Zinc oxide nanoparticles in modern sunscreens: an analysis of potential exposure and hazard

Nanotoxicology. 2010 Mar;4(1):15-41. doi: 10.3109/17435390903502028.


Sunscreens containing metal oxide nanoparticles appear transparent on the skin and provide excellent protection against sunburn caused by UV radiation. While it is likely that nanoparticles remain on the surface of the skin of healthy adult humans, and thus are considered safe for use in sunscreens, there has been no comprehensive assessment of the impact on human health from exposure to the metal oxide nanoparticles destined for use in sunscreens, either in the workplace during the manufacturing process, in long-term use across a range of skin conditions, or upon release into the broader environment, either accidentally or consequent of normal sunscreen use. In this review, we focus on zinc oxide nanoparticles destined for use in modern sunscreens, and discuss the potential for human exposure and the health hazard at each stage of their manufacture and use. We highlight where there is a need for further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Particle Size
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Skin / anatomy & histology
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / chemistry*
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • Zinc Oxide / chemistry
  • Zinc Oxide / metabolism
  • Zinc Oxide / toxicity*


  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Zinc Oxide