We have many scientific discoveries to thank for advances in skincare. From new ingredients to delivery systems that carry actives deeper into the skin, skin care has come a long way in just the last decade alone.
One of the most revolutionary (and controversial) developments has been the use of nanoparticles in skincare. Nanoparticles are microscopic particles, and in skincare, it’s believed that they can penetrate deeper into the skin to deliver better results. But those opposed to the use of nanoparticles believe that if they penetrate beyond the skin, they could possibly enter the bloodstream—and the potential side effects of this have not been determined.
In the skincare world, a main focus of the nanoparticle discussion has centered on titanium dioxide, one of the two main physical UV-blocking ingredients. Sunscreens that contain regular-sized titanium dioxide particles can leave a white residue or ashy tint on the skin, so this poses an issue for consumers. With the use of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, consumers can get the benefits of sun protection without this side effect (in the industry this is called “cosmetically elegant”), but the safety of these particles is an ongoing discussion.
One study has put this safety debate to rest, finding that titanium dioxide nanoparticles do not penetrate the skin. Another study looked at sunscreen formulations with both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (another physical UV-blocking ingredient), and again found no evidence that these nanoparticles cross the skin barrier.
This is great news for all of us, and especially those with sensitive skin that burns or stings with chemical sunscreen ingredients (i.e. avobenzone, oxybenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate, etc.). Keep in mind that many sunscreens contain both physical and chemical sunscreens to provide optimal broad-spectrum protection, but both types are not necessary. Jan Marini Physical SPF 45 and Elta MD UV ClearBroad Spectrum SPF 46 are a few of my titanium dioxide/zinc oxide favorites, and they’re ideal for all skin types and even children.
Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.