The Beauty Desk
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PRIMPED Science Class. Today’s Subject: Nanotechnology
Fri, 27 July 2012 4:05PM
I walked out of science one day when we were told we had to dissect a frog. And I never went back. So whenever I have to research anything too biological or high-techy for my job, let’s just say the old brain cells get more than a bit of a workout. But while I tend to prefer the pretty things in life, every now and then I can’t help but go beyond surface-deep, because there’s so much damn science in beauty these days. Especially skincare, and suncare.
And especially when it comes to the subject of today’s class: nanotechnology.
So let’s get our clever glasses on, shall we?
Okay, so now we’re in the mood for a bit of scientific talk, let’s go back to basics.
Nanowhatsie?, you say.
Basically, nanotechnology is where molecules are shrunk to teeny-weeny sizes. Generally, the definition of a nanoparticle is anything between one and 100 nanometres. To get an idea of how ultra-super-crazy-tiny this is: the width of a hair measures in at 80,000 nanometres.
So, why the concern? Well, I should first up say that some experts (including our dear federal government) currently say that there is no cause for alarm because no harm has been proven. However – and, in my opinion, it’s a big HOWEVER – there are other experts who believe that nanoparticles are able to slip through the skin into the bloodstream, where they could work their way around the body causing all sorts of unknown dangers.
Sure, all ingredients are tested for safety in our country – but only at their regular size (FYI: the European parliament, from July of next year, will require nano-specific safety testing, so hopefully we’ll follow suit one day). Thing is, particles’ properties change when they’re nano-sized. Scarily, some experts say that even some antioxidants could actually morph into free radicals.
Another change that can occur in this whole nano-shrinking business: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide change from white to clear. And that’s why they have been so popular in sunscreens of late.
There’s a bit of confusion about which ‘clear’ zinc sunscreens are nano or not. Just because a zinc-based screen is clear, it doesn’t mean it uses nanotechnology. Mirconising particles, for example, can still make a zinc particle less opaque – and a micron is a 1000 times bigger than a nano particle.
What’s more, there’s a whole lot of controversy and confusion around whether companies can advertise themselves as ‘nano-free’. Which means we don’t always know what we’re putting on our skin. So, if you’re worried about whether the physical sunscreen (that is, one with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) you use or want to buy contains nano bits and bobs, you should call the company direct and ask them.
Alternatively you could use a chemical sunscreen. I know the idea might make you shudder but in the past few years, they’ve come leaps and bounds. Some derms say they actually often provide better, and more photo-stable, broad-spectrum protection. Plus, they’re invisible, yet the molecule size is too big to get into the skin – which means they’re even suitable for sensitive skins.
One of the chemical sunscreen stars is Mexoryl, which you can find in both L’Oréal Paris UV Perfect SPF30+, $17.95, and Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defence SPF30+, $19.45, both from pharmacies; another goodie is Helioplex, which is what you can find in the brilliant Neutrogrena Ultra Sheer range, $17.99, from pharmacies.
Anyway, ladies, I think that might be enough science-speak for the day, it being Friday afternoon after all.
Just before I lose you, tell me: are you concerned about nanotechnology?
What sunscreens do you currently use and love?
And is there anything else about sunscreens you want to know right now?
Posted by: Katrina Lawrence