Paint-Eating Sunscreen

Would you put a substance on your skin that eats through paint? It seems many have by applying some sunscreens.

Australia is a rather sunny place and consequently, our skin cancer rates are verhy high.

In the 80’s we were encouraged to Slip, Slop, Slap – slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.

These days, the message is even more urgent – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide; with the latter two exhorting us to seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

As a result of these campaigns, we’ve certainly slopped on a lot of sunscreen. I’ve never particularly liked the stuff. Aside from anything else, in latter years I’ve been concerned not so much about the effect of the sunscreen on me; but the wider environment. After all, this stuff just doesn’t disappear – it’s sweated or washed off.

I avoid the stuff – but that isn’t a recommendation to others that they should too; but just to delve into the brand of sunscreen used.

Of particular concern have been the nano-particles in some sunscreen products – particles so small, they don’t just sit on top of the skin, they can penetrate it.

A case generating interest in Australia relates to a company that reportedly stated a sunscreen product didn’t contain nano-particles, but it turns out it does. This case is also said to be just the tip of the nanoparticle iceberg.

However, the bigger story relates to the type of nanoparticles in question. Anatase titanium dioxide has been found to eat into the coating of pre-painted steel roof sheets after being handled by workers with some types of sunscreen on their hands. Apparently, it can also cause damage to other surface coatings.

Imagine that – a reasonably small amount of this stuff doing such damage. What’s it doing to people’s skin, and equally important; what’s it doing when it’s washed off into the wider environment?

While skin isn’t paint and substance interactions can vary wildly; I think there’s enough doubt now that the safety of sunscreen really needs much closer attention.


Sunscreen – protection or poison?