A chalk-white powder that’s incorporated into varying makeup products spanning countless aisles, titanium dioxide brings with it a multitude of benefits we don’t celebrate enough - or even acknowledge. The naturally-occurring mineral is found in sunscreens, lotions, and powders - but is it just another ingredient we shrug off while skimming the back of a product, or does it play an active role in protecting, defending, and enhancing our skin? Since a lot of us aren’t quite acquainted with the ingredient’s role in skincare, we’ve roped in Dr. Monisha Aravind, M.D.(DVL), PDFC Aesthetic Dermatologist and Medical Director of Armoraa Skin Solutions, LLP, to share her insights on the subject with us. Read on to know a little more about the mineral, where it’s used, and whether it has any side-effects at all.
- 01. What is titanium dioxide - and does it benefit the skin?
- 02. How do you use titanium dioxide for skin?
- 03. Is titanium dioxide good for sensitive skin?
- 04. Should you take precautions before using titanium dioxide?
- 05. Does it have side-effects?
01. What is titanium dioxide - and does it benefit the skin?
Derived from titanium, titanium dioxide protects your skin from the widest spectrum of UV rays. Used in sunscreens, lotions, loose powders, eyeshadow, blush, pressed powders, liquid and powder-based foundations, bronzers, eye shadows, mascaras, lipsticks, and multiple other skin-related products, it performs the function of brightening and thickening cosmetics (by adding pigment to them), defending us from the effects of UVA and UVB rays, and preventing premature ageing. Since it soaks up oils on the skin and reduces unwanted shine on the face, it’s employed in matte-based products as well. And because it’s a non-soluble mineral, it’s prized for its long-lasting and water-proof properties - which is another reason why it’s used in sunscreens.
It’s classified as a physical sunscreen ingredient since it doesn’t penetrate the skin - it creates a barrier on the skin, and reflects the sun’s rays instead. A chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, seeps into the skin, converts the rays into heat, and proceeds to release them from the body. It’s wiser to invest in a physical sunscreen - a sunscreen infused with titanium dioxide for instance - because it’s less likely to irritate the skin, clog your pores, or trigger heat-activated conditions like rosacea. And it becomes effective immediately after application - unlike chemical ones that require 20 minutes to start working. Even dermatologists testify to the mildness of titanium dioxide-enriched sunscreens. And because it’s so mild, you can use it on babies - and during pregnancies. If you’re constantly exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time, you must invest in a titanium dioxide-infused sunscreen as soon as possible.
02. How do you use titanium dioxide for skin?
If you’re using a sunscreen containing titanium dioxide, dermatologists recommend applying about an ounce on your body before you step outside - or at the tail-end of your skincare regimen. Keep in mind that sunscreen always comes last. You should reapply the formula every two hours (check the instructions at the back of the product), and immediately after swimming, sweating, and towel-drying. When you’re purchasing sunscreen - physical or chemical - ensure you’re selecting a fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, paraben-free, and oil-free formula. And rub it in until it has blended seamlessly into the skin.
Since it’s not a standalone ingredient that you rub onto your skin - it’s infused in makeup products - you just apply it as you go.
03. Is titanium dioxide good for sensitive skin?
Yes. titanium dioxide-infused products are developed for sensitive skin specifically. Because titanium dioxide is classified as a non-comedogenic ingredient, it’s not likely to block your pores - or trigger breakouts of any kind. And Dr. Aravind attests to this. She adds that the mineral is an anti-irritant. If you have sensitive skin, we’re sure you raise your eyebrows at every new ingredient that’s touted as a ‘skincare saviour’ - but this one’s gentle on the skin. And it’s dermat-approved.
Because it’s inert in nature, it doesn’t react with other ingredients. This enables you to apply it on the most sensitive areas of the skin - around the eyes, eyelids, and mouth for instance. Even then, you must do a patch-test on your skin to rule out any possibilities of an unwarranted reaction.
04. Should you take precautions before using titanium dioxide?
As mentioned above, the ingredient is pretty safe for topical application even for sensitive skin; however, according to Dr. Aravind, you must ensure that the product you’re using contains ‘micronised’ or ‘nano’ (very fine particles) titanium dioxide. These don’t penetrate the skin. If you’re using sunscreen on your face, be careful to avoid contact with the eyes.
05. Does it have side-effects?
A topical application of titanium dioxide (nanoparticles) doesn’t pose any risks or side-effects because it doesn’t penetrate the skin - it simply sits on the surface. Dr Aravind concurs, “It’s very safe to use.”
1) Is titanium dioxide good for acne?
Titanium dioxide is considered safe for all types of skin - including acne-prone skin, according to Dr. Aravind; however, it is said that sunscreens containing zinc oxide are a safer alternative to those infused with titanium dioxide.
2) Which is better: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide?
Dr. Aravind says titanium dioxide is just as good as zinc oxide - they’re both non-comedogenic and mild on the skin. There are varying opinions with regard to the question. When it comes to sunscreens, a zinc oxide-enriched option fares better in comparison. This is because even though titanium dioxide can scatter UV-B and short-wave U.V-A rays, the latter can protect the skin from long-wave U.V-A rays. When it comes to broad-spectrum coverage, zinc oxide is a superior option. Zinc oxide possesses antibacterial properties, so it contributes to wound healing too.