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Crit Rev Toxicol. 2007 Mar;37(3):251-77.

Grey goo on the skin? Nanotechnology, cosmetic and sunscreen safety.

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L'Oréal Research and Development, Worldwide Safety Department, Asnières, France.


Many modern cosmetic or sunscreen products contain nano-sized components. Nanoemulsions are transparent and have unique tactile and texture properties; nanocapsule, nanosome, noisome, or liposome formulations contain small vesicles (range: 50 to 5000 nm) consisting of traditional cosmetic materials that protect light-or oxygen-sensitive cosmetic ingredients. Transdermal delivery and cosmetic research suggests that vesicle materials may penetrate the stratum corneum (SC) of the human skin, but not into living skin. Depending on the physical/chemical properties of the ingredient and the formulation, nano-sized formulations may enhance or reduce skin penetration, albeit at a limited rate. Modern sunscreens contain insoluble titanium dioxide (TiO(2)) or zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles (NP), which are colorless and reflect/scatter ultraviolet (UV) more efficiently than larger particles. Most available theoretical and experimental evidence suggests that insoluble NP do not penetrate into or through normal as well as compromised human skin. Oral and topical toxicity data suggest that TiO(2) and ZnO NP have low systemic toxicity and are well tolerated on the skin. In vitro cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, and photogenotoxicity studies on TiO(2) or other insoluble NP reporting uptake by cells, oxidative cell damage, or genotoxicity should be interpreted with caution, since such toxicities may be secondary to phagocytosis of mammalian cells exposed to high concentrations of insoluble particles. Caution needs to be exercised concerning topical exposure to other NP that either have characteristics enabling some skin penetration and/or have inherently toxic constituents. Studies on wear debris particles from surgical implants and other toxicity studies on insoluble particles support the traditional toxicology view that the hazard of small particles is mainly defined by the intrinsic toxicity of particles, as distinct from their particle size. There is little evidence supporting the principle that smaller particles have greater effects on the skin or other tissues or produce novel toxicities relative to micro-sized materials. Overall, the current weight of evidence suggests that nano-materials such as nano-sized vesicles or TiO(2) and ZnO nanoparticles currently used in cosmetic preparations or sunscreens pose no risk to human skin or human health, although other NP may have properties that warrant safety evaluation on a case-by-case basis before human use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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