Ingredients: Topical Application versus Ingestion

Clearing Up The Confusion

It is a never ending cycle of assisting customers with clearing up their confusion on certain ingredients and the interpretations put out there by many who really don’t know what they are talking about, or the undue panic they cause others through their rhetoric.

In recent weeks, I have dealt with concern, fret, and paranoia brought about by those who enjoy making up stories and trying to take ingredients, whole or in part, and make them sound as bad as getting the bubonic plague.

Through the continuing education provided by my articles and references to Personal Care Truth and their ongoing science based research publications, we are creating a constructive exchange between client and manufacturer over ingredients used within the beauty industry.

Personal Care Truth since their launch in May of 2010, has had nearly 3 Million visitors. This is very telling and conveys that consumers want facts, not fiction.

Does Ingestion Of Ingredients Extrapolate To Topical Application?

Our most recent concerned client was worried about our use of Boron Nitride in our mineral makeup because she had read on the internet, in a single blog article, regarding the possibility of it increasing testosterone levels in her body. Of course, yet again, this is a blog that was written by another cosmetics company with absolutely no science based research, which is no longer in business BTW, yet the article remains for all infinity, spreading its conjectures….of course it does.

They also disclaimed the use of Squalane since is comes from sharks….(cruelty factor). However, they clearly don’t know their science since squalane is actually a derivative of squalene and can be 100% derived from Olives. It is shown to be excellent for protecting us from the aging process, and purported for its’ healing benefits to chronic skin conditions, and is closely related to our own natural sebum, whereby assisting with reducing over production of the element which contributes to acne. So sharks do not have to be used primarily in creating the cosmetic squalane (squalene).

Hyaluronic Acid was another one they attacked based on grounds of animal cruelty since it is their belief it is extracted from animals….again, it can be vegan friendly and derived from the fermentation of yeast. It is a natural compound found in human tissue and we lose the ability to reproduce it as we age. When used topically, it penetrates deeply into the surface of the skin, boosting the hydration and elasticity of the skin. It also protects the skin from free radical damage which creates sun spots though oxygenation of membrane cells. It retains high levels of water against skin and adjusts to humidity in the air helping skin to look and feel plumper all day, making this an exceptional skincare ingredient.

So this blogger lambasted not only Boron Nitride, Squalane and Hyaluronic Acid under false pretenses, but a slew of otherwise very safe ingredients which they had decided would not be in their cosmetics for whatever reason they chose to suit their marketing needs, and for solidarity as a supposed signer to the compact for safe cosmetics…(which I checked, yet could not locate at the site). Fabrication of convoluted facts or half truths through an ideology they possessed as a business, is not the same as showing the science, but is strictly self promotional….and repugnant!

Of course after reading this article myself, I certainly understood her concern because as a woman and a consumer, she would not necessarily wish to elevate testosterone levels, but a man might wish for this boost, especially as he ages. Fortunately, there is absolutely no correlation of boron nitride, as this article tried to imply “boron” as being one in the same, whereby increasing testosterone in the body. But again, with this article, damage was done to an individual that was looking to our industry for some facts, yet only found someone who was basing the foundation of their business on negative campaigning….which we fondly refer to as the “chicken little syndrome.”

The inference in the article, is it can also be absorbed through the skin in topical application for a mutually described benefit or counter benefit, depending on your point of view. However in all subsequent data, boron is strictly referenced as a dietary supplement. How in the world this cosmetics company owner took the oral component and extrapolated it into a problem for a topical cosmetic ingredient, simply astounds me….never mind the fact that Boron and Boron Nitride are not the same thing at all…

It is clear, once boron nitride is created out of chemical synthesis, it becomes an entirely new ingredient, changing the composition of the ingredient borax (boron) which is used in manufacturing it.

Now what I tell my customers that locate these seemingly obscure articles, fact check and then check some more, and always challenge the data that is presented, especially in any article created by an “anti” blogger or a self promoting cosmetics company with an axe to grind against the synthetic chemical industry or as a marketing tool.

Common Sense Analogy: If our body could assimilate all ingredients that are applied to the skin, then we could get drunk by sticking our hand in a glass of liquor or get our caffeine jolt by bathing in our coffee instead of drinking it…… we could rub the tetanus on our arm instead of taking it by injection. Just think, Botox would no longer need to be injected, we could simply rub it on our faces.

In the land of Shangri La this would all be wonderful especially since I hate needles. But the fact remains, if we wish to affect a true, lasting change to our bodies, it must be injected or ingested.

For those that may say, “but what about those chemical patches worn on the skin?” Again, do not equate this as the same since these are drugs which are created through nano science and a cosmetic ingredient is primarily created with a micron size at 5 to 10 or higher, making it impossible to permeate into the blood brain barrier.

Side Note: Some essential oils can be penetrating into the dermis layer, utilized for their known healing benefits.

The same thing applies to many allergies. Something you ingest may cause a severe reaction outwardly, such as with those who have celiac disease (allergy to gluten) for example, but according to the Mayo Clinic, this does not translate to causing a similar reaction to that same ingredient being applied to the skin since gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin.

Just The Facts Please

Hexagonal Boron Nitride is an inert, inorganic, non toxic mineral that is a compound made from Boron; an essential plant nutrient, and is an ultra-trace mineral which is found in fruits and vegetables which is taken up from the soil they are grown in. It is found in abundance in the Mineral Ore, Borax which through synthesis with Nitrogen creates Boron Nitride. BN powders have been found in Independent Laboratory Studies to have shown it to be extremely safe for use in cosmetics worldwide.

Furthermore, as much as I don’t care for the EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, or the fact the Skin Deep Database is their “go to” place for providing skewed data, as I live and breathe, they actually rate Boron Nitride at a bit fat “0”. Furthermore, it has been shown to NOT BE bio-accumulative or to be an environmental toxin. I guess one could theorize that if it is not an environmental concern to EWG, no point looking at it from a cosmetic perspective.

Of course, I don’t rely on this database or their significant data gaps, but the fact that they fabricate so much detrimental evidence against many otherwise safe ingredients, it was a surprise to see this rating….but then again with extensive research on this ingredient, there is absolutely no scientific data reflecting any toxicity to the body when used as a cosmetic ingredient for topical application….so there is nothing for them to report.

The Ingested Supplement With Component Of Boron

Boron by itself is used in oral supplements for health benefits and may be a catalyst to increasing testosterone, yet no actual human studies have been performed to equate the two. However, this is an element found in body building supplements on the premise this ingredient will do just that. So increasing testosterone is in and of itself, not a “dangerous” issue, but a desired effect by some. But it is clear that cosmetics are geared toward women, so to make this association, is grasping at straws in an attempt to elevate a concern over something that simply is not even relevant. Plus, there are also parameters by which to use this supplement, and safety and efficacy is not yet proven.

Boron is required by your body in trace amounts for proper metabolism of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Boron helps brain function, healthy bones, and can increase alertness.

As boron is not yet considered an essential nutrient for humans, it is not clear whether deficiencies occur. However, diets that are low in fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts provide less boron than diets that contain more of these foods.

It’s found in raisins, prunes, and nuts and are generally excellent sources of boron. Fruit (other than citrus), vegetables, and legumes also typically contain significant amounts. Actual amounts vary widely, depending upon boron levels in soil where the food is grown.

If one is truly concerned about boron elevating testosterone (yet to be factually proven) then one could surmise these otherwise extremely healthy foods should be cut from the diet. However, the removal of the anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic benefit these antioxidant rich foods offer for the human body, would pose detrimental issues more grave than an insignificant trace element of boron, whereby opening us up to far more dangerous assaults on our bodies….this is referred to as checks and balances in our daily lives.

Know And Understand The Differences

Significant and measurable changes made to the body are reflected through either ingestion or injection, since both routes of delivery allow for the ingredient(s) to infiltrate the blood brain barrier, with the exception of nano sized particles.

Something you apply to the skin CANNOT and will not affect the body with any significant change, and only provides a temporary change to our outward appearance each time we use it. Cumulative effects occur through continual use, yet stop the use of your favorite skincare product and the skins’ appearance returns to its’ original state before using the product.

However, take something internally or through injection, these will show in our appearance outwardly, whether as an improvement or as deterioration of our cells since the blood supply fuels every cell of our being.

Examples of outward affects to the body based on internal consumption:

Abusing Drugs and Alcohol
Poor Diet
Over Eating
Lack of Hydration or the opposite
Vitamin Rich Supplements
Diet Rich In Fruits and Veggies
Aspirin Regimen
Protein Drinks
Botox Injections
Insulin Injections
Etc. etc…..

Some companies try to claim ingredients penetrate our skin and alter our DNA, as the unmitigated truth…..ahh….. if only THIS were true, because to reiterate, we would no longer need vaccines or take oral medications, or inject insulin, we simply could apply it topically to our skin….and life would be heaven….unfortunately, this is not the reality we live with everyday. Only with the innovative discovery of nano science technology utilized in some areas of medicine, are we able to reduce some of the hassle of receiving meds.

However, rubbing Aspirin on our skin isn’t going to make that headache go away or thin the blood to prevent a heart attack or stroke without ingesting it.

Bathing in a tub of water is certainly not going to hydrate the body, but can actually cause deterioration of skin if one should stay in the water too long….let alone the fact you’ll die of thirst waiting for that to happen.

Any Questions?

So I hope now the confusion is cleared, that something you ingest for health benefit will not extrapolate to something you apply to your skin or vice versa. Ingredients applied directly to the skin can bring about excellent results for which it is intended at the skin level, even reaching the dermis with certain ingredients, but the blood brain barrier is rarely, if ever, affected.

  • June Stoyer

    I couldn’t agree more. People need to go where there is scientific proof and not just some celeb’s endorsement. Perhaps PCT will consider a new label which would certify the product. Personal Care Truth is the only site that is staying on top of every issue. I truly appreciate all of your effort and detailed information.

  • Anonymous

    I would definitely agree with your statements. Without any scientific proof, one can not state these things and create panic among consumers especially at a point when there is a lot of altercation going between the chemical usage and natural products.
    I firmly believe in staying away from chemicals but we are exposed to chemicals in many different ways than just applying cosmetics and not all of them are harmful. So, it is up to the consumer to decide whether they want to embrace the chemicals for better results or go for natural and organic with probably uncertain results.
    I have a request if you could address: I read some time back that sun can alter the DNA structure of our body… it really true? I think it is balderdash but there is no harm in confirming it. The statement was something like ‘do not let sun change your genes…apply sunscreen.’ This was one of the most outrageous statements I have heard. And, have never found evidence to affirmative.

    • Dene Godfrey

      I am disappointed that you use the term “chemicals” initially as a scary catch-all, but at least you go on to say that not all of them are harmful, which is just as well as all existance is entirely chemical!
      It is wise advice to use sunscreen, and to keep direct exposure to sunlight to safe levels. It is a little hyperbolic to claim that the sun changes your genes, but excessive sunlight exposure can have small effects on DNA – hence the existance of skin cancers. This danger should not be overstated, but nor should it be understated! Avoid excessive sun exposure and use sunscreens when the sun is at its peak – and a couple of hours either side.

    • Katherine

      Certainly appreciate your response. However allow me to clarify one thing, the chemical term is not mutually exclusive from organic or natural. All things in life are chemical including organic and natural ingredients. The better way to describe chemicals in this context would be synthetically derived chemicals or naturally derived chemicals…but they are chemicals all the same, and is also a contributing factor to this debate when those that manufacture all natural try to explain that all natural is better or healthier…which is also not always.

      In terms of DNA changes on the body caused by sun, absolutely DNA can be altered to the negative in terms of sun damage on our skin, so this would reflect the abuse our skin endured during suntanning. That is a DNA change based on over exposure of cells that are going bad ( mutate). In terms of healthy DNA, the sun has been shown in small doses to sustain and prevent DNA changes in terms of Colon, bone and many other cancers of the body since it is an excellent source of Vitamin D. Through the use of sunscreens, people are now becoming Vitamin D deficient so we are now seeing more of these cancers through DNA changes brought about from lack of Sun not because of it. So yes, caution when reading this hyperbole. Follow this link as an excellent resource for understanding genetic codes for DNA.

  • Lucy

    Hi Katherine. I have been concerned over reports and government warnings recently regarding Borax. I noted specifically that the studies showed that Borax was extremely poor at penetrating the epidermal layer, but also noted that the studies specified ‘intact’ skin. Does that mean that if the skin is not intact, eczema or psoriasis for example, that the Borax can get in? Then I noted in (I think it was) the US EPA warning, that Boric acid and sodium borate salts (Borax?) exist in an aqueous physiological ph as undissociated boric acid. And I wondered if that meant, IF Borax gets into your system via skin which is not intact, then it turns to Boric Acid. I was concerned about this because I read that… Borax was added to the Substance of Very High Concern
    (SVHC) candidate list on 16 December 2010 … based on the revised classification of Borax as toxic
    for reproduction category 1B under the CLP Regulations.
    I take your point that very few things get through our skin to affect our body, but what if the skin is not intact? An open wound for instance?

    • Katherine

      Hi Lucy,

      First let me start by saying that Borax is an ingredient mainly used in hygiene and cleansing products, so this is primarily a wash and rinse product. So exposure is extremely self limiting. It is also not used in high ratios that would normally be equated to the studies you refer to. Typically these studies involve exposing animals to high toxic levels that would cause extreme harm and no single person will ever be exposed in this context so you must remove this factor from the scenario of safety versus risk. So with minimal risk, safety is not a factor. To date no human studies support animal data.

      It can also be used as an emulsifier in some skincare preparations, so if this is a concern, check your ingredient list and don’t buy it.

      I also don’t readily extrapolate environmental issues to ingredients used for topical use. So these I won’t address since that would be a place for another forum, but only to say borax is shown to not be bio-accumulative.

      If borax were a concern for you then its use in bath salts where your exposure might be more extended than say, just washing your face or hair, then the concern might increase.

      Also as I wrote in this article, I was addressing boron nitride, so borax once synthesized with nitrogen becomes an entirely restructured chemical. It is no longer borax, but hexagonal boron nitride. It is not shown to be toxic and the CIR just recently published their current findings and some studies showing injection of the ingredient not causing cytotoxicity, while another did. It was based on the nano scale (nano-tubes) of the ingredient. They did find that when used in powders, including those for children, it is not respirable and will remain in the nasal and pharyngeal areas.

      Once a compound is chemically restructured it is no longer the chemical of concern such as lye being used to make soap.

      My other concern is your comment about borax entering the blood stream might become boric acid somehow? Well let me reassure you unless you have sulfuric or hydrochloric acid running through your veins there is very little chance of this, since Boric acid is produced when borax is reacted with another acid (like sulfuric or hydrochloric acid). The result is an acid structure (pH of 5.0), rather than alkaline, as borax is (9.3 pH).

      As a final, I wrote two more articles that were put out by the EPA in regard to skin penetration as it pertains to Titanium Dioxide and you’ll find the section as it addresses psoriatic and healthy skin and there was no increase in delivery to living cells until they tested nano dots. You can find the report at the end of the article and the section of study is in the sub chapter titled: The latest science in summary according to the EPA. If you are dealing with a wound, then care would be taken as with any ingredients getting on the skin since you want to protect a wound and keep it clean and free from harm. So this would be an entirely different meaning compared to say acne, eczema or psoriasis.

      With a follow up article also:

      Good luck and hopefully this information will set your mind at ease. Remember, there are many that love to jump on the negative stories and then stretch, twist, bend, manipulate and coerce the populace just because it makes for sensational reading and also creates revenue for groups whose primary focus is to raise money through scaring others…..sad but true.