What is it?
Zinc oxide is an odorless, white powder that is naturally occurring in the mineral zincite. Because of its insolubility in water, zinc oxide has a number of practical uses and is commonly found in ceramics, pigments, foods, and first-aid tapes.
What does it do?
In personal care products, zinc oxide is often used in sunscreen, anti-dandruff shampoo, and diaper cream.
In sunscreen applications, zinc oxide filters out UV rays, keeping them from penetrating the skin and causing cell damage. It is the broadest spectrum UVA and UVB reflector that is approved for use as a sunscreen by the FDA. When used as an ingredient in sunscreen, zinc oxide blocks both UVA and UVB rays of ultraviolet light. Zinc oxide and the other most common inorganic sunscreen, titanium dioxide, are considered to be non-irritating, nonallergenic, and non-comedogenic.
In skin protectant applications, like a diaper cream, zinc oxide forms a protective barrier on the skin to help treat and prevent various skin conditions including minor abrasions, burns, chafing, diaper rash, insect bites, and minor skin irritation.
How is it made?
Zinc metal is heated to a molten state and then superheated to create a pure zinc vapor which leaves other impurities behind. The zinc vapor is directed into a special reactor where it readily reacts with oxygen in the air in a combustion reaction to form the zinc oxide powder. The powder is collected and screened for size and removal of any additional impurities.
What are the alternatives?
Sunscreens are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and while there are many active ingredients that are recognized by FDA for use in sunscreen1, there are very few that meet Tom’s Stewardship Model standards as many are synthetic derivatives of petroleum-based ingredients.
Skin protectants are also regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and while there are many other ingredients recognized as skin protectants, many of the commonly used alternatives like dimethicone, mineral oil, and white petrolatum don’t meet Tom’s Stewardship Model standards as they are synthesized and/or derivatives of petroleum-based ingredients.
Is this the right option for me?
Zinc oxide is recognized as safe and effective by the Food And Drug Administration for its stated uses in their respective levels.2
Tom’s of Maine recognizes that no two people are alike, and even with naturally derived ingredients, some individuals may develop an allergic reaction that is unique to them. As with any product, be sure to discontinue use if you experience discomfort or other indications that the product may not be appropriate for your individual body chemistry.
1 21 CFR 352.10
2 21 CFR 182.5991 and 21 CFR 182.8991