SKIN ABSORPTION: THE LOWDOWN ON SOAKING UP SKINCARE
Why should you care about skin absorption?
One important reason for choosing plant derived skincare is because a product’s active ingredients often end up absorbing into your body, one way or another. Understanding what variables determine dermal absorption will not only help you protect yourself but it can also help optimize your skin care routine so it works more effectively for you.
The skin, or epidermis, is the largest organ in the body. Its flexible barrier is designed to protect from harmful elements passing into layers of the dermis, the lower layer of the skin. This is what helps keep the body in healthy, working order!
An article published by the American Journal of Public Health revealed that the outer layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, is a less effective barrier than traditionally expected. (1) With research showing that skin absorbs approximately 64% of what we put on it, we see how topical skin care products can negatively or positively affect the body. This is useful for both avoiding absorption of negative compounds and also using the knowledge use to our advantage for optimal absorption of premium antiaging ingredients.
Over the past fifteen years, more than 10,000 Americans have had their blood tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an attempt to determine their “chemical body burden.” The results of the CDC study were stunning: even those who lived in remote areas were found to have hundreds of synthetic chemicals in their bloodstream. – Ursa Major
Soak it up
Absorption rates are a complex matter and not quite so black and white as a statistic. Dermal absorption depends on multiple factors such as:
- Physical & chemical properties/structure
- Skin anatomy & integrity
- Age of skin
- Product’s ingredient combination
- Ingredient concentration
- Part of body that is exposed
- Duration of exposure
- Hydration level
Both beneficial and irritating chemicals can absorb into skin, depending on their molecule size. However, as noted by the annmarie team, every chemical has a different absorption rate and the body reacts to every chemical differently. In addition, the same chemical can be absorbed differently from person to person. To further complicate things, even when a chemical penetrates through the stratum corneum, it doesn’t necessarily coincide with the amount that is actually absorbed into the bloodstream.
“When a chemical penetrates the skin it makes its way past the stratum corneum (the outer layer of skin) and into skin’s deeper layers. Absorption is when a chemical enters the bloodstream. You can see the enormous difference.” – Blissoma
Play it Safe
So, now what? In effort to eliminate the absorption of dangerous agents, try to avoid products with preservatives, fragrances & toxic chemicals that you do not want infiltrating your skin. Choose organic and natural skincare & body products when possible. Read labels and look for certification. Educate yourself about what chemicals to look for and avoid. Research companies, what they stand for and find ones you trust.
Some products contain “chemical enhancers” (e.g. ethanol, acetone and sodium lauryl sulphate) that are designed to extract natural lipids in the skin, essentially breaking down the skin barrier, which allows the penetration of chemicals. Unsurprisingly, these products can damage the skin in the long run and cause severe irritation. In fact, most dermatologists will advise against using any product containing SLS or sulphates. (2)
Just a few culprits to avoid:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
- Synthetic fragrances & perfumes
HELPING SKIN PRODUCTS WORK TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Once you know what products & ingredients you do want in your skincare regime, you can take it up a notch by improving the dermal absorption of your skincare products.
Here are a few ways to amp up the absorption of your skin care products:
Moisturize on Damp Skin
Misting skin first will increase the absorption of active ingredients in your skincare products. Damp skin acts like a sponge to quickly absorb products. This applies to most products, except a mineral sunscreen. “(A mineral sunscreen is) not absorbed,” says dermatologist David Bank. “It’s designed to sit on the surface of the skin and reflect the sun’s rays.”
Don’t skip night time routine
Skin temperature rises at night which can cause extra dryness. With warmer skin, there is better blood-vessel dilation so it can really absorb skincare products that are applied.
Your skin will look its best if you exfoliate on a regular basis. There is no point lathering on antiaging ingredients if dead skin cells are blocking them.
Exfoliating skin enhances the absorption of topical skincare products. Using a gentle exfoliation product to lightly remove dead skin cells without stripping skin of its natural oils and moisture. Smooth, fresh skin is going to absorb anti aging serums, moisturizers and other products more efficiently.
The epidermis itself is about 20 layers thick, so products that make it past the stratum corneum have to penetrate even further before reaching the dermis. (2)
Layer Skin care Products
It is important to know what order to layer skincare. A general rule of thumb is to apply products from lightest to thickest consistency. Creams and moisturizers often contain ingredients with larger molecules that do not pass through as easy as some more active ingredients that carry smaller molecular weights. Ingredients with a low molecular weight, such as Vitamin C and Growth Factors, have the capability to penetrate to the dermis or even deeper, for optimal absorption and stimulation of collagen production.
Use Warm Water
Not to0 hot… not too cold… but just riiiight. Try to use cool to lukewarm water, depending on skin’s sensitivity. Warm skin has better absorption of products than cold skin. As Redbook explained, warmer skin temperature influence the structure of the skin cell layers, making them more permeable. If water is too hot it can irritate (hello rosacea flare ups!) and dry out skin. Water that is too cold constricts blood vessels tend to strip natural oils and can’t effectively remove dirt and debris.
Antioxidants & Sunscreen
Go together like…Salt & pepper. PJ & Jelly. Antioxidants & Sunscreen. Antioxidant serums and SPFs are two must-haves for anti aging benefits.
Applying your antioxidant serum under your SPF helps neutralize the free radicals caused from sun exposure before they damage the skin.
There are many factors that may affect & alter dermal absorption of skin and body products. Knowing that skin provides a protective barrier from openly absorbing everything we are encounter in a day is comforting. However, with the possibly that 60-70% of what skin comes in contact with has the potential to be absorbed into our bloodstream provides the opportunity to make informed choices. With research statistics like this, it seems sensible to reach towards organic and natural products. Reading labels and learning about ingredients and companies can help you make the healthiest choices for you and your family.