Background: Excessive human exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) continues to be a major public health concern, with skin cancer rates increasing year on year. The major protective measure is the use of synthetic UVR filters formulated into sunscreens, but there is a growing concern that some of these chemicals cause damage to delicate marine ecosystems. One alternative is the use of biocompatible mycosporine-like amino acids (MAA), which occur naturally in a wide range of marine species. Their role within nature is mainly thought to be photoprotective. However, their potential for human photoprotection is largely understudied.
Objective: To review the role of MAA in nature and assess their potential as natural sunscreens for human skin photoprotection.
Method: A literature review of all relevant papers was conducted.
Conclusion: MAA are natural photostable compounds that are thought to offer photoprotection to marine species. Initially thought of as protective based on their absorption properties in the solar UVR spectrum, it is clear that MAA are multifunctional photoprotective compounds acting as chemical and biological anti-oxidants. This suggests that MAA may offer a novel eco-friendly approach to human skin photoprotection. Most studies have been carried out in vitro and current data strongly suggest that MAA have potential for development as natural biocompatible sunscreens that protect against a diverse range of solar UVR induced adverse effects on human health.