Zinc Oxide: The Naturally Sourced Broad-spectrum Sunscreen Ingredient


As far back as 500 BC, early humans were using zinc compounds for medicinal purposes. Indian writings tell of the compound being applied as salve for eyes and open wounds. The Canon of Medicine Manual, dated 1025 AD, documents the use of zinc oxide for numerous skin conditions, including skin cancer.

Today, zinc oxide is not a treatment for skin cancer, but used in a variety of wound healing and sunscreen formulations. It is the only sunscreen ingredient that is also recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a Category I Skin Protectant and is recommended for use on compromised skin. Being naturally present in the earth’s crust, it is often referred to as a naturally derived sunscreen. Back in the day, lifeguards were on the right track when they conscientiously used the white ointment on their lips and nose to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Zinc oxide provides a physical barrier and is very efficient at absorbing, reflecting and scattering UVA and UVB rays due to its wide band gap.

Today’s zinc oxide formulations have considerably improved since the opaque pastes reminiscent of lifeguard use. Modernized zinc oxide sunscreens use particles containing micronized nano and non-nano particle sizes that allow ease of application and transparent skin coverage for elegant formulations. In addition, physical sunscreens tend to be fragrance free and are considered non-irritating and non- allergenic, since the ingredient sits on the skins surface and is not absorbed.

Before venturing out in the sun, consider a sunscreen containing our specialized, low lead Z-cote grade zinc oxide. Current BASF Care Chemical portfolio Z-Cote offerings include: Z-COTE, an uncoated nano zinc oxide (NPA Approved); Z-COTE HP1, a zinc oxide coated with triethoxycaprylyl silane; Z-COTE  LSA, a zinc oxide coated with triethoxycaprylyl silane containing particles ≥ 100 nm; and Z-COTE LSA-UC, a zinc oxide uncoated with particles ≥ 100 nm (NPA Approved).


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