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In case you haven’t heard there is proposed legislation in the US that could change the way the cosmetic industry is governed. A lot of people have asked us what all this and I did a short interview with Self magazine on what this means for consumers and the industry. So, since this is a hot topic it’s the subject of our opening segment today.Law3

The bill is officially called “Personal Care Product Safety Act” and some say that it will greatly expand FDA authority over cosmetics. BTW, we’re using the term “cosmetic” as short hand for all personal care products. It’s a bipartisan bill, proposed by two senators: Dianne Feinstein (D) of California and Susan Collins (R) of Maine. The bill has 5 or 6 major provisions:

Provisions of the act

Adverse incident reporting
“Adverse incident” is legal speak for any time a cosmetic negatively impacts a cosumer’s health. Includes things like: chemical burns, allergic reactions, accidental poisoning, and so forth. Currently, must companies voluntarily report adverse incidents. Under this new Act, they would be required to report them within 15 business days. They must also report all nonserious events — like rashes — annually.

Product recalls
The new Act would also give the FDA the authority to order recalls of cosmetics if they are a threat to consumer safety. This seems a little academic to me because if I understand the current law correctly, the FDA can “ask” a company to do a recall. You don’t have to comply but there are consequences so this doesn’t seem like much of a change.

Also new is required labeling ingredients “not appropriate for children” and those that should be “professionally administered.” I’m not really sure what this means.

Online ingredient labeling
One aspect of the bill that I’m STRONGLY in favor of is the requirement for complete ingredient labeling online. BTW, approximately 40% of personal care products are purchased over the Internet.

Good Manufacturing Practices
In addition, the FDA would be directed to issue regulations on Good Manufacturing Practices for personal care products. All the big companies are already doing this so again not much of a change.

Mandatory ingredient review
The biggest change, I think is that the the F.D.A. will now be required to study five different chemicals for safety every year. First up would include propylparaben, methylene glycol (a formaldehyde-releasing chemical) and lead acetate which is used in some men’s hair dye.

Consequences of the new law

Here’s what the Personal Care Products Council had to say…

The Personal Care Products Council and its member companies have worked collaboratively with Members of Congress seeking to reform federal regulatory oversight for cosmetics and personal care products.  We support the creation of a national standard that maintains the continued safety of our products while providing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with additional regulatory authority over our industry. While we believe our products are the safest category that FDA regulates, we also believe well-crafted, science-based reforms will enhance industry’s ability to innovate and further strengthen consumer confidence in the products they trust and use every day.  The current patchwork regulatory approach with varying state bills does not achieve this goal.

Not surprisingly there’s a dollar impact. The bill authorizes the FDA to collect user-fees from manufacturers to cover the cost of this new red tape. That’s means it will cost the beauty companies more so expect price increases for consumers.

There will be a proportionally bigger cost impact on smaller companies (a win for “Big Beauty”)

The effect will also be greater for companies that haven’t already invested in a infrastructure to do extensive safety assessments (in other words that have a substantial Reg and Safety Department.)

There’s some concern that it could stifle innovation – red tape/paperwork for new stuff, slow approval for new ingredients etc.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Part of it simply mandates things that are already being done voluntarily (like 
Adverse incident reporting, 
Product recalls and 
Good Manufacturing Practices.)

It adds a couple new provisions: 
Online ingredient labeling
Annual review of 5 ingredients by the FDA (again, currently being done just not mandatory and not within the FDA.)

The good news is that all the big companies are already doing these things for the most part. The great news is that it will protect you from the any unscrupulous companies (usually the smaller ones). The bad news is that it could stifle innovation and could result in higher prices for consumers.

Beauty Science News

An unusual acne cure
If you had problem acne would you cure it by putting urine on your face? The answer is “probably not” but I read about this on R29 and they interviewed a dermatologist who, I’m surprised to say, just didn’t quite get it right. In this case the Derm talks about urea, which comprises about 5% of your urine being a humectant and it’s true it is part of the natural moisturizing factor in skin but that’s only when it’s left on the skin if you used it in a cream or lotion. It’s one thing to suggest you should dab some urine on your face and but I don’t think anyone’s suggesting to use a concentrated urine mask.

Secondly the derm says it can be an exfolliant, but in general you need a pretty low pH for an exfoliate to work and the pH of urine is on average about 7 (varies between 4.6 and eight). 
So should you use urine for acne? On the plus side it’s cheap and readily available. On the minus side it’s ineffective and disgusting. So the next time someone asks you if they can urinate on your face, you can give them a balanced perspective.

Cosmetic surgery makes women look more likable

Another questionable study…

Swimming pool and beauty products may not mix

A new study from a research team at Purdue University suggests that chemicals from both personal care products and pharmaceuticals could end up in swimming pools, causing undesirable byproducts. I don’t think there’s any need to panic but the researchers did find out that certain pool sanitizing agents (which are typically chlorine based) can react with things that they might come in contact with from your body. For example, previous studies if you pee in the pool these chemicals react with urine.
So, these scientists decided to look at OTHER chemicals that might be found in pools to see if they could be reactive. They assessed 32 common pharmaceutical and personal care chemicals and found that 3 were present at levels high enough to present a problem if they react with pool water:

  • DEET (N-diethyl-m-toluamide)
  • Caffeine
  • TCEP, a flame retardant. tri(2-chloroethyl)-phosphate

Nail polish for men?

Despite this story I doubt this will EVERY catch on.

Image credit:

Dafne dares to ask…The other day I bought Luxurious Volume Thickening Blow Dry Lotion by John Frieda. It works, but it feels just like hair spray, looks just like hair spray, and makes your hair sticky like hair spray. Might it actually be hair spray? And if so, can I use just any type of hair spray for this purpose, or this one is actually better than a normal one if it’s used during blow drying?

The Beauty Brains respondEvil_spray_can_by_djunko

As Dafne pointed out in her original question in our Forum, the product contains the following ingredients:

Alcohol Denat., Aqua, PVP, VP/VA Copolymer, VP/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer, PEG- 75 Lanolin, Polysorbate 20, Parfum, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Linalool.

(BTW, we LOVE when our readers do their own ingredient research!)

Blow dry lotion = hairspray

At its core, this is certainly a hairspray. The main ingredients, PVP, VP/VA Copolymer, and VP/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer, are all hairspray ingredients used to hold the hair in place. But this is a hairspray that’s designed to be used during blow drying. It’s tough to say without seeing the concentration of each ingredient but it’s likely that that the water and alcohol levels (as well as the resins themselves) have been optimized to give you more “play time” during blow drying. You could certainly TRY any old hairspray and see if it works for you but you may find that regular hairspray dries to fast for this kind of application. The worst that can happen is that your hair will end up a tangled mess.

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What’s the right order to apply a BHA serum?

Little Rhino asks…I would like to add a B5 Serum into my skincare routine. I use a BHA ( salycic acid 2% ) lotion in the am/pm. I works well with my skin and mild acne. However, I do need a little extra boost of hydration. So the B5 sounded like a great place to start. Can these two products work together.  If yes, serum first-then lotion or vice versa?

The Beauty Brains respondLautrec_woman_at_her_toilette_1889

Lil’ Rhino’s question is really a “two-for-one.” Let’s break it apart and try to answer them one at a time.

What’s the right order to apply products?

The quick answer is that you should apply the BHA product directly to your skin first so nothing interferes with its exfoliating action. Ideally you should let it work for 2 to 5 minutes before applying any other product.

Is Vitamin B5 good for skin?

Ok, now that we know to apply moisturizer after a BHA treatment we need to find out if vitamin B5 is worth using as a moisturizer. (Note: For the sake of accuracy we need to point out that Vitamin B5 is pantothenic acid. Panthenol, which is typically used in cosmetic products, is the alcohol version of B5. So it’s chemically close but strictly speaking it’s not the same. Okay, now back to the answer…) To be honest, the answer to this one surprised us a bit. As a whole, the use of vitamins is over-rated in skin care and we didn’t expect to find that the B5 provided any specific benefit when applied topically. Surely any moisturizing effect is the result of the other ingredients in the formula and not the vitamin itself, right?

Wrong! At least according to one study which showed that lotions with panthenol helps skin retain moisture. The researchers tested three versions of a moisturizing cream formula: a control version without panthenol and versions containing 1% and 5%. Their results showed that after using the creams for 30 days, both of the panthenol-containing versions reduced moisturize loss through the skin better than the control.

What does this mean?

We don’t think this means you need to run out and spend a lot of money on a Vitamin B5 lotion because this study wasn’t designed to show that it works better than other, less expensive, ingredients. It just shows that B5 does provide protection against moisture loss. Should you buy a B5 cream? IF you know the product contains at least 1% panthenol and IF that product is not too expensive, then it could be worth a try. Just be sure to use if AFTER your BHA treatment.

Image credit:

Reference: J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Jul-Aug;62(4):361-70.


Should beauty companies keep secrets from you? Episode 80

Do you think it’s okay for cosmetic companies to keep their ingredients a secret from you if it means you get better products? We discuss this question and more in today’s quick Q&A show.

Improbable Products5103209989_72f73816d9_o

Two of these “ancient secrets” have been found to really work; one of them is just made up. Can you spot which one is fake? Tune in to the show for the answer.

  1. An onion and Garlic wine cooler can kill Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
  2. Pancake syrup from middle eastern dates inhibits the growth of Strep and E coli.
  3. Goat grease fights the fungus that cause cradle cap in infants.

Can I protect a product from oxygen by transferring it to an airless pump?

Bronwyn asks…I know products in jars are not ideal but I found I bought a “Holy grail” product that happen to come in jars. Can I decant to an airless pump container or will the oxygen that it’s exposed to during process render the products ineffective?

I think that as long as you do the transfer quickly and avoid stirring up the product too much it may be worth the effort. Once you’ve transferred it to an airless pump it will be less likely to come in contact with oxygen than if you were dipping into the jar every time. Keep the container as full as possible to minimize head space. One question – where do you even get a container like this?

Are eyelash perms safe?

Michelle asks…I had an eyelash perm before without problems, but I was wondering if the procedure is safe. I couldn’t find anything on the FDA website, but apparently is not approved according to other sources. Does that mean the procedure is unsafe or because it is a cosmetic doesn’t really require approval?”

I thought these had gone away because of their so dangerous but there are still several eyelash perm products on the market. (All from small I companies, I believe.) I looked up the ingredients on one and this is a true perm: A high pH solution of ammonium thioglycolate. This is a BAD idea: the eyes absorb things really quickly and no one ever rinses their eyes long enough to get it out. You could seriously damage your eye with a product like this. I’m not even sure how well these products would work. Any curl you achieve wouldn’t last very long because even the longest lashes aren’t really very long any bend you create would quickly revert to its natural state.

Is this hydrogel claim bogus?

Ling asks…I was hoping you guys could help me with a product claim for Etude House Collagen Eye Gel Patch. It says on the packaging (in bad english) “Hydro-gel under eye patches formulated with collagen to revitalize and improve appearance around eyes.” I just want to clarify something – Etude House isn’t claiming that the collagen in the product is what is “revitalizing and improving the appearance around eyes” and that this product isn’t claiming to actually improve the eye area (since it says appearance) or prevent any aging. Right? Or are they misleading people with bad science?  Commas make a big difference it seems…

You’re right. Commas DO make a huge difference. To be completely accurate, the claim should be written with commas:

“Hydro-gel under eye patches, formulated with collagen, to revitalize and improve appearance around eyes.”

This way it’s clear that the product (NOT the collagen) is responsible for whatever revitalization and improvement it provides. It’s all about “weasel words” or, in this case, “weasel punctuation.”

Are Celloplex and Juvalift miracle products?

Lee asks…Can you expose CelloPlex and JuvaLift, please (unless these really ARE the ‘miracle products’ to which all the stars are turning!

I couldn’t find an ingredient list for Celloplex but any product that claims to work “better than Botox” is obviously over-hyped. There doesn’t appear to be any that special about Juvalift.  It contains (among other things) Ceramides (which are used in a lot of products) Retinol Palmitate (which is about the least effective form of retinol), and Palmitoyl oligopeptide (a peptide which is also used in other products.)

Is facial mapping for real?

More Blonde Than Human says…I’ve had two facialists praise facial mapping (wherein acne on different parts of the face correlates with functioning of various internal organs.) But it it seems… unscientific. Thoughts?

“Unscientific” pretty much says it all. This idea is so ridiculous that I was surprised to find so many articles in a quick web search. But even most of these articles said something like “such and such dermatologist says there’s no research that proves this is true.” We even had one reader say the following…

“These articles that discuss facial mapping I believe point out that the ancient Chinese used it so therefore it must be true (I’m Chinese btw and I’ve never heard of this from my family but rather from these articles!).”

This is a logical fallacy (Argument from antiquity).

Should beauty science be kept secret?

Irina asks…‘In your educated opinions: How important is secrecy (either technology or ingredients) when developing a new beauty product? And are there advantages to keeping some of those ingredients or technologies secret when the beauty product is released to the public?

I agree that Ingredients must be labeled… but that doesn’t mean the ingredient list discloses all the product’s secrets. For example:

  • Ingredient that has a surprise benefit – color protection.
  • Ingredient combination that works better than single ingredients – hairspray
  • How ingredients are put together makes a difference – patent on silicone dispersion.

Also, companies can protect specific technology with patents without being “secret.”

Why is sunscreen always greasy?

Roni asks…Why is sunscreen so slick and oily? 

Here’s a quick answer to your question: basically, you’re out of luck! Sunscreens feel oily for two reasons. First the UV absorbers used in sunscreens are oil soluble. Without a good slug of an oil like material the UV absorber won’t stay dissolved. Second, to keep the UV absorber on skin after exposure to sweat or moisture formulas have to be waterproof and that means more oil.

You might have better luck with some of the so-called “dry oil” products. I don’t recall a brand name off the top of my head but I have seen products that use esters which feel a little less greasy than traditional oils. Look for the phrase “dry oil” on the label.

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What does face spray do for your skin?

Beyond35 asks…What’s the difference between a floral water and facial mist? The owner told me it [Wild Olive] was an infused water…I’m confused.

The Beauty Brains respond050725-N-1126D-006

I looked at this Wild Olive product. “Floral water” and “facial mist” are not technical terms but rather just marketing descriptions so there is no set meaning. A floral water could be an ingredient in a facial mist. Another question is, what’s the deal with these facial sprays?

Why lotions are better than face sprays

The product in question is Wild Olive Face Mist. According to their website this “product is an enriched water designed to help maintain good hydration levels in the deeper tissue of our skin.” The ingredients, referenced on the website, are basically water, a small amount of natural oils, glycerine, fragrance, glycerine, and a solubolizer (polysorbate-20) to help mix in the oils. I’m a bit surprised to see that there’s no preservative listed.

Spraying a water and oil mixture such as this one on your face will provide temporary hydration. I’m sure it feels quite nice if your skin is really dry. But, this type of product can’t deliver the same kind of long lasting moisturization that a cream or lotion can provide.

That’s because a moisturizer needs to be applied in a uniform layer across the skin so it can lock in moisture. (Moisturizers work by preventing water from evaporating through the skin. This is called Trans Epidermal Water Loss or TEWL.)

A spray like this will not uniformly coat your face and so it won’t reduce TEWL like a lotion will. Also, since this is a spray it consists of mainly water rather than the kinds of oils and waxes that really lock moisture in skin.

If you’re just looking for a fresh feeling and you have $20 bucks to spend, then this is the product for you. But if you truly want to deeply moisturize your face then you need a good facial cream.

Image credit: Wikipedia

What do YOU think? Do you use facial mists or sprays? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.


Do L’Oreal products really thicken hair? Episode 79

L’Oreal has a number of products that claim to actually thicken your hair. This week Randy and I take a look how these products work and which ones provide the best value.

Claim to Fame: Fructus Full & Plush Ends Plumper

This is the segment of the showgram where we look at popular personal care product claims and tell you what the claim really means, how it can be true, and whether or not it means the product is worth spending more money on. This week we’re looking at a hair thickening claim that used across several L’Oreal products most notably on Garnier Fructis “Full & Plush Ends Plumper.”

What is the claim?

We always start by reviewing the exact language of the claim because sometimes a claim implies something but doesn’t really say it. So here are the exact claims from this Fructus product:

  • Our first targeted treatment with Fibra-Cylane and pomegranate that plumps wispy ends for a fuller look.
  • PLUMPS thinned-out ENDS*
  • …penetrates and plumps hair for a full, voluptuous look.
  • Instantly the LOOK OF MORE HAIR*
  • Hair feels FULLER & looks THICKER*
  • Touchably SOFT & PLUSH*
  • *Garnier Fructis Full & Plush System of Shampoo, Conditioner & Ends Plumper treatment.

How can the claim be true?

First let’s point out that some of these claims can be supported by almost any conventional styling product. Any product that leaves a significant coating on the hair (especially true of mousses, gels, putties, and so forth) can be said to make hair “feel fuller.” And any product that helps lock your style in place (like a hairspray) can say that it instantly gives you the “look of more hair.” So to some extent this sounds like the same old marketing speak. Claims like this can easily be supported by a salon test that shows when you style your hair and lock it in place your hair style has more volume.

But, some of their other claims refer to penetrating hair and thickening individual fibers which is NOT something you can achieve by coating hair with conventional products. So to understand how they might support those claims we need to take a closer look at their special technology which they call “Fibra-Cylane.” By reviewing their ingredient lists and looking at their patents, it appears that Fibra-Cylane is an ingredient called aminopropyl triethoxysilane.

According to L’Oreal, this ingredient works like this:

“It penetrates the hair shaft, expands and strengthens the hair…”

“it’s…Similar to the silica gel used to fill cracks in car windshields, the technology is also inspired by wrinkle fillers for the skin…”

“…Filloxane’s small molecules slip through hair cuticles, attracted like magnets to proteins inside the fiber. They bind to the hair proteins as well as to each other, forming a rigid, stable network that adds volume to naturally thin or aging hair”

The idea appears to be based on what is called “sol gel” technology which involves converting a solution into a solid gel. This chemistry is used in glass coatings to fill in cracks. Here’s a link to a video by one of the researchers who worked on the technology which features a petri dish demo of how it works. Although, she admits that it’s not a very realistic demo because it uses a highly concentrated solution. But still it’s interesting. Based on looking at the hair tresses in the video it looks like the material helps hair fibers hold their shape but without a heavy crust. It’s easy to imagine how they could support these “volumizing” claims if that’s how it works.

L’Oreal makes several mentions of how Fibra-Cylane penetrates hair. If the molecule is small enough this could be true and there are test methods that have documented silicone penetration into hair. For example, this 1995 paper talks show how silicones can penetrate through the cuticle and intro the cortex using an analtyical procedure known as scanning time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy (TOF-SIMS).

Should this claim persuade you to buy the product?

There SEEMS to be something significant here, but I couldn’t find any clear evidence of how well this stuff works compared to conventional technologies. There are a number of patents related to using aminopropyl triethoxysilane on hair but I couldn’t find anything like “this stuff thickens hair fibers by 39%” which is the kind of evidence I’d like to see. There was a paper presented at one of the technical symposiums titled “3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane: A new compound stemming from sol-gel chemistry provides thin hair fiber with more volume” but I haven’t been able to track down a copy to see if it provides more details.

So, it seems that L’Oreal may have some unique technology that can thicken hair from within but it’s tough to say for sure. The good news is, it’s relatively easy for you to try it for yourself. The bad news is that it can be confusing because L’Oreal uses this technology in no less than 6 different brands. AND, the prices varies wildly so you have to be careful which product you buy so you don’t get over-charged. Let’s take a look at each one so you can pick the one that’s best for you. For each brand we’ll tell you which product uses this technology, what they call the technology, the ingredients in the product, and the cost per ounce.

Interesting side note:  look at all the different words L’Oreal has for “volume” across their hair care brands:

  • Fructis has normal sounding “Volume Extend” collection
  • For L’Oréal Professionnel there’s the “Série Expert Vol-u-me-try”
  • Kerastase has the “VOLUM-I-FIQUE” and the “Vol-u-mor-phose” collections.
  • Kerastase also has “DEN-SI-FI-QUE” line and the“DEN-SI-MOR-PHOSE” mousse
  • And finally their Vichy brand has a “NEOGENIC REDENSIFYING SHAMPOO.”

All these are different ways of saying it looks like you have more hair. Wow.

Ok, now let’s talk about the specific products. Again, in case you weren’t aware, these are ALL L’Oreal brands.

Garnier Fructis Full & Plush Ends Plumper Amplifying leave in serum

Technology name: Fibra-Cylane.

Comments: Obviously we’ve already talked about this one. As we said the technology is called “Fibra-Cylane.” As you can see from the ingredient list (which we’ll post in the show notes) it does contain aminopropyl triethoxysilane but it appears to use a lower level and it contains a good slug of a traditional styling polymer. So even if this one does thicken your hair that may be overwhelmed by the feeling of a crusty styling coating. However, it’s also the cheapest product in the line at just over $1.00 per ounce.


Cost: $5.49/5oz = $1.10/oz

Biolage by Matrix Advanced FiberStrong Fortifying Cream

Technology name: Intra-Cylane (with Bamboo)

Comments: This one uses Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane in a cream base but it appears to be at a higher level. So at $3.25/oz you’ll pay a little more but you may get more of the active agent.

Ingredients: Aqua / Water / Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, Cetyl Esters, Amodimethicone, Parfum / Fragrance, Behentrimonium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Trideceth-6, Benzyl Alcohol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Cetrimonium Chloride, Linalool, 2-Oleamido-1,3-Octadecanediol, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Limonene, Geraniol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Bambusa Vulgaris Extract.

Cost: $22/6.8oz = $3.25/oz

Vichy Dercos Instant Filler

Technology name: Filloxane

Comments: Vichy calls the technology “Filloxane” because it “fills in” your hair. Get it? It’s the purest version basically just a solution of aminopropyl triethoxysilane in water. It’s $3.25/oz which is only slightly more expensive than the Matrix version so if you want to try it without the cream base, this is a great option.

Ingredients: Aqua, Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, Lactic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicytate, Citronellol, Hexyl Cinnamate, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Limonene, Linalool, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Parfum (Fragrance).

Cost: $14/4.3 oz = $3.25/oz

L’Oreal Paris Advanced Haircare Volume Filler Fiber Amplifying Concentrate In-Shower Treatment

Technology name: Filloxane

Comments: Here they also use the name “Filloxane” for the technology. It’s also the same basic formula as the Vichy version except it has some castor oil to thicken it up and it sells for a few cents more.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Fragrance, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Linalool, Limonene, Citronellol, Geraniol

Cost: $5.59/1.5 oz = $3.72/oz

L’Oreal Professional Volumetry Anti-gravity Serum Booster

Technology name: Intra-Cylane

Comments: Just like Matrix they call the technology Intra-Cylane. It’s appears to be the exact same formula base as the L’Oreal Paris product but it sells for about $10 per oz which is almost three times the price. So stay away from this one!

Ingredients: Water, Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Phenoxyethanol, Limonene., Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Geraniol, CItral, Benzyl Alcohol, Parfum

Cost: $6/0.6 oz = $10/oz

Kérastase Resistance Volumorphose Volume Expansion Treatment

Technology name: Intra-Cylane

Comments: Again we see the “Intra-Cylane” name used but the Kerastase name is what will really cost you. This one sells for $20/oz which is ridiculous! I think they may have discontinued this because I could only find it on reseller sites and not L’oreal’s actual website.

Cost: 30-0.66 oz vials/$400 = $20/oz.

So, there you have it, a complete run down on L’Oreal products with “sol-gel” technology.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

L’Oreal may have some unique technology that can thicken hair from within. However, even though the technology appears to be heavily protected by patents it’s difficult to say how well this works compared to conventional products. In fact, some of the claims L’Oreal makes can be achieved with standard formulas. This good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to try it out for yourself IF you know what to look for.

(Here’s the link to the Gawker article on the Food Babe vs. the Science Babe that we talked about.)


How to get rid of hard water on hair

Georgia asks…I have hard water where I live. Should I be using a chelating shampoo to remove mineral build-up? If so, should I use it every time I shampoo, every other time, etc. I color my hair and it is normal to dry.

The Beauty Brains respond796px-Hard_water_and_drop

Back when people used soap-based cleansers for their hair, hard water was a serious problem because soaps react with minerals to form an insoluble salts that build up on hair. Fortunately, the surfactants used in modern shampoos don’t cause this problem. Still, if your water is very hard you may get some mineral deposits from the residual rinse water drying in your hair. If you don’t notice this buildup then you probably don’t need to use a special shampoo. If you do notice your hair looking dull, shifting color, or feeling raspy then then using a chelating shampoo is not a bad idea on occasion. It’s unlikely that you’d need to use it everyday.

When shopping for a chelating shampoo look for “EDTA” on the label. That stands for Ethylene Diamine Tetra Acetate and it’s the ingredient that complexes with the minerals in the water and helps them rinse away. There are many shampoos that use EDTA at very low levels as part of their preservative so you should look for a shampoo designed specifically for chelating that uses higher levels of this ingredient.

If you’re shopping for a chelating shampoo to get rid of hard water on hair, you can support the Beauty Brains by buying through this link.


I’m confused about alcohol in cosmetics

SkinBiz says: I am a little confused re. the use of alcohol in skincare products, can anyone help me with which ones are not good for the skin and which ones are beneficial? Also what does it mean when a product range is certified halal?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Alcohol in cosmeticsred-wine-505296_640

There are two kinds of alcohol used in cosmetics that can be drying to skin:

  • Ethyl alcohol (also listed as Ethanol, Alcohol Denat or SD Alcohol)
  • Isopropyl alcohol (also listed as isopropanol)

These are drying to skin because they are short chain alcohols (very few carbon atoms in their backbone) which means they are liquids and can act as solvents. They can dissolve the natural protective oils in your skin.

Other kinds of alcohols can actually be good for your skin because they are long chain fatty alcohols which means they act like an oily moisturizer. The most common ones include:

  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Stearyl Alcohol

Halal cosmetics

Essentially “halal” means the product is lawful according to The Islamic Food and Nutriition Council. In the case of foods you must avoid the following:

  • Pork and pork by-products.
  • Improper slaughter techniques for animals.
  • Ingredients made from carnivorous animals.
  • Intoxicants like alcohol.

You can learn more about halal products here:


Quicky beauty science questions Episode 78

This week we try something different: instead of taking one question and giving  it a very in depth answer, we a answer several questions very shallowly. Listen to the show and let us know what you think of this approach.

Are hair masks better than regular conditioners?question-63916_640-2

Alexandra asks…Is there a real difference between hair masks and regular conditioners. Or are masks just overpriced. Can you apply either in advance of shampoo and in case of oily or short hair? 

Of course it depends on which specific products you’re looking at, but in many cases “masks” and deep conditioners are not much different than regular rinse out products. (We’ve formulated such products.)

What is a “mask” in the context of hair anyway? Skin masks contain clay which dry on the skin to form a tight film. Hair masks don’t do that. It’s really just a marketing gimmick.

Do thickeners stop active ingredients from penetrating?

Erin asks…I’ve looked everywhere for information on the occlusive ratings for waxes and can’t seem to find any information. Do thickeners, such as glyceryl stearate SE, beeswax, cera bellina, etc. still allow penetration of goodies such as vitamin e, panthenol, and vitamins? Obviously, the percentage of wax would be a factor, but are some less occlusive than others? You’d think there would be some sort or rating guide out there somewhere.

Occlusivity typically means an ingredient will form a water proof layer on the skin that will keep moisture from evaporating. That doesn’t necessarily mean an occlusive ingredient will prevent other ingredients from getting into the skin. (Assuming of course that the ingredient in question will even penetrate skin.)

Since many, if not most, anti-aging creams that contain legitimate actives (like retinol and niacinamide) do contain waxes and thickeners like the ones you mentioned, I don’t see any reason to believe those ingredients are causing a problem.

If you’re allergic to latex are you allergic to shea butter?

Tindingo asks…What is in shea butter which can be irritated as latex? (I have read if you have latex-allergy than you must be allergic to shea butter.)

I found the answer from a paper published by the ALAA (The American Latex Allergy Association.) I had no idea there was such an association! They say…”The relationship between these materials remains unclear. There are currently no published studies that confirm the presence or absence of cross-reactive allergens in shea butter and natural rubber latex (NRL), but, they go on to say…

“even thought shea trees are not related genetically to rubber trees, a latex-type substance has been identified in some shea butters.”

So it’s not proven but there is some potential for concern.

Are oil infusions any better?

Duffy asked…Do oil infusions work differently then normal oils? I’ve come across herbalists which claim that oils have more beneficial properties when infused with herbs, e.g. calendula flower. Obviously I’m extremely skeptical, but I wonder if there’s any truth to this?

Well, I guess it depends on if the herb contains any oil soluble components that provide skin benefits. For example, rosemary, sage, and oregano do have some antibacterial properties. So IF an oil infusion contained sufficient amounts of these active ingredients it’s possible the infusion would be a better bactericide than the oil itself. For the most part, however, I’m very skeptical of such a claim.

Can I use retinol and niacinamide together?

Chris asks…is it okay to use retinol in evening and niacinamide in morning. Is there anything to look out for in terms of brand? 

Retinol product can be irritating and can make your skin more susceptible to UV damage so they should be used at night. Niacinamide can also cause some redness but does not matter in terms of UV exposure so using Niacinamide products in the morning is fine. By separating them you also reduce the chance of compounding the irritation.

Should I avoid oils on my hair?

Gabis asks…I’ve been meaning to start a Low-poo routine and one of the rules is to avoid products that contain mineral oil or other petroleum products. Aside from the famous petrolatum, mineral oil, parafinum liquid and vaseline, are there other common petroleum sub-products that are used in cosmetics? Mainly hair care products.

I guess that depends on what you mean by “sub-products”.  Crude oil is used to produce a wide range of cosmetic ingredients such as surfactants, emollients, emulsifiers, preservatives and pretty much any other class of ingredient you could need in a hair care formula.

But many of these same ingredients can also be derived from a plant source.  Take an ingredient like Cetyl Alcohol for example.  This is one found in nearly every hair conditioner. Cetyl Alcohol can be made by chemically modifying Palm Oil.  But it can also be made by chemically modifying a petroleum distillate.  When you pick up that bottle of conditioner you have no way of knowing what was the original source of your Cetyl Alcohol. Both ingredients will work exactly the same way so it doesn’t really matter.

The advice to avoid petroleum based products if you’re going Low-poo is not bad advice but it is incomplete.  What you really want to do is avoid long chain oils that will coat your hair and attract dirt & more oil.  That means staying away from Petrolatum & Mineral Oil is a good idea.  But you should also stay away from other long chain oils like Olive Oil, Sunflower seed Oil, Jojoba oil and pretty much any other natural oil.  These things will build up in your hair and cause it to be more dirty.

Does make up really have an expiration date?

CandyPuff asks…Does make up really have an expiration date?  I only wear make up occasionally and I am not thrilled at the prospect of throwing away a lipstick only used a few times because it is a year old.

The answer depends on the type of product. Here are three things to look for:

1. Does it still work? Some active ingredients can lose efficacy over time. (Probably not an issue with lipstick.)

2. Is it still aesthetically pleasing? In other words, does it look and smell ok. Fragrance and color fade over time and some oils can pick up a rancid flavor. This IS likely to happen to lipstick.

3. Is it still free from microbial contamination? Over time a preservative system may fail which means a product could grow bacteria or fungi. (This is less likely to happen with a lipstick because it doesn’t contain water.)

You have to look at each product on a case by case basis. Some will last beyond their expiration date and there’s little danger in continuing to use them. Others may put you at risk if they’ve expired, like mascara.

Does yogurt really nourish pet hair?

Barbara asks…Here’s claim to tackle: The pet product “Bark to Basics Blueberry Greek Yogurt Shampoo” says it cleans, repairs and nourishes the skin and coat and that it feeds protein to hair follicles allowing water to penetrate deep in root. This is so misleading it’s driving me nuts! 

A pet shampoo with misleading claims? Now there’s a shocker… Water does “penetrate” so you could always rely on that as claims support. But yogurt does not really feed hair follicles. At best, claims about nourishing hair are really about conditioning.


Can nail polish really be healthy?

KrisInPhilly asks…Can nail polish, like from Remedy Nails, be “healthy”? Is their claim that they have the most unique polish on the market true?

The Beauty Brains respond

Kris thanks for such a great question. I just wish I had a definitive answer about Remedy Nails.

Healthy polish?et_s_finger___3d_nail_art_by_kayleighoc-d61x937

I had trouble finding much information about how Remedy Nails claims to be so healthy and unique so I wrote to the company asking for an explanation. Unfortunately they have not responded. So, I can’t really tell for sure how they support their claims. In my humble opinion, it all depends on how you define “healthy.” Having worked in the beauty industry for many years, I can speculate how a company might respond when asked “what does healthy mean?”

Definition 1: Free from damage (that negatively affects appearance)

Example: Healthy looking nails.

Comment: Claims related to appearance are almost always easily substantiated.

Definition 2: Free from disease

Example: Fights nail fungus.

Comment: This would be a drug claim so I doubt Remedy Nails would use such as approach unless, of course, they are selling a drug product.

Definition 3: Improved quality

Example: Stronger nails, longer lasting color, etc.

Comment: This is a gray area. Nail strengtheners can also cause brittleness. Is that really healthier? Many people would say not.

Definition 4: Less dangerous side effects, less toxic

Example: No harmful solvents.

Comment: We’ve written about the dangers of breathing nail polish and there is certainly reason for concern about neurotoxicity. Water-based polishes could “healthier” in this regard. Perhaps this is Remedy’s approach? If so, do they provide the same quality polish as solvent-based systems? If not, you have to ask yourself: how much are you willing to give up to get a “healthier” product?

The Beauty Brains bottom line

As you can see from these examples, “healthy” is a very subjective claim that is open to interpretation. It would be interesting to see how Remedy Nails defines “healthy” for their products.

What do YOU think? Have we missed any definitions of healthy that you would include? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.