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skin absorption

What to Know About Skin Absorption

And what people get wrong about it

We all want the most out of our skincare. In 2020 that ranges from clean beauty to powerful active ingredients to more simplified skincare routines. 

But something many people overlook, or don’t even know about, is how your skin takes in the product, and why it really matters. 

What is skin absorption? 

It’s well known that your skin takes in product, but just how much of it is oft-debated and little understood by the average consumer.

There’s a myth that 60% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed, but it’s been proven to be false. Your skin is designed to keep the bad things out. If 60% of everything that landed on your skin was absorbed, you’d be internally soaked every time you take a shower! 

We should start by saying there is a difference between absorption and penetration, though the words are often used interchangeably. 

It’s important to make the distinction. What you really want is active ingredients penetrating into the skin to help target your skin concerns and little absorption of harmful chemicals into the bloodstream.  

Absorption means how much of a given substance is reaching into deeper layers (think into your bloodstream) while penetration is referring to the upper layers of the skin, which is precisely where you want your skincare products to target. 

What influences product penetration? 

How much penetration by your skincare is also determined on genetic factors and the area of the body. The thinner the skin, like on your face and around your eyes, the easier it is for ingredients to penetrate. 

The absorption/penetration of the ingredients also depends on the size of the molecule. Some are easier to soak into the skin, and others need help to really do their job. 

That’s why the use of exfoliating agents, like acids or manual exfoliation, is one of the greatest ways to help get the most out of your product. They help loosen up the intracellular glue in your skin, allowing for active ingredients to penetrate deeply. 

This is especially important for anti-aging ingredients which need to work on a lower level of the dermis, so you want them to penetrate deeper into the layers where they will have the most effect. 

The use of specific ingredients also helps with the delivery of active ingredients. The product itself needs to include ingredients that help the active ingredients get deeper into the skin and to keep them stable when they reach the desired place. Without those, the active ingredients won’t have much effect on your skin.

Why is it important

Knowing the difference can help you choose products that either are designed to help with skincare penetration or that include ingredients that make the formulation most effective. 

And, it helps you make smart consumer choices about what is safest, without ringing the alarm bells about every chemical. Your body literally cannot absorb every chemical, nor are all chemicals bad for you. Some ingredients have gotten a bad rep for merely having long, chemical names that just sound bad for you. But many ingredients work as agents to help transport and increase the efficacy of the product. 

What you should understand is that your skin cannot absorb everything, and that should help you reconsider your routine. There’s a natural tendency to want to use a lot of an amazing product. It makes us feel like we’re getting more out of it, but it could actually be doing the opposite. 

Your skin can only handle so much and you could just be wasting money by using too much product. And using too many products can lead to interferences with the active ingredients that can cause irritation and breakouts, dryness, or other unwanted reactions. 



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