Although millions of people are applying products that contain nanomaterials to their skin daily, no-one knows yet how likely it is that these nanomaterials are absorbed from our skin to our blood stream. As the evidence of nanotoxicity grows, it is becoming more important to answer the question of whether or not nanomaterials used in sunscreens, cosmetics and personal care products penetrate the skin, and in what circumstances.  For a detailed look at the latest scientific findings, dowload our new issue summary “Cosmetics, nanotoxicity and skin penetration”.

This issue summary follows our joint report with Friends of the Earth United States, “Nanomaterials, sunscreens and cosmetics: Small ingredients, big risks” which was released in May this year. “Cosmetics, nanotoxicity and skin penetration” provides an up to date survey of the growing body of nanotoxicity studies, and focuses on the key issue of skin uptake by nanomaterials.

“Cosmetics, nanotoxicity and skin penetration” follows many claims by the cosmetics industry that skin penetration by nanomaterials is impossible. We assess the limitations of the skin penetration studies that have been conducted to date and explain why these studies are inconclusive. We also outline key issues which need to be addressed in future studies.

We discuss why existing evidence actually suggests that uptake of nanomaterials through intact skin will be possible in some circumstances. And we explain how broken skin is an ineffective particle barrier, meaning that the presence of acne, eczema, shaving wounds or severe sunburn may enable nanoparticle uptake more readily.