How do products absorb or penetrate into the skin?

If you put something on your skin, is it going to just sit there (on top), work its way down a little bit, or end up in your bloodstream?

How does what you put on your skin (like facial and skin care products, essential oils, etc.) make its way deeper? 

There are several main routes for essential oils and skin care products to penetrate and absorb into the body through the skin:

  1. Squeezing in between the cells (intercellular)
  2. Catching a ride on a hair follicle or other structure (called “shunting”)
  3. Being absorbed by the skin cells (intracellular)

Penetration vs Absorption

Penetration is when the product works its way deeper into the layers of the skin.

Absorption is when the product makes its way into the blood stream.

Other ways of getting into the body include inhalation (such as if an essential oil is involved), and most studies that show the presence of those chemicals in the blood do not stop the person from inhaling them.

Factors that influence penetration of skin care products

  1. How long the product is in contact with the skin (a cleanser vs a mask vs a moisturizer)
  2. The molecular size of the ingredient (smaller molecules will be able to pass through spaces between the skin more easily)
  3. The concentration/amount of the ingredient that’s desired to be penetrated
  4. The temperature of the product and of the skin (warmer=better penetration)
  5. How clean the skin is, if there is makeup, dirt, or oil buildup
  6. The area of the body that the product is applied to
  7. If the skin has a large build up of dead skin cells or has been exfoliated
  8. How quickly the product will evaporate on its own
  9. The occlusive nature of the product (does it keep itself from evaporating and protect the underlying ingredients from environmental exposure) OR if something is put on top of it to keep it there (saran wrap, a bandage, etc.)
  10. The pH of the product
  11. Other ingredients in the product that have the effect of speeding or slowing penetration
  12. If the product spreads and has contact with mucus membranes
  13. The amount of bloodflow going to the area
  14. The amount of pressure or force the product is applied with
  15. The type of compound and its bio-availability

Bigger isn’t always better.

Look for products that are formulated with these considerations in mind. Our professional skin care lines that we use in our facial services and for home care treatments at Mad Science Massage & Spa are technician strength, correct pH, chirally correct, and packed full of synergistic ingredients that help them be more effective.

Ready to look at your options? Check out our skin care and facial treatments here, book online, or call 941-676-3433

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