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I’ve got you under my skin

February 25, 2010

Nice song but perhaps not something you want to be saying about your cosmetics!  Depending on who you listen to you could be led to believe that our skin let’s practically everything get under it which, as I mentioned in my nanotech article, would be pretty bad news for an organ that is supposed to keep stuff out. Others say that it is pretty tricky to get chemicals to penetrate the top layers of the epidermis – a  statement that  tends to calm our nerves somewhat until you add up how many dollars you just spent on that deep-acting anti-wrinkle cream.


So who do we believe?  Is our skin ALWAYS one thing or another and are some chemicals absorbed better than others?

Love your skin

Let’s have a look.

So, who do you believe? Well, anyone you choose I guess as it really has nothing to do with me. However, I do have a handy method for working out what to believe that you may find helpful. It starts by believing that all things are possible given the right circumstances and once you have thought about that, it’s time to do a bit more thinking.

  •  What product is it and where will it be put on the body.

Skin is not the same all over our bodies. Our lips have very thin skin, our feet and hands are not hairy (but they can be sweaty) and our backs are pretty thick-skinned compared to our chest. 

  • What state are you in?

By that I mean giving your skin a good examination. Do you have acne, cold sores, eczema, dry skin? Do you have dandruff, mozzie bites, sun burn? What about allergies, flu or shaving burn?  How old are you, how much body fat are you carrying and how hydrated are you? These, among other things can all affect your skins barrier function.

  • How are you going to apply the product?

Before or after a massage?  While sunbathing? After sunbathing?  In the shower / sauna / bath or just before going to the gym?  These things all matter as stress, perspiration, UV, heat and skin manipulation can all change the permeability of the skin and your skin’s tolerance to a product.

  • How much and How often?

Is this a once-in-a-lifetime skin treat or do you use this product every hour, on the hour?  When you apply it do you layer it on thick or just slather on a slither? dosage is important!

  • Are you mixing your (skin) drinks?

One product on one type of skin = one set of outcomes.  More than one product on one type of skin = multiple outcomes could occur as you up your ‘dose’ plus you could end up with synergies happening between products, enhancing any effects.

So, if all of that sounds pretty heavy going how about the fact that the skin can metabolize (break down) stuff if it get’s to the right place. Some ingredients can enhance penetration (which would be ideal when trying to get actives into the part where they will work) and some ingredients can act as a barrier, stopping anything from getting through.  These things are not always easy to measure either as the relationship between product and skin is not static. Our skin changes and  our products can be  impacted slightly by the air, skin pH, environment and water content.

So is it wise to say that our skin absorbs XX % of all that we put on it?

Not really no because the amount that our skin CAN absorb is constantly changing.  What would make more sense is to try to measure the likelihood of skin penetration for certain types of products in certain scenarios i.e:   massage oils used during a therapeutic massage, anti-ageing cream massaged into a damp face after washing or sunscreens used on a beach. This information would be much more meaningful.

So what can YOU do to keep your skin happy?

Patch test, listen to your body, ask yourself some questions and remember that cosmetics are  defined as products that work on the skin rather than under it.  Finally, why not trust the cosmetic chemists that formulated the products? After all, it is their  job to think about all these things so that you don’t have to – although we don’t blame you for taking an interest.

Take care and have faith in your skin.

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