File this under “While We Are Talking About Frankenbeauty:”
You may have seen news reports popping up here again in the last week about nanotechnology used in cosmetics. Why is it in the news? Well, because apparently there are a number of companies that don’t want to reveal that they use it. I wanted to explore this a little more, so here are my findings.
What is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology, in a most basic easy to understand definition, is the ability that we now have to take materials down to, and build them up from their atomic form. This means that we are working with the tiniest of particles and have the ability to really create new substances with them. These particles are measured in nanometers, hence the term, nanotechnology.
What does that have to do with beauty?
Well, the idea is that with the advent of nanotechnology, we will be able to build better, more effective cosmetic preparations. Nanotechnology is used in a huge array of different things, but we are focusing on beauty preparations here, both because it is our *thing* and because the latest news revolves around skin care and cosmetics. This technology is used to make longer lasting fragrances, anti-aging potions that actually work and sunscreens that are even more effective.
So… Whats the Problem with Nanotechnology?
The problem, and the reason that nanotechnology keeps showing up in sensational news items, is that these new preparations that are formed on the molecular level have not been around long enough to properly test their safety. What makes you look great right now could negatively affect your cells on a molecular level (your DNA?) later on down the road.
It is interesting to note as you think about nanotechnology – using materials at this miniscule size can change the expected properties of the materials For example:
- Collections of gold particles can appear orange, purple, red, or greenish, depending upon the specific size of the particles making up the sample.
- Carbon atoms in the form of a nanotube exhibit tensile strengths 100 times that of steel and can be either metallic or semiconducting depending on their configuration.
- Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, common ingredients in sun screen, both appear white when made of macro particles. But when the particles are ground to the nanoscale, they appear translucent. [source]
The main concern is that private cosmetics companies are not required by law to publish their safety research, meaning that we don’t have a clue how much testing has been done, OR what the results of such testing are. Nor are companies required to label their goods to let us know that nanotechnology is being used. We have to trust that the companies that we love are taking good care of us.
My Take Away
My take away from this reminds me that I am a proponent of a free enterprise system. I do business with people I trust, and I don’t do business with those that I don’t. And I trust in the “mart of competitive commerce” (do I quote Oh Brother Where Art Thou too much?) that will cause untrustworthy businesses to fail. I could go into why bailing out companies is a bad idea, but I will spare you that economic drivel today. (I hear you saying *whew*)
So does it bug me that, when asked, only 17 of 67 companies responded at all regarding the use of nanotechnology in their products? Yep, a little. After all, I also believe that where there is smoke, there is fire. And if this was amazing and wonderful technology, why not shout off the rooftops that you are using it, and rub it into your competitors faces? Food for thought. That is how free enterprise is supposed to work. But, I too am looking for the fountain of youth, and am fully in support of new technology that will get us there. I mean, we can work with materials of this size – why can’t I get rid of that big ass wrinkle on my forehead???
Here are some resources for you to start to read and understand yourself:
- US Congress Report on Nanotechnology (2006 – PDF)
- Which? (the company who published the report who started all of this most recent chatter about nanotechnology
- The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
- Nanocafes.org (This is a huge list of links to all sorts of beauty/nanotech articles dating back for the last 2 years. I’ll not even try to compete with this. If you are really into this topic, definitely spend a few hours poking around here)
Have you thought about this at all? I’d sure love to know your thoughts. If you knew that a product was created using nanotechnology, would that make you buy it, or not buy it? Hmm. Lets do a poll.
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