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Nanoparticles in cosmetics


Eventually, nanotechnology may help us reverse aging at a cellular level. Until that day comes, we’ll have to be content with the ways that nanotechnology is being used in cosmetics to keep our skin more youthful and provide protection from harmful sunlight. The applications of nanotechnology and nanomaterials can be found in many cosmetic products including moisturizers, hair care products, make up and sunscreen. A report from Observatory Nano (this report looks into some of the nanotechnologies used in the cosmetic industry and provides an overview of activity in this area) describes two main uses for nanotechnology in cosmetics:

Nanoparticles in cosmetics as UV filters

The first of these is the use of nanoparticles as UV filters. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main compounds used in these applications. Organic alternatives to these have also been developed.

Nanoparticles in cosmetics drug delivery agents

The second use is nanotechnology for delivery. Liposomes and niosomes are used in the cosmetic industry as delivery vehicles. Newer structures such as solid lipid nanoparticles and nanostructured lipid carriers have been found to be better performers than liposomes. In particular, nanostructured lipid carriers have been identified as a potential next generation cosmetic delivery agent that can provide enhanced skin hydration, bioavailability, stability of the agent and controlled occlusion. Encapsulation techniques have been proposed for carrying cosmetic actives. Nanocrystals and nanoemulsion are also being investigated for cosmetic applications. Patents have been filed for the application of dendrimers in the cosmetics industry.

The legal requirements for cosmetics manufactured using nanomaterials are the same as those for any other cosmetics. While cosmetics are not subject to premarket approval, companies and individuals who market cosmetics are legally responsible for the safety of their products and they must be properly labeled.

Nanotechnology makes sunscreens without that icky white stuff

Once upon a time, lifeguards and others who spent a lot of time in the sun would slather on a thick coat of white cream containing zinc oxide, which blocks UV rays but doesn’t look that great on your face. Although sunscreens have improved since those days, they can still leave a whitish residue on your skin. Companies use nanoparticles of zinc oxide to make a sunscreen called ZinClear-IM. This sunscreen protects you from the UV without leaving behind a white coating.

Titanium dioxide is another material used in many sunscreens that can also leave a white residue. BASF is producing powders containing titanium dioxide nanoparticles called T-Lite, for use by sunscreen and cosmetics manufacturers. The titanium dioxide nanoparticles provide protection from UV rays without leaving a white residue.

Nanoparticles in cosmetics


Nanotechnology applications in cosmetics and skin care include:

  • Sunscreen that uses zinc oxide nanoparticles to block ultraviolet rays while minimizing the white coating on the skin
  • Sunscreen that uses nanoparticles generated by ivy plants. Research has shown that these ivy nanoparticles are more effective than oxide nanoparticles in blocking ultraviolet rays.
  • Skin creams that use proteins derived from stem cells to prevent aging of the skin. These proteins are encapsulated in liposome nanoparticles which merge with the membranes of skin cells to allow delivery of the proteins.
  • Skin care lotions in which nutrients are encapsulated in nanoparticles suspended in a liquid, making up a nanoemulsion. The small size of the nanoparticles, compared to particles in conventional emulsions, allows the nanoparticles to penetrate deeper into the skin, delivering the nutrients to more layers of skin cells.
  • Lotions that use TiO2 nanoparticles called ethosomes to deliver nutrients that promote hair growth.


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