FOR SUN LOVERS CURSED with fair and sensitive skin, there's good news: a new sunblocking lotion that relies solely on the reflective properties of titanium dioxide (TiO2). It's already widely used in sunscreens. But the molecules tend to clump together, weakening their ability to deflect rays. To compensate, sunscreen makers add light-absorbing chemicals such as PABA, which can irritate skin and eyes.
By refining TiO2, researchers at Nanophase Technologies in Burr Ridge, Ill., say they have eliminated the need for other chemicals. They vaporize the metal into tiny, ultrapure spheres that distribute themselves more evenly in lotion than the bulkier TiO2 molecules do. Nanophase will market its sunblock, called Nanoguard, later this summer. Meanwhile, it's developing new TiO2 products to protect paper, ceramics, and household fabrics, such as carpeting, from damaging rays.