Tests Show Toxic Titanium Dioxide in Sunscreen & Cosmetics

Posted on March 14, 2013

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Earlier this month, testing results from the Australian Government’s National Measurement Institute have discovered that many popular sunscreen and cosmetic products are using a potentially toxic ingredient — anatase titanium dioxide (TiO2).

Toxic_Sunscreen-containing-anatase-titanium-dioxide-TiO2There are 3 forms of titanium dioxide: anatase, brookite, and rutile. It is produced in varying particle sizes and coatings for the cosmetic industry. Because of its high refractive index, strong UV light absorbing properties and its resistance to discoloration under UV light, TiO2 is found in almost every physical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens are believed to cause less skin irritation than chemical sunscreens (ie. products that contain Oxybenzone, Octorylene, and/or Avobeneze as a UV filter) and provide more photostability. But one disliked side effect of applying a physical sunscreen onto your face is it leaves a whitish film over your skin. So sunscreen manufacturers started introducing nano-sized titanium dioxide (TiO2 in much smaller forms) to provide the same benefit but without the whitening effect. These smaller nano-sized particles scatter visible light less than titanium dioxide pigments which cause the sunscreen to appear clear in color.

Recent studies have shown that the anatase form of titanium dioxide (and in particular nano-scale anatase titanium dioxide) can increase the formation of free radicals when exposed to sunlight and water. Aging is simply the progression of damage caused by free radicals. And a number of scientists have questioned the safety of their use in sunscreens and other skin products by well-known brands such as Nivea, L’Oreal SA, and CoverGirl. Anatase is an aggressive free radical producer compared to rutile, another less reactive form of TiO2 also used in sunscreens, cosmetics and other products.

So the next time you purchase men’s or women’s skin care products and sunscreens, be on the lookout for an ingredient list that lists anatase titanium dioxide. It may be better to stick with chemical sunscreens over physical sunscreens now.

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