Where does the lotion go

Where is the cream that we apply to the skin?

A month ago, Rineke Voogt, editor at the Dutch daily de Volkskrant, asked me: “Where is the cream that we apply to the skin?” I think she regretted her question after my monologue, which lasted several hours. What is there to tell about the effects of cosmetic ingredients in and on the skin! Fortunately, she managed to write an interesting (and short ;-)) summary. I promise I'll tell you all about it shortly, but here's the article from de Volkskrant:

Where is the cream that we apply to the skin?
By: Rineke Voogt September 13, 2015
On vacation we used sunscreen to put on ourselves in an exemplary manner, in the evening perhaps with aftersun and some people do not go outside without day cream. But what actually happens to all of this when we spread it on the skin? Where is it? And can a lotion really hydrate or smooth wrinkles?

The skin is a shield against the outside world, says Jetske Ultee, research doctor in the field of cosmetic dermatology. The point is not that viruses and bacteria can infiltrate our body just like that. Normal cosmetic products such as body lotion therefore also get stuck in the horny layer, the top layer of skin, which consists of stacked dead skin cells.

“That's a good thing, because that's where they should work,” says Ultee. The basic function of a lotion is to hydrate the top layer of skin. “It actually works very simply. First of all, a lotion contains ingredients that seal the skin a little so that moisture is not lost so quickly. This is especially useful in winter when the humidity is often low. In addition, a product often contains particles that attract moisture like a sponge. The two things ensure that the skin is hydrated - from the inside out, with its own moisture. ”This effect only lasts a few hours until the product has broken down.

The fact that the skin acts like a shield does not mean that some substances cannot penetrate deeper. “There are studies that show that particles from sunscreen can also be detected in the blood. And pain relievers such as Voltaren Gel or spreadable drugs also penetrate deeper, otherwise they would not work. "

Whether a substance can get past the horny layer depends on various factors. The size of the particles, for example - a molecule has to be tiny to enter a cell. It also plays a role in what the substance is dissolved in: the skin is relatively waterproof because it is oily. So fat-soluble particles penetrate better. The condition of the skin also plays a role, because if the top layer of skin is damaged by, for example, eczema or shaving, the skin's shield function is weakened. Some products are even deliberately added ingredients that damage the skin barrier a little so that the active ingredients can penetrate better.

Some cosmetic products promise more than they can. For example, added antioxidants almost never work, says Ultee. The molecules disintegrate under the influence of oxygen and light - and that is difficult to prevent with a cream in a jar.

A product such as an anti-wrinkle cream should also penetrate deeper than just the top layer of skin. Collagen, the protein that is responsible for the firmness of the skin and works against wrinkles, is after all formed deeper in the skin. The only problem is: collagen is made up of molecules that are far too large to penetrate deeply. An anti-wrinkle cream with protein sometimes seems to work, but this is due to a trick: “Collagen binds moisture well. Wrinkles caused by dryness in the skin are reduced and it feels nice and soft - but the wrinkles don't go away, ”says Ultee.
Best regards

Jetske Ultee

(Dr. Jetske Ultee - Research Doctor Cosmetic Dermatology)

Also read the blog articles:
Antioxidants in cosmetic products (and whether they work ...)
A healthy barrier function, healthy skin
The ideal face cream
Help with choosing your sunscreen
Help with choosing your moisturizer