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Boron nitride is an ingredient in cosmetics ranging from eyeshadow and blush to concealer and lipstick. While it helps makeup go on smoothly, it can cause mild skin irritation in some sensitive-skinned sistas. Where safety is concerned, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding nanoparticles like boron nitride. Learning about boron nitride's effects on the skin -- and your health -- empowers you to make smart decisions about its use.
Boron Nitride 101
Boron nitride is a synthetic crystalline compound made of nitrogen and boron atoms. Its tiny diamondlike nanoparticles come together to form a powder with oil-absorbing properties. Since it doesn’t occur naturally, boron nitride must be produced synthetically using boron trioxide and boric acid. It comes in cubic, hexagonal and amorphous forms, with the hexagonal version being used in cosmetics.
Boron nitride is added to some cosmetics for its ability to absorb oil on the skin. It also helps makeup go on smoothly and softens cosmetics' overall texture. In mineral makeup, it helps smooth lines and wrinkles while speeding drying time in foundation, lipstick and other liquid products. Other benefits include extended wear time, increased adherence and improved compressibility of powders. Boron nitride can be found in a number of cosmetics, such as foundation, loose powder, lipstick, mineral eyeshadow and blush.
Side Effects and Health Concerns
Ultra-tiny particles like those in boron nitride can penetrate cells and fuse with larger molecules -- this much we know. What isn’t known is how this process affects your health. According to EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, the nanoparticles in boron nitride may be absorbed into the skin. Like other nanoparticles, boron nitride can cause irritation of the lungs and eyes with large exposures. It is not known whether it causes reproductive problems, cancer or immune toxicity.
Tips for Safer Use
Should you avoid all products that contain boron nitride? Probably not. However, it might be a good idea to limit your exposure until more is known about its health effects. Limiting wear time of makeup and choosing cosmetics made from natural ingredients can help with this. If you’re concerned about boron nitride, read the ingredient list on the label before purchasing. If you notice redness, itching or skin irritation after using a product that contains the ingredient, trash it and try something else. Sensitive-skinned girls may be more prone to side effects like these.