Despite the hundreds of sunscreens launched each year, there hasn’t been much innovation in the sunscreens that do the heavy lifting. A new ultraviolet filter (think: titanium dioxide or avobenzone) hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the 1990s. Bulwarksa biotech company led by a biomedical engineer, aims to manufacture the best SPF within these constraints, while creating new filters that, if approved, could totally change the landscape of sun protection.
“In the United States, sunscreen is a regulated drug – it’s an over-the-counter drug,” says Sophie Bay, biomedical engineer and founder and CEO of Pavise. That’s why you haven’t seen a lot of innovation in 20 years. Everything uses the exact same filters, just different formulations. Personal care should be regulated like medicine because the skin is the largest organ in our body. And our goal at Pavise is really to bring all pharmaceutical research and development (to cosmetics) to provide high quality care in the skincare category.”
Pavise started making molecules to treat eczema and acne, but put them on hold in late 2020 to focus on mineral filters. This change was triggered when the FDA published findings that chemical filters are absorbed into the bloodstream more readily than mineral filters and further research was needed to determine whether or not this had any impact on safety. Erring on the side of caution, Bai wanted to create the best mineral sunscreens so customers could feel comfortable with a mineral formula they actually enjoy using.
“Mineral filters leave a terrible white tint to me, to people of color,” Bai says. “I don’t think people of color should sacrifice access to quality care, and skincare is healthcare. Also, if we’re breastfeeding, pregnant, or a young child, we can’t use chemical filters. That’s why we immediately started working on clear mineral filters.
Pavise launched this spring with four products: Dynamic Anti-Aging SPF ($148), Lip Defense FPS ($58), Sweet Amino Powerwash ($64) and a UV camera ($176). Both Dynamic Age Defense and Lip Defense use Pavise’s revamped mineral filters.
“Our technology really creates a different shape and composition of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide molecules,” Bai says. “So we’re working with the starting point of what the FDA has approved, but changing their chemical property – without changing the fact that they’re still zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – to get better UV absorption.”
Dynamic Anti-Aging SPF
I’ve tried tons of mineral sunscreens, and Pavise’s is one of the best. It’s SPF 30 and goes on white, but with a few rubs it completely disappears into my skin.
“Dynamic Defense is seamless on all skin tones,” says Bai. “It’s something I’m so proud of because it’s an example where science can create a more equitable world.”
Plus, the formula is rich in antioxidants, allowing it to repair while the minerals protect. “Our photoaging defense cocktail is made up of six compounds that work synergistically to repair photodamage caused by UVA rays on a daily basis,” says Bai. “We actually scoured a library of 10,000 compounds that have clinical evidence of being synergistic with photoprotection alongside UV filters and narrowed it down to these six.”
Lip Defense FPS
This SPF lip gloss is one of my favorites. It comes in three pretty neutral shades and each adds a nice thick yet sheer layer of brilliant color while offering SPF 30 protection.
“I created a lip SPF because I actually have a condition called venous lake,” says Bai. It is a non-cancerous tumor that appears as a blue-black dot on the lip resulting from cumulative UV damage. “It usually happens to people over 50, and the fact that I had it at 26 shows how much UV damage I’ve suffered.”
All three shades — 604 (semi-sheer nude pink), 616 (semi-sheer nude mauve), and 774 (semi-sheer rosy brown) — are pigmented with iron oxides, the same ingredient that adds color to tinted SPFs.
“We don’t have synthetic colorants that are so commonly used in lipsticks, eyeshadows, or blushes,” Bai says. “For us to say that safety in everyday use is very important from a drug development perspective. And we’re all drug researchers at my company, so we have a much higher standard in terms of safety for us.”
Sweet Amino Powerwash
This cleanser just won our Well+Good SPF Award For The best luxury cleanser to remove sunscreen. It proved its worth time and time again throughout the testing process, as I used it to cleanse my face between the dozens of sunscreens I tried. It left my skin clean without feeling stripped.
“We’ve found that a lot of cleansers on the market don’t remove sunscreen even though they claim they remove makeup,” Bai says. “Often, sunscreen is even more difficult to remove than colored makeup because of the film-forming agents in sunscreen products.” So Pavise has created a cleanser that can remove any SPF sunscreen (including waterproof) in just one wash.
To make sure you 1) don’t miss a spot when applying sunscreen and 2) remove all of your EOD sunscreen, you can use this camera. It plugs into the bottom of an iPhone, turning your camera into a UV camera so you can see exactly where your SPF is or isn’t. We just gave it a Innovation Award during our FPS price.
“When you’re applying sunscreen, the camera helps you see if you’ve applied sunscreen evenly or missed spots,” Bai says. “A lot of times you miss the nose strip and the under-eye area. And a lot of people say, ‘Oh, I put sunscreen on every day, why do I still have skin cancer on my nose?’ That’s because you thought you’d never apply sunscreen to your nose. This tool really helps you make sure you’re fully protected and can tell you when you need to reapply when you’re sweating. Plus, it can show if a cleanser is working to remove sunscreen.
What comes from Pavise
Although Pavise has found a way to innovate with existing UV filters, they are also developing new ones and seeking FDA approval. It takes millions of dollars to get FDA approval. The process of obtaining FDA approval typically involves several steps, including preclinical studies, clinical trials (Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III), and submission of comprehensive documentation to demonstrate product safety and efficacy. Costs involved may include research and development expenses, hiring investigators and clinical trial staff, manufacturing the product on a large scale, paying regulatory consultants, and covering administrative costs associated with the FDA review process.
But Pavise has enlisted investors in his corner to hopefully make that happen, and a new set of products that they believe deserve approval. “We have four new macro classes, which means very, very large chemical UV filters that we just developed in the lab that can create SPF 1000,” Bai explains. No, it’s not an SPF typo thousand. “It will really change the way we think about sun care. We are committed to investing and going through the FDA drug approval process together to get these UV filters approved in this country. »
This process will take some time, but even if it doesn’t all come to fruition, we should still expect to see more cutting-edge innovation from Pavise.
“We are constantly working to improve existing formulas or come up with new molecules as science evolves,” says Bai. “We never stagnate. It will never be like, ‘This is the formula 10 years later.’ We always want to bring the new and the best.”
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