Sun Care | Ingredients

How Safe is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide

Lately, the FDA is changing the way consumers think about their ingredients in sunscreen.

They believe that mineral sunscreens are safe, but products that use chemicals need more research.

Mineral sunscreen ingredients, specifically Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, are considered safe.

We often find the differences in sunscreen throw many of our clients.

Yet besides their rather complex sounding names, the way it protects your skin from UV light is actually quite simple.

Here’s what you need to know about Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, aka mineral sunscreen and how they differ from their chemical cousins.

Difference between physical and chemical sunscreen

There are actually two different kinds of sun lotion: physical and chemical.

Both classes have been shown to reduce skin damage, reduce the risk of sunburn, and skin cancer, the only real difference, is how they do that?

Chemical sunscreens act almost like a sponge, absorbing UV light, while physical sunscreens act more like a shield, deflecting the sun’s rays.

Chemical sunscreens

These are made of synthetic ingredients like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate; they act almost like a sponge absorbing harmful UVA and UVB rays, and converting them into heat.

Because of their makeup, chemical sunscreens tend to be more elegant in terms of ease of application and don’t part a white residue.

Chemical sunscreen ingredients are behind the controversial FDA study carried out in 2019, which found they easily get absorbed into the bloodstream. Physical sunscreens have become so mainstream of late that people are worried about their body absorbing the ingredients found in chemical suntan lotion.

Physical sunscreen

This is often referred to as mineral sunscreen. It uses either Zinc or Titanium.

They act more like a shield physically blocking the sun’s radiation by forming a barrier that sits on top of the skin; this makes the UV rays bounce off the barrier, so they can’t penetrate the skin, which can cause cancer.

While it is possible that you could absorb a small amount of mineral sunscreen, it’s unlikely based on the way they work on the skin: They literally sit on top and deflect the sun’s UV rays.

Physical sunscreens are very gentle on the skin and are recommended by both the FDA as safe to use and the national eczema association.

What to look for in a physical sunscreen

Sunscreens should be “broad-spectrum,” which means they should have UVA and UVB protection and be water-resistant.

SPF refers to how well the product reduces UVB light penetration, which causes sunburn and certain skin cancers.

UVA light referred to as the ageing ray is more difficult to block, which has also contributed to certain melanomas.  The ‘broad-spectrum’ formula, is a product that mitigates both UVA and UVB rays.


So how do you use physical sunscreens?

Because these physical sunscreens use both Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide – two white minerals that can leave behind a chalky white finish, it can be an issue for some. So look for sunscreens that say “clear” or “tinted” on the label.

Any sunscreen should be applied 15 to 20 minutes before heading out. It takes time for the ingredients to be absorbed, so your skin is essentially unprotected until then.


3 replies on “How Safe is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide”

I went on their website and the do not use micro or nano titanium dioxide and zinc oxide is not a main ingredient. Phew! I feel better!

Wow scary! I am new to your blog and still looking around. I recently switched to a natural mineral makeup (Monave). I am pretty sure both Titanium Dioxide and zinc oxide are main ingredients. Should I be alarmed about makeup as well or is this mainly regarding sunscreen? I do wear it during the day

Hi there thanks for getting in touch. I am familiar with monave and really like them for their integrity, interestingly they have the same philosophy in terms of transparency around ingredients. When it comes to cosmetics there are concerns over how easily absorbed and how toxic the tiny sizes of bismuth nano particles are.
The NanoScience Technology Center warns; Bismuth nanoparticles are more toxic than other bismuth compounds.

So it is important to make sure their cosmetics don’t contain these ingredientsx

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