Size does matter. Daltons, Molecular weight and the Skin Barrier.

Size does matter. Daltons, Molecular weight and the Skin Barrier.

Size does matter. Daltons, Molecular weight and the Skin Barrier.

Is your skincare really penetrating your skin, or is it just sitting on the surface like a puddle on a mirror? Even worse, does it contain chemical penetration enhancers that intentionally disrupt your skin's outermost layer, the stratum corneum, to allow for penetration, similar to scratches on a mirror would by breaking the surface?

The size of the compounds in your skincare products matters, whether they are large or small molecules. If a chemical compound has a molecular weight greater than 500 Daltons*, its ability to penetrate and be absorbed by healthy, fully intact skin is significantly limited. In contrast, smaller molecules pose a greater risk of triggering an inflammatory response and inducing oxidative stress, which is evident in substances like essential oils and fragrance compounds. These compounds are labeled as contact allergens due to their ability to cause negative skin reactions. It's important to note that aromatic compounds must be small in molecular weight to be volatile and detectable by our sense of smell. In essence, if you can smell it, it typically has a molecular weight of less than 300 Daltons.

The natural barrier mechanisms of the skin are beneficial when we want certain substances to stay on the surface, such as mineral sunscreen, insect repellent, and antiseptic products. Understanding penetration enhancers is essential when  delivering drugs topically. Forcing chemicals in skincare into the skin via heavily processed chemical pathways can harm your skin barrier and potentially affect your entire system if the chemical is absorbed and circulates throughout your body.

The primary goal of skincare should be to protect and support the skin barrier's functions, not to disrupt or compromise the very thing you are trying to nourish and support.

To clarify, penetration refers to the entry of a substance through the layers of the skin, with the compound or particle either accumulating in a specific epidermal layer or entering the bloodstream.

Adsorption, on the other hand, involves the uptake of a substance into the vascular system and its circulation throughout the body. But before adsorption can occur, penetration through the stratum corneum must take place.

Our skin serves as a physicochemical barrier with both physical and chemical properties, performing five key barrier functions: physical, chemical, microbiological, immunological, and neuronal sensory. As our largest organ, the skin plays a unique role as both an external and internal protector. A healthy skin barrier not only influences our appearance but also significantly impacts our overall wellness and self-esteem. Its most critical function is to provide an effective barrier between our internal and external environments while simultaneously interacting with and protecting us from the environment.

Our skin is a dynamic, living tissue with continual renewal processes making its penetration and absorption characteristics subject to constant change. When substances come into contact with the skin, they can penetrate the stratum corneum and reach the viable epidermis, dermis, and vascular network, or in simpler terms, be absorbed. However, not all substances penetrate, some penetrate but are not absorbed, and others can enter the bloodstream. It's essential to understand which substances we want to penetrate and which ones we do not.

The skin barrier is lipophilic, meaning it readily absorbs fat-soluble compounds and repels water-soluble compounds (hydrophobic). It's designed to keep allergens, microbes, dust, pollution out, regulate the UV response, and retain hydration within the skin. In terms of skin penetration, we have what is known as the "500 Dalton rule." Essentially, any molecule with a molecular weight of 500 Daltons or more is too large to penetrate the skin barrier. Only small molecules, typically weighing less than 500 Daltons, and lipophilic compounds can successfully penetrate the skin without the use of disruptive chemical penetration enhancers.

Arguments supporting the "500 Dalton rule" from "The 500 Dalton rule for the skin penetration of chemical compounds and drugs" include:

  • Most common contact allergens have a molecular weight under 500 Daltons, as larger molecules are not known to act as allergens due to their inability to penetrate.

  • The most commonly used pharmacological agents in topical dermatotherapy are all under 500 Daltons.

  • All known topical drugs used in transdermal drug-delivery systems have molecular weights under 500 Daltons.

There are three ways for a substance to pass through the skin barrier: through the intercellular matrix surrounding the cells (which is lipophilic and composed of ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids), through the tightly packed corneocytes (hardened keratin-rich cells), or via sweat glands, hair follicles, or sebaceous glands (skin pores). The skin's barrier function is a critical factor affecting the penetration and absorption of ingredients in skincare.

Many skincare products use chemical solvents to disrupt the skin barrier, allowing for penetration. Common penetration enhancers include water, glycerol, urea, alcohol, ethanol, propylene glycol, surfactants, and oleic fatty acid, found predominantly in olive oil but also found as the predominate fatty acid in many common plant oils and butters. Terpenes, aromatic compounds, are also used for this purpose. These chemicals alter the skin's permeability, enabling compounds that the skin would naturally resist penetration by either directly changing the stratum corneum's permeability or by hitch hiking into the epidermis. The use of chemical enhancers is the most common method for overcoming the skin barrier function. Whether chemical or physical, disruption damages your skin barrier, making it more susceptible to the infiltration of compounds it would normally reject. Exfoliation and micro-needling are examples of physical skin barrier disruption.

Vitis V Face TonIQ is a blend of raw, unfiltered, cold-pressed grapeseed oil and grapeseed extract, and made in a way that retains all inherent phytonutrients. Its components are skin-active due to their molecular size and structure. Vitis V Face TonIQ contains naturally occurring essential compounds that either support or enhance the skin's barrier functions without the need for chemical or physical penetration enhancers.

Incorporating Vitis V Face TonIQ into your skincare routine provides multiple benefits, with essential linoleic fatty acid and Vitamin E and multiple sources of antioxidants including super antioxidant proanthocyanidins that penetrate the skin barrier to support skin function. Importantly, it doesn't contain penetration enhancers, inflammatory compounds, preservatives, or surfactants.

It's crucial to remember that not all small molecules that penetrate the skin are beneficial. Essential oils and fragrances, for instance, can induce an inflammatory response and cause oxidative stress, reducing cellular antioxidant capacity. The size of the molecule determines whether it can penetrate the skin barrier. This can be advantageous for compounds that should remain on the skin's surface, such as sunscreen. Conversely, volatile compounds like essential oils and fragrances are very small and can penetrate the skin barrier, triggering inflammation and is the reason Vitis V Face TonIQ is unscented and fragrance-free. The skin barrier's primary role is to protect us by keeping harmful substances out and retaining hydration. Generally, only fat-soluble compounds and those smaller than 500 Daltons can penetrate the skin barrier without the aid of chemical penetration enhancers.

Understanding the interrelated and interdependent functions of the skin barrier is essential for maintaining healthy, radiant skin. Avoid skincare products that disrupt the skin barrier; instead, choose products that nourish and support your skin's natural functions without the need for chemical penetration enhancers. Your skincare routine should enhance, not compromise, your skin's natural protective mechanisms.

Be aware that the "active" ingredients in your skincare could remain on the surface of the skin or require disruptive penetration enhancers.

Vitis V Face TonIQ is bio-available and contains naturally penetrable compounds. These compounds are essential for optimal skin function and resilience.

Molecular weight of important lipophilic compounds in Vitis V Face TonIQ:

  • Linoleic acid = 280.5

  • γ-tocotrienol = 410.6

  • α-tocotrienol = 424.7

  • β-carotene = 536.9 (converts to retinyl esters 302.5 in the skin, this is the storage form of retinol, Vitamin A)

  • β-sitosterol = 414.7

  • stigmasterol = 412.7

  • campesterol = 400.7

Molecular weight of important hydrophilic compounds in Vitis V Face TonIQ:

  • Proanthocyanidins = 592.5, made up of repeating units of catechin (290.3) and/or epicatechin (290.3); these are super antioxidants that boost the skin's antioxidant reserves.

* Dalton is a unit of measure for molecular weight and is approximately 1 g/mol.

The 500 Dalton rule for the skin penetration of chemical compounds and drugs

Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins: An Updated Review of Their Natural Sources, Synthesis, and Potentials