If you wear sunscreen on a regular basis, you've likely heard of titanium dioxide. In addition to being included in most sunscreens, it's also in a variety of moisturizers, face masks, and various haircare and cosmetic products, and it acts as a teeth whitener, opacifier, and UV filter. So what is it about this multi-purpose ingredient that makes it beneficial for our skin? We’ve turned to dermatologists Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank and Dr. Farhaad Riyaz to find out more. Keep reading to learn all about the benefits of titanium dioxide, as well as some of the best products to try.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank is a celebrity cosmetic dermatologist based in New York City. He is the founder of skincare brand PFRANKMD, author of The Pro-Aging Playbook, and creator of The Pro-Aging Podcast.
- Dr. Farhaad Riyaz is a board-certified dermatologist and Docent medical advisor based in Washington, D.C.
Type of ingredient: UVA and UVB filter, anti-aging
Main benefits: Prevents sunburn and long-term sun damage
Who should use it: Anyone who wants to protect themselves from any kind of UV (ultraviolet) damage.
How often can you use it: Sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide are suitable for daily use as creams, lotions, and moisturizers.
Works well with: Zinc oxide
Don’t use with: Generally, titanium dioxide works well with other ingredients, though you can always ask your dermatologist if you aren't sure how it will interact with other products in your routine.
What Is Titanium Dioxide?
Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring white mineral sourced from ilmenite ore, and is a common ingredient in mineral-based makeup and sunscreens. ‘’Titanium dioxide is inert, which means it is chemically inactive,’’ Dr. Riyaz explains. As a sunscreen ingredient, titanium dioxide differs from chemical sunscreens that absorb UV rays, instead acting as a physical blocker. Dr. Riyaz adds that sunscreen protects skin by creating a temporary bond with the top layer, blocking it from absorbing UV radiation. As a cosmetic ingredient, titanium oxide is broken down into small particles and coated. This process thickens and lubricates cosmetics.
We couldn’t tell you all there is to know about titanium dioxide without addressing the fact that it hasn't been exempt from recent debate around the safety of UV filters. However, health experts appear to have confirmed that titanium dioxide does not pose a harmful risk to skin cells or health in general. ‘’Titanium dioxide is a very safe and benign ingredient,’’ Dr. Frank says. ‘’However, it can leave a white cast on the skin, so this is something to be mindful of.’’
Benefits of Titanium Dioxide for Skin
Any type of SPF has major potential to benefit your skin, both in the short term and over time. Titanium dioxide, in particular, has a few extra perks that may make it an ideal choice over other UV filters, depending on your priorities.
Non-irritating: Some cosmetics and sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide are formulated with sensitive skin in mind, so they have the potential to soothe skin and address any concerns you have at the same time. ‘’Titanium dioxide is a non-irritating mineral as well as a safe natural alternative to synthetically derived sunscreens, which can cause inflammation,’’ Dr. Riyaz says.
Non-comedogenic: If you have acne-prone skin, using non-comedogenic products may help reduce the occurrence of breakouts, thanks to ingredients that don't block pores. Most brands will specify whether a product is non-comedogenic on the packaging, so it’s definitely worth looking out for this. ‘’Titanium dioxide is a water-loving, non-comedogenic ingredient that washes off easily, making it suitable for those who are concerned about clogged pores, breakouts, and skin sensitivity,’’ Dr. Riyaz explains.
Protects against harmful UV rays: ‘’Titanium dioxide is perfect for anyone who wants to prevent UV damage,’’ Dr. Riyaz says, adding that titanium dioxide is used as a physical broad-spectrum UVA and UVB blocker.
Prevents premature aging: Ultraviolet radiation causes changes in DNA that can lead to premature aging and in some cases, skin cancer, so wearing a sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide and has an SPF of at least 30 is a great way to protect your skin’s health. Riyaz agrees on titanium dioxide’s ability to potentially promote a more youthful and clearer appearance. ‘’It would be great to see titanium dioxide in every sunscreen, as it can help to keep lines and wrinkles at bay as well as prevent a loss of elasticity and dark spots,’’ he says.
Invisible after application: For anyone looking for a sunscreen that won’t leave a white cast, it may be worth investing in one that contains titanium dioxide. Be aware that results may vary due to product formulations. Also, keep in mind that most sunscreens don’t go on clear, so you'll still need to rub it in to ensure maximum protection.
Side Effects of Titanium Dioxide
Generally, titanium dioxide has no side effects when used topically. ‘’It is not absorbed through the skin and is unlikely to cause allergic reactions,’’ Dr. Riyaz explains. He adds that typically, sunscreen does not release particles that may cause harm.
As for titanium dioxide in cosmetics, there are a few things to note. ‘’Powders with titanium dioxide should not be inhaled,’’ says Dr. Frank says. Dr, Riyaz adds, ‘’I would recommend avoiding loose powders, blushes, eyeshadows, or aerosols that contain titanium dioxide.’’ Sticking to safe cream- or lotion-type formulations and opting for products that contain a micronized formulation will provide skin with a smooth texture as well as prevent white casts, making such products universally friendly and easier to use.
The Best Products with Titanium Dioxide
Inspired by the cult-favorite brand’s bestselling Banana Bright Eye Cream, this multipurpose primer gives skin a healthy, dewy glow. It smoothes skin and minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Wear it alone, under makeup, or dabbed on top of makeup to produce a highlight effect.
When it comes to the search for the perfect foundation, most of us want something that looks like skin. This multipurpose foundation moisturizes and hydrates while providing desired coverage, and according to the brand, 95% of customers said that the product makes skin look and feel smoother.
With a mix of antioxidants and peptides, this mineral-based moisturizer protects, softens, and reconditions the skin for a fresh, healthy appearance. A bonus is the addition of zinc oxide, which scatters the sun’s rays to prevent UV radiation from getting to the skin. If your skin is too sensitive for most sunscreens, it might be worth giving this lotion a try. ‘’To get the most out of your sunscreen, be sure to cover any sun-exposed areas thoroughly,’’ Dr. Riyaz advises.
With a powerful antioxidant complex to help protect the skin from UV rays, this ultra-light fluid offers 100% mineral sunscreen protection. Although it works for all skin types, the oil-free formula makes it especially ideal for oily and combination skin types. ‘’Sunscreen with titanium dioxide should be applied 20-30 minutes before going outside,’’ Dr. Frank advises. ‘’It should also be reapplied after any physical activity.’’
This vitamin E-enriched pencil hydrates the skin to leave lips looking smooth and luminous. Available in six stunning shades, it provides full-impact and long-lasting color without the intensity of a lipstick. The jumbo crayon format also makes for quick and precise application, so if you don’t like to spend ages applying a lip product, this pencil may be a welcome addition to your makeup bag.
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