How The Skin Works
Skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin of an average person weighs about 9 lbs (4kg). Our skin is a living, dying and rejuvenating organ, which is continuously on the move. With good skin care the skin renews itself every 28 days. Old skin cells are sloughed off and new ones take their place. Mistreatment of our skin can take up to three to four months to have an effect and vice versa. The health of your skin is a great indicator of the health of a person’s overall body.
The skin is made up of three layers. The basic divisions are the epidermis (the part we usually think of as our skin because it is the part we can touch), the dermis (where most of our blood vessels live), and the subcutaneous tissue, hypodermis. The outermost layer of the epidermis, called the stratum corneum, is made up of cells high in keratin, a substance that helps maintain skin hydration by reducing moisture loss. In effect, keratin contributes to the creation of a semi-waterproof barrier. This hydrophobic ("water-fearing") layer sits just on top of a hydrophilic ("water-loving") layer which readily accepts water and water-based substances.
How is it possible to get water past the stratum corneum, that supposedly waterproof layer? Well, interestingly enough, the more the cells of the stratum corneum are exposed to water, the more permeable they become. The wrinkles we get on our fingers after a long soak in the tub is the result from water being absorbed into the skin, or through the stratum corneum, to the water-loving layer beneath. Recent studies have shown that hydrated skin is 3.3 times more likely to absorb substances across its surface. Clearly, our skin is responsible for letting substances in as well as keeping them out, and the active function depends largely on the environment in which the skin finds itself.
Regardless of the vehicle, not all ingredients are capable of crossing this barrier. Here is where the molecular weight of an ingredient comes into play. Without getting too technical, it helps to understand that in order to easily cross the layers of our skin a substance must have a molecular weight of less than 500 Daltons (a Dalton is the unit of measure for molecular mass). Essential oils, which are not "oils" at all but are actually closer to alcohols in their characteristics, are often added as ingredients in high quality skin care products. All essential oils are characterised by a Dalton weight below 500. This means that all of the wonderful effects associated with essential oils cross quite readily into the bloodstream. Essential oils are an amazing way to enhance healing holistically. The oils smell wonderful, uplift our spirits, as well as heal and promote overall wellness.
In aromatherapy, molecules of essential oils applied to the skin pass through the skin's epidermis and are carried away by the capillary blood circulating in the dermis. The molecules of essential oil are then taken into the lymphatic and extracellular fluids. From there the therapeutic components of the essential oils are broken down and used by various regions of the body. Because of the lipid solubility of essential oil components that are applied to the skin, essential oils are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and come in contact with the fluids surrounding the brain. Other great examples of therapies applied and absorbed through the skin are; the nicotine patch, birth control patch and motion sickness patches. If the skin was as impermeable as was once thought, aromatherapy and products containing essential oils would not work.
To summarise - the human body takes the most vital properties of essential oils and uses them to bring itself into balance and is left in a healthier state without side effects. After the essential oils perform their healing functions, they are then metabolised and eliminated with the bodies other waste.
nature has the answers…