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Although nanoparticles have been shown to have clear technological advantages, their use in some consumer products remains controversial, particularly where these products come in direct contact with our bodies. There has been much discussion about using metal oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens, and numerous technology assessments aimed at predicting the type, size and concentration of nanoparticles and surface treatments that will be best for consumers. Yet, the optimal configuration is ultimately the one that people actually want and are willing to pay for, but until now consumer preferences have not been included in model predictions. We describe and discuss a proof of concept study in which we design and implement a hypothetical sunscreen product configurator to predict how people tradeoff sun protection factor (SPF), product transparency and potential toxicity from reactive oxygen species (ROS) in configuring their most preferred sunscreen. We also show that preferred nanoparticle sizes and concentrations vary across demographic groups. Our results suggest that while consumers choose to reduce or eliminate potential toxicity when possible, they do not automatically sacrifice high SPF and product transparency to avoid the possibility of toxicity from ROS. We discuss some advantages of using product configurators to study potential product designs and suggest some future research possibilities.
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