Remember the good old days when you could immediately tell if someone was using a sunscreen with zinc oxide?
That white nose gave the hunky lifeguard away before we could even see his bright red pants.
Hunky lifeguards and hot surfers apart, there weren’t many other people bothering with those thick and chalky sunscreens. Why would anyone when they made you look so silly?
Those days are over.
Zinc oxide is such an awesome ingredient that cosmetic scientists got hard at work finding a way to get rid of those annoying little problems so that anyone could enjoy them.
Ok, more like beauty brands got them working hard day and night so they could make more money by offering a natural alternative without any harmful or aesthetic side effects, but you get my point.
Now we can all use mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide without looking like Casper The Ghost. So, what made this feat possible? Nanoparticles.
What the heck are they?
Why Should You Use Zinc Oxide?
Cos it’s freaking awesome, my friend.
- It provides broad spectrum protection ON ITS OWN: no more need to use four or five ingredients to be fully protected, yay!
- It’s very gentle on the skin: it’s one of the very few UV filters that won’t irritate even sensitive skin or cause allergies. Double yay!
But, the white cast and thick consistency are serious downers. So many of us get really excited when we hear how awesome zinc oxide is, only to give it up for life when we realise how user-unfriendly it can be. Bummer!
Enter nanoparticles (aka microparticles).
What The Heck Are Nanoparticles?
Tiny particles. Duh!
Nanotechnology drastically shrinks the size of a substance, so that it is much, much smaller than its non-micronized original.
Of course, when something becomes that tiny, it also starts to behave differently. Micronized zinc oxide:
- Doesn’t leave a white cast behind (those tiny molecules are practically invisible to the naked eye!).
- Has a lightweight texture that makes it so easy to apply and comfortable to wear.
So easy and comfortable, the first time I used a sunscreen with zinc oxide nanoparticles, I almost didn’t believe it really had zinc oxide. It felt exactly like one of those lightweight Asian sunscreens we all love so much minus the potentially irritating synthetic UV filters and alcohol that give them their weightless textures.
The best of both worlds basically…
Are Zinc Nanoparticles Safe?
Here’s the deal: the smaller something is, the easier it can penetrate the skin.
Zinc oxide is a pretty big molecule. But when you shrink it down to an invisible size, there’s a chance it can penetrate your skin, get into your bloodstream, and cause all sorts of problem.
IF it gets in there. But, does it?
Nope. Zinc oxide works by creating a shield on the skin that reflects UV rays away from it. So, if it were able to penetrate the skin, it’d be a pretty useless UV filter.
That’s why cosmetic chemists often coat zinc oxide nanoparticles with silicones and other occlusive agents. This way, these nanoparticles stay where they should and are needed – on the surface of your skin.Want all the benefits of zinc oxide minus the white cast and greasy texture? Go nano. It's safe.Click To Tweet
The Real Danger: Nanoparticles in Spray Sunscreen
OK, so nanoparticles can’t get in through our skin. Phew!
But, they can get in through our nose. When you apply spray suncreen, you’ll likely breathe some of those nanoparticles in. They end up in our lungs and may damage them.
So, stay away from spray sunscreens with nanoparticles.
And while you’re at it, stay away from all spray sunscreens, period. I know they’re very convenient to use, but it’s so hard to tell if you’ve missed a spot. Until that spot gets a bad sunburn. Ouch!
The Bottom Line
If you’ve always wanted to jump on the zinc oxide bandwagon but were put off by the white cast and greasy texture, nanoparticles are the way to go. They’re safe. Just don’t get your dose from a spray sunscreen.
Have you ever used sunscreens with nano zinc oxide?