What is Titanium Dioxide and Why is it in "Natural" Soap?
It can be unnerving to see a chemical name in a product marketed as natural. People feel safer when they can look at a list of ingredients and have it not only be as short as possible but also made up of familiar ingredients.
So, what is Titanium Dioxide?
Titanium Dioxide is a natural mineral mined from the earth. In soap, it acts as a whitener. Natural soap has a yellowish to off-white color (depending on the oils used to create it). To dye soap other colors, especially with natural colors, starting with the blank canvas of white is much easier. It also helps the soap look more opaque and solid rather than gelled or sightly transparent. In sunscreen, it is a UV protectant.
And is it safe?
Like many substances, this depends on the way it is used. Titanium Dioxide comes in powder form, and the particles vary in size based on the way it is used. Nanoscale Titanium Dioxide is a very, very fine particle that can be dangerous to work with without proper protection because they are small enough to enter the alveoli of the lungs and cause breathing problems. However, Nanoscale Titanium Dioxide isn't the kind typically used in soap; rather it is the most common mineral in natural mineral sunscreens. Once in a cream, it is safe as the particles cannot enter the air. Nanoscale Titanium Dioxide may also be used in certain powder cosmetics, and present more of a health risk than when it is in sunscreen.
What about in NeedleNSuds products?
I do not use Nanoscale Titanium Dioxide. I find that the regular powder mixes into my soap without issues, and I also do not have the equipment to safely handle the Nanoparticle form around my family, since all my soap is handmade in my personal kitchen. Once Titanium Dioxide of any size is dissolved into a solution (like soap or sunscreen) it becomes very safe. Titanium Dioxide is not absorbed into the skin in any amount. In sunscreen, this is what makes it effective; in soap, this is what makes it safe. All of the Titanium Dioxide sits on the top of your skin and rinses off with the soap.
Is it non-toxic if eaten?
While I certainly do not recommend eating ANY type of soap, because they are not manufactured to be food products, I understand life happens (especially if you have kids or pets). Titanium Dioxide is also used in small amounts as a food colorant, approved by the FDA. However, Europe recently banned it as a food additive. It's fair to say there is some debate about the long-term safety of continuously consuming Titanium Dioxide and I don't have the knowledge to weigh in on that debate. That said, the very small amount of titanium dioxide I use in my soap recipes (about two-tenths of an ounce per pound of soap) plus the infrequency of accidental consumption means that the addition of Titanium Dioxide in my soap should not pose a health hazard.*
What if I'm still not comfortable with Titanium Dioxide in my family's products?
This is completely understandable; everyone has different thresholds of what they feel safe with on their skin and body. Not all of my soaps will have Titanium Dioxide. Some never will, like the 100% Olive Oil Castile Soap. Because my soaps are made in small batches, and Titanium Dioxide does not affect anything but color, it is fairly easy to leave Titanium Dioxide out of a batch upon request (however, please note that without a custom order, it may take longer to provide a Titanium Dioxide-free version of soap if it is a scent not in season or not a product in demand).
As with anything else, always feel free to contact me with any questions!
*It's always wise to contact your doctor, veterinarian, or a poison control center when any non-food product has been consumed. Please do so if you or anyone else consumes NeedleNSuds Soap or products. I want my customers to be safe and healthy!