“We absorb up to 60% of what we apply to our skin” is an often cited factoid but is it actually true? Well I came across this research to show strong evidence that we do in fact absorb quite a bit of what is applied. Rates of skin absorption of contaminants in public drinking water were studied by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. The study found that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of the total contaminant dosage. In another study the face was found to be 2-6x more permeable than other body surfaces such as the torso, and underarms and genitalia to be even more permeable. In fact, the underarms and genitalia showed up to a 100% absorption estimate (Kasting, 2005).
The studies showed that absorption rate varies depending on the compound. Some examples include, caffeine, which is absorbed by the skin at 48% while DDT is absorbed at 10%. Alarmingly fragrance ingredients, showed a 100% absorption rate (Robinson et al, 2000).
So there is basis to this information and in some cases, research implications are worrisome, particularly in regard to phthalates which are found in artificial fragrances. In any case regardless of actual percentage rates, it makes sense to know the ingredients in our skin care products so we know what we are applying and absorbing. As I am sure you all know my bias, you will understand that I think natural & organic products are the obvious choice as it immediately cuts out artificial preservatives, fragrances and color compounds that are either suspected or confirmed to be harmful to us.
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