Are Micronized and Nanoparticles Safe In Your Sunscreen?

If you take an interest in sunscreen science — or if, like me, you’re a bit of a sunscreen fanatic — you’ll know that there’s been some controversy in recent years over the safety of micronized and nanoparticle ingredients in sunscreens. While I’ve written about this topic in the past, it’s one that generates a lot of questions.  Are they safe to use?

Micronized ingredients or nanoparticles are ultra fine particles of usually titanium dioxide OR zinc oxide, two UV filters featured in both physical and chemical sunscreens.  The use of these fine particles allows manufacturers to formulate products that you may actually want to use. That means that they deliver protection, without the white cast that used to be oh so common in sunscreens many years ago.

So what do the experts say? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of nanoparticles in sunscreens since 1999. And, in 2007, they released a report which focused on nano technology in cosmetics and sunscreens. Here is an excerpt: “the current science does not support a finding that classes of products with nanoscale materials necessarily present greater safety concerns than classes of products without nanoscale materials”. In 2008, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) made an official statement regarding the safety of nano-sized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide: “The weight of current evidence is that they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer (stratum corneum) of the skin.” Even the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a consumer watchdog organization recommends the use of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreens but cautions against the use of sprays and powders, which may increase the risk for inhalation.

Most of the studies and findings by researchers I have come across clearly state that nano sized particles of physical sunscreen ingredients do not penetrate the skin, but instead remain on the surface layer (epidermis). Obviously research will continue on, and I will always be on the lookout for the latest findings. As of now, there is plenty of scientific analysis that makes me feel safe in recommending the use of micronized or nanoparticle sunscreens.

I love Keys Solar Rx SPF 30, a totally natural sunscreen with 20% Nano Zinc Oxide. It contains antioxidants so protects skin in two ways and is well tolerated by individuals with sensitive skin. It is an excellent product to use on children’s delicate skin.  Colorescience Sunforgettable Powder Mineral Sunscreens are an ideal choice for reapplication over makeup and also work for hard to reach areas such as around the ears and the top of the head. It’s water resistant too.

We carry a wide variety of sunscreens. For our full range, click here. Or, you may wish to visit our physical sunscreen department.

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