Nano & Cosmetics
Nanomaterials are now finding their way into everyday cosmetic products. Many sunscreens, for example, have active ultra violet (UV) filters which utilise insoluble nanoparticles of titanium dioxide. When used at the nanoscale level, this mineral can change its properties and become invisible but still effectively absorb UV radiation.
Given the wide range of products now benefiting from the use of nanomaterials, it is important to have suitable methods available for detecting and quantifying nanoparticles, especially in relation to their concentration and their type.
This is one of the activities of the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) which is in the process of developing methods to determine the chemical composition, morphology, particle size and concentration of nanomaterials used in such products. It also provides commercially relevant, selected test nanomaterials for study by third parties in Europe and worldwide. The overriding aim is to develop standardised and internationally accepted analytical protocols.
Safety of insoluble nanoparticles
Under the EU’s Cosmetics Directive, the manufacturer or importer of a cosmetic product has to assess the safety of the product prior to placing it on the market and document this. In view of the safety implications of insoluble nanoparticles as cosmetic ingredients, the Commission has mandated its independent risk-assessment bodies to assess whether and how existing methodologies are suitable.
Certain groups of substances, including UV-filters, have to be approved by the European Commission prior to their use in cosmetic products placed on the EU-market.
Up until now, the Commission has permitted one mineral UV-filter which is usually used in its nanoscale form in sunscreen products (titanium dioxide). Another mineral in its nanoscale form has not been permitted. While zinc oxide in its standard form may be safe to use as a UV filter, the EU’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, takes the view that the safety of zinc oxide in its nanoparticle form cannot be demonstrated.
The European Commission sees in particular a need to better understand whether and how insoluble nanoparticles are used in applications other than UV-filters. To this end, the Commission, together with the regulatory authorities from the U.S., Canada and Japan, agreed with the respective industry associations to set up an inventory of current applications of nanotechnology in cosmetic products. Results of this work will be assessed by the four authorities.