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By: Steve Herman
Posted: August 3, 2010, from the August 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Nano TiO2 and ZnO are permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and, remarkably, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) agrees with the FDA’s assesement,2 in part because of nano materials performance compared to alternatives and findings that the physical blocks of the nano materials measurably improved protection. EWG also studied the literature and found no evidence that nano sunblock particles could penetrate the skin. It was clear to EWG that any form of sunscreen was improved measurably by these materials.

Improving Delivery

Nanoemulsions are used to enhance the delivery of actives and have even been claimed to have antimicrobial properties.3 However, unlike the alternative (microemulsions), nanoemulsions do not form spontaneously and are not as thermodynamically stable.

In non-technical terms, a properly formulated microemulsion is easy to make and is extremely stable, while a nanoemulsion needs a lot of energetic mixing and is comparatively less stable. There is a scattering of research that may extend the properties and manufacturing procedures for nanoemulsions, such as the use of solvents that evaporate from the base during production.

In the beauty industry, P&G, L’Oréal and Henkel lead the pack in nano-related patents. Products are on the market from every major brand owner, most often to aid in the delivery of actives, but while the majors seem relatively subdued in publicizing the nano aspects of their products, some smaller players—such as Nano Derm (China) and Derma Nano (Singapore)—put the technology front and center.

In either case and strategic decision, the reason for nano delivery is clear—it can carry actives into the skin for increased efficacy. The Perricone brand, as a specific example, has created products with fullerene, a nano material, as a carrier for the brand’s actives. Fullerene, also used in Dr. Brandt Skincare’s Lineless Cream, is a molecule composed entirely of carbon, and can be in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid or tube. Spherical fullerenes are commonly known as buckyballs, and cylindrical ones are known as carbon nanotubes.