split-face randomized controlled trial, Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (2016), DOI: 10.1111/jdv.14026

M.J. Loss, S. Leung, A. Chien, N. Kerrouche, A.H. Fischer, S. Kang, Adapalene 0.3% gel shows efficacy for the treatment of atrophic acne scars, Dermatology and Therapy (2018), DOI: 10.1007/s13555-018-0231-8

B. Dréno, R. Bissonnette, A. Gagné-Henley, B. Barankin, C. Lynde, N. Kerrouche, J. Tan, Prevention and reduction of atrophic acne scars with adapalene 0.3%/Benzoyl peroxide 2.5% gel in subjects with moderate or severe facial acne: Results of a 6-month randomized, vehicle-controlled trial using intra-individual comparison, American Journal of Clinical Dermatology (2018), DOI: 10.1007/s40257-018-0352-y

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Comparison of skin hydration in combination and single use of common moisturizers (cream, toner, and spray water) https://kindofstephen.com/comparison-of-skin-hydration-in-combination-and-single-use-of-common-moisturizers-cream-toner-and-spray-water/ Sat, 17 Mar 2018 22:28:15 +0000 http://kindofstephen.com/?p=2464 What’s the best way to organize your skincare routine? Should we layer from thickest to thinnest? Where does sunscreen go? I’ve been asked this a lot and I don’t have the answer. Most research on skincare application is done with just one product. Sunscreens are always tested on clean skin with no other products. If […]

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What’s the best way to organize your skincare routine? Should we layer from thickest to thinnest? Where does sunscreen go?

I’ve been asked this a lot and I don’t have the answer. Most research on skincare application is done with just one product. Sunscreens are always tested on clean skin with no other products. If you want to get as close to the protection on the label, it’s best to recreate the conditions it was tested on, which means applying it on clean skin and not following it with anything else. The same applies for most cosmetic products as well.

That’s not realistic for everyone and many of us enjoy using multiple products. But the reality with a lot of the advice found online and from experts is that it’s just advice and often isn’t based on evidence – especially scientific evidence.

A group of Chinese researchers performed an experiment looking at the effect of different combinations of three products (moisturizer, toner, and mineral water sprays) and different application routines on skin moisture. Keep in mind that the only endpoint measured was stratum corneum moisture measured by the Corneometer, a capacitance measuring tool often used in cosmetic research. This experiment doesn’t provide any insight beyond skin moisture, like skin penetration of an active affected by combination or routine, for example.

20 female volunteers participated in this experiment. Eight 3-by-3 cm squares were drawn on the legs and forearms of each volunteer and were randomized to receive eight different routines and combinations – including a square with no product applied, acting as a control. The baseline moisture levels of the squares were measured and categorized into ‘normal’ or ‘dry’ by a limit of 35 a.u. (a measurement unit used by the Corneometer).

The 8 different combinations and routines are as follows;

Toner and Toner reapplied every 2 hours (T-T)
Cream then Toner together (C+T)
Toner only (T)
Cream only (C)
Cream then Water reapplied every 2 hours (C-S)
Untreated (Control)
Cream and Toner reapplied every 2 hours (C-T)
Toner then Cream together (T+C)

Stratum corneum moisture levels were measured every 2 hours, including a baseline, and participants were kept in a 22 °C room with a 50% humidity.

The products included in the test were a Winona brand Cream with the ingredients:

Aqua, Glycerol, Butyrospermum Parkii Oil, Dimethicone, Glycereth-26, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Pentylene Glycol, Hexyldecanol, Sucrose Polystearate, Diethylhexyl Cyclohexane, Petroleum Jelly, Tocopheryl Acetate, Prinsepia Utilis Royle Oil, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Beta Glucans, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cetylhydroxyproline Palmitamide, Alpha Bisabolol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Acrylamide, Acrylamide/ammonium Acrylate Copolymer, Acrylates/c10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tween 20, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Edta, Polybutene, Polyisobutene, Butyl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

a Winona brand Toner with the ingredients:

Aqua, Pentylene Glycol, Glycerol, Glycereth-26, Trimethylpentanediol/adipic Acid/glycerin Crosspolymer,
Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Beta Glucan, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose

and Avene Thermal Spring Water was used as the Mineral Water Spray.

While applying any form of skincare product created an increase in skin moisture in dry and normal skin, some combinations were significantly more effective than others.

Table VI is mislabeled and is the data for Dry Skin

Because the normal or dry categories were determined by Corneometer, there’s no way to self-categorize unless you have a Corneometer handy.

From this experiment, the increase in moisture from Cream then Toner, or Toner then Cream, or Cream only were about the same. This implies that the total amount of cream and toner applied is more important than the order of application. As well, this also implies that the increase in moisture is mostly from the cream and not the toner.

The researchers speculate that the increase in moisture reaches a peak depending on factors like the environment which slowly declines after application. Toner on its own did increase moisture of the skin, but even when combined with cream never surpassed the moisture gained from cream alone.

In terms of supplementation of with Water or Toner, the greatest increase in moisture was achieved with application of a Cream then Toner every 2 hours. Supplementation of Water after Cream application reduced skin moisture with each application. Toner with additional Toner supplementation increased skin moisture over time, but was still less than Cream and Toner.

I think reading descriptions of the effects is likely a bit confusing, so I encourage you to use the interactive charts to compare different applications.

Also keep in mind that this experiment used three specific products and concentration of ingredients will vary between products. So it’s best to use this information as a guideline, but not a rule.

Li Yuanxi, Wei Hua, Lidan Xiong, Li Li, Comparison of Skin Hydration in Combination and Single Use of Common Moisturizers (Cream, Toner, and Spray Water), Journal of Cosmetic Science (2016), PMID: 29394018

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US FDA warns that biotin supplements can interfere with lab tests https://kindofstephen.com/us-fda-warns-that-biotin-supplements-can-interfere-with-lab-tests/ Mon, 05 Mar 2018 21:50:04 +0000 http://kindofstephen.com/?p=2316 Are you taking biotin for your skin and nails? Be aware that biotin supplements can interfere with many lab tests. Some of the currently known interactions are tests measuring amounts of troponin, which are often used to diagnose heart attacks. Biotin supplements may also interfere with tests measuring hormone levels involving the thyroid. The FDA […]

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Are you taking biotin for your skin and nails? Be aware that biotin supplements can interfere with many lab tests. Some of the currently known interactions are tests measuring amounts of troponin, which are often used to diagnose heart attacks. Biotin supplements may also interfere with tests measuring hormone levels involving the thyroid.

The FDA is warning and helping to raise awareness of this side-effect,

“Biotin in blood or other samples taken from patients who are ingesting high levels of biotin in dietary supplements can cause clinically significant incorrect lab test results. The FDA has seen an increase in the number of reported adverse events, including one death, related to biotin interference with lab tests.”

Their recommendation for consumers is to talk to their healthcare provider about biotin supplements and for healthcare professionals to report adverse events to the FDA through the MedWatch report system.

I know supplements seem like an effective way to boost your beauty, because who doesn’t like the concept of beauty from within? But be aware that supplement claims are not regulated by the US FDA, nor do they require testing or approval.

“Federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe to FDA’s satisfaction before they are marketed”

“For most claims made in the labeling of dietary supplements, the law does not require the manufacturer or seller to prove to FDA’s satisfaction that the claim is accurate or truthful before it appears on the product”

The US supplement industry is huge, poorly regulated, generally poorly backed by research, and has large profit margins. It’s easy to see why it can be an attractive market to enter, but don’t trust your health to anecdotal evidence.

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Visualizing how a daily sunscreen can protect the skin from UV damage https://kindofstephen.com/visualizing-how-a-daily-sunscreen-can-protect-the-skin-from-uv-damage/ Tue, 20 Feb 2018 18:31:22 +0000 http://kindofstephen.com/?p=2274 Optical coherence tomography and reflectance confocal microscopy can be used to non-invasively to visualize deep into the skin. Using these techniques we can actually see changes in the structure of the skin and its cells. This group of researchers with funding from La Roche Posay used the imaging techniques to compare the effect of UVB […]

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Optical coherence tomography and reflectance confocal microscopy can be used to non-invasively to visualize deep into the skin. Using these techniques we can actually see changes in the structure of the skin and its cells.

This group of researchers with funding from La Roche Posay used the imaging techniques to compare the effect of UVB exposure on skin protected with a high SPF and UVAPF sunscreen and skin that wasn’t protected.

What they found was that doses of UVB that caused long-lasting erythema (redness) caused morphological changes in the skin. Changes observed were spongiosis (abnormal accumulation of fluid), microvesicles, sunburn cells, and blood vessel dilation. None of these were observed in skin that was protected by the sunscreen.

A minimal erythemal dose or MED is the amount of UV energy that causes long-lasting redness in the skin. Just 1 MED was enough to cause morphological changes and 2 caused significantly more. This also relates to SPF. An SPF of 2 would provide enough protection to protect an average population against 2 MEDs.

If reducing your risk of developing skin cancers and preventing photoaging are a goal of yours – this is a great reminder and justification to wear your sunscreen daily!

Antonio Gomes-Neto, Paula Aguilera, Leonor Prieto, Sophie Seité, Dominique Moyal, Cristina Carrera, Josep Malvehy, Susana Puig, Efficacy of a Daily Protective Moisturizer with High UVB and UVA Photoprotection in Decreasing Ultraviolet Damage: Evaluation by Reflectance Confocal Microscopy, Acta Dermato-Venereologica (2018), DOI: 10.2340/00015555-2736

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What’s causing sunscreen to stain clothing? https://kindofstephen.com/whats-causing-sunscreen-to-stain-clothing/ Mon, 12 Feb 2018 13:24:59 +0000 http://kindofstephen.com/?p=2246 Yellow stains on your clothing? Your sunscreen might be a culprit! A group of researchers tested 32 commercial sunscreens for their ability to stain white and black 100% cotton. Of the tested sunscreens; Alba Botanica Hawaiian SPF 50 Spray, L’Oreal Invisible Protect SPF 50, Solbar Thirty, and Aveeno Protect and Hydrate SPF 50 were among […]

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Yellow stains on your clothing? Your sunscreen might be a culprit!

A group of researchers tested 32 commercial sunscreens for their ability to stain white and black 100% cotton.

Of the tested sunscreens; Alba Botanica Hawaiian SPF 50 Spray, L’Oreal Invisible Protect SPF 50, Solbar Thirty, and Aveeno Protect and Hydrate SPF 50 were among the most staining sunscreens.

The least staining sunscreens were; Cerave Baby, Solbar Zinc 38, Cerave Face SPF50, and Babyganics Mineral Based SPF 50

Using statistical analysis to group the sunscreens by sunscreen ingredients they created four distinct groups. Based on these groupings they tested 8 sunscreen ingredients; Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, Titanium Dioxide, and Zinc Oxide.

For white fabric; Avobenzone was a strong yellow stainer and so was Oxybenzone to a lesser extent. Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide both left faint white stains.

For dark blue fabric; Avobenzone and Oxybenzone both left faint white staining, but Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide left strong white stains.

The sunscreen ingredients were applied directly to the fabric, whereas in real-life it’s likely transferred to skin by friction and smearing throughout the day

A sunscreen that stains is by no means a reflection of its ability to protect your skin from UV. If reducing extrinsic photoaging is a goal, it’s important to use a sunscreen frequently. Often people are discouraged from using sunscreens because of the texture, scent, and in some cases staining of their clothes.

If staining is an issue I’ve had good luck with soaking it with 99% isopropyl alcohol and then a soak in sodium percarbonate (Oxiclean) or hydrogen peroxide.

Cornell also has a great stain guide for a myriad of stains.

Ginnetti M, Buhnerkempe M, Wilson M, The staining of clothing by
sunscreens: a pilot study, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2018.02.022

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