Skincare 101: How to Increase Product Penetration?

Skincare 101: How to Increase Product Penetration?


If you have read our last post, you’d have learnt a little about skin structure. But if not, here’s a recap – basically, the epidermis is our skin’s first line of defence. Skin is waterproof (else how can we bathe/swim!), and apart from blocking out water, our epidermis also prevents many other harmful elements from entering our skin. 


But this begs the question – if our epidermis is so good at keeping stuff out of our body (especially water!) how effectively can the good stuff get in to nourish our skin? And when we talk about hydration – how can we hydrate our skin, when skin is essentially hydrophobic?




Here are some factors that affect penetration of the ingredient:

  1.  Particle Size: The molecular size affects whether the product would simply sit atop our skin or penetrate deeper.  For instance, Hyaluronic acid comes in different forms –  low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is better able to provide better hydration as its molecules can penetrate the outer layer of the skin compared to high molecular weight hyaluronic acid.
  2.  Temperature: Temperature of our skin can also affect the ability of the ingredient to penetrate our skin — which is why many cream application guides advise you to rub your palms together before applying the cream or serum on to face.
  3.    Skin Condition: The condition of our skin can also affect the how well products penetrate to our skin. A damaged acid mantle can affect how well certain products get penetrated into our skin. Areas that have thicker skin, such as the soles of our feet can also affect how well an ingredient penetrates our skin.


Apart from choosing skincare with good, easily absorbable ingredients, product penetration can also be increased with an effective delivery system. Examples include micro needling, Iontophoresis, Ultrasound and Mesotherapy.


Microneedling: Also known as collagen induction therapy (CIT), micro needling is a treatment where very fine needles create tiny puncture wounds in the skin. As its name suggests, collagen induction therapy works by increasing collagen and elastin production through the natural healing action of the micro-injuries inflicted. It has been touted as an effective anti-ageing treatment and also works to fade acne scars naturally. Collagen induction therapy can also increase the absorption rate of products such as serums, which is why they’re paired with a tailored cocktail serum in Chez Moi De Beaute’s MTS Cocktail Facial (trial $380).


Mesotherapy: Mesotherapy is a treatment method that involves using injections to bring about overall skin rejuvenation. A commonly injected ingredient would be hyaluronic acid to restore plumpness to the face.


Ultrasound: Ultrasonic technology works in skin care by penetrating deep below the skin’s surface. It is extremely versatile and can be used to reduce puffiness and tighten loose areas of the skin, smooth wrinkles and help kill acne bacteria. Product penetration is also enhanced, which is why many home use facial devices come with ultrasonic technology.


Iontophoresis: It is a transdermal delivery system, where a substance is carried via low electrical current. It is often paired with galvanic treatment – which uses positive and negative ions to rebalance our skin and give a more youthful appearance.




If it is possible for certain ingredients to penetrate beyond the outer layer of the skin, does this mean that about the common belief that only takes 26 seconds for chemicals to be absorbed into our bloodstream; and that we absorb toxic chemicals to be true? Rest easy, as this is simply a myth. As we have seen in the previous posts, the skin is quite a smart organ, not to mention the penetration rates of a skin care ingredient are all different. Moreover, certain ingredients in skin care can also act as a penetration enhancer.


Generally, even the chemicals absorbed into our bloodstream is also in very tiny quantities, and will not pose a health risk to us. However, we still need to watch out and understand what triggers our own skin to avoid break outs from cosmetics and products that are ill-suited for our skin. That said, if you are still concerned, always research and ask your dermatologist if it is safe before using a product.

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Sue Lin

Sue Lin’s beauty inclinations include learning and trying out what’s new and innovative in the world of skincare and beauty.