An alarming number of beauty and skincare products are made with artificial ingredients that have been linked with negative health effects, such as skin cancer acceleration and reproductive problems. But it’s tough to know exactly how much of these and other skincare ingredients get through your skin and into your bloodstream; everything from your skin’s integrity to each ingredient’s molecular structure plays a part.
Here’s what the science does say about absorption. And here are some natural ingredients you’ll want to start prioritizing in your products.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients are likely getting through
In a new study published in JAMA, researchers found that, after just one day of use, four common sunscreen chemicals (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule) penetrated study subjects’ skin and entered the bloodstream at levels that should trigger further safety testing.
The natural advantage: Protect your skin by using mineral sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Instead of being absorbed, these ingredients stay on skin’s surface and help to reflect the broad spectrum of UV rays.
Your face absorbs more than most other parts of your body do
Where you apply a product makes a big difference. One study found that absorption of sunscreen chemicals was up to four times greater when they were applied to the face versus the back.
The natural advantage: Many of us apply more products to our faces than anywhere else on our bodies, so it’s smart to choose products that contain safe, natural ingredients such as green tea, which helps defend skin from environmental stressors and repair UV damage, and vitamin E, which is deeply hydrating and has a starring role in skin’s antioxidant defenses.
Perfumes can be especially problematic
More than 3,000 chemicals are used as fragrance ingredients. Some are associated with nasty effects ranging from hormone disruption to sperm damage. The fragrance ingredient benzyl benzoate, for example, is a possible immune system toxin with a skin absorption value of over 70 percent. You may never know all the chemicals used in conventional perfumes since manufacturers can use the generic term “fragrance” on the ingredients list.
The natural advantage: You don’t have to give up on smelling great. There are loads of natural fragrance ingredients, such as essential oils that have added benefits. You can even make your own signature scent using a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil. Sweet orange essential oil is the perfect summertime scent and may help brighten your mood. For those who prefer a woodsy undertone, sandalwood oil is a safe, earthy fragrance—and it actually improves skin health!