22.10.14

Debunking Skincare Myths - Does our skin absorb 60% of skincare?


Sugarpuffish UK
Science is not my strength. Unfortunately, that does mean I must remember to not take everything on board as the gospel truth. In the past, I have been guilty of sharing articles claiming that 60% of the cosmetics we put on our skin ends up in the bloodstream. The concern is synthetic and toxic ingredients are entering our bodies and causing ill health. Only the other day, I saw a natural company using this same statement to market their skincare. They are by no means the only ones using this statistic. At the start of my green journey, I naively trusted that the people sharing this fact had done their homework but the more I learn, the wiser I become to those spreading "half truths". 

I highly recommend everyone reads the following excellent articles. Both explain why the statement about our bodies absorbing 60% is somewhat flawed. 



These articles explain that our skin is made up of layers (epidermis, dermis and hypodermis) so there is a distance which an ingredient must travel before reaching the bloodstream. Not every ingredient will be absorbed. It is dependent on the "chemical" and the size of the molecules as to whether it will pass through. I am guessing this is why hormone and nicotine patches work. These are treatments which are specifically designed to be absorbed. If an ingredient does make it into the body, some will naturally pass through our system as we are designed to reject what is not needed. What we must remember is when it comes to skincare we are looking to treat the top layer of skin so cosmetics are not deliberately manufactured to penetrate all the way to our bloodstream. 

Whilst I am looking at this topic, I wanted to once again highlight the issue of gluten and food allergens in skincare. It is widely debated whether there is a need for gluten free cosmetics/skincare. I certainly understand the demand for them, my sister is coeliac. Of course, I have my own allergies and do not use any skincare that contains milk and citrus. I understand the concern for allergens in lipstick but should I really be concerned about them in body lotion? I have read that gluten molecules are too large to penetrate through to the bloodstream and a reaction to a product containing gluten is more likely to be down to other ingredients in the formula. There was a case in Australia of a woman who used goat milk soap and went on to suffer a severe allergic reaction when she ate goat cheese. The reaction did not happen overnight, she started using the soaps to treat eczema in 2009 and reacted in 2011. It is also worth remembering that eczema can cause broken skin and the skin layers are not as robust as they are meant to be. I am guessing eczema would leave you vulnerable to ingredients penetrating into the bloodstream. It was an unusual case but it certainly gets you thinking.

Our daily lives are filled with undesirable synthetic ingredients which are not needed. That is why I advocate natural and organic skincare. I am not entirely dismissing the idea that some ingredients appear to be making it into our bodies but I am saying that some scary facts floating around on the internet are not always accurate. It is unlikely we are are absorbing 60% of what we put on our skin.


Sarah x

12 comments:

  1. Great post Sarah. I admit I've used this before without really thinking it and like you, assumed people had done their research but now that I think about it & having read the Siam Botanicals post, if you think about sitting in a bath, you don't absorb the water do you haha! x

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    1. Thanks Amber. My favourite part of that post was "If I pour wine on myself, will I get drunk?"

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  2. Awesome post, Sarah. I consider myself green to the core and will always choose natural in all areas of my life but the fact is that there is just as much bad information and half truths about natural products out there, as there is about mainstream stuff. It's always worth taking the time to do some reading and research rather than taking statements at face value just because they are about natural products. x

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    1. Totally agree Annie. It doesn't help us champion the idea of switching to natural & organic when the information being thrown around is not very accurate

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  3. It's so hard (harder than it should be) to find credible information. I love that Siam botanicals is trying to clear up a favorable green beauty misconception. Very informative post Sarah. xx

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    1. agree with you on both counts, it can be a struggle to find info & I too like the work of Siam Botanicals (and others) who clear up these myths :)

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  4. With food allergies, I think it is worth avoiding the foods in skincare because the proteins which trigger food allergies can be quite small (and therefore more likely to penetrate skin).

    But with coeliac disease, gluten is a very large molecule, which probably doesn't penetrate. That said, wheat peptides (wheat proteins which are broken down) could contain some gluten fragments, which potentially may be more absorbable. It's a complex picture ....

    I've recently been troubled by a Natracare video, claiming that 'everything' we put on our skin is absorbed. I challenged this - and other claims made in the video - and am still awaiting responses despite chasing. Plan to cover all this on the Skins Matter site soon ... but well done for further highlighting the issue here, Sarah.

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    1. It was your conversation with Natracare that got me thinking and lead me to write this post. Thanks for the info regarding food allergies because it was a grey area for me. I look forward to your post on skinsmatter :)

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  5. Ok I can finally comment yay! I was trying to raise this gently in my second youtube video, by talking about skins function etc. I think with green beauty there has been a bit of marketing meets distorted science, sentences like certain percentage of chemicals "may penetrate" became "will penetrate" and so on. I can't even read a lot of press releases tbh they are so full of fluff, so I just look at the ingredients, make up my own mind and have my blinkers on for the rest. Xx

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    1. the marketing "fluff" is definitely getting in the way of communicating the science bit, press releases are the classic example of this. I have seen companies who use this 60% absorb statement on their websites which I don't think is right thing to do

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  6. Sorry for missing this one until now, Sarah, and thanks for the mention/link - much appreciated. Maybe if enough of us bang on about this for long enough, the message will start to penetrate (instead of the products, haha!). We're not all expert scientists and sometimes we make mistakes in our wording - I know I have - but sometimes I think people wilfully mislead because it suits their marketing message, and that's what I object to in particular. Polly (Siam Botanicals)

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    1. No problem Polly, happy to share, you wrote an excellent piece. I hope that we can change the use of this 60% nonsense. Green, Natural, Organic companies could be saying so much more about their products and ingredients, they don't need to rely on the "scaremongering" tactics

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