The (very) small print. Understanding nano technology in cosmetics
Nano nano – what’s that about?
We’re frequently asked about the term “nano” which is often bandied about by brands and consumers alike, with both negative and positive associations.
Ask most people and apart from the general concept of ‘nano’ meaning something that’s really, really small, the actual science behind the word, in the context of cosmetic products, is not widely understood.
Nano is a term from Greek that roughly translates as ‘dwarf’. But in modern science, it’s a prefix (nm) used to represent a billionth of a meter. In terms you might be able to better understand, a nanometer is roughly the amount a fingernail grows by each second.
Now back to our world…
In cosmetics, nano is an increasingly utilised ingredient technology. It allows formulation chemists to develop innovative products using ingredients that contain nano particles (between 1 to 100 nm in size). These can improve the physical and biological performance of consumer products.
So how can these minuscule particles improve cosmetic products?’
Well, there’s three main ways.
Firstly, nanoparticles can enhance how efficiently ingredients penetrate the skin given their size.
They can also also improve how efficiently active ingredients in a formulation are delivered. This basically means that the actives can pack a bigger punch when in nano form. Active ingredients are the ingredients within skincare products that actually work to address the skin concern the product is meant to target. So they’re pretty important.
Finally, nanoparticles can significantly improve products that protect us from the harmful impacts of ultraviolet (UV) rays because they spread well, covering the skin more evenly. This allows for far higher protective performance.
Nanoparticles are all around us
It’s worth pointing out at this stage that nanoparticles are all around us but they’re a more recent topic of conversation (and science) because it’s only since the advent of the electron microscope that we’ve been able to actually see them.
Some nanoparticles are derived from synthetic human processes like metal or paint production, and some from natural occurrences like fire, ocean spray, fine sand or dust, and even biological matter.
The earliest synthetic nanoparticles have been attributed to the ancient Egyptians who, without knowing it, of course, used metallic extractions like gold and silver in hair dye preparations.
So why do I hear some negative stuff about nano?
Of course this is all fascinating but beyond the exciting and beneficial applications that nanotechnology allows for, some researchers and consumers have highlighted concerns about the potential health impact of nanoparticles in skincare and cosmetics.
In that respect, the question is not so much whether nanoparticles penetrate the skin – they do – but what risks might exist when these nanoparticles get beneath the skin.
This is the subject of continued and extensive research but in the specific field of cosmetics that are sold within the EU, nano materials have an entire “article” of the Cosmetic Regulations all to themselves (Article 16). Article 16 states as a principal objective that “for every cosmetic product that contains nano materials, a high level of protection of human health shall be ensured.”
In order to achieve this “high level of protection of human health” when it comes to sun protective ingredients, all nano materials used as UV filters must be explicitly approved by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) after careful consideration of (1) their physical and chemical properties and (2) their toxicological profile. Only after the SCCS is satisfied that the nano material does not pose a risk to health is it given an entry into Annex VI of the Regulations (the legally permitted UV filters) with any additional restrictions thought necessary to protect the consumer.
LifeJacket and nanotechnology
At LifeJacket, we’re 100% focused on ensuring that all of our products offer the highest performance possible.
We use nanotechnology in all of our skin protection products because we believe in the technology.
These ingredients help us achieve our ambition of delivering high performance formulations that men are more (rather than less) inclined to use.
Most importantly and for your reassurance, we utilise in-depth technical and scientific expertise. All of our decisions are founded on fact and science. The nano ingredients we use have been approved at a European level. In addition, you can be reassured that all of our products are toxicologically and dermatologically tested, so you know your skin is in safe hands.