Titanium dioxide is an active mineral ingredient that works naturally to block the sun’s rays. Often found in mineral sun protection in conjunction with zinc oxide, it sits atop the skin to act as a barrier against the sun. Both ingredients are broad spectrum, which means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
We can’t say it enough, sun protection should be part of our morning routines (and our every two-hour routines if we’re spending the day outside). The Environmental Working Group provides an excellent guide to finding the right sunscreen to fit your needs, whether you need a daily moisturizer with SPF or a sturdy sunblock for a camping trip.
If you’re looking to transition to chemical-free, search for a mineral sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as the active ingredients. Your sunscreen’s label should have titanium dioxide and zinc oxide listed within the first five ingredients with percentages listed next to each name.
Understanding Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide is a “very effective UV blocker,” says Dr. Hadley King, MD, board certified dermatologist at SKINNEY Medspa. “It is very safe to use topically in a cream or lotion formation.” In today’s cosmetics and sunblock formulations, titanium dioxide is micronized for safety and to prevent its thick, white consistency from laying on your skin. Some of the best sunblocks will rub into your skin and absorb as naturally as a chemical formulation. We recommend La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen and iS Clinical Eclipse Creme SPF 50+ for daily wear that won’t leave you streaky or chalky.
Since titanium dioxide is such a gentle skin care, users with sensitive skin should feel safe to use it on rosacea or acne. Unlike chemical sunscreens, it won’t have an effect on your hormones, which could potentially lead to breakouts or longer-term issues. If you’re prone to acne, switching to a mineral sunblock — especially when you’ll be applying often during the summer months — could make all the difference in your skin. For a daily moisturizer that’s safe to use on sensitive skin, try COOLA Daydream SPF 30 Mineral Makeup Primer.
Due to its white pigment, titanium dioxide has been FDA-approved to enhance color in products like toothpaste, candy, dairy products, and medications.
Best Practices for Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide is a highly effective and natural sunblock, but it may be unsafe in its naturally occurring pressed powder formation. “There has been some concern that titanium dioxide could be a possible carcinogen when inhaled, so it is best to avoid aerosolized formulations,” says Dr. King. A 2006 study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that titanium dioxide may be carcinogenic to humans when inhaled only in very high doses. Based on the evidence of this animal-based study, the FDA has yet to change the regulatory status of the ingredient.
If you still want the ease of an aerosol without zero chance of side effects, opt for a sunscreen stick. We recommend Yes to Cucumbers Natural Sunscreen Stick or Babyganics Sunscreen Stick. Every summer, more and more brands are introducing mineral sunblock options for chemical-conscious customers. Scratch one more chemical off your list and get potent sun protection.