Part 4 – just two more things…I promise!

by mathew bose. 0 Comments

I’m just going to quickly mention these next two issues then leave this line of investigation to the super bloggers. There are lots of other ingredients still to investigate like DEA, MEA, PEG’s, PAH’s and colourants (I may well come back to these!) but I must finish creating a select list of products (or Glynis Barber ( will be after me with a big stick…)

If you have any good information blogs etc that you think we should all get reading then let me know and I’ll add the links too. Thank you!

Nanomaterials (and Titanium dioxide)

Words that keep cropping up these days everywhere I look are nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Certain ingredients used in cosmetics are now be defined as nanomaterials. Some are recently formulated as the drive for ever smaller versions of things are required for maximum impact, and some ingredients have been safely used for many years. The scale of ‘nano-ness’ is amazing with particles 80,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The concerns that have been raised are due to the potential for the properties of the ever decreasing particles to change and no longer be as beneficial, or indeed, as safe when they are nano, and that the super minute size means that there is a greater absorption and intake into the body. Again, the EU rulings and safety standards are high and at least we can say that to the best of their knowledge (and rules) these products are individually considered to be safe…thus far…they say.

As we have discussed a few times in these posts the skin is an amazing barrier – it is built to prevent anything getting in. The nanoparticles are still not as small as the molecules that make up the every substance of us and studies have shown that the current nanoparticles used in skin care cannot get through the skin’s barrier. Whether these studies included the by now infamous, at least in these posts, ‘penetration enhancers’ (I just can’t stop writing those words!) I don’t know. I’d hazard a guess that they didn’t though, wouldn’t you?

One of the most used nanomaterials in cosmetics is titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is a mineral that is present in nature and it can be mined or synthesised. It is used (like zinc oxide) in many products to thicken, whiten, increase opacity, reflect and scatter light, absorb etc. but the controversy started over their use as nanoparticles in sunscreen. The smaller particles make the sunscreen look less white and help it smooth on better. If you use a high SPF sunscreen and it is transparent then you know it’s using nano technology. They form a physical barrier that reflects and scatters the harmful UVB away from your skin*.

Liposomes, or nanosomes as they often are called now, are used in many products (such as moisturisers) to deliver the active ingredients to the skin. They are like mini bubbles that hold the ingredient until contact with the skin when they release it. Similarly there are nano emulsions which just like regular emulsifiers keep two naturally separating elements bound (like oil and water) but the nano version is of course much smaller so it can be delivered (even sprayed) in higher concentrations etc. and then, technically, deliver the active element better. That’s the theory as I see it.

The CPTA says this about the safety of nanotechnology and specifically titanium dioxide and zinc:

The technology, and its safe use in consumer products, is constantly under review by regulatory bodies worldwide, including the European Commission’s independent advisory body, the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS, formerly the SCCNFP). This committee evaluated micro-crystalline (nano-sized) titanium dioxide in October 2000 and concluded that it was safe as a UV filter for use in cosmetic products. The SCCS has since asked for more information to be able to look further at certain aspects of the safety assessment and the cosmetics industry has provided this information, which, it is confident, will answer any concerns. Similar information was also provided for zinc oxide, which also has UV filtering properties.

Recent rulings in the EU now regulate nano separately from regular sized particles (concern had been that the usual risk assessment methods were not suitable for testing the safety of nanomaterials and the laws previously treated the two as exactly the same) and state that all nanomaterials must now be clearly listed on the product labels (bear in mind that some ingredients that you might think of in connection with nanotechnology might be included in the list but with no mention of ‘nano’ – such as when the larger version of titanium dioxide is being used as a colourant).

There are many uses for nanotechnology that we benefit from everyday. Just as with many of these things let’s not let the media reports damn everything with the same sweeping statements and let’s consider exactly what we are applying to our bodies. Research, read and reason.

*Just an added note about UV’s, sunscreens, sunblocks and SPF just in case you don’t know this stuff, and as we are talking anti-ageing on this site specifically…

…sunscreens and sunblocks are now inter mingled terms but they refer to different things in fact. A sunscreen absorbs and negates the harmful rays through a chemical reaction and a sunblock literally blocks it by reflecting it or absorbing it to prevent it reaching your skin. This used to be the ‘white’ film that sat on your skin but this is exactly what nanotechnology has changed. Also, here’s the important bit, SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which actually refers to what degree a product prevents sunburn. Sunburn is caused by the UVB part of the sun’s rays, so a SPF rating doesn’t tell you how well a product will protect you from the UVA part of the sun’s rays, and this is the bit that causes more skin ageing specifically. UVA penetrates deeper and causes skin damage, ages the skin and can damage your eyes. Incidentally, normal glass (like your house windows) filters the UVB out (which is why you don’t tan) but lets the UVA through. Although UVB is largely responsible for skin cancers they are both dangerous to us in their own way. (Don’t even start me on UVC! This part of the sun’s rays is filtered out by the ozone, but if the ozone is destroyed or weakened…we fry!) For protection against both UVA and UVB rays you will need a ‘broad spectrum’ product. Look for this on the packaging to be sure you are getting full spectrum protection.

Animal testing

Animal testing seems like a thing of the past. An 80’s throwback like shoulder pads. Right?

Yes. But only just. This March marked the end of a long road to a complete ban in the EU that started in 2003 and, through stages, has been fully implemented this year. First, over the years between 2003 – 2009, introducing a ban on animal testing for cosmetics and toiletries inside the EU – not just for finished products but, critically, for their ingredients too. This meant that companies just had to switch any animal testing to outside the EU, so a final part of the ruling banned the sale in the EU of any cosmetic or toiletry that had been tested on animals anywhere. This only leaves  the issue of what to do about the companies that continue testing on animals to enable them to sell those products to other markets – the huge Chinese market for instance. A market that actually demands animal testing on the products to be conducted inside China itself (although changes are starting they are a long way from banning it). So then your conundrum is whether to banish those companies from your regime because they are testing on animals still (and just to break a lucrative market) even if the UK bought product your sloshing on your face hasn’t been anywhere near an animal….

Many people recommend we stick to our home grown UK companies as they cannot develop a product with any animal testing involved. Most cosmetic developers/scientists agree that there is very little to be gained form testing on animals in the first place and the only reason any company does it is to comply with the regulations of the country they are selling in. Others disagree claiming this will hold the EU companies back from keeping up with the latest technologies and staying ahead in the world market (the cosmetic industry is worth 50 billion in Europe alone, so there’s a lot at stake).

Ultimately, the big test will come when the companies we favour now are given the opportunity to be global and expand into these super lucrative markets that demand animal testing. Will they comply or boycott? What would you do?

As the legislation changes it is going to be even more important that you check carefully who the parent company is that owns the product you wish to use. A recent much lamented such situation is the buying of Liz Earle by Avon. Avon are one of the big four companies that many anti-testing groups challenge for their continued use of animal testing (for foreign markets ‘when the law requires it’) – along with Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and L’Oreal. Liz Earle built her reputation on being ‘natural’ and had loads of fluffy pictures of herself taken with indigenous peoples around the globe and many of her staunch supporters were much aggrieved when she sold the company to Avon. Obviously, Liz Earle products were developed cruelty free (‘animal testing – we never do’ the brochure says) as they were developed here but what’s the story with Avon? I wonder what the new legislation will change in that household-name’s position on testing for the global market?

Companies like Boots, Clarins, Clinique, Revlon, Tresemme and Estee Lauder were being vilified for their use of ingredients that had been recently tested on animals but the new raft of legislation should prevent this. It seems to change every minute and the brands are changing too so I’d just keep your eye on these big companies to make sure they are offering you not just a product never tested in any way on animals, but an ethos where they are against it globally and do not try to benefit from it in any way in other markets…

Incidentally, when checking with some of these companies their official line is they only test ‘when required by law’. This is the law of the country they’re are wishing to sell in. So are they are really saying that they’re not that bothered and only comply in the UK because we force them to? But as an American pharmaceutical product retailer I know said, rather candidly, ‘in actual, factual truth many people aren’t that bothered about animal testing especially if it’s a choice between their skin or an animals.’ ‘After all’, she continued, ‘many pharmaceuticals and chemicals used by everyone in everyday life are tested, by law, on animals…’


Check out sites like this for information:

Remember though that legislation has literally just changed a couple of months ago so these companies may well be falling in line with that as we speak (benefit of the doubt)…it’s the global market that we are then turning our concerns towards.

Or, if you want to be absolutely sure, you’ll need to just go with the small UK brands that are still privately owned and operated (like Green People of whom there shall be much more in the next post).

Right that’s it for now! I shall add and subtract as and when things are brought to my attention and shall let you all know, of course!

Stay safe.


A couple of interesting reads:

in particular:
Groups like PETA are always happy to guide you in your quest to be animal cruelty free:
Article discussing the bigger picture and a few counter arguments from those who are against the ban:

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