Is nanotechnology in sunscreen good or bad?

nanotechnology sunscreen

Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are considered two of the best ingredients used in sunscreens because they offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. But, because they leave a white cast on skin, a lot of people tend to avoid products that contain them. For this reason, manufacturers have started using very small particles of Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide that protect skin from UV rays without the white color.

Concerns about nanotechnology
However, there is a controversy about nanotechnology used in sunscreens. Studies have shown that nanoparticles can produce free radicals which can damage DNA cells. But for that to happen, these particles have to penetrate past the outer dead layers of the skin into the living cells.

Nanoparticles can’t penetrate skin
Although further studies need to be done, current research shows that these small particles remain on the surface and can’t reach the living cells. In addition, studies also show that adding antioxidants to a  sunscreen eliminates the risks of Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles causing free radical damage.

Concerns about inhalation of nanoparticles
While topical application is considered safe, inhalation remains a concern. Studies have shown that nanoparticles can damage animal lungs if inhaled so, until further research on their safety (or lack of) is done,  I think that avoiding sunscreens in powdered or spray form may be a good idea.

It’s up to you to decide if you want to use sunscreens that contain nanoparticles or not. In any case, not using sunscreens at all or using sunscreens that don’t offer adequate protection causes far worse damage.

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  1. says

    I went to a seminar during my first year in grad school and a guy gave a speech about nanoparticles and fishes. Apparently, some fishes get tumors when exposed to man-made nanoparticles in the water. The sunscreen I use still has a white cast and it’s a lifesaver to me since chemical sunscreens give me big breakouts.
    .-= Dao´s last blog ..Sunday Beauty Reads =-.

  2. Danielle says

    Even if antioxidants are added to reverse the oxidizing properties of sunscreen, wouldn’t the exposure to sunlight immediately break down any antioxidants, assuming that they are stable in the first place?

  3. says

    My flippant reaction is that nanotechnology sounds awesome and reminds me of nanites from Stargate. Of course, the nanites were actually pretty bad.

    If they can create free radicals, it seems a wee bit daft to me, considering that the sun is one of the primary causes of free radicals and thus one of the reasons why we use sunscreen.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind having a white cast. I’m already milk-colour, I welcome pale.
    .-= Anastasia´s last blog ..Sliced Bread Isn’t Actually All That Great =-.

  4. says

    gio this is so enlightening. all the while i thought everything with nano technology has to be better in terms of penetrating deeper into skin and repair or protect. in tht case i agree with jojoba, i wouldn’t mind a white cast on my face then.
    .-= prettybeautiful´s last blog ..Nail Monday =-.

  5. beautifulwithbrains says

    Dao: I read a study about that too. Apparently fishes exposed to nanoparticles developed brain tumors. I don’t think it was Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide, though. So far, these have been proved to be safe when applied topically on healthy skin, but ingestion and inhalation is dangerous. But like you, I prefer physical sunscreens and don’t really care about the white cast, my skin is white (litterally) anyway.

    Danielle: that’s a good point. Antioxidants degrade when exposed to sunlight, not sure if that happens immediately but very rapidly, yes. Since sunscreens are supposed to be reapplied frequently anyway I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Nanoparticles can’t penetrate the skin so even if antioxidants weren’t added I doubt they would generate free radicals.

    Anastasia: lol, I had to google that, I’m not a Stargate fan unlike my mom. She has never missed an episode. But they sound pretty nasty.
    I know, it sounds silly to me but since nanoparticles can’t penetrate skin, I don’t think that would be a problem. I’m more concerned about chemical sunscreens that are said to generate free radicals too and that’s why I tend to avoid them. I stick to Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as they are the best sunscreen ingredients available at the moment and I don’t mind the white cast either. Kinda matches my skin anyway.

    Jojoba: I agree with you. Although topical application is supposed to be safe, and is definitely safer that not wearing sunscreen or using one that doesn’t offer broad spectrum protection, these particles haven’t been studied much and some concern about their safety (esp regarding inhalation) remain. Based on current research, I wouldn’t avoid sunscreens with nanoparticles, but I’d still I’d rather stick to physical sunscreen that don’t contain them as they are a better option.

    prettybeautiful: that is a very common misconception. But actually these particles can’t penetrate skin (most ingredients used in beauty products can’t, doesn’t matter what marketing says) and in any case, you wouldn’t want them too. In order to protect the skin from the sun rays, these ingredients have to remain on the surface. I don’t mind the white cast either, being properly protected is more important.

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