Nano vs Non-nano particles in natural zinc-based sunscreen - what's the difference?

Zinc is an ingredient in the majority of natural sunblocks because it provides sun-blocking action by absorbing or reflecting harmful UV rays away from your skin. This is how mineral sunblocks work - by creating a physical layer of particles on your skin that refract the sunlight, protecting you from damage.

In contrast, generic sunscreens use a chemical reaction to dissipate the sun's rays away from your skin. This is why mineral sunblocks are instantly effective, and generic sunscreens take up to half an hour to work. More importantly, it is known that many of the chemicals and fillers used in generic sunblocks are potentially harmful, including skin irritants, hormone disruptors, allergens and even some which can cause skin cancer

So, natural sunblock is good, and natural sunscreens generally contain zinc.

Is zinc safe to put on our skin? 

Yes, zinc is a natural, safe sun barrier suitable even for young children's skin.

Why do Frankie Apothecary use both nano and non-nano zinc?

The benefit of nano-zinc is that the particles absorb UV light and scatter visible light, which makes them appear transparent - this means the sunscreen is a lot easier to rub in, and doesn't leave that trademark white zinc layer on your skin.

Small particles provide greater SPF and slightly larger particles offer greater UVA protection - so it is the combination that delivers our fabulous SPF rating along with UVA protection.

The nano particles clump together in the sunscreen but retain their transparent properties when applied to the skin. And compared to other UV filters, they are more stable and last longer on the skin; and are low irritant and low allergen.

Many natural sunscreen brands that don't want to use chemical reactions to create sun protection, but do want a sunblock that rubs in easily, are switching to using a blend of nano and non-nano zinc.

How is a zinc nano-particle different from non-nano zinc?

Nano and Non-Nano refer to the size of the zinc oxide particles used in a sunblock. A Nano-particle measures between one and 100-billionths of a meter... that means you can fit thousands of them across a human hair. Non-nano means the particles are bigger than 100-billionth of a meter.

Recently manufacturers began to be able to provide both nano and non-nano zinc. However, the EU and Australia define a product as being 'nano' in different ways; there is no governing body able to certify a product as non-nano; and even if you aim to have a non-nano product it is to all intents and purposes impossible to exclude particles this small - or prove that you have done so.

Are nano-particles of zinc safe?

The use of nano-particles of zinc oxide in sunscreens is fairly new, but preliminary research by very reputable organisations around the world is unanimous in showing no penetration of the skin by nano-particles of zinc oxide.

The EU's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded:

...the nanoparticles of zinc oxide do not get into the body through the skin. ... no health impact of the ‘nano’ nature of zinc oxide is expected.

Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung, concludes: 

...the behaviour of nanoparticles made of zinc oxide on the skin has been well examined. It was confirmed in several experiments that these nanoparticles cannot penetrate healthy human skin cells and remain on the skin surface.

Likewise the Australian Government's Department of Health concluded that:

Zinc Oxide nano-particles are not likely to cause harm when used as ingredients in sunscreens and when sunscreens are used as directed.

They continued to say that because the minerals will aggregate or cluster into bigger lumps on the skin that penetration is even more unlikely.

The verdict is that zinc oxide nano-particles will not - cannot - penetrate our skin to get into our bloodstream.

We are all about gentle, natural skin care and protection

Knowing what goes on our skin is super-important to us - as you can probably guess by our range of all natural skin care and ezcema care products. Frankie began from a mother's drive to find skin-soothing natural options for a little girl with heartbreaking eczema. Frankie Apothecary's all natural sunscreen was the second product developed (after our gorgeous eczema-soothing Kawakawa Balm!) as sunblocks often irritate sensitive skin.

You can shop Frankie Apothecary all natural sunblock online now.


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