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Let's Get Real: Do Your Favorite Skincare Products Truly Penetrate the Skin?

Hey there, Beautiful Souls! It's Dr. Baek, founder of ORGAID, and today we're diving into a skincare topic that's been getting a lot of attention: Do skincare products actually penetrate the skin, or are their effects just superficial? Let's get cozy and explore the science behind this intriguing question!  



Understanding Skin Barrier: The Basics

Before we go deep into the details, let's start with the basics. Our skin acts like the superhero shield against all sorts of nasties – think of it as the body's own bouncer, keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. The outermost layer, called the stratum corneum, is like a strong wall, made up of skin cells and lipids that keep us looking smooth and hydrated. 


The Scoop on Penetration

Okay, now let's talk about that awesome skincare serum you love. You know, the one that says it will get rid of wrinkles or make pimples disappear? Well, for those special ingredients to do their magic, they have to get through a strong barrier.

  1. Different Sizes Matter: Ingredients come in all shapes and sizes, just like us at the gym. Smaller molecules, like water and glycerin, can sneak through more easily. But the big ones, like certain peptides, might need a bit more charm to get through.

  2. Fats Are Friendly: Imagine the stratum corneum as a disco dance floor, and lipid-soluble ingredients can go in easily. They can move their way in, because the skin's got plenty of lipids. So, stuff like retinoids and some antioxidants? They're the cool ones that can slide in with ease.

  3. Sneaky Techniques: Scientists are like skincare wizards – they've cooked up all sorts of tricks to make ingredients penetrate better. Think of tiny nanoparticles that carry ingredients like chariots or clever delivery systems that bring goodies deeper into your skin.

Is It a Fact or Just Make-Believe?

So, do your skincare products do more than just make you feel good? It's not a one-size-fits-all answer. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Tested in the Lab: Researchers are on it! They've got ways to prove if those ingredients are really working. Think biopsies (tiny skin samples), tape-stripping (like a gentle skin sticker), and high-tech imaging. They're like detectives digging up the truth.

  2. Formula Matters: It's all about how things are mixed. The way those ingredients are put together in your serum or cream makes a big difference. Smart formulations, like emulsions or liposomes, can give ingredients a boost, helping them reach their destination.

  3. Patience Pays Off: Just like when you plant seeds in your garden, skincare needs time to show results. Some ingredients are speedy, giving you instant results. Others, like retinoids, take time – you need to wait a bit before you see the magic.

The Bottom Line

The whole "do they or don't they" question isn't a soap opera drama. It's more like a cool science experiment that's still happening. Some ingredients definitely go deeper into the skin, while others stay closer to the surface and make your skin instant glow.

Some people are saying that skincare products do not penetrate the skin and actually do nothing for your skin. But wait – have you ever wondered how that steroid cream works its magic? Also, certain chemicals commonly found in cosmetics, such as parabens and phthalates, have been detected in urine and blood samples of some people who use these products regularly.(1)

Understanding the skincare penetration helps you to make smart choices for your skin. As science keeps moving forward, you can be sure that skincare will keep evolving. So keep putting on those good things for your skin, and remember – whether it's making your skin look nice on top or doing something deep down, your skin deserves lots of care!


Ref 1. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2019 January ; 29(1): 21–32.

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