Don’t get burnt by sun care regulations on TiO2

July 2017

As consumers sort out the different environmental factors that claim to have a devastating impact on skin health, UV protection still remains the number one focus for many. As our understanding of how detrimental sun exposure can be to our skin grows, so does the interest for efficient, safe and reliable sun protection formulations. The sun care market is set to grow 10.2% CAGR through 2020, to reach $11.1 Bn. A key inorganic sun filter in many sun care applications, titanium dioxide was recently under the spotlight of European regulators. It is considered the ingredient of choice in terms of safety for formulations intended for babies and sensitive skin, as organic sun filters are being questioned for their potential toxicity and endocrine disruption. Mintel data show that over the past four years, while the overall increase of new product launches of sun care products increased by 31%, the number of sun care products containing TiO2 increased by 42%, showing an increasing preference for this sun filter for skin care with SPF protection.

New sun care product launches worldwide

Selecting the right titanium dioxide

TiO2 allows for broad UV absorption and its main drawback – its whitening power – can be attenuated by decreasing the particle size. This is what makes nano fine TiO2 very appealing for formulators who want to improve consumer expterience. However, as particles get smaller, the photocatalytic activity of certain types of TiO2 increases, which can cause a risk of premature skin damage, which triggered the new scrutiny of the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS).

As a matter of fact, all TiO2 molecules are not alike: the crystals exist under two distinct crystalline forms: anatase and rutile. And this little difference matters a lot: the anatase form of TiO2 has much higher photocatalytic activity than the rutile form. And this is exaggerated for nano-sized TiO2, potentially leading to a harmful effect on the skin. Enter the rutile TiO2, which demonstrates much less photocatalytic activity and is thus much safer for sun care applications.

Deciphering regulations

This data drove the decision of the European Commission, starting August 2016, to only allow rutile TiO2 for sun protection when using nano-sized particles. The regulation also comes with strict criteria for purity and physical specifications. Additionally, only a limited number of surface treatments have been proven safe and approved by the European Commission or have been reviewed as “safe” by the SCCS commission.

While Europe has a very clear definition for what it considers nano (the Cosmetic Regulation-1223/2009/EC qualifies it as an insoluble and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nm -), in other parts of the world, regulations have been looser due to the lack of strict regulatory statuses for nano ingredients. In the USA, the FDA hasn’t defined what it considers a nano sun filter. The closest initative came from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who published its draft “Concept Paper for Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program under The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)” which contains a draft framework for the EPA’s voluntary reporting program for nano-risk management. Health Canada has a definition for nano material, but no specific sun care regulations associated with this definition.

Solutions for easy sun care formulation

But as consumers grow worrisome of organic filters and favor mineral based ingredients, there is a call to make sure that manufacturers use the safest TiO2 grades. Sensient Cosmetic Technologies continues to increase its offering of globally compliant TiO2 for sun care applications, based on its high-performance UVR TiO2 and UVR TiO2 AS. This ultra fine TiO2 and its surface treatments were developed to comply with the most stringent global regulations and provide extremely low whitening in formulation while bringing very high SPF protection and complete consumer safety. This filter is also available pre-dispersed in the Covascreen dispersions to improve the protection efficacy of the particle and facilitate their incorporation in your formulations. Contact our experts now to make sure your sun care formulations are meeting today’s consumer needs.