Skin Eats, Too – Do You Know

Skin Eats, Too!

Advocates of synthetic skincare insist that our skin is virtually watertight. Many say skin can be scrubbed, steamed, and washed, and nothing penetrates it deep enough to cause any damage. At the same time, many conventional cosmetics claim they deliver collagen, vitamins, and minerals to feed our skin. So do cosmetics really “get under our skin”?

In fact, beauty is skin deep. Human skin is a powerful absorption organ that seems to be constantly hungry for anything that touches its surface. Just like a curious toddler, our skin grabs every available molecule, every single drop of water, every lick of makeup, and every whiff of fragrance and takes it to its cellular “mouth” to taste, chew on, and, most likely, ingest.

Oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide

Oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, as well as toxic pollutants, enter our skin via three doors: sweat ducts, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands, or directly across the stratum corneum. This ability of the skin to absorb chemical substances so they can be spread throughout the body is widely used in medicine. Transdermal delivery drugs for motion sickness, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, smoking cessation, and birth control are already widely used.

According to new estimates, our skin can absorb up to 60 percent of substances applied to its surface. Unfortunately, along with water, vitamins, minerals, and oxygen, the skin soaks up potentially carcinogenic ingredients that increase our risk of having cancer at some point in our lives as if breathing polluted air and eating chemicals were not enough!

To perform their magic, many cosmetic products need to push active ingredients deeper beyond the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of skin comprised of dead skin cells. Traditionally, it was thought that hydrophilic (water bonding, or dissolvable in water rather than oil) chemicals do no penetrate deep into the skin, while lipophilic chemicals (oils or oil-in-water emulsions) diffuse deeper inside the dermis.

The physical and chemical nature

Today, scientists know that the process is much more complicated.  Various substances can penetrate the skin using different vehicles, sometimes as simple as water. This is when penetration enhancers, also called sorption promoters or accelerants, come into play.  To deliver active ingredients, they decrease the resistance of the skin’s barrier. Some dissolve the intercellular matrix, some change the skin’s metabolism, and some damage or alter the physical and chemical nature of the top skin layer.

The most common penetration enhancers include alcohols (ethanol), glycols (propylene glycol), and surfactants. Liposomes, biomolecular spheres that encapsulate various chemicals from drugs to active components of cosmetic products, also serve as penetration enhancers. The most common liposome is phosphatidylcholine from soybean or egg yolk, sometimes with added cholesterol. Nanoparticles currently used to deliver sunscreens and vitamins A and E can boost the skin’s permeability by up to 30 percent. Some penetration enhancers, such as transformers, which are made of surfactants ethanol, are able to deliver up to 100 percent of the drug applied topically! The greater its alcohol content, the deeper the solution is able to penetrate. Many essential oils have been reported to be gentle yet effective penetration enhancers.

What happens when a potentially toxic substance passes the skin’s barriers?

What happens when a potentially toxic substance passes the skin’s barriers? It ends up in blood vessels and lymph ducts located in the epidermis and dermis layers. Skin cells get their nutrients and excrete toxins thanks to an endless circulation of blood and lymph. Lymph, a colorless fluid made o plasma, performs a vitally important drainage function since it provides white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight infection.

As chemicals are absorbed, they enter the bloodstream and travel with lymph across the body, to be eventually filtered out by the liver and flushed away by the kidneys. However, some substance remains inside the body, adding to the systemic load that can accumulate for decades. Since the skin is the largest organ in our body, it soaks up contaminants in much larger amounts than the intestines on the lungs.

Synthetic additives

Most skincare products on the market contain hundreds of synthetic additives whose safety is based on animal, not human, studies. These studies usually analyze the action of separate ingredients applied to an animal’s skin in enormous doses for short periods of time. Granted, humans are unlikely to encounter such doses. But many of us are loyal to cosmetic products. As a result, we are exposed to small doses of the same toxic chemicals for decades. No one can tell how daily applications of SPF50 sunscreen may impact our health ten years from now apart from pale skin and possibly a lower risk of skin cancer simply because these sunscreens have been introduced quite recently, and clinical studies do not cover long periods of time.

Chemical industry insiders say that only small amounts of potentially toxic ingredients are used in cosmetics, from 1 to 10 percent, or just a few micrograms. Medical researchers today are concerned about the long-term, snowballing effect of small doses of questionable chemicals that people absorb from products used consistently over long periods of time.


Let’s say you have been using a fruit-smelling shampoo that contains 1 percent of potentially carcinogenic diethanolamine  (DEA), a surfactant that helps to stabilize foams, every day for five years. That is 2ml of DEA per  200ml bottle of shampoo. You may have switched from brand to brand, picking a “volumizing” or “energizing” shampoo variety, but the core ingredients remained the same (emollients, penetration enhancers, and shine-boosting silicones). With daily shampooing, you end up using nearly an ounce of pure, industrial-strength DEA in a year. Now imagine that you pour a glass of this transparent, gooey substance over your head and start massaging it vigorously into your skin. Then you wash it off with a stream of hot water so this goo spreads over your freshly scrubbed, warm, and unprotected body. Does it make you feel healthy or more beautiful?

Skin can absorb up to 60 percent of substances applied to its surface.

Part of the problem is that no laboratory has ever found a human volunteer to participate in a study that would involve voluntarily rubbing your head with undiluted diethanolamine whether derived from coconut or petroleum.  Only rats can handle this tough job. A recent study by a  team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that fetuses of pregnant mice that were exposed to DEA showed slower cell growth and increased cell death in parts of the brain responsible for memory. Simply put, they were smaller and less smart. This happened because DEA has a similar structure to choline, a molecule that is needed in large quantities for normal brain development (Niculescu et al. 2007).

When potential cancer-causing poisonous chemicals are absorbed by the skin and carried with the blood all over the body, the offending chemical can interact with other chemicals in our system Sometimes these reactions produce substances that provoke cells to evolve in the wrong way resulting in cancer. Diethanolamine can combine with amines present in cosmetic formulations to form nitrosamines, among them N-nitrosodiethanolamine, which is known to be highly carcinogenic Toxic ingredients may lead to many other serious diseases, including allergies, fertility problems diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. In the best-case scenario, they may worsen existing acne or cause an allergic reaction that resembles acne. If you do not understand that toxic chemicals in cosmetics make us sick and age prematurely, you will remain a victim of the chemical industry, and it is not good for your skin or the health of the planet.




This post contains the content of book The Green Beauty Guide below is the link of the complete book

The Green Beauty Guide