Particle Sizes in Makeup: Nanoparticles, Micronized, and Micron-Sized

comparing particles in cosmetics

In the context of makeup and cosmetics, the terms "nanoparticles," "micronized," and "micron-sized" refer to different particle sizes used in cosmetic products. These particle sizes can affect the texture, application, and performance of makeup.

Here's an explanation of the differences between these terms and some pros and cons within each (as well as our overall opinion on what's best):


Nanoparticles are extremely small particles with dimensions typically in the nanometer range (1 to 100 nanometers). These particles are significantly smaller than both micronized and micron-sized particles.

In makeup and cosmetics, nanoparticles are often used in products like sunscreen, foundations, and powders. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles are common ingredients in sunscreens because they provide broad-spectrum UV protection without leaving a visible white cast on the skin.

Nanoparticles can provide a smoother and more even application of makeup due to their small size, and they may offer better light scattering properties for a natural finish.

Pros of Nanoparticles in Makeup:

Nanoparticles in makeup offer several advantages. Firstly, their extremely small size allows for a smoother and more even application of makeup products, resulting in a seamless finish on the skin. They also enhance color dispersion and light reflection, contributing to a natural and radiant appearance. Additionally, some nanoparticles, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are used in sunscreens to provide effective UV protection without leaving a noticeable white cast on the skin. These nanoparticles can help makeup products double as sun protection, which is particularly beneficial for daily wear.

Cons of Nanoparticles in Makeup:

However, there are concerns associated with nanoparticles in makeup. One primary concern is the potential for these tiny particles to penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, although this is still a subject of ongoing research and debate. Some individuals may also have sensitivities or allergies to certain nanoparticles, which can lead to skin irritation or adverse reactions. To address these concerns, some consumers prefer makeup products that do not contain nanoparticles, opting for alternatives with larger particle sizes, such as micronized or micron-sized makeup. Ultimately, the choice between nanoparticle-containing and nanoparticle-free makeup depends on individual preferences and considerations regarding safety and skin sensitivity; for those within Heal Yes! we have chosen to and will continue to avoid nanos.

Related: What do nanoparticles do to the body?


Micronized particles are larger than nanoparticles but smaller than conventional cosmetic particles. They typically have dimensions in the micrometer (micron) range, which is one thousand times larger than a nanometer.

Micronized particles are often used to improve the texture and application of makeup products like powders, blushes, and eyeshadows. They can help reduce the "chalkiness" or graininess that can occur with larger particles.

The micronization process involves reducing the size of particles to improve their smoothness and blendability on the skin. This can result in a more even and fine application of makeup.

Pros of Micronized Makeup:

Micronized makeup offers several benefits for users. The process of micronization involves reducing larger makeup particles into smaller, uniform particles within the micron (micrometer) size range. This results in a finer and more easily blendable texture, making it easier to apply makeup smoothly and evenly.

Micronized makeup products, such as powders and blushes, often feel lightweight on the skin and can reduce the appearance of unevenness, providing a natural and polished finish. The improved texture and application can enhance the overall makeup experience, making it a popular choice among cosmetic enthusiasts.

Cons of Micronized Makeup:

Micronized makeup does have potential downsides. One concern is that the grinding process used to create micronized particles may inadvertently produce smaller particles, known as "fines," which can reach nanoparticle sizes. These fines might raise concerns similar to those associated with pure nanoparticles, including the potential for skin penetration and absorption.

Additionally, individuals with sensitive skin may still experience some irritation or discomfort with micronized makeup, especially if they have allergies to specific ingredients. To address these concerns, individuals seeking makeup options with larger particle sizes may choose products labeled as micron-sized or explore alternatives that do not involve the grinding process.


"Micron-sized" particles generally refer to particles that are larger than both nanoparticles and micronized particles. They typically have dimensions measured in micrometers, which are considerably larger than both nanoparticles and micronized particles.

In the context of makeup, products containing "micron-sized" particles may have larger, more visible particles. This can be seen in products like glitter eyeshadows or products that intentionally create a shimmery or sparkly effect on the skin.
Micron-sized particles can add texture, shine, or sparkle to makeup products, and they are often used for decorative or special effects purposes.

Benefits of Micron-Sized Particles in Makeup:

Micron-sized makeup products, such as glitter eyeshadows or items designed for special effects, can create eye-catching visual effects and textures. They add sparkle, shimmer, and distinct styles to makeup looks, catering to a wide range of cosmetic preferences and creative expressions.

Micron-sized particles are often considered safer and less likely to penetrate the skin compared to their counterparts, making micron sizes a popular choice for those who prioritize safety while enjoying unique makeup effects.

Downsides of Micron-Sized Particles in Makeup:

While micron-sized makeup addresses many concerns associated with smaller particles, products can still contain some variations in particle size, and the manufacturing process could result in the presence of smaller fines, akin to nanoparticles, especially if grinding occurs within a formulation. Again and akin to the above, this can raise questions about potential skin absorption and safety, though these concerns are typically lower than those associated with pure nanoparticles.

Micron-sized particles can feel 'gritty' if used in a formulation that calls for a different particle size; for instance, high-micron zinc oxide is an ingredient we entrust, but it takes careful formulation and the perfect balance of mixing within a formula to help ascertain that the large particles do not feel 'gritty' or 'heavy' in texture.

Overall, though, micron-sized makeup occupies a niche within the cosmetics industry, offering a balance between enhanced texture, creative effects, and a reduced likelihood of absorption concerns.

Main Takeaways on Particle Sizes in Cosmetics

Ultimately, the difference between nanoparticles, micronized particles, and micron-sized particles in makeup lies in their respective sizes and uses, each bringing benefits and pitfalls to the table.

Nanoparticles are the smallest and are often used for their invisible sun-blocking properties (albeit concerns arise with health), while micronized particles are intermediate in size and are used to improve product texture and application. Micron-sized particles are larger and are typically used for creating visible texture, sparkle, or shine in makeup products, and, while typically regarded as the most 'healthy' of the three, they are not suitable for all formulas since their particle size can risk making some formulas feel heavy, 'sandy,' or 'gritty' in texture.