At BCP we are open to new scientific thoughts and never dismiss anything offhand. We take any new skincare ideas very seriously, we research and consider them closely. However, after reading a number of articles promoting electrolyte based skincare, at this stage we just have to dismiss these products as a gimmick.
Let me explain why
Electrolytes include Sodium, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium and their concentrations are precisely regulated by the body. The electrolytes float around in the blood plasma and eventually get pushed out of capillaries into the fluid between cells. This is called interstitial fluid. In the diagram of the skin below you can see how many capillary branches are surrounding the epidermis and dermis (this is an under-representation!) So the skin is supplied with a steady stream of electrolytes from the blood, and the concentration is closely regulated by the body.
Now, what would happen if you were to add an unknown concentration of of these electrolytes to a finely balanced system? If a mixture of electrolytes was put straight into your blood you would probably die of organ failure. However, in this case because the electrolytes are put on the surface of the skin, virtually nothing would happen at all.
That’s because the surface of the skin is made up of dead skin cells and keratin. It’s designed to keep things like this out and prevent electrolyte imbalances from occurring.
So the question becomes, if the skin has an immense supply of electrolytes reaching it from the inside, what is the point of applying electrolytes to the almost impervious barrier from the outside?
There is a statement floating around on the internet that magnesium skincare treatments work by altering hormones such as cortisol and other hormones. If this were the case, then magnesium containing skincare becomes potentially dangerous.
Finally it is important to clarify that electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium are required by the body and studies have shown that in certain situations high doses seem to exert drug-like effects. However, in terms of skin health, applying a smidgen of these chemicals to the barrier of the skin is a complete folly.
Ben Eshelby – BCP Pharmacist/Cosmetic Scientist/Director