Since zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles are used as UV protection in suncreams and cosmetics, it is very important to know whether they can be taken up via the skin.


The size of the ZnO particles used in suncreams is in the range of 20 to 60 nm. Before being added, these very small nanoparticles are coated with silicon or aluminum oxide to clog up to form aggregates sized 200 to 500 nm.

Studies from industry and independent studies carried out within the EU project NanoDerm have shown that such particles do not get into the body through the healthy skin. Hence, the users of such sun protection products do not incur health risks [1, 2].

Most of the studies carried out so far, however, were based on cell cultures or animal models. Some recent tests of ZnO-containing suncreams on humans under realistic conditions, indeed, revealed small quantities of marked zinc in the blood and urine [3]. The quantities detected only amounted to 1/1000 of the zinc concentration naturally occurring in the blood. It remains to be found out whether zinc was taken up via the skin as ZnO particles or dissolved zinc ions.


Literature arrow down

  1. EU Project NanoDerm (last access date: Jan 2011).
  2. BfR Opinion No. 037/2010 (18.06.2010). Sunscreen: According to the current stat e of knowledge zinc oxide as UV filter is safe .
  3. Gulson, B et al. (2010), Toxicol Sci, 118(1): 140-149.


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