Frequently asked questions (FAQs) on sunscreens

Are sunscreens that contain nanoparticles safe to use?

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The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which is responsible for regulating sunscreens in Australia, reviewed the scientific literature in 2006 and concluded that:

  • 'There is evidence from isolated cell experiments that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can induce free radical formation in the presence of light and that this may damage these cells (photo-mutagenicity with zinc oxide).'
  • 'However, this would only be of concern in people using sunscreens if the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide penetrated into viable skin cells.'
  • 'The weight of current evidence is that they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer (stratum corneum) of the skin.'

The TGA updated its review in 2009, and again in 2013. The 2013 review concluded that ‘on current evidence, neither TiO2 nor ZnO NPs are likely to cause harm when used as ingredients in sunscreens’.

The Cancer Council Australia maintains that: ‘all sunscreens in Australia are tightly regulated through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) who conclude that there is no evidence that sunscreens pose any risks to users.’ As sunscreens are so important to the lifestyle of Australians, CSIRO's nanosafety research aims to provide scientific data on sunscreens, in conjunction with other studies.