Transdermal absorption! Probably not a phrase you chat about very often. When it comes to creams, gels, ointments, and patches, you definitely want to know what transdermal delivery is all about. 

A phrase you probably hear more often is “topical” when chatting about lotions and other items. A topical product is intended to have an effect at the site of application, where transdermal products are absorbed through the skin or mucosal membranes (instead of by oral or injectable routes) and are intended to have an effect within the body. 

To break it down further, topical products are more surface level and transdermal products really get under your skin (in a good way). 

Why Good Ingredients Matter (And Some Bad Ingredients to Avoid)

I know this is a no-brainer here. Why would anyone want to willfully take anything that has bad ingredients? The sad thing is, at one point or another we have all done it! 

Ingredient lists can be confusing, the scientific names hard to read and understand, and often we just don’t know what the purposes of different ingredients are. 

If you have topical products that include bad ingredients, it might be as easy as washing off the application site and moving forward. 

But our skin is the human body’s largest organ and studies are showing that what we expose to our skin can have positive or negative effects on more than just our outer protection. 

When it comes to transdermal delivery – a delivery method that is meant to go more than skin deep – you’ve just put those bad ingredients into your body. Who knows what can happen after that?

An ingredient to watch out for: Have you heard of parabens? Parabens are commonly added to beauty products like deodorants, toothpaste, shampoos, lotions, makeup and more. 

Parabens have been known to disrupt hormone function by penetrating the skin which can lead to more serious things. 

Another bad ingredient to avoid: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). SLS is also known to penetrate the skin and cause irritations, yet is found in most soaps, shampoos, lotions, and even toothpaste

And then there are the “bad” alcohols. While not all alcohols are created equal (and some, like the fatty alcohols, can actually benefit the skin), many cause drying, irritation, and can weaken everything about your skin. 

And don’t forget about fragrances! We all love to smell good but once you know about the negative effects of that flowery scent, it might not be worth it anymore. Fragrances and perfumes can contribute to red skin, sneezing, watery eyes, and more!

Ingredients really do matter!

The Effectiveness of Transdermal Absorption (A Comparison of Intakes)

With the skin being the largest organ on the body, the sheer surface area makes for a viable way to transport ingredients into the body. 

When ingredients that are meant for transdermal absorption are placed on the skin via a patch, the skin slowly absorbs the ingredients and distributes them into the bloodstream at a more controlled rate than if the ingredients were taken in a different form (oral or IV). 

A good example to look at is CBD. 

CBD has some amazing benefits:

  • Promotes calm and collected feelings
  • Aids in cognitive function
  • Encourages restful sleep
  • Soothes everyday aches

There are several ways to take CBD. You have oils, pills, IV and then you have transdermal absorption, aka in the form of a skin patch. 

Here’s a quick rundown of how each form is received by the body. 

  1. Oral Intake: When you ingest a CBD pill, it will go through your digestive tract and make a straight shot to your liver. From there it goes through extensive first-pass metabolism which means hardly any of it (less than 10%) will enter the body or the bloodstream. It’s quickly metabolized and then it’s out of the body. Not very efficient!
  2. IV Intake: With an IV the CBD will go directly into the body and into the bloodstream. You get rapidly elevated levels of CBD in the bloodstream which will then be a rapid excretion of the CBD from the body. The effects are shortlived. And an IV isn’t the most convenient way to take CBD!
  3. Transdermal CBD Absorption: When CBD is placed on your skin you get a slower and more sustained delivery of CBD into your body. The cannabinoids are more of a constant intake that builds up in your tissues and fat cells. When you exercise or fast, those fat cells are broken down for energy sources. That releases the cannabinoids which give you a secondary delivery of the cannabinoids so it’s like a double dose! That means you get CBD in the body for longer and the benefits are greater!

Say you decide to take CBD to help with some aches, you definitely want the power of transdermal absorption to ensure that it’s not just a topical application. 

Getting Under Your Skin: Transdermally

When you find a great product with effective ingredients you want to make sure that you are getting the most out of it!

Not every product can be made for transdermal delivery. That’s why you will likely see lots of options (pills, IV, creams, patches, and on). 

If you have the choice to choose between a transdermal option and something else, take a good look at the ingredients and make sure you feel confident in what you’re putting into your body!



  1. Marcia… always amaze me. This has to be my most fave blog ever. Between the deep dive from Shalayne & Danny & now this everything clicked. You are amazing!

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