What Is Transparent Zinc Oxide?

S. Reynolds

Zinc oxide is a simple chemical that consists of one zinc atom and one oxygen atom. This chemical is usually white, but can be ground to a very fine powder so that it can hardly been seen when it is applied to skin. Transparent zinc oxide is used in a variety of skin products, including sunblock and diaper rash ointment. The fact that it does not have any visible color makes it very useful for transparent sunblock formulas.

A tube of zinc oxide ointment.
A tube of zinc oxide ointment.

Due to its opacity, ordinary zinc oxide repels light, making it a popular choice for sunscreens. With a chalky-white color, it blocks the sun's harmful rays by providing a physical barrier between the skin and the sun. When combined with a cream or ointment base, zinc oxide sticks to the skin and prevents water from entering. It also has a drying quality, which makes it useful for a variety of skin conditions.

Regularly applying sunblock will help keep skin looking younger longer.
Regularly applying sunblock will help keep skin looking younger longer.

Although it is a good sunscreen, many people did not like to use regular zinc oxide due to its characteristic white color. Transparent zinc oxide, which has been ground to a fine powder and thus loses that color, is used in most modern zinc oxide sunblock formulas. This provides the same amount of sun block protection without leaving behind any visible white coloring.

Some people have raised concerns that the nanosized zinc oxide particles could enter the skin's surface and get inside the body. Most sunscreens on the market do contain nanosized particles, but there is no indication that the substance enters the bloodstream or gets past the skin barrier. If fine zinc oxide powder is inhaled, however, it can cause lung problems, so experts advise people against using zinc powder or sprays that contain zinc powder. The micronized zinc oxide in creams and lotions do not seem to pose a threat to the lungs.

Zinc oxide products are helpful for many skin conditions and provide a physical barrier against wet diapers, so many parents use transparent zinc oxide ointment to treat diaper rash in babies. The only concern about using this product is that it can be harmful if a child ingests it. In addition, not all types of diaper rash are improved with zinc oxide ointment.

Other common transparent zinc oxide uses include treatment for poison oak and ivy, and insect bites or stings. The zinc oxide lotion is rubbed onto the skin to dry up wounds and protect the skin from the elements. Zinc can actually cause skin irritation, however, if it is used in high concentration.

Some oil-free sunblocks contain zinc oxide.
Some oil-free sunblocks contain zinc oxide.

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