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Nano-sized Sunscreens ! Is it safe and Skin friendly are not ?


Hi folks, in this blog post am gonna clear out the fear of using Nano-sunscreens. As many of the beauty bloggers and consumers says that Nano-sunscreens which contains Nano-particles such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as an active ingredient in it are not safe for skin. Nano-technology is to be embraced as often the ingredient or drug that has been nano-phased is vital for the well being of the recipient. In this blog post am gonna say what is a Nano-sunscreen, why the active minerals(UV filters) are converted as Nano-phased and is it safe when applied to the skin ?


Smaller particle sized sunscreens may also be called micro-mineral sunscreens, ultra-fine sunscreens, or micronized sunscreens. The smaller particles themselves can be labeled as micronized zinc, micronized titanium dioxide, or micro-sized particles. (Note: “Nano” and “micronized” sunscreens are often grouped together.


Bulkier particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been used in sunscreens for decades to reflect or absorb cancer-causing ultraviolet light. The reason traditional sunscreens look white when you rub them onto your skin is because particles of this size reflect visible light. But when these sunscreen ingredients are manufactured into nano-particles – usually 25 to 50 nanometres wide – they behave differently.

Despite clumping together when mixed into sunscreen, nano particles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide not only retain their highly effective UV light-absorbing capacity, but also absorb and scatter visible light, rendering them transparent on the skin. And in comparison to other UV filters, they are more stable – requiring less reapplication – and are low irritant and low allergen materials.

“Another advantage is that, at the nano scale, ZnO and TiO2 feel ‘lighter’ on the skin,” says Megan Osmond-McLeod, researcher at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), “rather than heavy and cakey.”

So in the fight against skin cancer, nano particle formulations are onto a winner. You’re more likely to slather yourself in it, better protecting your skin from sun damage.


Nanotechnologies have polarized the attention of the media and of the consumers during the last 5 years or so, mainly.

This has not really started with the launch of nano-emulsions or nano-some-based cosmetics, many years ago, but rather with the debates and press releases generated by various trade associations and regulatory bodies;

Nano-particles being suspected of having potential mutagenic or carcinogenic properties.

The world production of nano-material in 2004 was about 2000 tons; it is estimated to reach 58000 tons in 2020.

The main problem with nano-materials is that they have not been properly tested yet. However, some toxicological studies performed on intact human skin have demonstrated that nano-particles are not likely to penetrate the stratum corneum.

What about when they are in contact with damaged skin?

What about the trans-dermal penetration through hair follicles and sweat glands?


It is believed that nano-particles can be absorbed by some skin cells such as fibroblasts and melanocytes and be cytotoxic.

Nano-sized titanium dioxide has also been shown to be able to damage DNA; as such it should be considered as genotoxic.

Titanium dioxide particles have also shown to be carcinogenic after inhalation.

Other systemic effects have not yet been fully studied; more studies are necessary to fulfill the gaps in our knowledge. This is the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.

IS Nano-sunscreens are safe ?

Consumers have been totally mislead into believing that nano-particles which are used in sunscreens are dangerous and toxic if applied to the skin. This is simply not the case – it is the particle that is nano-phased that may be dangerous and NOT the fact that is nano-phased in the first place!

Nano-technology has revolutionized the medical and cosmetic industry and should not be feared.

A nano-particle is defined as a particle smaller in diameter than 100 nanometers. One nanometer represents one billionth of a meter. Nano-technology does not define the chemical characteristics of the particle. It merely defines its size.

For example, nano particles of a toxic chemical such as arsenic would be fatal if inhaled or applied topically in a large enough dose. Conversely, nano- particles delivered by a nebuliser of Ventolin would be life -saving to an asthmatic.

In my opinion as a cosmeceutician, there is no problem in applying nano-particles of zinc oxide in sunblock as zinc oxide is part of normal body chemistry and considered non toxic. I would not, however recommend nano-sized titanium dioxide in sunscreens or skin care products as it has been reported to induce a free radical response in living cells. Nano-sized titanium dioxide has also been shown to be able to damage DNA and it is to be considered as genotoxic.

Because of the increasing bad press surrounding nanotechnologies, many manufacturers of sunscreens have already proactively avoided the use of nano-sized materials. This is probably a very wise decision until more studies have been performed to demonstrate their eventual innocuousness.

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