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What are perfluorocarbons and why are they in my skin Lotion?

Steven says…What are your thoughts on perfluorocarbons in skin care? I’ve noticed the use of Perfluorodecalin and Perfluoromethyl-cyclopentane as a slip agent in some formulations. As well they are purported to deliver oxygen to the skin. Perfluorodecalin has been used in this way to enhance wound healing…However I know that perfluorocarbons in general can be environmental pollutants and can also bioaccumulate. Is their any justification in their use in skin care products?

The Beauty Brains responddiving-378214_1280

Perfluorodecalin is a fluorocarbon which, as Steven pointed out, is used skin moisturizers.

What does perfluorodecalin do?

It is notable for its ability to dissolve up to 49% of its volume in oxygen. This property makes it valuable in wound healing products because application of oxygen can “activate the inflammatory cells of the immune system that help healing.” (Reference: ScienceDaily.) For example we found this interesting paper on the use of perfluorodecalin enemas to treat irritable bowels. (You can write your own joke for that punchline.)

Is it good for skin?

Do I think use of this ingredient is “justified” in moisturizers? Well, while it’s ability to solubilize oxygen is impressive for medical applications, I can’t think of any reason why it would help fight wrinkles. Oxygen, by definition, oxidizes. Anti-aging products contain antioxidants to fight oxidation (from free radicals that can prematurely age skin.) Oxygen is the Anti-antioxidant! (The Un-antioxidant? De-antioxidant?) If there’s a rationale for why this is good for skin, I’d love to hear it.

What about perfluorodecalin’s ability to moisturize? Some of the brands we looked at referred to clinical studies showing an increase in skin moisturization and a decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But any decent anti-aging product will provide these benefits, you don’t need such a high-tech (and expensive) ingredient for that.

Is it bad for the environment?

Then there are the health and environmental issues that Steven raised. While we couldn’t find any data on bioaccumulation we did find this study that indicates perfluorodecalin can has a high GWP (Global Warming Potential.) That, and the fact that it so it will hang around in the atmosphere for along time because it doesn’t degrade easily, does seem concerning.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

While perfluorodecalin appears to be valuable for medical applications I could find no evidence suggesting it provides any differentiated skin care benefits compared to conventional moisturizing agents.

Image credit: Pixabay

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