Is Sunscreen Safe? Study tests zinc oxide for skin penetration

By Olivia DeSmit

- Last updated on GMT

“The coated ZnOn nanoparticles incorporated into the formulation accumulated in the furrows and hair follicles, but were not found inside the keratinocytes, which suggests that they do not penetrate in the viable epidermis,” the authors write. © Tom Merton Getty Images
“The coated ZnOn nanoparticles incorporated into the formulation accumulated in the furrows and hair follicles, but were not found inside the keratinocytes, which suggests that they do not penetrate in the viable epidermis,” the authors write. © Tom Merton Getty Images

Related tags Sunscreen Sun care safety

Following increased concerns regarding the safety of long-term and repeat exposure to zinc oxide in sun screen products, researchers recently published a study examining if the molecules penetrate the skin's surface via topical application.

A study published in Cosmetics ​tested the stability and skin penetration of two types of zinc oxide, following recent concerns regarding the safety of this ingredient. The authors found that both types of zinc oxide tested did not penetrate the skin to the deepest layers.

The authors used 20% coated zinc oxide and 20% uncoated zinc oxide nanoparticles. The penetration was assessed via confocal laser microscopy.

Sunscreens

There are two different types of sunscreens: physical ones that use inorganic filters, and chemical ones that use organic filters. Only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are approved for use as physical sunscreens, which help to reflect or scatter UV light. The alternative, organic filter sunscreens, often have poor spreadability and other appearance concerns.

The use of nanoparticulate formations creates transparent sunscreen formulations, which is desirable to most consumers. However, in prior studies zinc oxide nanoparticles have had more adverse effects on keratinocytes than titanium dioxide. These effects include disruption of mitochondrial function, the production of reactive oxygen species and oxidative DNA damage, along with genotoxic potential within epidermal cells.

It is worth noting that most studies analyze sunscreens available on the market rather than the key ingredients, leading to uncertainty regarding which ingredient may be causing issues. The authors of this study made a simple sunscreen formulation in order to test zinc oxide itself, rather than other active and inactive ingredients found in sunscreens.

Study Results

The coated zinc oxide formulation accumulated on skin furrows, while the uncoated did not. Both formulations were found around the hair and in the hair follicles. “The coated ZnOn nanoparticles incorporated into the formulation accumulated in the furrows and hair follicles, but were not found inside the keratinocytes, which suggests that they do not penetrate in the viable epidermis,” the authors write.

Regarding UVA/UVB radiation absorption, the coated nanoparticle zinc oxide formulation showed better absorption than the uncoated.

The authors found the presence of small-sized nanoparticles in both the coated and uncoated samples that “could result in the cell uptake of these nanoparticles, which could lead to cell damage.”

After 12 hours, there were no signs of inflammation, but the authors do note that penetration could have been underestimated for the uncoated zinc oxide formulation. “The increased reflectance in the skin treated with the formulation containing the coated ZnOn was observed only in the skin furrows and hair follicles, but not within the keratinocytes, which could suggest that the nanoparticles did not enter the cells.”

This study used one application of the formulas. Daily application could lead to an increase of zinc in the skin and therefore possible safety concerns. The authors recommend that prolonged use should be tested for biochemical markers of oxidative stress along with inflammation.

 

Source:

Cosmetics​ 2024​, 11​(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics11010006

“Development of Topical Formulations Containing 20% of Coated and Uncoated Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles: Stability Assessment and Penetration Evaluation by Reflectance Confocal Laser Microscopy”

Authors: Assis Dias Alves, G., et al.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Calendula Cellular Elixir: Alchemy in a cell

Calendula Cellular Elixir: Alchemy in a cell

Content provided by Naolys | 07-Jun-2024 | Product Brochure

Get ready to experience a cellular evolution in skincare with InnerLift Calendula's advanced Plant Cell biotechnology.

Exosomes: Passing Trend or Transformative Reality?

Exosomes: Passing Trend or Transformative Reality?

Content provided by Naolys | 26-Mar-2024 | White Paper

Exosomes, microscopic vesicles naturally present in abundance within Plant Cells, have garnered significant attention within the scientific and cosmetic...

How Nutricosmetics Can Enhance Skin Beauty

How Nutricosmetics Can Enhance Skin Beauty

Content provided by Activ'Inside | 11-Dec-2023 | White Paper

In the ever-evolving realm of nutricosmetics, where inner wellness meets outer beauty, few natural ingredients have captured the spotlight quite like grapes.

Related suppliers

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars