Creams, serums, masks... over the past few years, treatments labelled with the term "detox" have emerged on the cosmetics market, promising to detoxify, purify and rid the skin of its numerous toxins. But is this really the case? We explain everything in this article.
Can we detoxify our skin: myth or reality?
How does the body eliminate toxic substances?
The body possesses five emunctories, that is to say, organs or systems that participate in the elimination of toxins and metabolic waste from the body.
The liver: as the body's main filter, it metabolises essential metals, such as copper and zinc, but also neutralises harmful heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury to prepare them for excretion from the body. Liver cells also produce groups of enzymes that regulate the metabolism of orally administered drugs and play a significant role in the body's defence against toxins by breaking them down into non-toxic products. Similarly, ingested alcohol (ethanol) is absorbed by liver cells to be converted into acetaldehyde and then into acetate, before being eliminated through the kidneys;
Theintestine: Peyer's patches, lymphoid follicles located in the terminal part of the small intestine (ileum) largely composed of B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes, eliminate parasites and other foreign substances before nutrients are absorbed into the blood;
The kidneys: they filter and eliminate toxic waste produced by the normal functioning of the body and transported by the blood, such as urea, uric acid or creatinine, as well as foreign substances such as drug residues, before excreting them in the urine. They also regulate and maintain the necessary amount of water and mineral substances (sodium, potassium, calcium...) in the body;
The immune system: this perfectly orchestrated network of cells and molecules is designed to recognise foreign substances and eliminate them from the body. The components of the immune system are at work in the blood plasma, in the lymph and even in the small spaces between cells. It thus protects the body from foreign and dangerous pathogens (viruses, bacteria or parasites) that enter the body.
The respiratory system : within the nose, fine hairs trap dirt, other large particles, as well as potentially infectious microorganisms that can be inhaled and reach the lungs. The smaller particles that make it to the lungs are expelled from the respiratory tract by mucus and with each breath due to the inhaled oxygen and the expelled carbon dioxide.
Contrary to what one might sometimes read, toxins cannot be eliminated through the skin or pores. Indeed, the skin does not participate in the detoxification of the body. However, a few studies indicate that the skin naturally eliminates traces of heavy metals and the body's waste through perspiration and sebum secretion. Nevertheless, the studies on this subject are still limited and the methodology used in these studies is considered dubious by the scientific community.
However, the skin plays a crucial role in protecting the body against harmful substances, whether they are microorganisms, heavy metals, or chemical toxins, by forming a physical barrier and secreting substances, such as sweat and sebum, which can help to maintain the skin's balance and prevent the build-up of harmful substances on the skin's surface.
Can cosmetic treatments detoxify the skin?
The term "detoxification" originally refers to a medical procedure aimed at ridding the body of dangerous, often lethal, levels of alcohol, drugs or poisons through medicinal treatments. However, this term has become popularised in the cosmetic industry to describe products that claim to remove toxins from the skin and purify it.
However, the promise of ridding the skin of toxins with detox treatments is far from reality. It is not possible to detoxify the skin from the outside. Moreover, this concept of "skin detoxification" is not based on any convincing and robust scientific evidence, and is not recognised by the medical community.
However, it is important to clarify that there is a difference between products that claim to purge the skin of toxins present in the body and those that can help defend the skin against toxins present in the environment. Antioxidants, for example, can help counteract the negative effects of environmental toxins by interrupting the damage caused by free radicals when used as part of a daily routine.
However, when other emunctories are saturated with various toxins (tobacco, alcohol, poor diet, medication, etc.), this can impact the health of the skin: it becomes pale, can lead to the appearance of spots, trigger inflammation resulting in redness and itching, or lead to an increase in signs of ageing. To maintain/regain "healthy" skin, one should consider:
Promoting a healthy and balanced diet: prioritise foods rich in nutrients, fibre, quality proteins and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods, high in sugars, saturated fats and salt;
Drinking sufficient water: thewater helps to flush out toxins from the body, and promotes hydrated skin. It is recommended to drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day ;
Avoid toxic substances: steer clear of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Indeed, these toxic substances can have a detrimental impact on skin health: alcohol can lead to skin dehydration and increase the production of free radicals, tobacco can reduce blood circulation, while drugs can cause a loss of elasticity and inflammation of the skin;
Managing stress: Stress can disrupt the hormonal balance of the body, which can impact the health of the skin. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques can help to reduce stress;
Engaging in regular physical activity : Physical exercise stimulates blood and lymphatic circulation, which can help to eliminate toxins from the body. It is recommended to do at least 30 minutes of exercise per day;
Getting sufficient sleep: Sleep plays a significant role in skin regeneration and the elimination of toxins from the body. Therefore, it is essential to ensure you get enough sleep: the amount of sleep required can vary from person to person, but it is generally recommended to sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night;
Daily skincare routine: Using gentle and suitable skincare products for your skin type can help maintain a healthy skin barrier and prevent the build-up of toxins on the skin's surface. Certain treatments can help maintain skin health by removing impurities and dead skin cells, reducing excess sebum, and hydrating the skin.
KIAT H. & al. Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (2015).