There have been rapid increases in consumer products containing nanomaterials, raising concerns over the impact of nanoparticles (NPs) to humankind and the environment, but little information has been published about mineral filters in commercial sunscreens. It is urgent to develop methods to characterize the nanomaterials in products. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) NPs in unmodified commercial sunscreens were characterized by laser scanning confocal microscopy, atomic force microscopy, X-ray diffraction (XRD), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The results showed that laser scanning confocal microscopy evaluated primary particle aggregates and dispersions but could not size NPs because of the diffraction limited resolution of optical microscopy (200 nm). Atomic force microscopy measurements required a pretreatment of the sunscreens or further calibration in phase analysis, but could not provide their elemental composition of commercial sunscreens. While XRD gave particle size and crystal information without a pretreatment of sunscreen, TEM analysis required dilution and dispersion of the commercial sunscreens before imaging. When coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, TEM afforded particle size information and compositional analysis. XRD characterization of six commercial sunscreens labeled as nanoparticles revealed that three samples contained TiO2 NPs, among which two listed ZnO and TiO2, and displayed average particle sizes of 15 nm, 21 nm, and 78 nm. However, no nanosized ZnO particles were found in any of the samples by XRD. In general, TEM can resolve nanomaterials that exhibit one or more dimensions between 1 nm and 100 nm, allowing the identification of ZnO and TiO2 NPs in all six sunscreens and ZnO/TiO2 mixtures in two of the samples. Overall, the combination of XRD and TEM was suitable for analyzing ZnO and TiO2 NPs in commercial sunscreens. © 2015, Food and Drug Administration, Taiwan.

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