A Skin Detox - truth or myth?

We’ve all heard the term “skin detox”, a reference to the belief that skin health can improve by going through a “purge” to remove all the impurities that are supposedly making the skin appear congested or dull. The term can also be related to specific ingredients that claim to “detoxify the skin” or ones that kickstart your skin’s alleged natural detoxification process. The latter is often used as a green-washed consumer hook. The idea of detoxing the skin is tempting and consistently used to appeal as a multi-beneficial process to achieve those #skingoals.

Let’s take a step back: what does “detox” really mean in relation to the skin? Can you actually detoxify the skin? 

For so many companies (our’s being no exception), the brand language and product descriptions are crucial - it’s not something that we take lightly at Josh Rosebrook. Our words are vetted on the same level as our ingredients: we search for the facts and are extremely strict with quality and authenticity. When you go through the process of developing brand copy, you have a list of terms that you use and one you chose to omit. “Detox” is not a word that we choose to use in relation to any of our products, but the theory of “detoxifying the skin” has popped up quite a bit recently in questions and conversation. We wanted to understand more and decided to take a deep dive into the mysterious world of “skin detox”.

We’ll get right to it: The skin is not a detoxification organ. In an article about detoxification by Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, the authors shared:

“The main function of the body's largest organ is to provide a barrier against harmful substances, from bacteria and viruses to heavy metals and chemical toxins. The skin is a one-way defense system; toxins are not eliminated in perspiration.”

The organs primarily responsible for detoxification are the liver and the kidneys. Dr. Fayne Frey, a NYC based board-certified dermatologist says: “There’s no such thing as skin detox from a medical perspective”. As mentioned above by Harvard researchers, sweating (perspiration) will also not help to remove toxins from the body, even though sweat does contain trace amounts of substances like urea and uric acid. Lastly, there is no such thing as a product helping your skin to push or pull out (aka: purge) any toxins allegedly hiding underneath the surface. 

We need to examine what is meant when a product claims to help the skin detoxify. Well, “detox” is simply a marketing term and there seems to be three different interpretations of this term. First, it is used to describe a more aggressive topical cleansing and exfoliating of the skin, marketed like a “reset” routine.  Second, it can refer to “detoxing” your skincare routine by removing products that contain known harmful ingredients (cue the transition to cleaner beauty). 

The third interpretation summarized well by Dr. Ross Perry, the medical director of CosmedicsUK: “When people talk about ‘detoxing [or detoxifying] the skin,’ it’s more about what you can do to the surface to protect your skin from the outside [elements] more so than clearing out what’s on the inside”. Using the term in this capacity describes skincare products that offer defense from the biggest environmental concern your skin encounters on a daily basis: the sun. Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic shares: “The sun is the most toxic environmental thing for our skin,” due to its ability to cause concerns ranging from signs of aging, structural damage and skin cancer. Paula Begoun from Paula’s Choice states: “There is a difference between products claiming to purge skin of toxins in the body, versus products that can help defend skin from toxins in the environment. Antioxidants really can help thwart the negative effects of impurities by interrupting the free radical damage they cause when used as a part of your daily routine. A simple solution: Use a sunscreen enriched with antioxidants, so you’re getting double the benefit (sun protection and environmental protection) by only using one product!” Did someone mention Nutrient Day Cream?!

Antioxidants help to prevent the breakdown of the skin, playing a crucial protective role. Our antioxidant herbal actives and biomimetic cosmeceuticals are designed to protect skin structure, slow decline, and deliver beautiful, healthy skin.

In addition to using a sunscreen chock full of antioxidants, there are a plethora of ways one can infuse the skin with antioxidants to protect its structure, prevent future damage, and increase overall skin health. Though all of our products contain antioxidants and phytonutrients from a variety of herbs and plants, our Antioxidant Cacao Mask was formulated to stimulate the skin, activate nutrient delivery, tone, brighten, and improve skin structure. As part of what we call the  “Activation Phase”, blood flow is increased through stimulating herbs, caffeine and antioxidants, while simultaneously encouraging nutrient delivery. This mask intentionally does not contain clay, making it a gentle option to help remove impurities from the pores in the dry down process. The result: plump, glowing skin with an intact barrier that boosts defense from the elements. As always, apply your sunscreen before you step out the door.

RESEARCH

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dubious-practice-of-detox

https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/skin-detox#where-skin-comes-in

https://www.self.com/story/detox-skin-care

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/toxin

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/science/toxicology/index.cfm

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128054260000020

https://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/skincare-advice/acne-and-breakouts/can-you-really-detox-skin.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/04/sweating-toxins-myth-detox-facts-saunas-pollutants-science/#close