The Ingredient That Ranch And Sunscreen Weirdly Have In Common

The first time you're made aware of the flavor similarities between toothpaste and green-dyed mint chocolate chip ice cream, you might find it hard to enjoy a scoop without feeling like you're eating a mouthful of Colgate. Suddenly, two seemingly unrelated things (one of which is meant to be eaten and the other of which is meant to spit into the sink) become one. The same might be said of the Robitussin-hued syrup collaboration between Mrs. Butterworth and Fruity Pebbles.

The same unexpected fusion is true of sunscreen and certain brands of ranch dressing. Not only are the two products similar in appearance, but they also occasionally share a common ingredient: titanium dioxide. But before you go throwing out your bottles of ranch dressing, smearing it on your face at the beach, or drizzling SPF on your salad, rest assured that not all ranch brands can fight off UV rays. 

Titanium dioxide is sometimes used as a dyeing agent

Not every ranch purveyor adds titanium dioxide (or Ti02) to their dressing (Hidden Valley and Newman's Own are both Ti02-free), but the ones that do are usually bright-white in color. That might sound scary but don't fear. Kelly Jones, M.S., RD, CSSD, told EatingWell that the FDA forbids food companies from including more than 1% of sunscreen's active ingredient in their products, and such a small amount is probably not going to cause major damage to your body. "I recommend avoiding regular intake of additives like titanium dioxide, but it isn't worth obsessing over the small amounts you may get while dining out or other less common occasions," said Jones.

With that said Jones adds that consuming too much of the ingredient has been known to cause stomach aches by way of gut inflammation. If you prefer copious amounts of ranch with your veggies and chicken wings, it might be smart to opt for a non-Ti02 brand. Better yet, you could make your own ranch at home with a few simple ingredients.  

It's not just ranch

Even if you cut out all ranch brands that contain titanium dioxide, you might still come across it in other foods. In 2022, Skittles was sued by a consumer for containing the chemical compound. In response, the brand's research and development vice president, Justin Comes, assured that "all Mars Wrigley ingredients are safe and manufactured in compliance with strict quality and safety requirements established by food safety regulators, including the FDA."

Starburst, Jell-O, Sour Patch Kids, certain brands of coffee creamers and sauces, and vitamin supplements also contain Ti02 as a coloring and smoothing agent, which only goes to show that the ingredient is safe to consume in small quantities. Not everyone agrees, though. In August 2022, the European Commission decided to ban the additive in the European Union, citing speculations that the ingredient may lead to cancer. Fortunately, titanium dioxide has the opposite effect on your face.