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Question #63058 posted on 05/06/2011 7:44 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Would diluted titanium white acrylic paint (or non-diluted, I suppose) work as a sunscreen?

-Gred and Forge

A:

Dear Grege and Ford,

Well, considering that titanium dioxide is one of the major ingredients in sunscreen, I would have to say that it would certainly serve the purpose that titanium dioxide typically does: to absorb UV radiation, preventing absorption by the skin. However, the radiative properties of titanium dioxide are such that it reflects the majority of visible light, with an albedo of about 0.69. That means it looks really white to the eye. That's why they use it in white paint. Or skim milk, to improve its appearance. As a result, when used as sunscreen, titanium dioxide leaves a glaring white coating on skin which most of us don't like. Instead, most sunscreens today use oils and other organic ingredients to look more transparent.

That said, are you sure you want to apply acrylic paint to your skin? Acrylic paint generally has not been approved by the FDA for use with the skin, and anecdotal reports indicate that it can cause anything from irritation to burns. If you use titanium white acrylic paint, however, UV exposure would not be one of your major concerns at all; it would act very effectively as a sunscreen. I'm just not sure that it's worth the other risks involved with applying acrylic paint to your face.

-Democritus