Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Titanium Dioxide: Is It Safe? A Re-Post

The following was written by Erin of Inner Earth Soaps and I think it's an industry issue that might be of interest to you. I have copied it verbatim.

Recently I've had some customers asking me about titanium dioxide. I've always considered it to be a fairly innocuous product, but lately there have been some concerns over studies where it has been shown to be a possible carcinogenic, causing fear in consumers. So let's bring it out in the open.

What is titanium dioxide?
It's a naturally-occurring mineral, mined from the earth. After mining it is processed to remove impurities, leaving behind a mineral pigment in the form of a white powder.

Which products might contain titanium dioxide?
Soaps, make-up, toothpaste, sunscreen, food, plastics, paints, ink and paper, to name a few.

Why use titanium dioxide?
Apart from in sunscreen - where the titanium dioxide is used to block UV rays from the skin - it is a mostly aesthetic ingredient that makes products appear more white or opaque.

Is titanium dioxide safe?
Titanium dioxide is listed as a safe pigment, with no known side effects. However there is some debate over a specific type of titanium dioxide: ultrafine or nano particles. This is the type of titanium dioxide that is used in sunscreens, because the particles are small enough to be invisible to the naked eye, yet still reflect the UV rays. The debate is whether these particles are small enough to penetrate the skin and become a possible carcinogenic.

Does Inner Earth Soaps use titanium dioxide in their products?
Yes, in some soaps we do. Where it is used, it is listed in the ingredients. However, we don't use the ultrafine powder that is the subject of debate.

Even with this explained, some folks just don't feel comfortable using products containing titanium dioxide. So I've started experimenting with our soaps: some of the ones that currently contain titanium dioxide will be made without it. Below is our Honey Toffee soap. The one on the left contains titanium dioxide, the one on the right doesn't. You can easily tell the difference - the left one is much more opaque, and the layers more well-defined. I'm interested to see whether this new batch will be more popular.

What do you think? Do you use titanium dioxide in your products, or do you feel strongly about using products made with it? I'd love to hear your comments.


If you'd like to read the comments left for her, leave a comment for her or see the original post, please go here. Thanks, Erin!

Also feel free to express yourself!


Dreaming Tree Soapworks said...

From my years in pharmaceuticals and product ingredient research, I have to speak up on this one. Ultimately if regular titanium dioxide was a carcinogen we would have known about it a long, long, time ago well before we even questioned parabens. It's used extensively and in everything imaginable.

"Titanium dioxide is listed as a safe pigment, with no known adverse effects. It is not listed as a carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen, comedogen, toxin or as a trigger for contact dermatitis in any other safety regulatory publications beside the NIOSH (Antczak, 2001; Physical & Theoretical Chemical Laboratory, Oxford University respectively). It is reasonable to conclude then, that titanium dioxide is not a cancer-causing substance and is generally safe for use in foods, drugs, paints and cosmetics. This does not end the debate, however, as controversy over the safety of one unique form of titanium dioxide still exists.

"One form of mineral or mineral extract, including titanium dioxide, that we should be concerned about is ultrafine or nano particles. As technology has advanced, so has its ability to take normal sized particles of minerals and reduce them to sizes never before imagined. While many are praising this new technology, others are warning of its inherent dangers to our bodies. A study by Churg et. al. at the University of British Columbia in their paper "Induction of Fibrogenic Mediators by Fine and Ultrafine Titanium Dioxide in Rat Tracheal Explants" (1999) found that ultrafine particles of the anatase form of titanium dioxide, which are less than 0.1 microns, are pathogenic or disease causing (see Table 1)." and " Coarse or fine particles of titanium dioxide are safe and effective at deflecting and absorbing UV light, protecting the skin, but consumers should avoid using products with micronized mineral pigments, either in sunscreens or colour cosmetics." Taken from, with references.

Pretty much the titanium dioxide we have access too and reason to use as crafters in bath, body and makeup products, is completely safe. Titanium dioxide nano particles is in question because they don't know it's long term effects but it's shown it can be absorbed by skin cells, as most nano particles can. Ultimately while I believe in educating customers, I feel this may border on making an issue where there is none. If there is concern I'd maybe just add somewhere that no nano particles are used. I feel a Personal Care Truth article coming on.

Joanna Schmidt said...

Well said, and BRAVO!

I think you said it loud and clear.

Erin Napier said...

Thanks for the re-post Jo ... and well said, Dreaming!

FuturePrimitive Soap Co. said...

phew! thank god for that. i use it rather a lot in my soaps as most folks know. i'm relieved to read this post. dreaming tree...thank you and thank you Erin and Jo Jo x

Dreaming Tree Soapworks said...

Funny thing is at Dreaming Tree none of our soaps contain titanium dioxide but I just ordered some to redesign some of our regular line.

In all my ingredients and additives that I choose to include there is a year of research conducted (usually about 48hrs a week) before I decide if it's suitable for our line up and then some practical tests (performance, irritant etc) before it ends up in a product. Anything questionable is re-evaluated every six months in case new scientific studies have been released. Another example of this methodology is our use of Optiphen,spent over a year agonizing over the decision of it's use and went with it because it was the lesser of the evils, but now we're re-evaluating because of its irritating propensity at usages near and over 1% and there new milder alternatives that have become available. We are product testing them now then will have sent to the labs for effectiveness.

I actually like keeping my use of pigments minimal there is only 3 soaps currently with oxides in them a just a few with mica brushed on top that usually wash away before they make contact with the skin. Color, preservative, and fragrance are the three leading causes of allergic reaction (part of why I never understood why benadryl is dyed flaming pink). I try to balance it all out to have the safest, effective, and appealing product I can make.

With several autoimmune disorders it's a bit of a crusade for me. I have tons of knowledge on these issues, I just haven't found an outlet for them or a way to explaining them without confusing or loosing people entirely---which I hope I haven't here.

Tiggy if the TD in your soaps was an irritant or anything else I'd be the first to let you know :) I <3 you and Joanna's soaps something fierce.


Snake River Soap Company said...

I had just recently read that titanium dioxide is only carcinogenic if you inhale mass quantities of it(ie td processing factory workers with no respirators) but I'm no expert!

Joanna Schmidt said...

Meghan, do you really do all that testing? And then a lab? Well done! I would love to find out the results of your new preservative when the results come out. I use Optiphen as well in my Sugarfoot, although, I think I may discontinue it... :/

I too, suffer an auto immune disease.

In general, I think people have way too much time on their hands and they are dying to run with a lit torch. There are serious issues out there, but then there are itty bitty things that are completely innocuous.


Dreaming Tree Soapworks said...

Joanna, I really do do all that testing; aside from some freelance graphic design this is my full time dream gig. I'm obsessed and I take it very seriously, probably too seriously. I can't tell you how many jars and bottles and test batches that end up sitting around or going home with Jenn to guinea pig. My soap recipes are pretty old now and aside from FO testing and PH testing don't require a lot of my R&D time. The only formula's we needed lab tested where the lotions for APC and Fungal/Yeast.

I'll be sure to let you know about that preservative when I have a little more experience with it.

I'll stop clogging up your blog now :)

Joanna Schmidt said...

No, No! Please clog. You have a plethora of information we all are interested in..

backporchsoap said...

Great post! I use water-soluble titanium dioxide in my own line of cosmetics as well as in the cosmetic formulation classes I teach.
I prefer the water soluble over the oil soluble. Which do you prefer?

Amy Warden said...

I saw the original post on Erin's blog and assumed that there aren't any soapmakers with access to nano particle TD. Whew, I think we're safe!

Dreaming Tree Soapworks said...

Marla, which form of TD I prefer really depends on the application. In liquid make up or products where the larger percentage of the ingredients is water I use the water soluble for ease of incorporation. In soap for it to really hold up, if your using it for coloring, (and since it's oil based) I go with the oil soluble. Both have the same safety/usage profile, it's just a use the right form for the right application sort of thing.

Pura Bella Naturals said...

I have only used this in a personal sunscreen I make in the summer. Lots of info to take in here! Love this blog...What about all th emineral makeup out there? I know many of it does have td. Maybe a good thing to start asking if they are nano or not?

Anonymous said...

I will always choose and purchase a product I can be sure is 100% healthy and safe over one that is more ‘aesthetic’. All I need is a clear explanation on the packaging of the product that it is (for example) “titanium dioxide free!’’ And that it’s appearance (texture etc.) is as it should be. This information can also be used in the promotional material. Thanks so much for giving your time and attention to my opinion.