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What are nanoparticles? Are they safe in sun creams?

27/06/2014 by Poppy

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At Green People we always strive to deliver the facts about any so called ‘controversial ingredients’ and nanoparticles used in sun creams are one of the latest to go under the microscope.

Unsatisfied with the information that has been published on the subject of nanoparticles, our resident Research Scientist Ian Taylor, spent six months filing through all the unpublished studies on titanium dioxide nanoparticles (the type used in our sun lotions) that he could get his hands on. He wanted to make sure that what we put in our sun protection products is completely safe, protective and natural.

What are nanoparticles?

  • Titanium dioxide nanoparticles are tiny particles between 20 nm and 80 nm in size
  • They work to absorb UV light and provide an excellent natural sun protection barrier
  • They also absorb and scatter visible light, rendering sun creams invisible on the skin

Are nanoparticles safe?

Concern 1:

The first concern to address about nanoparticles is that because they are so small, it was thought that they may be able to penetrate the skin’s outer layer (or epidermis), reaching the living cells beneath and then pass into the bloodstream.

Answer: All studies show that when combined with creams or lotions which contain emulsifiers or binding agents, nanoparticles not only retain their UV light-absorbing capacity, but they ‘clump’ together. This creates much larger, extremely stable molecules that are far too large to penetrate the skin - think of it like trying to fit a football in a snooker pocket! As a result of this discovery, Ecocert has approved the use of nanoparticles as a sun-filter in certified organic products at a concentration of up to a 25%.

Concern 2:

There was also the concern that the nanoparticles in sun creams would become reactive with oxygen, spawning free radicals, because by making the particles smaller they had an increased ratio of surface area to density.

Answer: To solve this problem, titanium dioxide nanoparticles are manufactured with an extremely thin coating of silicates (basically sand or glass) to encase them in a protective layer and ensure that they are completely non-reactive and safe to use even on the most sensitive skin.

Why we use nanoparticles

The use of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in our organic sun lotions was not a decision that was taken lightly here at Green People, but after our extensive research we are completely confident that they are safe to use. They bring fantastic natural UV protection to our products, which otherwise would only be achievable by using synthetic chemical filters, which we would never use.

The claim that nanoparticles in sun creams can enter the bloodstream and affect living tissue has been totally disproven by every scientific test.

To doubly ensure the safety of using nanoparticles in our sun creams, we never combine them with any active ingredient that specialises in penetrating the skin (used in some of our products to provide deep moisturisation). This guarantees that they won’t be transported beneath the top layer of dead skin cells by any other skin penetrating substances.


For more information on nanoparticles, read more about our UV filters, or use our live chat (find it at the top and bottom right hand corners of the home page) to speak to one of the team.



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