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This summer, sunscreen, which is about to become an Internet celebrity item, may face criticism because of the publication of a popular science paper. All this is caused by the addition of “nano” ingredients.

CBO reporter Li Na

Recently, Professor Shen Wei of Qingdao Agricultural University published a paper in “Nano Toxicology”, systematically expounding the process of how the sunscreen additive nano zinc oxide invades skin tissue through the structure of hair follicles and has a negative impact on skin tissue. This has brought the issue of sunscreen ingredients back into the attention of brands and researchers.

Shen Wei and his research group found through in vitro culture experiments on mouse skin application of nano-zinc oxide and hair follicle stem cells that periodic application of nano-zinc oxide will cause these nanoparticles to accumulate in mouse hair follicles, and with the increase of accumulation concentration, eventually lead to damage to the differentiation potential of stem cells in hair follicles and affect normal skin homeostasis.

According to Shen Wei, “Nano zinc oxide has special physical properties, and after being applied to the surface of the skin, it can effectively absorb ultraviolet UVA and UVB to prevent skin ultraviolet damage.” And it is transparent after being applied to the skin, will not reflect, that is, it does not look oily, more in line with the needs of women who love beauty, so these characteristics make nano zinc oxide a commonly used sunscreen additive. ”

>>> Nano sunscreen, high-tech or black tech?

First of all, some people will ask, nano zinc oxide or not zinc oxide in the conventional sense?

Mei Hexiang, marketing director of German Texixin AG, introduced in the article “Is there a problem with nanomaterials in skin care products”: Nanomaterials refer to solids or fluids with a size between 1-100nm. However, due to the very small particle size, the reactivity and catalytic activity of nanomaterials have also been greatly improved, and some properties have also undergone surprising changes. Mei Hexiang took gold as an example, the melting point of gold nuggets is usually 1064 °C, but the melting point of gold powder at 2.5nm is reduced to 300 °C.

This is where the industry’s concerns about nanomaterials originate. Li Huiliang, deputy director of the expert committee of the China Fragrance Association and former technical director of Shanghai Jahwa, believes: “Once the particles of the substance are small to nanometers and below, its activity, toxicity and many other properties will change, and it will be different from the original physical properties. ”

Similarly, Xu Jie, the founder of the Senior Cosmetic Engineers Group (SCEU), is also cautious about this. He believes that “although most of the surface of inorganic additives used in cosmetics is treated and has little damage to the skin, the use of nanoscale raw materials under light conditions is still very controversial.” ”

Listed company Tianci Materials (stock code: 002709) has long been a manufacturer of sunscreens such as silica and zinc oxide, and its marketing director Wang Huan also has a lot of research on nano-sunscreens. In an interview with the reporter of “Cosmetics Finance Online”, Wang Huan said: “Theoretically, nano-scale zinc oxide has a better effect than ordinary zinc oxide, which is why nano-raw materials are so concerned, but when used in formulas, there are many factors that will affect the actual effect.” ”

He explained to reporters three reasons. First, nanoparticles are easy to huddle, not easy to disperse, to achieve the formula, if the dispersion is not good, the effect is not necessarily much better than the ordinary, in other words, due to the agglomeration of nanoparticles, the nano zinc oxide added is likely to become ordinary zinc oxide; Second, nanomaterials have permeability, the use of nanomaterials, toxicity and biocompatibility of skin and other tissues need to be further studied, and for this point, Shen Wei’s research group put forward the research conclusion of negative effects on the human body; Third, due to the strong permeability of nanoparticles, how to do a good job in the production of cosmetics safety protection measures for production personnel also needs to be standardized.

Compared with the concerns of domestic people, foreign raw material giants are ahead again this time. They believe that there are also studies that confirm that nano-zinc oxide cannot enter the nucleus, Golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticulum and other organelles. At the same time, a large number of human tests have confirmed that in cosmetic applications, nano-zinc will not be absorbed into the blood circulation.

Mei Hexiang’s basic view on this is that there are no safe raw materials, only safe ways to use them. For example, for the agglomeration of nano-zinc oxide, Mei Hexiang said, “The surface of nano-materials is indeed easy to agglomerate, but the mainstream products on the market at present are deliberately surface treated with nano-sunscreen materials in order to avoid these problems – for example, zinc oxide in sunscreen products has been wrapped or treated with PEG or PVP on its surface submicron (40-50nm), reactivity has been greatly reduced, so it is a relatively safe material.” At the same time, he believes that the surface of this nano-zinc oxide can also avoid the potential harm caused by its permeability to the human body after treatment.

In this regard, Chen Shaojun, chairman of the China Fragrance and Fragrance Cosmetics Industry Association, also expressed his personal views: At present, the industry’s understanding of nano-zinc oxide is only staged, and it is not yet conclusive, which belongs to the academic dispute. In addition, Chen Shaojun also believes that since the national regulations do not clearly state that nanoscale zinc oxide cannot be used, it means that it can be used.

>>> The market is blank under the vague definition of regulations – they all want to eat crabs, but they are afraid of being the first bird

As Chen Shaojun said, for nano-zinc oxide, the regulations do not stipulate that it cannot be used, does it mean that it can be used? This problem is also plaguing many businesses.

According to Wang Huan, the European Union currently requires cosmetics to label the nanomaterials used, and Taiwan also allows the labeling of nano-silica. The reporter learned from media reports that not long ago, the Food and Drug Administration of the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Taiwan revised the regulations on the management of titanium dioxide ingredients in cosmetics, requiring that “if titanium dioxide and nano titanium dioxide are added to cosmetics at the same time, the total amount of the two shall still not exceed 25%. “It can at least be seen that Taiwan and the European Union explicitly allow the use of nano sunscreens.”

However, in Chinese mainland, there are no relevant regulations to standardize the application of nanomaterials. For the use of cosmetic raw materials, the current use in mainland China is based on the “Catalogue of Names of Used Cosmetic Raw Materials (2015 Edition)”, that is, cosmetics enterprises are allowed to use the raw materials in the raw material catalog. As can be seen from the figure below, zinc oxide is a raw material that can be used. However, the problem is also obvious, this zinc oxide (nanoscale) is still not another zinc oxide.

In this case, supporters such as Mei Hexiang, Chen Shaojun and others believe that the zinc oxide in the catalog does not distinguish between zinc oxide and nano zinc oxide; Opponents argue that nano-zinc oxide should be treated differently.

In addition to the question of whether it can be used, the industry is also very sensitive to the promotion of the word “nano”.

In November 2014, the State Food and Drug Administration issued a document soliciting opinions on the Measures for the Administration of Cosmetics Labeling, and clarified that “nano” is a prohibited label in the annex “List of Prohibited Terms for Cosmetics Labeling”. Although practice has proved that this is only a draft for comments that has never really taken effect, the industry has consciously formed the understanding of “prohibiting the promotion of nano”.

Li Huiliang believes that China’s laws and regulations once deliberately prohibited the word “nano”, which is actually an attitude. He believes: “There are more than 8,000 kinds of raw materials allowed in China, and the regulations cannot be so detailed, and not every of these raw materials is necessary to achieve the nanometer level; Moreover, regulations themselves are lagging behind, and regulations are generally introduced after use and research. ”

The direct consequence of this lack of clarity is that in the highly competitive cosmetics market, companies that urgently need high-tech and new selling points to drive performance growth do not want to give up the opportunity of the new blue ocean and dare not boldly invest in research. In Wang Huan’s words, “they all want to eat crabs, but they are afraid of making mistakes.”

>>> How hot is the nanocosmetics market?

Despite academic controversy and despite concerns about its use, nanosunscreens are still highly sought after in the market.

In fact, “the use of nanotechnology did not come from modern industry, as early as the Persian Empire in the ninth century (Mesopotamia), craftsmen began to use nano copper powder and silver powder to decorate the utensils of the time.” Mei Hexiang introduced.

According to Shen Wei’s statistics, around the world, about 2,000 tons of metal oxide nanoparticles are put into the skin care industry every year as a sunscreen additive. In China, according to a professional who did not want to be named, the total annual use of nano-zinc oxide is about 200 tons, and Japan’s Annai and Kao are particularly used in this regard. The reporter searched on Taobao and found that nano raw materials are also very marketable online, and even many cosmetics “enthusiasts” directly buy nano-scale silica to make plain cream.

The manager of the daily chemical department of a manufacturer in the north who did not want to sign believes that “nano-scale raw materials are attractive to the market because they bring a sense of high technology, which sounds very high.” But Mei Hexiang has a different opinion on this, he believes that the use of nano zinc oxide enterprises is more to make the coverage effect more uniform, plus the “Used Cosmetic Raw Material Name Catalogue (2015 Edition)” does not distinguish between zinc oxide and nano zinc oxide, so nano zinc oxide can not be found, so “the publicity level actually has no special meaning”, and therefore few people deliberately emphasize and distinguish.

Chen Xiaoyan, manager of the supply department of Guangzhou Lilong Daily Chemical Co., Ltd., told reporters that because of the problem of production costs, each kilogram of nano-sized raw materials is usually hundreds of yuan more expensive than ordinary raw materials. The reporter of “Cosmetics Finance Online” learned from Xu Yongming, manager of Zinc Oxide Chemical Supplier Zibo Qianshun Plastic Co., Ltd., that because of the different purity and particle size, the price of industrial nano zinc oxide is 20,000 yuan per ton. In contrast, nano-scale zinc oxide for cosmetics is more expensive, with nano-scale zinc oxide priced between 400-500 yuan per kilogram.

In addition to nano-zinc oxide, the industry’s research on sunscreens has also made a lot of progress in other aspects. It is worth mentioning that Tianci Materials (stock code: 002709) will launch a new sunscreen raw material called “terephthalene dicamphorsulfonic acid” in August this year, which has passed the certification of the US FDA, which is not only completely water-soluble, high-efficiency broad-spectrum sunscreen, UVA is more prominent, and has strong photostability, not easy to decompose, can achieve ultra-clean formula.