Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)

AKA: Titanium Dioxide, CI 77891
One of two the most commonly used mineral sunscreens. It can absorb UV light, including UVB – which causes burning, tanning, and even skin cancer. Also used as a colorant, titanium dioxide gives a product a bright white color.
Titanium Dioxide, CI 77891
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Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)

What is Titanium Dioxide?

Titanium Dioxide, also known as titanium(IV) oxide or titania, is a naturally occurring mineral compound with a fascinating history and a wide range of applications. In various industries, from cosmetics and skincare to paints, coatings, and optical applications, titanium dioxide's physical properties have proven invaluable.

With its chemical formula TiO2, it stands as one of the most widely used white pigments, renowned for its exceptional opacity, brightness, and light-scattering properties. 


Titanium dioxide is commonly referred to as CI 77891 as it is the specific identification number assigned to this white pigment in the Color Index (CI) system, which is widely used to categorize and label colors in various industries.

The history of titanium dioxide dates back centuries. The mineral itself was first discovered in black magnetic sand in Cornwall, South West England in 1791 by the British mineralogist William Gregor. However, it wasn't until the early 20th century that the commercial production and application of titanium dioxide began to gain traction.

Titanium dioxide is sourced from naturally occurring titanium ores, such as ilmenite and rutile, found in various parts of the world. The extraction process involves mining these ores and separating titanium dioxide from other minerals through a series of chemical and physical processes. Once extracted, the mineral undergoes purification and milling to obtain a fine white powder that is commonly used in different industries.

One of the notable characteristics of titanium dioxide is its impressive opacity. It possesses excellent coverage capabilities, allowing it to effectively block the transmission of light. Its brightness and light-scattering properties further contribute to its appeal as a white pigment in various applications.

The uses of titanium dioxide span across numerous industries. In the field of cosmetics and skincare, it serves as a versatile ingredient, imparting a bright, opaque appearance to products. As a colorant, titanium dioxide provides a vibrant white hue that can be blended with other pigments to achieve different shades and tones.

Moreover, titanium dioxide's UV light absorption capabilities make it valuable in sunscreens and sun protection products.

It acts as a physical sunscreen agent, reflecting and scattering UV rays to provide a protective barrier against harmful UVA and UVB radiation. 


Titanium dioxide exists in two forms: nano-sized and non-nano-sized. Nano-sized particles have dimensions less than 100 nanometers, while non-nano-sized particles are larger. Ultrafine nano-sized titanium dioxide offers transparency and UV protection, exhibiting strong absorption against both ultraviolet-A and ultraviolet-B radiation. Non-nano-sized particles provide better coverage and opacity.

The versatility of titanium dioxide extends beyond cosmetics. In the paint and coating industry, it is utilized to enhance coverage, durability, and weather resistance. Its opacifying properties contribute to achieving a smooth and consistent finish on different surfaces.

Additionally, titanium dioxide plays a crucial role in the field of photochemistry and photocatalysis. It exhibits photocatalytic properties, serving as an effective catalyst for various chemical reactions when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. This characteristic has led to its application in areas such as self-cleaning surfaces, air purification systems, and wastewater treatment processes.

Titanium dioxide commonly used as a food additive to enhance the white color or opacity of certain food products. With its light-scattering properties, even small amounts of titanium dioxide can significantly improve the visual appeal of various foods. This additive is widely employed in items like chewing gum, candies, cake decorations, and more.

When added to food, titanium dioxide achieves the desired effect by reflecting and scattering light, resulting in a brighter and more visually appealing appearance. This is particularly valuable for products where a vibrant white color or enhanced opacity is desired.

In addition to its role as a color enhancer, titanium dioxide is also utilized in food preservation. When incorporated into packaging materials, titanium dioxide helps extend the shelf life of certain food products.

The physical properties and diverse applications of titanium dioxide have also positioned it as a valuable component in optical industries. Its high refractive index makes it ideal for producing optical fibers, lenses, and other optical components where precise control and manipulation of light are essential.

Titanium Dioxide in Skincare

Titanium dioxide serves several functions in skincare products, including:

  1. Sunscreen: Due to its ability to reflect and scatter ultraviolet (UV) radiation, titanium dioxide is commonly used as a physical sunscreen agent to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

    It absorbs ultraviolet (UV) light – specifically shorter wavelengths of UV light, including those in the UVB region. These shorter wavelengths of light penetrate only the surface of the skin and cause burning, tanning, and even skin cancer.

    With its remarkable ability to provide broad-spectrum protection against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, titanium dioxide plays a crucial role in safeguarding the skin from sun damage, premature aging, and potential long-term damage, such as the development of skin cancers.

    When incorporated into sunscreen formulations, titanium dioxide acts as a physical sunscreen agent. It works by forming a protective barrier on the skin's surface that reflects and scatters UV rays, preventing them from penetrating the skin and causing damage.

  2. Colorant: Titanium dioxide provides a white pigment that is commonly used in cosmetics to give products a desirable appearance. Used in a variety of industries from paint to coatings and paper, the bright white color of titanium dioxide is useful for producing highly whitened products. For this reason, when combined with zinc oxide as a sunscreen, the finished products are often incredibly white and may even whiten the skin upon application.
  3. Light Stabilizing: In skincare formulations, titanium dioxide helps stabilize and protect light-sensitive ingredients, enhancing the product's shelf life.
  4. Opacifying: Titanium dioxide, when used in its powdered form, is also an excellent opacifier. This is useful particular in makeup cosmetics, where the goal is to cover redness and blemishes, and this can include foundations, concealers, and CC creams.

When Titanium Dioxide appears at the beginning of the ingredient list with a specified concentration percentage, it typically indicates its use as a primary active ingredient in sunscreen, providing UV protection.

Conversely, when Titanium Dioxide is listed towards the end of the ingredient list, particularly as Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), it is commonly employed as a formula helper, serving purposes such as colorant or opacifier, enhancing the appearance or texture of the product.

Titanium Dioxide And Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) is a widely recognized and commonly used ingredient in sunscreens, particularly in the form of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreen formulations.

While it is as effective as zinc oxide in blocking UVB rays, Titanium Dioxide offers slightly less effectiveness in blocking short UVA rays (UVA II) and is largely ineffective against long UVA rays (UVA I). Consequently, titanium dioxide provides inferior broad-spectrum coverage compared to zinc oxide. To enhance protection, titanium dioxide can be combined with chemical UVB and UVA blockers and/or zinc oxide.

One of the significant benefits of using titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens is their physical nature. Unlike chemical sunscreens that work by absorbing UV rays and converting them into heat, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens create a physical barrier that reflects and scatters UV radiation. This mechanism makes them suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or those who prefer sunscreens with fewer chemical ingredients.

Furthermore, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreens have a lower risk of causing skin irritation or allergies compared to some chemical sunscreen ingredients. They are generally well-tolerated, making them suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or those prone to allergic reactions.

It is important to note that the efficacy of a sunscreen formulation depends on factors such as the concentration and particle size of titanium dioxide, as well as proper application and reapplication. It is recommended to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and apply sunscreen generously to all exposed skin areas, including frequently overlooked areas like the ears and the back of the neck.

Titanium dioxide used in sunscreens and cosmetics is often micronized and coated. Micronization reduces the particle size for improved coverage and spreadability, while the coating enhances stability, dispersibility, and water-resistance properties. These processes are essential in optimizing the performance and effectiveness of titanium dioxide in cosmetic formulations, providing effective and aesthetically pleasing sun protection.

Is Titanium Dioxide Safe for Skin?

Extensive scientific research supports the safety of titanium dioxide for skin applications. Regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), have evaluated its safety and approved its use in cosmetic and skincare products.

Extensive scientific research and regulatory assessments support the safety of titanium dioxide, including nano-TiO2, for skin applications. According to the European Union's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), nano-TiO2 used in sunscreens at concentrations up to 25% does not pose a health risk when applied on the skin. However, the SCCS advises against using nano-TiO2 in formulations that could lead to inhalation exposure, such as sprayable products and powders, due to potential lung inflammation observed in animal studies.

In 2016, the EU Cosmetic Regulation authorized the use of nano-TiO2 as a UV filter in cosmetic products, with the exception of formulations that may expose the lungs to the nanoparticles. Oral exposure to nano-TiO2 is considered to have limited absorption and toxicity. As a result, incidental oral exposure to nano-TiO2 in lip balms is not expected to cause adverse health effects.

Side Effects of Titanium Dioxide

When taken orally, titanium dioxide is generally considered safe and does not exhibit any known side effects. It is commonly used as a food additive and has been deemed safe for consumption by regulatory agencies.

In terms of eye exposure, titanium dioxide may cause minor irritation, such as eye redness or discomfort. However, these effects are typically mild and temporary. It is important to rinse the eyes thoroughly with water if such irritation occurs and seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

Inhalation of titanium dioxide dust can be a concern, particularly in occupational settings where there is significant exposure to fine particles. Animal studies have shown a potential link between inhalation of titanium dioxide dust and lung cancer. As a result, industry standards and workplace regulations have been implemented to minimize exposure and protect workers.

When applied topically, titanium dioxide is generally well-tolerated. However, in some individuals, it may cause minor skin irritation, such as redness or itching. This can be more common in individuals with sensitive skin or those prone to allergic reactions. If any skin irritation occurs, it is recommended to discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional or dermatologist.


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