Spotlight On Titanium Dioxide

by Gio
titanium dioxide skincare benefits

Ever wondered why your face turns a ghostly white in photos?

Meet the culprit: titanium dioxide.

Wait! Don’t throw tomatoes at it, yet.

I’m introducing you two because titanium dioxide is pretty awesome. Yes, it’s a joker who likes to play a few tricks on your sometimes but it also does a lot of good things to your skin. Here’s what I mean:

What The Heck Is Titanium Dioxide?

Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral. It’s very popular because it’s white. People use it to make stuff like paper and white paint.

Titanium Dioxide as a colourant

Have you noticed most creams and soaps are white? There’s a reason for that. White makes you think of purity, tricking your brain into believing a white cream must somehow be safer than a pale yellow cream.

The thing that gives them their white colour? Titanium dioxide, of course!

Titanium dioxide helps you create all the shades of foundation and concealer you want, too. The more titanium dioxide you add to a formula, the paler it gets. 

Plus, it gives products their opacity, too.

The catch? Sometimes, this white colour is more annoying than helpful. Sunscreens use a higher concentration of titanium dioxide than usual, which can leave a white cast behind.

Sometimes you see this cast in real life. Sometimes, you don’t. Even then, it’ll probably show up in photos!

Related: Why Does Your Face Turn White In Photos?

Titanium Dioxide as a sunscreen agent

This is my fave use for titanium dioxide. This white mineral protects the skin from all UVB and short (but NOT long) UVA rays. 

Here’s how it works: titanium dioxide absorbs most of these UV rays and transforms them into a less damaging form of energy (heat). It then reflects the rest away from your face.

Titanium dioxide is so gentle on the skin, even sensitive skin can use it without throwing an irritating tantrum.

But yeah, white cast. My skin is very pale as it is so I don’t mind that. If you do, opt for a tinted formula. In case you’re wondering, you can find my fave sunscreens with titanium dioxide here. 

Related: 3 Reasons Why Mineral Sunscreen Is Better For Sensitive Skin

The micronized controversy

Wouldn’t it be amazing if titanium dioxide did its job without leaving a white cast behind?

Well, there’s a workaround. You can make titanium dioxide so small, it becomes invisible to the naked eye. Titanium dioxide is still there, protecting your skin, without that tell-tale white cast that gives away its presence.

It’s called micronised titanium dioxide. And it’s VERY controversial.

Critics say that when you make titanium dioxide that small, it can penetrate skin, get in the bloodstream and cause all kinds of havoc.

Science says “not a problem.” A 2008 study found  that “TiO2nanoparticles in vivo do not penetrate through the intact epidermal barrier.” Just don’t use it on open wounds or it will get in!

Related: Are Micronized Sunscreen Ingredients Dangerous?

The Bottom Line

Titanium Dioxide is one of the gentlest UV filters out there. It also helps you create a wide variety of foundation shades and gives products their opaque, white looks. If only it didn’t leave a white cast behind!

How do you get around the white cast titanium dioxide leaves behind? Let me know in the comments below.



Trisha June 24, 2014 - 4:56 pm

I love titanium dioxide in sunscreen. I like it way better than the chemical sunscreen ingredients and it doesn’t have a weird smell. But, yeah, that white cast is a bummer. I need to find the micronized kind.

Gio June 24, 2014 - 7:08 pm

Trisha, it’s one of my favourite sunscreen agents too. The white cast is a bummer indeed, but luckily there are now ways to fix it. 🙂

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