Personal Care Chemical Analysis Assignment

Personal Care Chemical Analysis Assignment

The skin is the largest organ in the body and readily absorbs substances through the outer layers and into the blood stream. Every one of us is covered with an almost continuous envelope of tough, fibrous tissue – our skin. Although only about 3 millimeters thick, it is the largest organ in the human body and covers an area of 2 square meters. The skin is designed to keep out potentially harmful chemicals but just how good is it at its job? For many years, biologists thought that the skin formed an impervious barrier to the outside world, but we now know that this is not the case. Recent research is showing us that most chemicals are absorbed to some degree. Every day, we may be inadvertently exposing the insides of our bodies to various foreign substances. Worse still, the skin itself may react with some chemicals to make them even more toxic.

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People encounter literally hundreds of chemicals during the course of a normal day, ranging from toiletries, detergents and drugs to industrial chemicals. Just what happens to these chemicals after they touch the surface of the skin? Some may evaporate or be washed off, but others may be absorbed into the skin. Some may even penetrate across the skin to enter the bloodstream and travel round our bodies.

In some cases, this may be desirable. Glyceryl trinitrate, for example, needs to penetrate the skin and reach the heart and blood vessels before it can begin to treat angina. But some chemicals can have disastrous effects when absorbed into the body. For example, in the 1970s hexachlorophene was used as an antiseptic in baby soaps and talcs, causing brain damage and even death in some babies.

Most people, including me, hear things like that and have a hard time really conceptualizing how much of an impact putting something on your skin could have to your body’s internal operations. To illustrate the absorption of some chemicals into the skin, try this experiment:

1. To do The Garlic Experiment:

1. Rub a fresh-cut clove of garlic on your wrist for 30-45 seconds.

2. Place tape or a band-aid over the area.

3. Then just wait.

4. Within 10 minutes you will taste the garlic in your mouth.

(you can also use a freshly cut piece of raw onion, rub it on the bottom of your foot, put your sock back on and in 20 minutes, smell your armpits)

2. Report your results: could you taste the garlic, or smell the onions?
3. Next, find three personal care products that touch your skin (don’t forget about hands, feet, scalp, and the inside of your mouth)
4. Write down the ingredients in these three products
5. Do some research and see what you can find about these products and their known effects
6. Are there less toxic products available that you could substitute for these personal care products (list at least two)?
7. Look online for a recipe for a “make it yourself” version of this personal care product, include the instructions in your paper.
8. Reflect on this assignment by writing down a couple of sentences about whether this assignment made you think differently about what you are putting on your skin or are using to clean your house.


Hotchkiss, S. 1994. How thin is your skin?: Skin seemed like such a good way of keeping the outside world at bay until toxicologists started to worry about the harmful chemicals that breach the barrier. New Scientist.Read more:

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