Why Doesn’t Badger use Clear Zinc Oxide?

You may have seen sunscreens on store shelves touting that they are made with ‘non-nano clear zinc oxide’, promising not to leave behind that white sheen for which mineral sunscreens are famous. Sound too good to be true? It might be. The truth is that you just can’t get a clear zinc oxide without using nanoparticles. That being said, not all nanoparticles are created equal, and the ‘non-nano clear zinc oxide’ does present a unique story.

We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from you that Badger sunscreens can be whitening, so naturally we investigated this new substance to determine if we should use it. Ultimately our decision to not use clear zinc oxide, at this time, is a philosophical one. Read on to find out why.

zinc oxide sunscreen

Why do companies use nano zinc oxide?
Zinc oxide particle size affects how whitening it is on your skin. Smaller particles (nanoparticles) reflect less visible light, so they appear less white. Larger particle zinc oxide, like the kind Badger uses, reflects more light which is why it leaves a white cast on the skin.

To give you a quick overview, nanoparticles are any particles that are smaller than 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter). When companies started using nanoparticles of zinc oxide in their sunscreens people became concerned that there could be some health risks, particularly if these tiny particles could penetrate the skin to enter living tissue. Now, over a decade later, the dust has settled and there are no real health concerns over the use of nanoparticles of zinc oxide in sunscreen creams and lotions.

No nano for Badger.
Several years ago we made a decision at Badger to use only larger particle, non-nano zinc oxide in our sunscreens. This was not because we believed there was any inherent danger with nano zinc oxide, but because our customers were, and are still, skeptical of nanoparticles and insisted that we make sunscreens without them. Click here to read much more about our zinc oxide research and the nanoparticle issue.

If it’s clear, its nano.
SEM image of "non nano clear" zinc oxide“ZinClear” is the brand name of a zinc oxide powder that originally claimed to be non-nano and non-whitening. It sounded too good to be true so we took a closer look, a much closer look. We analyzed a sample under a scanning electron microscope and saw what appeared to be nanoparticles that were fused together into larger particles. Take a look at this image and judge for yourself (note the scale bar). What sets these nanoparticles apart from others is their outward non-nano structure. The primary particle is certainly in the nano size range, but the final agglomerate structure is non-nano. This means that despite other potential concerns, these nano particles would not be absorbed into living cell tissue, which gives them an added level of safety.

We felt that using this product and making a non-nano claim would have been misleading to our customers, since it does technically contain nanoparticles. We also wanted to wait and see if there were any concerns with this new type of zinc oxide before using it. Badger is not the type to jump on the latest fad because it is popular. We prefer to take our time and make sure that we’re making the right decision before sending any product out into the world.

Most sunscreens using this ingredient no longer claim to be non-nano.

The future is clear.
We’ve done a lot of work here at Badger to make our non-nano sunscreens as non-whitening as possible, including a new process of formulation that allows us to use less zinc oxide and to make our sunscreens spread more evenly. Our new Rose Sunscreen Lotions are as non-whitening as you will get with non-nano zinc oxide. We also offer a new sunscreen lotion with a Sheer Tint that helps to mask the whiteness of the zinc oxide.

We may, someday, make a version of our sunscreen with this clear zinc oxide, but if we do we will not label it as non-nano. In the meantime we will continue to make our famous non-nano sunscreen creams and lotions.

What do you think about sunscreens with clear zinc oxide? Have you tried it? Do you have any concerns about using nanoparticles?

Chris Hamilton

Chris Hamilton has been a Sales & Marketing consultant with Badger since 2007. With a background in science and education he has helped with product and ingredient research and with writing educational pieces for the Badger website and other marketing materials. Chris does most of Badger's product photography and has shot and edited all of Badger's online videos. Chris also works on Badger's website including helping with a major website redesign and streamlining e-commerce. Chris is an avid surfer, a traveler, and a vinyl house music DJ, and he also owns In the Wild Productions, a video production company filming the whale watching trips on Cape Cod.

Chris's favorite Badger products: Sleep Balm, All Cocoa Butter Lip Balms, & SPF35 Sport Sunscreen Stick.

46 comments on “Why Doesn’t Badger use Clear Zinc Oxide?

  • I’ve been using your sunscreens for years – on a daily basis, year around. The non-nano zinc is great — after rubbing it in real good, the white fades quickly. Your sunscreens work perfectly just as they are. Thank you for all you do and the research you did on this new clear zinc. Even if you offer a version with nano-zinc, I will stick with the non-nano, just to be safe and again, I love the product and don’t think there’s any issue with the whitening – in fact I think if anything, it’s a bonus as it covers up any imperfections on your skin, freckles, etc. Take care, Kevin.

    Reply
    • The thing is Kevin and Badger, that if someone has dark skin the non-nano sunscreen doesn’t disappear. I have brown skin and while I would very much like to use Badger’s sunscreens I can’t, without looking like it’s Halloween. I think it’s really important to be aware of and to care about the fact that everyone isn’t white — that many Americans have brown or olive skin and just cannot wear a whitening sunscreen. Not only is an individual issue but it also means that Badger will not be able to benefit from large ethnic markets (African-Americans, for example, buy billions of dollars worth of cosmetics and skin care products). Understand that the decision that you’ve made is one that is necessarily racialized as a “whitening” sunscreen excludes many, many people of color.

      Reply
      • Badger Balm

        Hello Hafsa,

        Thank you sincerely for writing and sharing your concerns. It is not our intention to exclude anyone from using our products – as Chris mentioned in the article, our decision to use the larger particle zinc oxide is due to our company philosophy to only use ingredients that have a proven history of being safe and effective. Clear zinc oxide is a new technology, and perhaps we will use it in the future. But we have no immediate plans to do so.

        The good news is that we are currently working with iron oxide tints to make our sunscreens less whitening. This year we released two with tints, one of which (the Damascus Rose Tinted Sunscreen Lotion) is pretty sheer.

        On a personal note, I find our sunscreens to be fairly whitening on all complexions. I am fairly pale, and when I apply as recommended the sunscreen doesn’t disappear on me either. 🙂

        I am passing your comment along to our product development team and Badger Bill. Please feel free to reach out to me personally if you’d like to discuss this further.

        Warmly,
        Jentri
        jentrij[at]badgerbalm.com

        Reply
        • Okay, thanks for your kind response, Jentri. I will look for the tinted sunscreens you mentioned. Though, to be honest, these are often too Milk of Magnesia pink to work well on brown skin, but I am open to sampling the products to see if they’ll work.

          Reply
          • Badger Balm

            Hello Hafsa,

            I totally understand your hesitation around pink pigments – I believe we only use iron oxides in Badger sunscreens (no pinks) to offset the whitening effect of the zinc. It’s really sheer and blendable – hopefully it will work for you!

            If you purchase directly from badgerbalm.com we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee – so if it doesn’t work for you, you can return it for a full refund. 🙂

            Please let us know if you have any more concerns.

            Warmly,
            Jentri

      • I have very fair skin and the sunscreen doesn’t disappear on me either. It makes me look much whiter. I’m not thrilled with this, but I can’t use chemical sunscreens due to sensitivity and want to only use what is safe on my skin.

        I’d rather look sickly white than get sun damage!

        Reply
  • I truly appreciate Badger’s conscientiousness when it comes to ingredients. I trust your sunscreens above all others.

    Is “white” zinc sunscreen necessarily more effective than transparent/micronized/nano sunscreen? Admittedly I haven’t read studies, but I’ve often thought having that whiteness contributes to it being better at scattering light, & thus a more effective SPF.

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi Kris,

      Thanks for writing and commenting! To my knowledge larger-particle “white” zinc oxide doesn’t necessarily provide better protection. This is because the key to really great sun protection has less to do with particle size, and more to do with the dispersion of the minerals on the skin. Larger particle zinc oxide is helpful in showing you where you’ve adequately applied sunscreen – and application makes all of the difference, no matter what kind of mineral sunscreen you are using. Hope this helps! 🙂 Let us know if you have any more questions!

      Jentri

      Reply
      • Thanks Jentri!

        Can always count on you for an informative response…

        I asked because while I LOVE the Badger Sunscreen stick & use it on my ears every day, sometimes it can be a bit noticeable. I’d “set it” with zinc oxide powder which is obviously white too. So, I was thinking of getting micronized/coated zinc powder for + SPF & more seamless blending.

        You helped me decide 🙂

        Reply
  • how do you disperse your zinc evenly? do i have to shake it really well or is there some process that you use for even distribution?

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi Cindy,

      Great question! Our sunscreens are currently manufactured off-site, in an FDA regulated facility and zinc dispersion is part of the manufacturing product – so you do not need to shake it.

      First the zinc oxide is mixed with oil to create what is called a “slurry.” This is done with a high shear mixer, which ensures even distribution. Then the slurry is mixed into the rest of the ingredients also using a high shear mixer. The beeswax in the product keeps the dispersion in place, which guarantees that the zinc remains evenly distributed from manufacture, transport, and to you!

      Please let us know if you have any more questions. 🙂

      Jentri

      Reply
  • Hi! The concern with nanoparticles was that it may penetrate into living cell tissue; if clear zinc is nano but fused so as to prevent it from penetrating into living cell tissue, why not use it? It could be called a clear zinc safe form of nano sunscreen, and an explanation of what this is could be put on the bottle. It wouldn’t be misleading.

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Greetings!

      Thanks for reading and commenting on our blog 🙂

      We feel that using ZinClear and making a non-nano claim would be misleading to our customers, since it does technically contain nanoparticles. We also wanted to wait and see if there were any concerns with this new type of zinc oxide before using it. This doesn’t mean that we will never use it – but for now we will be sticking with our non-nano zinc oxide.

      Jentri

      Reply
      • I think you misunderstood the question. If clear zinc is nano but fused so as to prevent it from penetrating into living cell tissue, then you can be honest that it’s nano but will not be absorbed. Perhaps you’re afraid you’ll lose all of your non-nano customers but you can explain why the product is safe.

        Reply
  • Why can’t more iron oxide be added to your rose sunscreen tinted version? I want to order that one to try it out, but I have somewhat “tan” skin so I feel that the rose tint is just too pinky/light colored to even be any different than having no tint. Is it possible to create multiple shades of tint for darker skin complexions?

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks for writing! To answer your question: adding more iron oxides to our tinted sunscreen would result in a more orange tint. In order for us to make different shades of tinted sunscreen, we must start adding different pigments like blue, for example. At this time we’re unable to source the necessary pigments to our natural standard, and we refuse to use any ingredients that do not meet this standard.

      That being said, we are continuing our search for pigments that we can use, because we do realize that this tint is not totally universal. We tried to make it sheer enough that it could be blended on the skin better than straight zinc oxide, but it is still a little whitening. As soon as we can create formulas that meet our stringent standards we will release more. I am sorry we do not have one for you now!

      I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions!

      Warmly,
      Jentri

      Reply
  • I’m from S.W. Ontario, Canada. I’m the one in my family who is constantly looking for the safest and most effective products to put on and in the body. Of course budget comes into play as well. I can honestly say this process is time consuming and eye opening, but I strive to try and find products with the above criteria. I would love to hand make everything, however I was severely injured in an accident many years ago and can’t accomplish things as well as I used to. When it comes to sun protection my choice is Badger. I do use the EWG rating system and also try to check out unbiased reviews. I have a request that I hope you can help me with. I will be purchasing sunscreen for my husband, myself, our daughter and son, along with four grandchildren (ages 15 months up to 13 years old). I have read that your Baby SPF 30 Active Cream is suitable for all of us. I would like to know if this particular one can be used on the adults’ face and be effective. I realize the sunscreen has to be re-applied and has to be rubbed in quite a bit. Also we just moved to ‘cottage country’ for retirement and have purchased a small motor boat that will be used when we can. Also my hubby is a golfer and my son works outside for a living. When considering all of the above factors I want to be sure that I make the right choice and since I have chosen to buy for a number of people, I would like my choice to be cost effective. I look forward to any assistance you can provide.

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for writing! I’m happy to provide information to (hopefully) save you some time researching. 🙂

      You can absolutely use the Baby Sunscreen on the whole family. Although you might want to consider our SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen while boating or golfing, since it has a higher SPF and longer water resistance.

      Here’s the most important factor when choosing a mineral sunscreens: application. Yes, you must reapply and also rub it in, but in order to get the SPF listed on the tube you must apply about 1/3 of the bottle (for a full adult body in a swimsuit). Because zinc oxide is whitening people tend to under-apply. I strongly urge you to read this article, and consider application in your decision-making process: http://www.badgerbalm.com/blog/applying-mineral-sunscreen-how-much-is-enough-to-not-get-burned/2015/

      You might find that this makes it not the most cost-effective choice for a larger family… and that is ok! 🙂 What’s most important is that all of you are safe in the sun. Another option to consider is reusable items such as UPF clothing, rash guards, big hats, etc. It requires an initial investment, but you’ll save money all summer as you get more use out of them. Clothing also reduces the amount of sunscreen that you need, and with UPF you do not have to worry about under-applying, or exposing your family and yourself to questionable chemicals.

      So should you go with a mineral sunscreen – whether it be Badger or another brand – please keep application in mind, and remember that the best protection is always to cover up and seek shade between 10 am and 2 pm.

      I hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any more questions.

      Jentri

      Reply
  • Thank you so much badger balm for sticking to your guns and NOT changing to a less safe formula just to sell more products!! So many companies quickly and willingly change for the worse just to make a profit. You are amazing and I appreciate your values. I wish more companies thought and behaved as you do. You’re raising the bar!!

    Reply
  • Mary T Rankin says:

    Thank you for your high standards in producing a safe sunscreen. I am a new convert to your products !

    Reply
  • Esmé Ward says:

    I am going on vacation and I really need advice immediately around something that I can’t seem to find an answer to anywhere – I have the skin condition melasma as well as hyperpigmentation on my face which means that within minutes of my skin being exposed to direct sunlight, I develop serious discolouration of brown and white spots and patches all over my forehead and a dark band across my upper lip. (Not talking about a tan!) These marks stay on my face until I have gone through costly facial treatments and prolonged usage of retinol creams, and unfortunately will return to my skin practically immediately if I expose my face to the sun. This being said, I have found the best way to prevent this when I’m in the sunshine is to wear that thick (often neon coloured) zinc sunblock that sits on the skin like paint and is completely opaque. It seems to act like a 100% shield over my skin. I don’t know much about sunscreen science and haven’t seemed to be able to get any straight answers from anywhere about this – obviously I would much prefer not to have to wear face paint to shield my skin – do the transparent/more transparent zinc sunblocks provide the exact same protection as the opaque paint kind and the technology is just better now/science has figured out how to create the same total block product only clear? If this is not the case then it seem I must stick to using the fully opaque zinc kind (which also unfortunately for some reason seems absolutely impossible to find in Canada where I live). I do not understand the whole sunscreen zinc clear not clear nano non nano particles thing, and an educated answer to this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hello Esmé,

      So sorry for not seeing this sooner! Unfortunately I can’t really answer your questions around the clear zinc oxide because I don’t have that level of information on it. I will say that if you see FDA regulated (look for the official ‘Drug Facts’ panel on the label) and it contains clear zinc oxide, it has been tested using the same protocol as other sunscreens. So theoretically, if applied as directed, the clear zinc oxide sunscreen should provide adequate protection.

      Hope this helps!

      Jentri

      Reply
  • Rajasree Das says:

    Hello

    I am from India and I am desperately looking out for a good sunblock with Zinc oxide as an active ingredient. As I am medium skinned person I would prefer tinted one. Can you suggest me how to get your product here in India.

    Thanks & Regards
    Rajasree

    Reply
  • I don’t care if the sunscreen makes me look pale or not, I care more about not getting sunburn or skin cancer. Looking a bit paler isn’t the end of the world and is better than skin damage or cancer from nanoparticles or chemical sunscreen. Non-nano, chemical free sunscreen is really hard to find in the UK and Badger is the only brand that is widely available so I appreciate finally a brand that uses the larger particles. Badger sunscreen doesn’t look noticeable on the skin compared to the old-fashioned sunscreen we used to get.

    Reply
  • I don’t care how non nano and how new the process is that you guys are using. This stuff won’t sink into an African American person who has dark skin face. Us African Americans need a solution. I want to be able to protect my skin without the worry of a white cast

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Update: we are currently experimenting with formulas containing clear zinc! 🙂 I don’t know when they’ll come to market (extensive testing needs to be done) but we’re really encouraged by the early results of our trials. We will continue to produce the non-nano formulas too, but soon (hopefully!) we’ll have a better option for our African American friends. 🙂

      Kindly,
      Jentri

      Reply
  • teresa bonfiglio says:

    I have not read all the comments so my question may have already been addressed. My concern regarding nano products stems from an environmental position. Face creams and therefore sun lotions when washed off go through the water treatment facilities where nano particles are not removed and then eventually will be released into the environment. We have no knowledge yet of how this may affect the world around us.

    “The unique physicochemical, optical, and electrical properties of nanomaterials have resulted in an increased usage in consumer products and industries (Nel et al., 2006), from which nanoparticles (NPs) may be released into aquatic environments (Wiesner et al., 2006). The rapid growth of the nanotechnology industry has led to increased production and consumption of nanomaterials in common household products such as cosmetics, paints, and sunscreens (Weir et al., 2012). “

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi Teresa,

      Thanks for writing!

      I believe what you quoted above is referencing titanium dioxide, which is the pigment most commonly used in cosmetics and paints. We do not use titanium dioxide in our sunscreens currently, nor do we use nanoparticle zinc oxide – so I’m not sure that I understand what your question is?

      You are correct that we don’t know how nanotechnology will affect the world around us, and we should test the effects of new technology before introducing it to delicate environments. Though I caution lumping all nanotechnology into one mega-group. Also, what you’ve quoted above doesn’t say that NPs are having a bad effect – just that they “may be released into aquatic environments.” Now, we know this to be true – if TiO2 is in sunscreens, it’s released into marine environments. TiO2 is also commonly found in toothpaste, so it’s likely been finding its way to the ocean for decades, unfortunately.

      However, we also know that butylparaben does actually kill coral, which kills marine environments. And that is a preservative also used in cosmetics, sunscreens, as well as a bunch of products you’d find on your grocery store shelves. (Of course Badger doesn’t use any parabens.) My point being: I believe the biggest threats to our environment aren’t NP minerals. Here’s some great information, with cited articles if you want to learn more: https://www.badgerbalm.com/s-35-coral-reef-safe-sunscreen.aspx 🙂

      Kindly,
      Jentri

      Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi Judy,

      That’s a challenging question to answer since I’m not a chemist. My understanding is that the amount of zinc oxide is determined not only by percentage but by dispersion within the product. That’s why we don’t recommend folks make their own sunscreen – without thorough SPF testing, one simply cannot know what SPF their sunscreen offers.

      Sorry I couldn’t be much more help!

      Kindly,
      Jentri

      Reply

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