Nanomaterials in cosmetics

kosmetiikan-nanomateriaalit

Nanomaterials in cosmetics

24.3.2021


There is not so much information available about the use of nanomaterials in cosmetics. Many of you have heard that nanomaterials are used in UV filters. In fact, the use of nanomaterials has exploded in cosmetic products. They are found in all cosmetic products almost as often as in plastic.

What exactly are these nanomaterials and why should we be concerned about them?

Nanomaterials are an undefined set of ingredients

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Nanomaterials are not a specific chemical or group of chemicals. The nano only describes the particle size of the material. The material itself may be a very safe ingredient. The problem arises when the particle size is small enough.

At least one dimension of the nanosized material should be between 1-100 nanometres. This is the size where the particle has completely new properties. The nano-size particle is able to penetrate human skin and even through it into the body. This property may cause problems for human health.

As a nano-size particle, it begins to function in a whole new way, both physically and chemically. The shape and solubility of a particle also affect its function. Nano-size materials can be made from both soluble and insoluble substances. Solubility is relevant to how harmful the substance is to health.

Please read more about the series of “Dirty Dozen of Cosmetics” from my blogs

The effect of nanomaterials on humans has not been studied enough

Nanomaterials are a relatively new invention. Development programs to create new nanomaterials are going on everywhere. Unfortunately, research about the safety of new nanomaterials is not following the development programs. Serious problems have been raised following the widespread use of them.

The most harmful nanoparticles are made of insoluble materials. The impact of nanomaterials on humans is really difficult to study. Nanomaterial transported to the brain is only recognized on autopsy.

Why should materials used in nanoparticles be a concern?

Because of their small size, they are able to penetrate the skin and even get through a blood-brain barrier. The most harmful are insoluble nanoparticles. They are absorbed through the skin. It has been speculated that insoluble nanomaterials will accumulate in the body.

Many products contain soluble nanomaterials. Nanomaterial in soluble form is not as harmful as insoluble.

Nanomaterials are particularly harmful when inhaled. Many synthetic fragrances contain nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are also found in hairsprays and other sprayable haircare products. Nanoparticles also enter the lungs when applying face powder.

In which products are nanomaterials present?

The transition to nanotechnology has been a big step in the cosmetics industry. Old-fashioned products do not survive in a very competitive market. The use of nanotechnology is largely the reason why natural cosmetic products are not so popular. Technical products full of nanoparticles such as deodorants and makeup are great, but the price you may have to pay is your own health.

The best-known use of nanomaterials is UV filters, the sunscreens. Sunscreens are highly technical products. The making of a functional sunscreen product is not very successful, even by a large cosmetic giant. Nanomaterials have made the impossible possible. That is why the use of nanomaterials is so common in UV products. Sunscreens usually use nano-sized zinc as well as titanium oxide.

Effective deodorants and antiperspirants often contain nanoparticles. The nanoparticles clog the sweat glands and stop sweating.

Nanomaterials are commonly used in powders and make-up bases. Nano-sized particles make the product easy to spread. Nanoparticles can be used to create the desired refractive properties on make-up bases and powders.

Haircare products such as hair conditioners are perhaps the most dangerous sources of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles have been found to be the most toxic when inhaled.

In principle, you can find nanoparticles in just about any cosmetic product. Toothpastes, creams, nail polishes and shampoos are new areas of nanotechnology.

How do I know if a product contains nanomaterials?

The nanomaterial is labelled using its INCI -name. Unfortunately, there is a huge number of nanomaterials. It is impossible to remember all INCI names. The INCI name of a nanomaterial is often referred to as “nanoate”. However, many names of nanomaterials have no reference to the nano-size.

Products may also contain soluble nanomaterials that are not as harmful as insoluble ones. Nevertheless, some soluble nanomaterials also have limitations in cosmetic use.

Why are nanomaterials not banned in cosmetic products?

There is no official definition for nanomaterials. By the way, the same goes for plastic added to cosmetic products. When the official definition does not exist, nanomaterials should be banned one at a time. To ban one INCI name at a time is a very slow process.

There should be enough proof to limit or ban completely the use of nanomaterials. Unfortunately, this proof does not exist yet. I am wondering why new nanomaterials are launched all the time without any published research results.

Currently, the EU is banning or has already banned nano-size zinc oxide as a UV filter. However, it can still be added to other cosmetic products. Elsewhere in the world, all nanomaterials are allowed in cosmetics with some, rare exceptions. 

Natural, organic cosmetics may contain nanomaterials and -particles

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I have to make a correction into this chapter. My understanding has been that there are no nanoparticles in natural cosmetic products. Unfortunately, this is not true. Also natural cosmetics may sometimes contain nanoparticles. Suntan lotions are a good example of products them. This is a very unfortunate information even though it is essential to know it.

The size of zinc and titanium particles are usually bigger in natural sunscreen products. However, there may be nano-size substances as well. You can easily recognize the nanomaterials easily by reading the INCI-list. They are usually marked as “nano”.

Many manufacturers of genuine natural cosmetic products are saying that their products do not contain any nanoparticles. It is worth being active consumer and support these manufacturers and always ask about the nanoparticles.

The beauty industry can create more effective products with the help of nanotechnology. Still many manufacturers of natural cosmetic products are avoiding nanomaterials. We have to respect that. Our health is the most important thing for all of us.

Here is an excellent article about the use of nanomaterials in cosmetics

Which one would you choose; an effective deodorant based on nanotechnology or a deodorant based on safer natural cosmetics?

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