Nanotechnologies: Where should they take us? Have your say


Nanotechnology and Cosmetics

  • The applications of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials can be found in many cosmetic products including moisturisers, hair care products, make up and sunscreens.
    Almost all the major cosmetics manufacturers use nanomaterials in their products.
    In cosmetics there are currently two main uses of nanotechnologies: sunscreens and some anti-aging products.

  • Sunscreens

    Picture source:

    In conventional high-protection sunscreens (SF30+), micron-size particles of TiO2 and ZnO are used and the cream appears white and thick. However, if smaller, nano-size particles are used the sunscreen becomes transparent to the naked eye while still reflecting UV rays. This nano-sunscreen therefore has the same high-protection but is no longer a thick-white substance; rather it is transparent and thinner. It adsorbs better and can be evenly distributed, offering excellent protection.

  • Potential risks

    As with other innovative products, a debate over the safety of nano-sunscreens has started. The worry is that the nanoparticles contained in their formulation can pass through the skin and penetrate to the point of becoming harmful. Scientists have started studying the toxicology of nano-sunscreens, and the body of evidence so far shows they are effective and safe. However, because of the relative newness of the technology in terms of cosmetics manufacturing there is some concern as to how safe nanotech cosmetics are and their long-term effects. Until now, there is no credible evidence that sunscreens containing nanoparticles pose a health risk (whereas there is plenty of evidence proving that sunscreen can help reduce the risk of skin cancer). However research is on-going to ensure that the nanoparticles don’t penetrate the skin in harmful ways, and that manufacturers use the safest possible types of nanoparticles.
    In terms of regulation, in the EC, starting from 2014, sunscreens containing nanoparticles must indicate so in their list of ingredients.

  • Additional resources


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About nanopinion

  • nanopinion is an EC-funded project bringing together 17 partners from 11 countries with the aim of monitoring public opinion on what we hope from innovation with nanotechnologies. The project is aimed citizens with a special focus on hard-to-reach target groups, which are people who do not normally encounter and give their opinion nanotechnologies at first hand.
  • Dialogue is facilitated online and in outreach events in 30 countries presenting different participatory formats.
  • To promote an informed debate, we also run a strong press & social media campaign and offer a repository with more than 150 resources.
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