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How deep is deep?


Are skin care products able to penetrate into the bloodstream? Do they stay lodged inside the body? Do we urinate out the chemicals and extracts they contain? We are not talking about topical prescription medications, pharmaceutical dermal patches or over-the-counter drugs here. We’re talking about cleansers, moisturizers, skin serums, exfoliators and other products that do not require a medical prescription or drug labeling. Just how deep do they go?

Since there is a lot of misinformation and hype regarding product penetration, I will try to summarize my response as simply as possible. (For those who want detailed information on how the skin works, I suggest “Physiology of the Skin II” by Peter T. Pugliese, MD.) Here is my cut-to-the-chase explanation.

Our skin has two layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis serves as a barrier, protecting us against the outside world. It keeps out germs, pollution, dirt, sunlight and even water (imagine getting caught in the rain and having it enter your body. . . you would swell up like a puffball!)

As thin as three sheets of paper, the epidermis is comprised of four distinct layers. The top layer — the one we see — is called the stratum corneum and it contains many layers of keratin skin cells (think of it as a brick wall). There are two more layers sandwiched in between, and then the base layer of the epidermis. Under all that is the dermis, where the skin’s collagen, blood supply and sensory nerve endings begin.

A deep penetrating product would stay in the epidermal layers. As a matter of fact, a majority of products stay within the stratum corneum layers, which is fine because these are the layers we see. When we exfoliate our skin, we are taking off several layers of the stratum corneum (brick wall.) Remember, these layers are in the top layer of the epidermis.

If substances could easily penetrate the entire epidermis and dermis, we would have no protection against all the harmful substances we come in contact with, from gasoline to bug spray to airborne germs. We would quickly be poisoned. Our outer layers of skin protect us, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Since skin care products stay in the epidermal layers, they will not be absorbed into the bloodstream or body. Make sense?

So, the next time someone tells you they have a non-prescription, non-drug, skin care product that will penetrate into your bloodstream, run for your life!

One of the first-ever licensed estheticians in the U.S., Barbara Salomone is the architect of the modern American facial. Since launching Bioelements Professional Skin Care in 1991, she has trailblazed the industry, incorporating nutritional supplements into topical skin care products, and pioneering the introduction of antioxidants, calcium, probiotics and lutein. Visit Bioelements on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.

Comments (5)

Evelyn O'Connor says:
Aug 2, 2010

great info – the skin is such an amazing organ! Thanks for laying all this out so clearly Barbara!

Teresa Stenzel
Teresa Stenzel says:
Aug 2, 2010

Thank you for clearing up one of the biggest misconceptions out there. What would we do without our skin as our layer of protection?? A great reminder of how precious it is, and how strong it really is!

Evelyn says:
Aug 2, 2010

can u say informative? whoa.

Denise says:
Aug 6, 2010

This makes sense now. Your right . . .if products could penetrate into the bloodstream then we would be, well – poisoned. Like you stated. I get it now.

Sasha says:
Aug 6, 2010

It’s amazing how complex our skin actually is! Thanks for shedding light on a topic that really isn’t talked about

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