One tiny European issue- nano or not.

Europe we have a problem, you see you know that new law that your Europollies passed about compulsory labelling of nanoparticles that comes into effect pretty much NOW?  Well, that law is lacking in practical detail and when I say lacking what I mean is the measurement tools that one needs to use to work out if a particle is nano or not are very hard to come by – totally impractical – exist only in crusty old research institutions – under lock and rusty key. Oh and even if you do have a suitable measuring device little are many different ways in which to use it resulting in many different results.  What is nano one way is massive another. Hmmmm.

And this is a problem because the confusion filters down from ingredient manufacturer to ingredient distributor and on to ingredient user/ formulator. That’s me, right there, the last stop on the R&D food chain and the hand that reaches out of the lab and touches the brand owner.  It is us who get asked ‘does my product contain nanoparticles?’ and it is us who have to make sense of the technical info and relay it to an over-enthusiastic marketing team who feint at the slightest whiff of controversy before spending every last inch of energy trying to think up ways of making whatever ‘problem’ exists go away.

Clear as mud.

And that marketing issue leads to this which is why I’m worried.

My dear Europeland, you really really don’t like it when brands market themselves using ‘free from’ claims but then you go and play right into their hands  by calling out nano particles on the ingredients label.  Now I know that just adding the word ‘nano’ after an ingredient shouldn’t spell doom […]

Say balls to high end skin care.

This week I have mostly been reading about fullerenes – a newish cosmetic active that is causing a bit of controversy, that is if you read the Sydney Morning Herald  so I guess you may want to find out what all of the fuss is about?  Well, it’s all about balls……. 

But first a few factoids! 

A fullerene is an allotrope of carbon and an allotrope is the name for the shape that is formed when lots of one element join together. Carbon forms a few allotropes including the sparkly diamond, the boring old graphite  sheets and the rather splendid fullerene which is like a microscopic hollow  football. 

As the word ‘fullerene’ refers to a whole ‘family’ of chemicals we need to get a bit more information in order to work out how good these things are for cosmetics.  In the article mentioned by the Herald the fullerene was a C60 arrangement made by a company called Vitamin C60 in Japan – hooray! 

Finally although these balls look quite big in reality they are teeny tiny and fall under the ‘nanoparticle’ definition – nanoparticle just means they are very small particles so don’t go pinning any false hopes or fears just yet! 

OK, so now we can investigate what these things may do. 

The C60 fullerene produced by Vitamin C60 has been produced and refined specifically for cosmetic use and has been found to act as a super powerful free-radical sponge.  It does this by breaking some of its double bonds and extending an arm (and electron) to any random radicals (excited particles) that they find speeding around our skin cells and according to research it is brilliant at it!  Mopping up free-radicals is a great anti-ageing strategy as it is these that damage cells like little toxic time bombs. In addition to […]

Zinc Hunting – The Nano Sunscreen Diaries

Last year I was one of the guinea pigs in a study looking at Nano zinc in sunscreens and skin penetration (you can read more about that here).   After the preliminary results were presented at a nanotechnology conference in Sydney earlier this year showing that small amounts of zinc had penetrated the skin interest in this area has been growing.  Government bodies, regulators, product developers and the public  want to know if the use of nanoparticulate zinc in sunscreens is safe – after all, the guys in Europe recently ruled that nanoparticles should be declared on labels as part of a ‘precautionary principal’ approach.  This labelling is not a requirement in Australia currently.

Anyway, in light of the growing interest in this are the Macquarie University published a statement recently aimed at re-iterating the findings and drawing a line under what we currently know and don’t know. 

Here is the unchanged statement (or read it on their website here):
A technique developed by Macquarie University has proven for the first time that a tiny amount of zinc from sunscreens is absorbed through the skin into the human body, but is not yet able to discern whether the zinc is in nanoparticle form.

Professor Brian Gulson of Macquarie University conducted the research – published online in the current edition of the journal Toxicological Sciences – with collaborators in CSIRO and the Australian National University and the Australian Photobiology Testing Facility. The research was widely reported on in February 2010 following a presentation by Gulson at a scientific conference.

The team traced the skin absorption of a highly purified and stable isotope which allowed them to distinguish the zinc from the sunscreen from that which is naturally present in the body or environment. Zinc is absolutely […]

The Friends of the Earth Nano Lobby

It is not surprising that people don’t like the idea of nano particles after all we can’t see them without a microscope and they sound awfully man-made and ‘chemical’. Thank goodness for people like the Friends of the Earth helping save us from ourselves!

Now as I am sure you realize the Friends of the Earth nano lobby is not a really small group that you need a powerful microscope to see, it is a group of people ‘outing’  consumer brands who use nano particles without telling us.  This jolly bit of activism is all aimed at getting the government to regulate safety testing on nano materials which will be great as I am sure that you will all agree that our politicians are far more trustworthy than our sunscreen and anti-ageing manufacturers.

If all of this sounds a bit terse or worse still, completely tongue-in-cheek then you would be 1/2 right.  Let’s have a think about this:

My supportive half says that freedom of information is good, we should all be aware of what goes into the products that we buy and the ethics and safety testing protocol employed by the companies making them. Further we should be able to relax in the knowledge that we don’t have to have  a chemistry or environmental science degree to work out what’s what  – the risk assessment should be done for us to a great extent.

Standing back and looking at that perfectly reasonable ‘want’ I can tell you that at the top-level our government is involved in a global program to assess the safety of nanoparticles both from a health and environmental perspective.  Health wise little evidence  has emerged to suggest that nano zinc or titanium found in sunscreens poses any real health […]

Sunscreen Technology – Nanoparticles on Trial

It was nearly one year ago since I took on the guise of my alter-ego  ‘lab rat’ to participate in a human study on the potential of the zinc oxide found in sunscreens to penetrate the skin.  The trial interested me on a number of levels. I have heard many a scary story about our skin and chemicals including those from camp 70% absorption to camp ‘only 10% get’s through if you REALLY try’.  I must admit that logic would lead me to the conclusion that our largest organ who’s main job is to keep what’s out out and what’s in in ‘could do better’ if it does indeed let 70% of stuff through (maybe we should just rub chocolate on our arms and give our mouths a break) but being a cosmetic chemist it seems too much of a ‘convenient truth’ to just blindly sit myself in the 10% camp. 

In addition to the skin penetration stuff I was also interested in the neat method that was proposed to track zinc through REAL people in REAL life situations using a stable isotope. That’s genius. Oh, and  last of all I just had to learn more about these nanoparticles.

So what does one do in such a situation? Well one finds some smart scientists with a laboratory,  a solar measuring machine and some rather sensible ideas and then follow them around, asking to be experimented on. That is what I did!

And now the preliminary results are published :  ICONN2010 Abstract Gulson[1].

The trial looked at two sunscreen formulations which were identical except one that formulation contained nanoparticles of zinc oxide and the other contained the good old fashioned white stuff – big and chunky (sunscreen grade) zinc oxide.   […]

Sustainability and the Cosmetics Industry.

Is our love affair with cosmetics sustainable? Is there more to sustainability than an organic’s sticker and biodegradable packaging? and What on earth is a “Fit Product”. Listen to the podcast above for some Realize Beauty sustainability musings.
Amanda is a cosmetic chemist and consults to the industry through the Institute of Personal Care Science. She also facilitates a sustainability workshop “Natural Personal Care” for the Watershed in Newtown, Sydney.

We would love to hear your views on the sustainability of the cosmetics industry. Let’s talk!

UPDATE: 14th December 2009.

Sustainability was the theme of a recent conference in Sweden (SCANCOS Malmo, 5-6th November) so I thought that I would share with you their findings.

Sweden and its neighbours use the Nordic Swan label as its label of choice for sustainable and green consumer products and many cosmetic brands have adopted this.  Up for debate was the place of Nanotechnology under the certification – a tricky one as this science has only recently taken off in the cosmetic arena meaning that environmental impact data is few and far between. So far it looks like Nordic Swan will allow nanoparticle UV filters (and they favour Titanium Dioxide over Zinc due to environmental impact) but only for sunscreen use. 

Parabens were also tabled by SCANCOS and a new report on the toxicity of Methyl Paraben was discussed. As usual, parabens were found to be perfectly safe due to them being rapidly metabolised by the body should they manage to enter it. However, SCANCOS like the rest of the world has given up trying to talk sense to the media, NGO’s and eco labelling people who are hell bent on removing Parabens from the cosmetic toolbox.

The full report from SCANCOS is available here […]

Zinc and the Nano Sunscreen Revolution

Between 12th and 16th March 2009 I took part in a trial to investigate the fate of nanoparticles on the skin. Nano particles are the ingredients that have helped to make sunscreens containing Zinc and Titanium “invisible”.

Siloxanes in the news – Are they bad for you?

Toronto News ran an article on Wednesday warning consumers about the potential risks that siloxanes pose to both the consumer and the environment. The report links these chemicals to a range of health problems such as cancer, allergies and more. So, what are these chemicals, where are they and what truth is there in this story?

Lab Rat Training Camp for Nanotechnology Project

Life as a lab rat part 1. Getting set for the trial to find out what happens to nano-sized Zinc Oxide in a sunscreen when it is applied to your skin.

Lab Rat Work Starts Tonight – Video Diary Coming Very Soon.

What to know what a real life lab rat looks like? See Amanda from Realize Beauty put through her paces in the video diary.