Is Titanium Dioxide in Your Cosmetics Safe?

It’s an ingredient you may have seen listed on the label of your lipstick, foundation, and other cosmetics. Titanium dioxide is even found in most natural beauty brands. But is it safe? Some would say yes, while others would contend that is not safe. In actuality, the safeness of titanium dioxide depends on several factors.

Defining Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide is a white chemical that is often added to “makeup, moisturizers, and sunscreen formulations to boost the product’s SPF” and to create matte and lighter shades in lipstick colors (Michalun). It is often used in cosmetics as a white color to create lighter pigments.

The Problem with Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide can be broken into small particle sizes called micro, ultra, or nanoparticles. Herein lies the problem. Although it is shown to have “decreased skin absorption,” the smaller the particle size of titanium dioxide, the higher the chance those particles can penetrate the semi-permeable layer of our skin, entering the blood stream (EWG). Nanoparticles have been proven to be toxic to “human tissue and cell cultures” and can “penetrate cell walls” (CFSC).

Nanoparticles and inhaled nano-size titanium dioxide also pose threats to our bodies when inhaled. According to one study, inhaled nanoparticles increased the risk for lung cancer and in an experiment with rats, inhaled nano-sized titanium dioxide had carcinogenic effects.

Hence, the biggest danger with titanium dioxide is it being airborne and inhaled through the lungs.

Titanium Dioxide in Cosmetics
Titanium dioxide can be a health risk in cosmetics if it is inhaled from loose powder foundations, blushes, and eye shadows. Nano-sized titanium dioxide may also be absorbed into facial skin. Since the skin on our faces has the highest absorption rate, applying facial cosmetics with nano-sized titanium dioxide like lipstick and foundations, MAY increase the chance of the chemical absorbing into the skin.

Forgoing Titanium Dioxide
  • Try looking for cosmetics that do not contain titanium dioxide. 
  • Avoid companies that promote themselves as users of nanoparticles or include titanium dioxide as an ingredient in loose powders.
  • Use liquid foundations to lower the risk of inhaling particles.

Michalun, Natalia, and M. Varinia Michalun. Milady's Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary. Australia: Milady Thomson Learning, 2001. Print.

"Nanotechnology." Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Safe Cosmetics Action Network, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 Dec. 2014. <>.

M, Roller. "Carcinogenicity of Inhaled Nanoparticles." PubMed (2009). US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Web. 18 Dec. 2014. <>.

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EWG's Skin Database: Titanium Dioxide

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