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Non-nano? Nano? Non-nano sunscreen? You may have heard the terms, but aren’t sure what they mean. If so, you’re not alone. The idea of nanoparticles is relatively new, and different agencies are gradually stepping in to offer guidelines. You may see those terms come up more frequently, so we think it’s time to define them so you can stay in the loop.
What Are Nanoparticles?
A nanoparticle is a piece of material that is so small it has to be measured in nanometers. One nanometer equals one-billionth of a meter. For comparison, 10,000 nanoparticles could fit in the diameter of a human hair![i]
In recent times, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be manufactured at nano sizes, and are popular in sunscreens that want to avoid using hormone-disrupting chemicals while still providing sheer sun protection.
The revolutionary small size of the particles is both a blessing and a curse. People are more willing to use zinc- and titanium-based sunscreens if they don’t leave a white tint on their skin, unlike the sunscreen on the iconic lifeguard with a nose covered in white cream. At the same time, it can create concern for some people who might be worried about these tiny particles being absorbed.
The good news is that preliminary scientific research has shown no evidence that zinc or titanium can soak in below the dermal layer. A report from the German Federal Health Institute concluded zinc stayed on the skin’s surface as was not absorbed. The report noted the zinc could remain on the skin’s surface and accumulate around the hair follicles, but hair growth pushed the particles back to the skin’s surface.[ii]
A study released in January of 2017 from the Australian TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) also concluded the zinc does not get absorbed beyond the surface of the skin or the outer dead layer of the skin.[iii]
What Is Non-Nano?
We know what nanoparticles are, but what makes something non-nano? The problem with classifying products as nano or non-nano is that there is no certification body to officially determine what types of particles a product contains. The EU has vaguely defined non-nano as “the primary particle size is greater than 100nm,” and Australia defines non-nano as “more than 90% of particles are above 100nm.” At the nano level, it is virtually impossible to ensure that a product is 100% nanoparticle free because the shapes of the particles make them hard to measure.
Goddess Garden: Non-Nano Zinc and Titanium
This will likely continue to evolve and result in clearer definitions, but for now, rest assured Goddess Garden sunscreens are non-nano sunscreens, using the guidelines set forth by the EU and Australia. The particle size of the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide used in our products is between 100nm-130nm, with the average size at 120nm. Even our continuous sprays are non-nano since they use the same zinc and titanium as our lotions, so the risks associated with nanoparticles are not present.
It is important to note that there isn’t a certifying body to give us—or anyone—an official seal for a non-nano sunscreen or any other product. That means any packaging with a “non-nano” claim is not regulated and should be investigated further to prove their claims. Like anything, do your homework and ask the company if you have any concerns. And remember, we’re always here to help!
- The History of Sunscreen
- What Is Octinoxate and Is it Safe in Sunscreen?
- Give Chemicals the Bird: Environmental Damage
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