Brilliant White


The futuristic science behind your sun cream

Ever wondered how a bit of cream manages to stop the biggest fusion reactor in the solar system from frying you?  You wouldn’t be alone.

The main chemical in your sun cream is called titanium dioxide and it is in a surprising amount of things we all use in our daily life, like toothpaste, paints and chewing gum. That’s right, titanium dioxide is everywhere, an ingredient in many of the things you love and need to use.

Despite playing a part in the production of all of those cool products and more, it is often used in sun creams, because titanium dioxide has the ability to reflect sunlight.

How does sunscreen even work?

Titanium dioxide reflects and scatters ultraviolet radiations, which are the cause of sunburns and skin cancer.

It seems pretty straightforward, and really it is, and this is why titanium dioxide has been used in sun cream for decades now. However, recently, your sun cream has been getting a lot more advanced and it is time you paid attention.

Shielding you from the sun 2.0

Recently science has been looking into engineering those particles of titanium dioxide to make them even more efficient at fighting sunrays.

Nano-sized titanium dioxide, which are different and much smaller than pigmentary products of TiO2 mentioned in prior stories not only manages to reflect incoming sun rays in a much more efficient manner, but it is also more stable than the regular substance, so you don’t have to reapply the sun cream as often. This leaves you more time to skip around in your holiday clothes, which we can all agree is definitely something you should do more of.

Considering that the sunburn, and skin cancer, challenge comes from people not using enough sun cream and not using it often enough, it’s pretty obvious that using nanotechnology is a step in the right direction.

Look to the future

Although there are some who ask if nano particles could in fact be harmful to the skin, there’s nothing to suggest this is actually the case with titanium dioxide. A recent report from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Miljøstyrelsen) checked the safety of nano-sized titanium dioxide in sun cream. They found that even though the nanoparticles are tiny, the skin acts as an effective barrier and doesn’t let a measurable amount through.

The sunscreen of the future is already here. And it’s safe. And it’s working.

Why you should cover your house in sunscreen

What do white paint and sunscreen have in common?

We all know black attracts heat, so it makes sense not to paint your house black if you’re living in a warm climate.

But by painting it white you can have an impact on how warm your house is going to get. White and pastel coloured paints are commonly based on a pigment called titanium dioxide, which helps your house stay cooler for a simple reason: it reflects sunrays! This is why it’s also used in sunscreen.

Colour matters!  So can painting stuff white affect how warm it gets?

Definitely, and people in warmer places have known it for centuries; it is the reason houses in Southern Europe are painted in lighter colours than they are in the North. It is also the reason you can put water in a black plastic bag on a sunny day and have a hot shower, and the reason why renting a black car on your summer holiday to Spain is less than ideal.

By using titanium dioxide in paint, scientists have discovered that it can actually repel the effects of sunlight, by insulating the house and helping it stay cooler even in the warmest days. This not only helps your body from sweating, but it also means lower energy bills: protecting your pockets and, well, saving the world by increasing energy efficiency.

What’s more, titanium dioxide makes your paint last longer meaning you can spend less time painting your house and more time eating sweets.

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