There is a persistent beauty myth circulating that the products you place on your skin penetrate into your bloodstream (see this article I found online as a perfect example of the perpetuation of this myth). Sometimes beauty myths like this are promoted by the natural and organic beauty industry in order to sell their products, but, frankly in my opinion, this is a scare tactic and it irks me greatly. (And please don’t get me started on the EWG and their Skin Deep website. I am not the only one who is annoyed by the EWG. See this post from The Beauty Brains for their perspective and an excellent, in my opinion again, explanation on how the EWG uses a little data in order to reach scary conclusions and create hysteria among consumers).
So just what are the facts about skincare product absorption into our bloodstream? This post will rely heavily on information from The Beauty Brains website since they have addressed this issue numerous times in varying permutations. In the post Natural Bias on the Beauty Brains they explain:
… it is not true that whatever you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body. Skin is designed to keep things out of your body. It is an excellent barrier to almost all chemicals. This is why doctors still have to give you shots or you have to take pills for most medicines. Some drugs, like those delivered through nicotine patches really work, but overall very few chemicals can penetrate your skin and get into your system!
And again in the post How Can You Stop Chemicals From Penetrating the Skin?:
Raylene really needs to know…I don’t like the idea of chemicals in cosmetics getting into my body. Is there anyway to block this?
The Beauty Brains respond:
Since most ingredients don’t penetrate skin this isn’t really an issue. That’s because most chemicals are too large to diffuse through the skin. (Read this post on how much chemical exposure do you really get from cosmetics.) In fact, you need special dermal patches, formulated with penetration enhancers, to get things like nicotine and sea sickness drugs through your skin and into your blood.
In the post The Impermeable Facts of Skin Penetration and Absorption from the website Personal Care Nathan Rivas does a great job breaking down the intricacies of this issue. It turns out that this site does not allow other bloggers to copy and paste information from their articles free of charge. The article offers an excellent explanation on this issue, so much so that the part I wanted to share here would have cost me $212 to do so. Instead I urge you to click the above link to the article and read it since I do not have $212 to spend in order to share the information here :).
But just how much chemical exposure do we get each year from our beauty products? The Beauty Brains explains in the post How Much Chemical Exposure Do You Really Get From Cosmetics?:
A few months ago we examined the question of whether your cosmetics were poisoning you. In this article we de-bunked the claim that you absorbed 5 pounds of damaging chemicals a year. This is just nonsense and not supported by science.
However, we recently found some published research about how much chemical exposure the average person gets each day from common products. Remember, this is how much you’re EXPOSED which is different than how much your body absorbs. How do you compare to the average person?
Chemical exposure per day from cosmetics
1. Lipstick: 0.024 g
2. Spray perfume: 0.53 g
3. Liquid foundation: 0.67 g
4. Solid antiperspirant: 0.79
5. Face cream: 2.05 g
6. Hairspray: 3.57 g
7. Skin lotion: 8.70 g
8. Shampoo: 12.8 g
9. Body wash: 14.5 g
Cosmetic chemical absorption
So, if you use all of these products every single day for a year, you are exposed to over 35 pounds of chemicals. Of course, many of these products are mainly water so if you subtract out the water, your non-water chemical exposure is about 5 pounds in a year.
That would mean if it were true that you absorbed 5 pounds of chemicals from cosmetics each year, your body would be absorbing everything put on your body. We know this isn’t true since we see bubbles washed down the drain and we have to remove make-up every night
Bottom Line: The next time someone or a company tells you that the chemicals in the skincare product you are using are being absorbed into your bloodstream you will now know that this is just a persistent beauty myth. Our skin functions as a protective barrier that keeps out chemicals instead of letting them in. Very few chemicals penetrate our skin let alone get absorbed into our bloodstream.
Further Related Reading:
- How Deep Do Skin Care Actives Have to Go to Work? - Personal Care
- Do Cosmetics Really Cause Cancer? - The Beauty Brains
- Do Cosmetic Ingredients Really Absorb Into The Blood Stream in 26 Seconds? – The Beauty Brains
- 9 Beauty Myths, Busted! - Shape Magazine
- 7 Sources for Cosmetic Ingredient Information – The Beauty Brains
- My post – All Your Skin Does For You: Functions of the Skin
Image from http://www.aip.org