Nanotechnologies and Cosmetics
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Materials at the nanoscale can offer enhanced properties. Cosmetics manufacturers have been trying to harness these properties to develop new and improved products for a number of years. They have made significant investments in nanotechnologies and we are sure to see many more nano-cosmetics products over the next five years.
For example, silver is an antibacterial agent, which has been shown to be effective against more than 650 different types of disease-causing organisms. Cosmetic manufacturers are harnessing these enhanced antibacterial properties of nanosilver as a weapon against smelly feet and underarms. Many nanomaterial enhanced properties come from the increase surface area e.g. 1 cm cube of nanosilver has the equivalent surface area of two football field.
Functional and Anti-aging nano-Cosmetics
Smaller particle sizes improve the delivery of the product. For example the smaller the particle size used in face powders the smoother the final look of the product on the skin. In sunscreens smaller particle size means that the product is easier to apply, coats more effectively and is less visible on the skin. More importantly, using nanoparticles can mean that the product is more effective at absorbing UV radiation and offers enhanced skin protection from sun damage e.g. titanium-dioxide and zinc-oxides creams. The worldwide market for nano-titanium dioxide is estimated at many hundreds of tonnes per year.
The types of products which currently use nanomaterials include UV protection products, anti-ageing products, nail treatments and facial moisturisers. Nanoparticles can be used in product formulation as a carrier for active ingredients and products are said to provide the skin with active substances in a highly targeted way offering intensified anti-ageing properties. Fullerenes and nanospheres, nanosomes and nanoparticles are the most widely used types of nanomaterial.
Deodorants using nanomaterials
Some manufacturers are already producing under-arm deodorants with claims that the silver ions in the product will provide up to 24 hour anti-bacterial protection. There are, however, concerns that nanosilver could pass through the skin barrier resulting in unwanted side effects, but there is currently no evidence of this.
Managing risks and uncertainties
Many studies have been carried out into the safety of nanoparticulate titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and these have concluded that they do not penetrate skin. A recent EU funded project, Nanoderm, has just confirmed this conclusion
Under the existing Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) all cosmetic products must undergo a safety assessment indicating that they are safe for consumer use, before they are placed on the market. The safety assessment makes no specific reference to nanomaterials, although it is understood that where they are present, for a correct safety assessment to be made, the specifics of the nano form of the material must be considered.
Under the new Cosmetics Regulation, which is under discussion in Europe, cosmetic products which contain nanomaterials will be required to be notified to the European Commission prior to being placed on the market. The notification would require details of the nanomaterial it contains including its size, physical and chemical properties, an estimate of the quantity to be placed on the market per year, the toxicological profile of the nanomaterial and reasonably foreseeable exposure conditions etc.
The Commission will then make a judgement about the suitability of the product to be placed on the market or refer it to the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) for further evaluation.
The EU is in the process of issuing new regulations to govern the manufacture of cosmetic products containing nanomaterials. Nanotechnologies already have a significant impact on the cosmetic sector with many products now being sold worldwide. Although there is no evidence identifying nano-cosmetics as a risk to environmental, health and safety, some NGOs have raised concerns. To allay these concerns it has been suggested that cosmetic manufacturers should provide full evidence on the safety of their products. In addition it has been suggested further research is required to characterise nanomaterials and build evidence.
The UK cosmetics industry is already using nanomaterials in cosmetic products and in researching future uses; examples include sunscreens, anti-ageing product and deodorants.
There is at present insufficient knowledge regarding dermal absorption and uptake via inhalation of some nanomaterials used in cosmetics. Further research may be necessary to quantify an EHS risk associated with the use of these products.
Nanotechnologies offer enhanced cosmetic properties that can lead to better products. Use of nanomaterials can mean that products are easier to apply and have increased function and efficacy.
To maintain and improve consumer confidence in the use of nanomaterials in cosmetic products, the Commission must administer the new requirements in the Cosmetics Regulation in an effective and transparent way.
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