18.4.13

Titanium Dioxide - Good or Bad?


Charlie of Sophia's Choice asked me "What's your take on Titanium Oxide in Make-up?". To be honest I had not given it much thought. I consulted my trusty ingredient bibles, No More Dirty Looks and Toxic Beauty. Now I understand why Charlie said "I've found that in a lot of free-from make-up but when I Googled it, there were concerns about it. It just seems so very confusing!". I'm going to do my best to explain how I view the situation. 

Titanium dioxide can cause a whitish effect, you may have experience this if you use a natural, physical blocker sunscreen. To counteract this, companies are using smaller particles known as nanos. Concerns have arisen because it is thought nanoparticles can be absorbed by the skin and no one knows what effect they can have on the body. Cosmetic manufacturers argue that they do not present a problem as they remain on the outer layer of dead skin cells, however, anyone who suffers with eczema or acne knows that we can have broken skin so that could be a way for nanoparticles to enter the body. 


EWG’s Skindeep database scores titanium dioxide 1-3 Fair depending on usage. It suggests that there are concerns when inhaled or airborne. That does not bode well for mineral powders which are applied near your nose. (source link)

I think it is fair to say I really don’t know what advice to give. I have been recommending my foundation Everyday Minerals, but it does contain this ingredient. You may be wondering whether I am now concerned about Titanium Dioxide but in all honesty, I am sitting on the fence. I do have concerns about toxins in our skin care but it can be difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to avoiding ingredients. As is often the case, I think the decision to use products containing titanium dioxide rests with the individual. Until there is better research we cannot be sure whether it is good or bad for humans.

If anyone has more information or a viewpoint to share on this topic, please leave a comment below.

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Sources of information - No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O'Connor & Alexandra Spunt, Toxic - Beauty How Hidden Chemicals in Cosmetics Harm You by Dawn Mellowship

23 comments:

  1. It's worth pointing out that if people are really concerned about titanium dioxide entering the body, then they should stop drinking semi-skimmed & skimmed milk and probably many other foods, because TD is added to foods to make them white, so regardless of whether it's nano or not, TD has been entering the body for many years.

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    1. Thanks for raising this issue, I just wanted to keep things as simple as I could. I didn't enter into the topic of food because the question was about make up :)

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    2. That's really great information Pampered Prince. Thank you. It's amazing what you start to find out when you want to know more. :0)

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    3. I personally think titanium dioxide is not particularly worrisome unless it is nano sized (though I do think Zinc Oxide sunscreens are a bit safer.)

      It's not just about it entering the body. As one article put it "nanoparticles can enter cells, move from organ to organ and even cross the protective blood-brain barrier. They can also get into the bloodstream, bone marrow, nerves, ovaries, muscles and lymph nodes." Normal sized particles can't do this. And, as Sarah pointed out, it is the regular type that creates the white pigment, so it is unlikely that milk contains primarily nano sized titanium dioxide. I think it's worth it to consider all ways you are exposed to it, but I would not write off the hazard.

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    4. Thanks Mary for your input on this topic

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    5. Hi sarah. As I understand it it is the size of the particle that matters, as you say. I'm not sure if current labelling legislation forces producers to state if the substance is a nano particle. Do you know if you can tell from reading the label?

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    6. Sorry Vicky found your comment in spam folder - I understand that nano has to be indicated in brackets on label

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  2. Hi Sarah - Thanks for this xx The reason I asked about it was because it's in 2 eyeshadows I have to test out and now that I'm looking more and more at ingredients, I felt the need to find out more. I agree that it is difficult to know where to draw the line with chemical ingredients and as we are bombarded by chemicals constantly on a daily basis we could ultimately become obsessed. I think you're right that it is up to each individual to decide where they sit with it all. These products are definitely better than mainstream products full of chemical nasties. It's definitely a steep learning curve ! xx

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    1. You're welcome, it was interesting to sit down and have a read about it. It's swings & roundabouts with the ingredients we avoid. I often look at the overall picture and think if I'm using 99% good ingredients I think I can allow for a 1% error margin :)

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    2. Agreed. We can get far too obsessed particularly when you have small kids too. You really think twice about everything x

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    3. Many natural companies state if they do not use nanoparticles on their websites. If not, I usually email to check. Instead of directly asking, I ask what particle sizes they use, because I feel like it would be very easy to answer "no" without even knowing what they are. The products where you really want to know is anything with SPF.

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  3. I usually only have concerns against TO2 when it's the main active ingredient in sunscreens because it appears that it's not as sun-stable as zinc oxide is. Also, it doesn't provide as much broadspectrum protection like zinc oxide does as it can't filter some UVA rays (which I'm usually more worried about since I've got melasma).

    here's a quick reference from badgerbalm: http://www.badgerbalm.com/s-33-sunscreen-zinc-nanoparticles.aspx (search for titanium dioxide on the page)

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    1. I was reading about the sunscreen issues but got a bit in a muddle about it so Thank you very much for your viewpoint & the link, I shall have a read :)

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  4. not sure whether my comment got through? :S

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  5. I think if we're still dealing with mineral cosmetics,there will always be this issue.And I don't think I'd want to skip mineral cosmetics.To be honest,rather than running away from every ingredients that"seems"to be concerned by some people,I'd prefer to take which one that suits me best(read:my skin condition)and at the same time bearing with all the risks it may have.Every person's skin problem is different,and we all even live in different countries!And just like what pampered prince said,basically in the end we may also consume what we've avoided,just in different ways,like foods,water,etc.
    This is what I've said on my current post comment:"In this life,there's nothing such zero risk.Even if you walk down on the street,you'll still have the risk of getting bad things,such get slipped for example.And even when you're on your flight,there're also many chances of you getting things safely and warm to reach your destination.Just because of you're affraid of getting an accident,doesn't mean you have to go to europe,all by foot walking,does it?;)"

    Bottomline,I absolutely care about what I apply on my skin.It's just I choose which one that suits me best,and..certainly I consciously understand the risk of using/wearing the products.That's all :)

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    1. I totally agree with you, as I said the decision rests with the individual person. As I mentioned in another reply I often look at the overall picture and then decide on what is right for me :)

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  6. I feel like you can google any ingredient and find concerns. You just have to take all that information and make your own judgements. Titanium dioxide isn't something I worry about, except, like you mentioned, in the case of nanoparticles.

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    1. I totally agree with you there is good & bad to be found with all ingredients :)

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  7. This is a very interesting topic, I am going to try and go completely natural with my sunscreen this year too, so I'm sure this will be in some of the brands I'm starting to look at.
    I am primerily concerned with not getting skin cancer & as a redhead with skin that just burns and never tans I am in the higest risk group for contracting it so a high broad spectrum SPF is important.
    I'm not sure I will be able to avoid it and as you have said where do you draw the line?
    It's got me thinking anyway and I will pay close attention to the ingredients listings on products. ;-)

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    1. If you read the Badger Balm link in an earlier comment, it's very interesting, you need a sunscreen that has both titanium oxide & zinc oxide. I think the risk of skin cancer probably outweighs the unknown effects of this ingredient, we all know that skin cancer is a real risk, no one can dispute that.

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  8. Really interesting post, I hadn't thought of any concerns relating to titanium dioxide before and thanks for writing about the nanoparticles - it would be good to know what companies do use them. Otherwise I don't think I'll worry too much, but maybe look for sunscreens where it's not the main ingredient x

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    1. Mary has commented that most companies will be upfront about what they are using but you may also need to ask. The Badger Balm link left by EcoBeauty is an interesting one to read if you would like to research TD in sunscreens :)

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