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.
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.
“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 aggregate 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.
Update 2/8/2018: satisfied with the safety and effectiveness of clear zinc we have decided to offer a couple clear zinc sunscreens:
What do you think about sunscreens with clear zinc oxide? Have you tried it? Do you have any concerns about using nanoparticles?