Cosmetics industry hides nanotechnology from consumers, according to report

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sunscreen Ultraviolet Uk

Beauty companies are leaving consumers in the dark by not coming clean about nanotechnology, according to a recent Which? report.

Consumer watchdog magazine Which? approached 67 cosmetics companies asking about their use of nanotechnology but only 17 responded to the call. Of that number only eight were willing to give the UK magazine information on how they use nanotechnology.

Industry keeps nano secrets

Companies were reluctant to reveal which of their products used nanotechnology and only Korres referred openly to the inclusion of nano ingredients on its Red Vin hair sun protection product and its website.

“It was concerning that so few companies came forward to be involved in our report and we are grateful for those that were responsible enough to do so,”​ said Sue Davis, chief policy adviser at Which?

“The cosmetics industry needs to stop burying its head in the sand and come clean about how it is using nanotechnology.”

All too often cosmetic companies also remain silent on labels and advertising leaving the public largely ignorant about the technology.

In a 977 person UK survey in the UK last month Which? found that 87 per cent of respondents were unaware that nanomaterials are already used in cosmetic products.

“The Government must introduce a compulsory reporting scheme for manufacturing nano materials so we are all aware,”​ added Davis.

Unresolved safety issues

In the “Small Wonder: Nanotechnology in Cosmetics” report Which? expressed concerns about the safety of nanotechnology in cosmetics saying there were “unresolved issues”.

While the consumer watchdog conceded that nano emulsions raised less concern, experts have questioned the safety of fullerenes which are claimed to have anti-aging properties and are used in products by Dr Brandt and others.

While many of the larger companies are restricting their use of nanotechnology to nano emulsions and UV filters many smaller companies are using a more diverse range of nano materials. Uncertainty often hangs particularly heavily over the safety of these materials.

Even regarding the use of nano forms of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in sunscreens, an increasingly popular means of making cream transparent rather than white, safety questions still remain.

EU experts have asked for more safety tests to investigate their effect on sunburned and other damaged skin.

Globally the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Products has lingering concerns about the safety of nanotechnology in cosmetics. In February 2008 the group published a report on nano materials in which it concluded that major data gaps in the exposure and uptake of nanoparticles through the skin, inhalation, oral ingestion and eye contact.

Despite these safety concerns nano materials do not have to undergo an independent safety assessment in the EU except in the case of materials used as UV filters in sunscreens.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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