The in vitro absorption of microfine zinc oxide and titanium dioxide through porcine skin

Toxicol In Vitro. 2006 Apr;20(3):301-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2005.08.008. Epub 2005 Sep 21.


Microfine metallic oxides such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide have been found to be highly protective against harmful UV rays. Because their long-term use could potentially lead to health effects if significant amounts of these microfine metallic oxides would be absorbed through the skin, the in vitro absorption of microfine zinc oxide and titanium oxide in cosmetic formulations through porcine skin was investigated. In the experiments with a microfine zinc oxide formulation, the mean total recoveries of Zn were in the range from 102% to 107% of the total Zn applied. Virtually the total amount of applied Zn was recovered in the first five tape strips. The amounts of Zn found in the skin membrane and the receptor fluid were comparable in untreated, vehicle treated or test substance treated skin preparations. The absorption-time plots from diffusion cells treated with the vehicle did not differ from those treated with the ZnO containing formulation. In the experiments with microfine titanium dioxide formulations T-Lite SF-S and T-Lite SF, mean total recoveries of Ti ranged from 98% to 100% and 86% to 93% of the total Ti applied, respectively. Virtually the total amount of applied Ti could be removed from the skin surface by washing. The amounts of titanium found in the tape strips and skin preparations were in the order of the analytical determination limit. No Ti was found in the receptor fluid at any sampling time. The results show that neither zinc or titanium ions nor microfine zinc oxide or titanium dioxide particles were able to penetrate porcine stratum corneum. Therefore, from the absence of internal exposure we conclude that their use in sunscreens does not pose a health risk.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Diffusion Chambers, Culture
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Skin / ultrastructure
  • Skin Absorption*
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Swine
  • Titanium / administration & dosage
  • Titanium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Zinc Oxide / administration & dosage
  • Zinc Oxide / pharmacokinetics*


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • titanium dioxide
  • Titanium
  • Zinc Oxide