Nanotechnology has been dominating the news lately, but what exactly is it and how can it benefit us humans. Well, nanotechnology (nanotech for short) refers to the exploitation of microscopic materials for various uses such as dental bonding agents, in toothpaste and for cosmetic and medical uses as well as in manufacturing; it is the joining of different fields of science, biology, physics, chemistry and engineering. A nanometer-sized particle is approximately one billionth of a meter and can only be seen by a very powerful microscope.
History of Nanotechnology
Although referred to as the next big thing in manufacturing and medicine, and the ‘hottest thing in cosmetics”, the concept of nanotechnology is not that new. As a matter of fact, the concept has been around since 1959, and Professor Richard P. Feynman is credited with describing nanotechnology in a speech, `There`s Plenty of Room at the Bottom`. At the time Feynman’s idea was seen as purely theoretical. The term ‘nanotechnology’ was first used in a 1986 book, “Engines of Creation” by K. Eric Drexler
French researchers have found that ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were using nanotechnology in hair dye over 4000 years ago.
Nanotechnology and Cosmetics
Today nanotechnology is being used in computer science, medicine and cosmetic manufacturing. Research in the medical field has shown where nanotechnology can help with the healing and repair of skin tissue. In the cosmetic arena it is believed that the smaller particles are more readily absorbed into the skin and as such repair damage easier and more efficiently. It is believed that as new products are developed nanotechnology may be used to prevent graying hair and combat hair loss in some cases.
Nanotechnology is elevating the development of skin care products and cosmetics to another level, making them high-tech so as to deliver increased benefits to users. In addition to improving the efficacy of cosmetics and skin care products, nanotechnology is making it possible for other ingredients to be used in the manufacturing of beauty products.
Nanotechnology in the beauty industry involves making products with nanoparticles that can go deeper below the skin’s surface to give better results. Sunscreens and some anti-aging products are the main cosmetic products on the market currently being made using nanotechnology.
Some large cosmetic players are leading the charge in the field of nanotechnology in the beauty industry. Chief among these companies are L’Oreal who has employed the technology in products such as Revitalift anti-wrinkle cream. According to L’Oreal Revitalift’s results are immediate because the product contains “nanosiomes of Pro-Retinol A”.
Estee Lauder also has a number of nanocosmetics on the market, as does Proctor & Gamble, Shiseido and Duprey Cosmetics.
However, because of the relative newness of the technology in terms of cosmetics manufacturing there is still concern as to how safe nanotech cosmetics are and their long-term effect.
Agencies such as the Federal Drug Administration (US) and The Royal Society (UK) have issued statements calling for continued testing and transparency governing research on the use of nanotechnology in cosmetics.
Some nanoparticles have received FDA approval, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which have been included in sunscreen; in 1996 the FDA is reported to have concluded that “… smaller, micronized particles of titanium dioxide are not new substances and that there is no evidence demonstrating that these micronized particles are unsafe.”
Nanotechnology is not going away, it will become a part of life and is expected to result in significant improvement in the quality of life as we know it.