Take a look at this infographic. While very useful and does its job informing you of what you put on your skin, I have to question one of the points being claimed as fact. This may sound unusual coming from someone who uses organic beauty products (or heck, run a blog promoting them), but I like to learn the facts, and don’t listen to all the hype without some of my own research.
The biggest, and likely the most common point you may hear surrounding green beauty is that “our skin absorbs 60% of anything we place on it”. This tidbit is frequently credited to Rob McCaleb of the Herb Research Foundation. The backup? Well, nicotine and birth control patches are applied topically to release medicine to your bloodstream. True. Know what else is fact? There are also other factors involved that can affect the extent of dermal absorption (source and source):
- Skin integrity (damaged vs. intact)
- Location of exposure (thickness and water content of skin’s outer layer; skin temperature)
- Physical and chemical properties of the hazardous substance
- Concentration of a chemical on the skin surface
- Duration of exposure
- The surface area of skin exposed to a hazardous substance
There simply hasn’t been enough research done with regards ALL of the possible ingredients in cosmetics. There’s been quite a bit of information about parabens being found in breast cancer tissue, and phthalates affecting the endocrine system for example, but every single chemical? Not quite. I don’t even think it’s possible in a lifetime to determine that, but at least we’ve got some information.
Still, making a blanket statement like absorbing 60% is very bold. Not all substances can be absorbed on their own. Many need a carrier to even penetrate your skin’s outer layers. A popular carrier is dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO. This compound helps medicine pass through the skin and administers its benefits faster, though it’s mainly found in medicine, not beauty products. (This is different from carrier oils to dilute the intensity of essential oils before topic application.)
My question is – are there similar carriers in our cosmetic products that are helping potential toxins enter our bloodstream topically? This is where more research needs to be done. If there are, then yes, it’s possible that 60% of the product’s chemicals and ingredients could be absorbed upon use. For now though, I won’t believe that particular claim.
However, there IS a list of toxics that have been proven harmful and able to be entered into the body topically (some only with a carrier like DMSO). Lots of long names, but I spotted toluene (found in nail polish), 1,4 Dioxane, 2-Methoxyethanol, and phenol. Nicotine’s there, too.
Besides that bit, there’s a bunch of other useful data on the infographic as well, so take a look. With so many potential toxins and not enough research on whether they can truly enter the body through dermal absorption, using a product without these ingredients is ideal. Better safe than sorry, right? There’s always an alternative to the product you’re using, so always read the ingredient list and decide if it’s worth the possible risk.