The Strange Connection Between Ranch Dressing And Sunscreen

Ranch dressing is one of the foremost condiments, used as everything from a salad dressing to a dipping sauce for chicken wings to being drizzled on pizza. Sunscreen, on the other hand, is an inedible (but often pleasantly scented) necessity whenever you're spending a prolonged amount of time in the sun. Beyond their similar color and viscosity, one would assume that there are no other similarities between the two. But that would be incorrect. Read ahead to learn about the peculiar connection. 

"Titanium dioxide ... helps provide the white color in ranch dressing," nutritionist Kelly Jones told EatingWell. While it's used in infinitesimal amounts in food products such as ranch (typically less than 1% in order to abide by FDA regulations), there are still some who are opposed to its presence in food altogether. EatingWell specifically references gut inflammation and possible free radical generation, but notes that "more research is needed to better determine whether there might be any long-term health risks." Jones clarifies that "it isn't worth obsessing over," when eating ranch or other foods that contain the additive, as long as you're not eating it in excess, of course.

In addition to adding a white color, titanium dioxide also adds helps to impart a "creaminess" to certain products — salad dressing included, as noted by CulinaryLore.

Titanium dioxide can be found in many foods

CulinaryLore reports that traditionally titanium dioxide was used in "paints, paper, toothpaste, textiles, plastics, pills, sunscreen, and other skin care products or cosmetics." In addition to ranch, it sometimes appears in items like candies, icing, baked goods, and even dairy products. The Healthy states that it's also used in gum, toothpaste, and some coffee creamers

Consulting Lauri Wright, Ph.D., RDN, LD, assistant professor in public health at the University of North Florida and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The Healthy inquired about the possible dangers of titanium dioxide. Wright notes that "breathing in titanium dioxide when you're painting is completely different from when you eat it — and much less of a concern." Still, The Healthy reports that in recent years, Dunkin' actually removed titanium dioxide out of its donut recipes and So Delicious removed it from its creamers. While a 2019 report from the FDA claims that is "safe," the International Agency for Research on Cancer states that it's a "possible carcinogen for humans."

Of course, not all bottled dressings contain titanium dioxide, and if you make it yourself you can easily rest assured that there is no trace of titanium dioxide in your homemade recipe. There are certain brands that make bottled ranch without the ingredient, including Sir Kensington's, Thrive Market, and Tessemae's (per EatingWell).