Sure, your skin does act as a barrier…to keep things in and to keep things out. But your skin is not impermeable and various things do get absorbed and some end up in your bloodstream and so gets moved around to various organs as well.
The absorption of things into the skin becomes something important to think about when you consider the safety of the ingredients present in all the lotions and potions you apply to, or expose your skin to, on a daily basis.
Even though there seems to be a blanket statement floating around on the net that more than 60% of everything you apply to your skin is absorbed, it might be a bit more complicated than that. Whether an ingredient is absorbed, and the extent to which it is absorbed, into the skin depends on a number of factors, eg duration of contact with skin, physical condition of skin (intact or damaged), the surface area of skin exposed to the ingredient, the part of the body the ingredient came into contact with (skin on some areas of the body are more sensitive than other areas), the concentration of the ingredient, the size of the particles in the ingredient (the tinier the particles, the more easily they can be absorbed), skin temperature, etc.
There are however some studies which show a 100% absorption rate for the underarm area as well as 100% absorption for fragrance ingredients. Martin Fox, PhD says that “during a 15 minute bath, an average adult absorbs 63% of the elements in the water”. No wonder epsom salts baths are so beneficial.
It’s no secret anymore that there are plenty of undesirable ingredients in your standard body products. While some of the troublesome ingredients are classified as skin irritants, there are some ingredients which are suspected carcinogens, or even proven carcinogens.
We were not born with all these lab-concocted synthetic body products in our hand – bottom line is, we don’t need that stuff. And even if you feel you need a bit of moisturizer, or you need to wash your hands with something a bit more germ-busting than plain water, there are natural, safer and healthier products which can get the job done.
Body product ingredients also have other ways of getting into our system – the fragrances can be inhaled (many fragrances consist of toxic ingredients) or they can accidentally be ingested, eg lipstick, or face products applied around your mouth, or soap washing over your face in the shower. So it’s almost impossible to claim that none of these harmful ingredients are not entering our body one way or another.
Now, since there is a lot of uncertainty about the safety of certain ingredients in the average standard body product, and because there are so many variables to consider regarding whether and how much of them can be absorbed into our skin, it makes more sense to err on the side of safety and avoid harmful ingredients on the chance that they are entering your body. Why take the risk otherwise? There are enough nasties in our foods (eg pesticides) and environment (pollution)…why add to the toxic load your body has to deal with?
Even if the suspicious ingredients don’t enter your bloodstream, and only remain on the outer-most layer of your skin (called the epidermis), then that is still cause for concern. Over 90% of all skin cancers develop within this top layer of your skin. So why not instead choose products with ingredients that do not contribute to the formation of health problems?