Many mineral makeup companies have picked a side when it comes to their reasons for using these two types of processed minerals. Is there a right or wrong decision? Is one necessarily worse over the other? I have found this to be a debatable issue and to some degree can fall into an alarmist category with inconclusive results based on human usage.
I found most of my research within the Journal of Nanobiotechnology which is supported by NANOSAFE, a project funded by the European Community, to assist me with my own decision to not use Micronized Minerals in my mineral makeup line by fully understanding and comprehending cause and effect when using this technology. Some of that research is summarized here, and had over 116 article contributors within the medical and science community, to the journal. Also be aware that most of the testing was done on employees in manufacturing facilities with high chronic exposure to various different particulates, such as silica, polystyrene, polymers, latex and titanium dioxide and the health effects of cellular uptake of nano-particles have not yet been studied in depth. Furthermore the use of nano-particles in pharmaceutical treatment is a welcome technology and is needed for deliberately crossing the blood brain barrier in the course of certain medical treatments.
Benefits Of Nano-Sciences
Nano-sciences are growing globally and we will see a vast growth in consumerism with these products relying on nanotechnology. We currently see nano-materials used in pharmaceutical delivery systems, toothpaste, sunscreens and even in food products. While these nano sized particles are publicized heavily as to their potential benefits there are also opponents to the other side of this argument. This issue will continue to be debated until such time as researchers of nanotechnology and its’ opponents can have conclusive evidence to support one side or the other. Penetration can occur through lungs, intestines and skin. I am only going to address lung and skin since I am not in the food or pharmaceutical industry.
Understanding The Relevance In Terms Of Risk
Human skin acts as a barrier to protect us from harmful particles found naturally in our air, yet the lungs are more easily infiltrated and are likely to be the first point of entry for these tiny particles. Without getting too technical here, I will try to make it simple.
The lungs consist of two main parts; the bronchi (airways) and the alveoli (air sacs). The bronchi are considered robust and can easily fend off contaminants due to their thicker structure along with cilia (tiny hairs) and a heavy mucous supply to prevent absorption by capturing the particles to keep them from going deep within the lung tissue, reaching the alveolus. The alveoli are much thinner, sit deep within the lungs at the end of each bronchiole tree and can be subjected to environmental damage, such as smoking or working within a factory setting as was the case for many asbestos workers.
The skin is composed of keratinized dead skin cells glued together by lipids making it nearly impossible to be penetrated from an environmental assault. It is shed off and replaced every 2 weeks. Our skin is comprised of the outer layer (Epidermis), mid layer (dermis) and the subcutaneous layer (blood barrier, fatty tissue). The skins’ thickness varies depending on the location on our body. Human skin functions as a strict barrier and no essential elements are taken up through our skin except in the case of radiation from the sun necessary to build up vitamin D within our bodies. This point alone can make you wonder about the proponents to all the highly publicized skin care crèmes hype about altering the aging process that occurs to our skin, or those opponents against certain ingredients found in cosmetics claiming penetration of skin to the blood barrier causing cell structure changes. We can exercise caution yet not allow paranoia to control our thinking.
Dealing With Particle Size
Micronized particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller, can be inhaled within the lungs, sometimes reaching the alveoli placing a burden on the lung tissue, causing inflammation and possibly creating long term effects with chronic exposure. They also are unable to expel the particles unlike the upper bronchi where larger particles would be captured. Within the alveoli, biological absorption is the only way for removal of contaminants, whereas the bronchi which also includes the airway path through nose and mouth stop further particle movement through mucous capture and the cilia, making it impossible for certain particles to get past this first point of contact. Sneezing and coughing would be the end result for expelling from the airways. Nano particles of 1 micron or less are typically deposited in the lower region of the lungs. We are exposed to nano particles within our environment daily yet it doesn’t mean that all particles we breathe will create long term effects such as those found in the form of pollution, dust or soil, or those caused by allergen particles floating in our air every spring.
However, this was the compelling argument for my decision to not use Micronized Minerals in our mineral powders. This can also prove to be a problem for asthmatics or people with allergies, as it did in my case. Micronized Minerals were not part of the equation for my products. I only use Non-Micronized Minerals with a particle size of between 5-8 microns. You still get excellent results in obtaining smooth coverage even with the larger particle size with fewer problems in regards to inhalation, especially with casual consumer use rather than a person involved in manufacturing processes.
Mineral Makeup Benefits
Micronized Minerals are best suited, in my opinion, for moist application where aspiration is unlikely or greatly reduced, as in the case of liquid sunscreens, pressed powders or liquid foundations since we want an excellent form of sun protection, and Titanium and Zinc are known to be the safest source. Non-Micronized Powdered Minerals however are more beneficial in a dry powder form since they create an instant barrier with the best coverage on the skin. Plus dry powders also are better at staying on our skin than liquid sunscreens or foundations, since liquid versions will eventually break down, in some instances quickly, and can also be absorbed into the epidermis. I know sun damage is far worse than arguing over these issues and our skin must be protected against developing skin cancer and though rare, the most deadly form, Melanoma at all costs.
Now in relevance to applying these to our skin: A main component such as TiO2, micronized Titanium Dioxide for example, being used on the skin and its’ ability to penetrate deeply and cross the blood brain barrier are still under investigation and are inconclusive. This ingredient along with micronized Zinc Oxide is primarily used in sunscreens and has been shown to penetrate some of the layers of the epidermis and also into hair follicles yet did not penetrate into the living tissue (dermis) that would cross the blood barrier. However, it is argued that particles as small as 0.25-1 micron were able to pass beyond the epidermis and into the living dermis layer bringing them into contact with the blood barrier. This size particle is used in lotions to avoid the whitening effect you get with sunscreens that use 3 microns or larger. The smaller the particle, the more sheer and natural looking the application will be. This is the other argument for using Non-Micronized Minerals in mineral makeup since women require exceptional coverage which will assist them with obscuring redness and fine lines. You cannot get the same coverage with Micronized Minerals.
Don’t Get Hoodwinked By Alarmists
In conclusion, to date there is still very little factual evidence available about the penetration of these nano-particles into our skin whether harmful or not, despite what alarmist organizations or the cosmetic industry may tell you. Further testing is necessary and required! For one thing, penetration into the skin is dependent on particle size and nano particles are more likely to go deeper within the skin than larger ones. Plus, there was no absolute evidence that particles that had entered into the skin had infiltrated the circulatory system. Also each and every particle found in nature cannot be predictable as to what its’ structure would become within our skin in terms of molecular changes. It is shown in case studies that Titanium and Zinc are stable compounds providing broad spectrum sun protection and that penetration of intact skin is very low to near zero making real world exposure improbable, and in contrast, the sun protection benefits are very high outweighing all risks.
Furthermore, particles within the nano size category clearly can enter the body via our lungs yet risk levels are subjective in relation to exposure such as in manufacturing versus casual use of consumer products and the micron size of the particulates. However, conclusively penetration through the skin is less evident.
So with the information that was available to me, potential lung irritant was more important to me than actual skin issues. Since I have mild asthma, Non-Micronized Minerals were clearly the answer for our formulas and found to be safer for our consumers and our staff who handle our minerals.
My Advice From A Personal Perspective And No Actual Conclusive Evidence
So, my advice is to to compare the risks for better skin health, use a touch of common sense, and do your own investigating with an open mind before drawing to a conclusion or being swayed by the nay-sayers who do so with little or no actual evidence. It also will be relevant to your level of sensitivity to certain minerals. There are customers that can be quite happy with mineral makeup that use Micronized Minerals and only require the sheerest of coverage. And to date, there is no real conclusive studies as touted by groups serving their own agenda, that Titanium Dioxide is unsafe, and whether in micronized or nonmicronized form will cause cancer or DNA changes. And in conclusion, if the larger particle cannot infiltrate the lungs or penetrate the skin then what weight can be given to unsubstantiated alarmist thinking of this maybe being a cancer causing ingredient? This is a big “maybe”! Other research showed this ingredient also being used in foods as a colorant including milk products, so we are ingesting it as well.
It appears the jury is still out on this controversy, but let us not forget that industry standards and safety are presented in the form of MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and are based on handlers of raw ingredients working within an industrial situation. High Levels of exposure! MSDS is an assessment based on hazard and not risk, hence why it must be made available to employees of any facility which manufactures. The consumer by definition is not exposed to a hazard so risk is very low as with many cosmetic ingredients.
This article was written strictly for the purpose of showing both sides. And I suppose the debate will rage on until both sides between researchers and their opponents can show conclusively the actual proof of cause and effect.
For now, I will not live with uneasy thinking, and will use some common sense and know that loose mineral cosmetics are still the safer choice for me and my customers for overall healthier skin and excellent sun protection for the face. And we all can use them with confidence. Without the use of Titanium Dioxide in mineral makeup, you simply cannot achieve the level of coverage one would require when using mineral makeup. Zinc Oxide alone will give some coverage, but it is quite sheer and the brightening and light refracting properties of Titanium Dioxide is only surpassed by diamonds giving great concealing capabilities and excellent sun protection.