Nanoparticles in sunscreen have been deemed harmless.

Which is good news because the sunscreen you use might have them and you’d obviously like to know you’re safe. Right?

Quick science lesson for those who were busy watching reruns of Big Bang Theory: nanoparticles are particles with one or more dimension less than 100nm … smaller than the average skin cell, essentially. Nanoparticles are (and have been for many years) used in sun care, particularly physical/mineral sun blockers containing zinc oxide because when nano-ised, those ingredients are clear, instead of opaque and milky and unappealing for consumers like you and me and Shezzy next door.

Nanoparticles have been under scrutiny for a while due to their wee size, and the fear they are able to penetrate our skin cells, and cause free radical damage to the DNA… which can lead to shitty things like, oh, you know, cancer.

Rational concerns.

But new research shows that zinc oxide nanoparticles are fine. Our immune system breaks down the particles before they enter the blood stream. Great work, immune system! Now be better regarding cold sores, please.

As an enormous and evangelical fan of zinc oxide-based physical/mineral sunscreens (which block the UV rays from your skin, and are a far better choice for those worried about hyperpigmentation) over chemical ones (which absorb the UV rays) I was delighted to learn this. While the CSIRO deemed nanoparticles safe a while back, there was still a school of thought that perhaps the nanoparticles were entering the cells. If they didn’t enter the cells, though, all was well. And now we know they don’t.

Which is great news. It’s real unfun finding out that something we use (daily, for many) could be causing havoc with our health. Particularly as someone who actively tells women to use zinc oxide products. Admittedly, I was never personally too concerned, nanoparticles have never been proven to be a health risk, and our TGA is extremely tough on cosmetics and particularly sun care, but you of course always want to make sure that something you love isn’t secretly stabbing you in the back/skin cells. Of course, for peace of mind, there should probably be transparency (scuse the pun) of ingredients and any nano-ing thereof on all labels, and I’m sure in time there will be.

Important Thing: Just because a product features zinc oxide, doesn’t mean it uses nanoparticles. And chemical (non zinc oxide) sunscreens use nanoparticles, too – the biggest clue is if a sunscreen is clear: that’s generally when nanos are in play.

Yes, the research is zinc oxide specific, (there are other particles on nano levels in sunscreen) but as with the argument about Vitamin D (essentially all of our slip slop slapping means we’re a nation that is chronically deficient in Vitamin D, and as someone who IS low in vitamin D, I now try to get about 10-15 mins of sun a day ) I think the risk of not wearing sun protection (skin cancer, prematurely aged skin etc) especially in this country where old lady Ozone dare not wander, far outweighs these concerns. I’m not alone.

Just on zinc oxide physical sun care products, here are some I love and use: (on top of my serums and moisturisers each morning): O Cosmedics Mineral Pro SPF 30+ (tinted) or Aspect Hydra Shield SPF 15 and DermaQuest DermaMinerals On The Go Finishing Powder (excellent for the handbag to take shine down and reboot your sun protection real quick.)




And one I don’t:


Not since about 1987 anyway.

Responses to this drivel: 30 Comments
Responses to this drivel ( 30 )
  • Em

    Quite literally just threw my Neutrogena Helioplex chemical sunscreen in the bin and promptly ordered myself some BECCA Mineral SPF30+ Face and Body. This post was perfect timing, literally had this convo with my lady friends last weekend. However, as a little ranga, I’m pretty funny about parting with sun protection…..thank you yet again, lovely! Mwah xx

  • Bec

    I am loving the use of “wee” in your last few posts-it seems you are becoming a NZer yahhh 🙂

  • kirsty

    thanks again Zoe…have been looking into all this ever since you posted your change in sunscreen [chemical to physical]…happy with the range of choice for me…but what about a more average priced one for children?..my son only likes ‘roll on’ for his face and ‘spray for the limbs!!..[i too have binned Nutrogena’s spray..too mauch BAD stuff in it]!!…can anyone help??

    • fruity

      Any sun care that makes it to Aus shelves has been through a pretty stringent TGA ringer. My preference for physical sunscreen on my face and chest (the pigmentation/anti-ageing zone) doesn’t mean I don’t use any chemical sun care. I often use chemical sunscreens for the body/sport/sweat etc…

      Generally, if you’re concerned, stick to zinc oxide based products, of which there are plenty, even for kids, like Banana Boat Mineral Protect Sensitive or Wotnot.

      • kirsty

        thanks for that zoe..trying not to get tooo obsessed with it all..but like all out us part time beauty bloggers..its good to be informed /updated with all the ‘going’s on’….

      • Delaine

        The wotnot has 250 mg of zinc oxide.. how much of a percentage is that?

  • sonya

    further to this, the beauty by the geeks ladies have a post called ‘hey would you like some possible carcinogen with that?” where they recommend choosing zinc oxide-based physical sunscreens and avoiding sunscreens with titanium dioxide because there’s a massive question mark over that compound.

  • sonya

    and just want to say, thanks for posting the link for the finishing powder. i bought some jane iredale SPF powder that contains titanium dioxide just before i read the beauty by the geeks piece… needless to say i haven’t used it… but i’ve been wishing there was a zinc oxide-based alternative 🙂

  • sonya

    oooh… pfft. it contains titanium dioxide

  • Ingrid

    Thank you for such a thorough article Zoe! I use ModelCo’s Daily Face every day and it’s fantastic. For my body I use the spray-on Neutrogena SPF 50 and I have gone through so many bottles this summer. It’s what I get for being lazy with application:)

  • Louise

    Thank’s again for your fruity advise. I’m trying to find one of these fab sunscreens with built in primer, I’ve read up on the becca one (the only one I could find) but are there any others that does everything ie moisterize, protect and prime?

    • Lee

      Hourglass have a spf30 mineral primer that gets raved about hysterically. You can get it at Mecca in two sizes – Oddly enough, getting the little ‘tester’ size actually works out to be better value too, and as it’s quite exxy, I’m quite glad!

  • Tess

    Hey Zo! Super intrigued about the DermaMinerals powder, but can’t find anywhere online that sells in Australia. I have decided that I need this product like, in the next 30 seconds. Know of any places that can get it to me? xx

  • Alice A

    Big fan of zinc sunscreens and haven’t used chemical ones for several years – my face gets a rash when I use them. Zinc sunscreens leave my face rasg-free. 🙂
    A more reasonably priced sunscreen is Banana Boat’s Mineral Protect, it has 22% zinc oxide in it, which means more sun protection!

  • Sallyann

    Thank you for the physical sunscreen recommendations. I read in another blog post comment you recommended O Cosmedics. I purchased it online straight away and it is just amazing!!! I didn’t get the tinted one and still love it. It disappears into my skin, feels nice, smells lovely. After all these years of shiny sun screened face I am SO happy to discover this beauty. Love your blog Zoe!!! Can’t wait for your line of products.

  • India

    Just purchased the peter Thomas Roth mineral sunscreen and in loove already.

  • Andie

    Honestly Emily, there are brilliant products out there that don’t cost the earth, oh and where a hat, driving gloves and roll neck tops. Toot toot

  • Melissa

    Hi Zoe, I’ve just called several stockists in Sydney for the Dermaquest finishing powder – none of them stock it. I also called their customer service line and they advised to call the stores directly. You can’t order directly from their website either. Do you know any places in Sydney that stock it? Roughly how much is it? Thanks xo

    • Tess

      I called the company and they did mention a place in Sydney that sells it but I don’t remember what it was, but they also said you need to call the store directly. I’m sure they’d send it to you though, I did this for a store in Victoria and got it for $88 xx

  • Sarah

    Zoe – can you do a blog on eyelashes and whether any of those products to make them grow more actually work.

    My eyelashes are trashed, they’re all quite short and there’s one little bit that are particularly short. It makes it so hard to put on mascara properly!

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  • Samantha

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought I read somewhere you said applying sunscreen prior to moisturiser was the way to go to get the most out of it? Just wanting to find out the most effective way to get the benefits from physical sunscreen 🙂

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