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Nanoparticles, peskier than a wasp in your can of pop?


Wasp and Can

With the summer (hopefully) soon upon us our thoughts turn more frequently to sun protection and, in our case anyway, nanoparticles.


In skincare the two main places where we know nanoparticles may be lurking are mineral foundations and sunscreens.   In the manufacture of sunscreens this is because of the desire to use effective sun blocking ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide whilst also not wanting their skin whitening effects.  In powder mineral foundations nanoparticles give a smoother feel and finish when applied.  We are sure nanoparticles are being used in other products too but at this moment in time, unless the manufacturer steps forward and tells us, we just don’t know.  Don’t think that the natural and organic skincare & beauty industry is above the use of nanoparticles either.   You might be surprised to know that Green People use nanoparticles in most of their SPF products, though in their FAQ’s they explain fully why they believe the nanoparticles within their formulas are safe.  This is the reason why we have made the decision not to stock the Green People SPF products which include nanoparticles.  If you want to read Green People’s nanoparticle explanation, here’s the link: 


What is a nanoparticle?


A nanoparticle is a particle smaller than 100 nanometers (0.1 micron), or 1 billionth of a meter or, to put it another way, smaller than one one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair.  That’s small in anyone’s book.  They are also sometimes referred to as ultra fine particles.


Note: a micronised particle is not the same as a nanoparticle.  Micronised particles are bigger (100-2500 nanometers*) though looking at the minimum/maximum sizes it seems a micronised particle which is 100 nanometers is borderline nanoparticle! 


Depending upon the process used to create them, nanoparticles could be created alongside the micronised particles so it is possible for some nanoparticles to be in a non-nano product.

Why be concerned about them?


In simple terms, the concern is that because of the small size of nanoparticles they can pass through our skin and into our bodies and from there, no one can be certain where these particles will go and what effect they may have.  The fact that they could penetrate cells or DNA is more than enough to put us off.  For us, until someone can categorically prove their safety we’d rather not be part of some corporate science experiment.


When found in loose powders such as mineral foundations, there has been concern that nanoparticles can be inhaled and embed themselves into the walls of the lungs and, because of their size, our bodies have great difficultly in expelling them.  That’s not a price we want to pay for having a foundation that is that little bit smoother.  Regardless of particle size, it is wise advice to do your best to avoid inhaling any of the powder foundation which may be in the air when you are applying it.  If you’re at all concerned, switch to a (non-nano) cream based one.


With so much debate about whether nanoparticles are safe we made the decision at the start not to stock products containing them, or at least not knowingly.  We discovered recently that one had slipped through the net and we’ve now withdrawn it from sale.


Some good news?


From 11 July 2013 when the new EU Cosmetics Regulation comes into effect, any nanoparticle based ingredients will have to be identified on the product label.  We assume that this will take some time to filter through though as retailers will still need to sell existing stock so we’re not expecting to see evidence of this overnight.  This is only for products sold within the EU though, other countries may not have the same disclosure requirements.  Hurrah for the EU (for a change)!   At least this will help us make more informed decisions when shopping for skin care and beauty products.


If you want to check out our natural non-nano sun care products, you can find them all here:

Our natural mineral makeup is free of nano particles too:


And finally, here’s a conversation starter for you,  if you had a choice of a nanoparticle based natural sunscreen or a non-nano synthetic chemical based one which would you pick? 



 For further reading here’s some articles we’ve come across in our research:


Nanoparticles can damage DNA, cancer risk :

Nanoparticles in Mineral Make-Up :

Nanoparticles and sunscreen :

Nanoparticles in Skin Care the risks may trump the rewards :


These two books are always a useful resource:


Toxic Beauty – Dawn Mellowship

No More Dirty Looks – Siobhan O’Connor & Alexander Spunt




We are I Choose What I Use, the 100% vegan, cruelty free, natural and organic beauty and skin care online store.


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