≡ Menu

We’ve all heard that night creams work better because your skin absorbs ingredients while you sleep. Is this true? Tune into to this week’s show to find out.  Also, Randy and I talk about how beauty companies cut costs on cosmetic formulas. 

Click below to play Episode 61 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Please review our show on iTunes!

Randy and I are asking our listeners to review our show on iTunes. Here’s the link to the Beauty Brains on iTunes.
Your feedback is super important because it…

  • helps new listeners find out about us
  • demonstrates that we’re a trusted (and entertaining) source of information.
  • helps us attract and maintain sponsors for the show and for the website.

Please write a review for us today. Thanks!

Question of the week: Do night creams work better at night?

Christine says…I’ve read that night creams are supposed to work better because the skin heats up at night so the ingredients penetrate more deeply. Is this true?

What happens to your skin at night?

First of all, there doesn’t seem to be any question that sleep is good for skin. Lack of sleep can actually impair the barrier function of skin which means TEWL is increased. In other words – not getting enough sleep literally dries out your skin. For example, one study found that “Sleep deprivation also decreased skin barrier function recovery and increased plasma interleukin-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and natural killer cell activity.” So dryness, psoriasis, eczema, and other types of dermatitis can be triggered by lack of sleep.

The hypothesis which explains this is that sleep gives the body time to repair itself. During the day the sympathetic nervous system is in control and it keeps blood flow near the core of the body. At night the parasympathetic system takes over and it shifts blood flow to the extremities. Theoretically, this is when the skin builds more collagen. In addition, the kidneys are more active during the parasympathetic phase and they are able to drain excess fluid that can create puffy eyes. So, sleep is good for skin but does it actually cause the skin to “heat up” as Christine mentioned?

Ref: Stress-induced changes in skin barrier function in healthy women. J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Aug;117(2):309-17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11511309

Does the skin heat up at night?

The answer is yes, at least for part of the night. We found a study which measured blood flow and skin temperature during sleep. By the way the technical term for this is nocturnal subcutaneous blood flow. The researchers found that after about an hour of sleep blood flow does increase to the skin (at least to the legs which is what they measured in the study.)

They also found that with this increasing blood flow comes a statistically significant increase in temperature which makes sense since the body cools itself by vasodilation. Interestingly this effect lasts for about two hours before returning to normal levels. So if you’re not sleeping for at least three hours total it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

This all means that Christine is correct – it does appear that as you sleep subcutaneous blood flow and skin temperature both increase. But, what impact does this have on the absorption of cosmetic ingredients through your skin?

Do increased temperature and blood flow lead to increased ingredient absorption?

There are two parts to this answer: first there’s the question of how well ingredients diffuse through the outer layers of skin to get to the bloodstream. Second there’s the question of how well the ingredients are absorbed into the blood stream once they pass through the skin.

As far as we can tell, no one has done a study correlating blood flow and the absorption of cosmetic ingredients. However, there’s plenty of research on the factors that affect absorption of drugs that are applied topically to the skin. For example, one study found that physical exercise increased plasma concentrations of nicotine during treatment with a nicotine patch. The researchers attributed this increase in absorption to “an exercise-induced increase in blood flow in the patch area.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7654487

So, yes, blood flow can increase absorption at least of drug ingredients that are designed specifically to penetrate all the way through skin. We could find no evidence that it would increase penetration of ingredients that are NOT prone to penetrate in the first place.

What about heat? Does that increase absorption? One study measured the effect of applying heat at the site of subcutaneously injected insulin. Since it was injected it bypassed the outer layers of skin. The results showed that increasing skin temperature did NOT cause the insulin to perfuse through the remaining tissue to any greater extent. And, considering that this was externally applied heat which was greater than what you’d experience from a modest increase in blood flow, it seems very unlikely that a small increase in skin temperature due to blood flow would impact ingredient penetration. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22162782

Do night creams provide ANY special benefit?

We haven’t been able to find convincing evidence to indicate that night creams are better because your skin absorbs ingredients better as you sleep. But is there ANY benefit to applying products at night? Yes, there are a couple of reasons why you might want to use a night cream.

First, some cosmetic ingredients make skin more sensitive to sunlight which means you could experience increased irritation or photo damage if you’re wearing these ingredients while in the sun. If you wear a sunscreen this may not be an issue but you can also get around that problem by applying these ingredients at night. Here are some examples of ingredients that can make skin more sensitive to sunlight:

  • AHAs – like lactic acid or glycolic acid.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide – the antiacne agent.
  • BHAs – or Beta Hydroxy Acids like salicylc acid.
  • Hydroquinone – which is used for skin whitening
  • Retinol – the popular anti-aging ingredient.
  • Some natural ingredients – like citrus oils, peppermint oils, lavender, etc may increase photosensitivity.

Ref http://www.beautifulskincareblog.com/which-ingredients-cause-skin-photosensitivity/

Second, some ingredients are just too aesthetically unpleasant to wear during the day. For example, you wouldn’t want to walk around with a heavy, greasy moisturizer on your face but you might not mind sleeping with a moisturizing mask on.

Don’t just take our word for this

Finally, don’t just take our word for this. Paula Begoun, the Cosmetic Cop also says night creams are mostly BS. She says:

“The ONLY difference between a daytime and nighttime moisturizer is that the daytime version should offer sun protection.”

“…cosmetics salespeople say is that the skin needs different ingredients at night than during the day…If that’s the case there isn’t a shred of research or a list anywhere of what those ingredients should be. Skin is repairing itself and producing skin cells every nanosecond of the day, and night.”

“Regardless of the time of day, your skin needs all the current state-of-the-art ingredients it can get. Saving these ingredients only for nighttime use is cheating your skin of the benefits it could be gaining during daylight hours, too!”

Ref: http://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/myths/_/beauty-myths#myth18

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Yes there are some changes that occur within your skin at night and sleep is certainly beneficial to skin. However, that doesn’t mean that night creams provide any special functionality. In general it’s more about avoiding things that you wouldn’t use in the sun rather than adding things that work better at night.

LIL buy it now button

Buy your copy of  It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

      • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
      • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
      • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
      • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.


Can duochrome nail polish become monochrome over time?

Missionista must know…I have a couple of (Sephora) duochrome nail polishes. One shifts from lavender to grey, and the other from hot pink to orange. Lately, I’ve noticed less shift in the colors. The lavender one has lost almost all the grey, and the pink is much less orange. Can duochrome polishes become monochrome over time? Am I just hallucinating?

The Beauty Brains respond

Mon0-Chrome? Duo-Chrome? Personally, I prefer Safari. But enough with the bad browser puns.

How do DuoChrome polishes work?

As usual, the first thing we do when faced with a question like this is take a look at the ingredient list for clues about what might be happening. Strangely enough, when we looked at the ingredient list on Sephora’s website we noticed that they don’t list any colors for these nail polishes. (See below.) We even paid a visit to our local Sephora to find a bottle but we couldn’t find any of their duochrome polishes. Since we can’t tell which specific duo-colorants Sephora is using, we’ll have to take a small leap of faith here and assume that their technology is similar to that used in other duo color products.

For example one chemical supplier, Kobo Products Inc., sells a line of iridescent effect pigments that are based on Synthetic Fluorphlogopite (and) Silica (and) Titanium Dioxide). The particle sizes of these pigments range from 30 to 120 microns (which is our clue to what may be changing.) These pigments consist of multiple layers of tiny “sheets” that can reflect light differently depending on the angle from which they are viewed.

Is there any way to fix a DuoChrome polish gone bad?

These mineral-based pigments are quite inert, chemically speaking, so they really should not change over time. But since the color effect depends in part on particle size it is possible that as the product ages some agglomeration occurs where the pigment particles clump together. This could result in a shifting of the color.Depending on the extent of the clumping, simple shaking of the product may or may not be sufficient to reverse the process. (Sometimes particles have an electro-static attraction which is not easily broken.) As Missionista pointed out in our Forum her products are about 8 years old so it’s not surprising that some clumping could occur. The best solution may be a shopping trip to Sephora.

Duo Color Nail Polish Ingredients from Sephora.com

Butyl Acetate,Ethyl Acetate,Nitrocellulose, Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols Copolymer, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Acrylates Copolymer, Adipic Acid/Fumaric Acid/Phthalic Acid/Tricyclodecane Dimethanol Copolymer, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Polyvinyl Butyral, Citric Acid, Phosphoric Acid.



Can ant oil really reduce hair growth?

Rozy says…There is this product called Tala Ant Egg oil, sounds fishy to me, but I am wishing it to be true!

The Beauty Brains reply

Just when we thought we’d heard it all, here comes the invasion of the ants. Tala’s Ant Egg oil is one of several products that claims to use the oil recovered from crushed ant pupae to reduce hair growth. In addition the Tala product claims to be “tested with doctors” and “completely safe with no side effects.” Is this product “excell-ant” or just ant-agonizing?

What is Ant oil?

We’re cosmetic chemists, not entomologists, but as far as we’ve been able to figure out Ant egg oil is really furan-2-carbaldehyde which also known as Furfural. Apparently this stuff is a “red brown liquid and it has a sour fragrant ant smell.” That’s surprising considering that Furfural is used in cosmetics as a fragrance additive! Maybe that’s not a problem since furfural can also be derived from several non-ant sources including wheat bran.

Regardless of the source, we couldn’t find ANY published data suggesting it’s effective in reducing hair growth. If this product was “tested with doctors” as Tala states then results haven’t been published in any of the standard peer reviewed data bases. (As always, if someone can find a legitimate study to the contrary we’d be happy to revise this post to reflect the new data.)

Is Ant Egg Oil safe for skin?

Not only does furfural (apparently) not reduce hair growth but this stuff may not be that good for your skin. It’s a known skin irritant (at high concentrations) and long term exposure can lead to skin allergy and increased sunburn. Even worse, there’s some concern that it may have carcinogenic properties. As a fragrance additive, furfural is typically used levels are around 0.036%. A safety study reported by the SCCNFP (SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON COSMETIC PRODUCTS AND NON-FOOD PRODUCTS INTENDED FOR CONSUMERS) says that ”The maximum exposure stated by RIFM does not represent any significant cancer risk. However, the exposure should not be increased.” Use levels in ant egg oil creams are substantially higher than this since its the first ingredient listed in the ingredient list. In other words, there’s not much to worry about if it’s in your perfume at very low levels but it’s not a good idea as a main component in a skin creme.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

I can’t find ANY research which indicates ant egg oil has an effect on hair growth but I do find at least one report indicating that there are some potential dangers associated with using it on the skin at high concentrations. I’d stick with a product like Vaniqua which is proven to slow the growth of facial hair on women.

Ant Egg Oil Ingredients:

Ant Egg Oil, Aqua,Glyceryl Stearate (and) Ceteareth-20 Ceteareth-12( and) Cetearyl Alcohol(and)Cetyl Palmitate,Herbal Extract,Dicaprylyl Carbonate,Hexyldecanol &Hexyldecayl Laurate, Glyceryl monostearate,Glycerin,Prpyle Glycol,Dimethicone, Fragrance,Phenoxiethanol,1-2-dibroma-2,4-dicyanobutane and CIT/MIT, Chamaemelum arvensis




Do you want to buy Ant Egg Oil cream? Probably not. But if you click this link for Tala Ant Egg Oil and then buy ANY product, the Beauty Brains receive a small commission which helps defray some of the costs of running our website. Thank you!


Would you take a dietary supplement to change the way you smell “down there?” That’s only one of the hot topics we discuss in this week’s show. Also, we play a toothpaste-themed version of Improbable Products.

Click below to play Episode 60 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Improbable Products

This is the game where I tell Perry about three unlikely beauty products and he has to guess which one is fake. Today’s theme is toothpaste. Which of these is NOT a real toothpaste ingredient?

  • Caviar
  • Urine
  • Wasabi

The answer will surprise you! Tune into the show to find out.

Beauty Science News

Should a supplement make your lady parts smell like peaches? 
This is a controversial (and confusing) story about a supplement that will allow you to “hack” your biome to change the way your vagina smells. In a press conference, two representatives for the company (Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome) claimed that their new probiotic supplement, Sweet Peach, will allow women to change the odor of their vaginas. In addition, the product will help prevent yeast infections. However, Audrey Hutchinson, the founder and CEO of the company (Sweet Peach Probiotics), says this is NOT the case. Her product is NOT intended to make vaginas smell a certain way and the idea was misrepresented by Heinz and Gome. Rather, she says, the probiotic is only intended to help maintain a healthy biome.  Follow the link above to read the entire convoluted story.

Why scratching makes you itch
Have you ever noticed that the more you scratch an itch the more itchy it gets? Well, now researchers have discovered why.  As you probably know, itchiness can be caused by minor skin irritations and more serious conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. When you scratch you’re actually triggering pain receptors which send a signal along the nerves that blocks the nerve from transmitting the “itch” signal. A recent study published by the British Association of Dermatologists shows that scratching causes a vicious cycle because this pain signal causes the brain to release serotonin which is a “happy” neurotransmitter. The serotonin then activates nerves in the spinal cord that control itch intensity. Once the serotonin level subsides the itch intensity increases again so you feel the need to scratch more. The good news is that this research may lead to cures for chronic itching which affects people with the skin conditions I just mentioned.

Environmentally friendly scrubs
We’ve previously covered the controversy of plastic micro-beads in cosmetics. A new article lists a few alternatives to these polyethylene particles:

  • Sugar and salt (although these can’t be used in water based formulas)
  • Milled rice (good abrasive but should we use food crops in cosmetics?)
  • Candelilla and jojoba wax (plant-based scrubbers)
  • Walnut shells (these may be too abrasive to skin)

What’s the deal with fermented skin care ingredients?
Fermentation is a way of preserving foods because the yeast or other bacteria feed on sugars and release lactic acid or alcohol which prevents the food from spoiling. (Think sauerkraut.) Some fermented foods supposedly provide health benefits because of these beneficial bacteria. (Think of yogurt.) Of course, you have to be careful when considering these health claims… “In 2010, yogurt giant Dannon was found by the US Federal Trade Commission to have made “false and misleading claims” by suggesting in its marketing that its probiotic yogurt product line “reduces the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu” and “is scientifically proven to help with slow intestinal transit.”

So what does all this have to do with beauty science? Fermented ingredients are starting to make their way into cosmetics:

  • L’oreal has done a study which purportes to show that kombucha (a fermented tea) is “beneficial to the skin, helping to maintain moisture and elasticity so it appears more even in tone and texture.” (Although the study was really about skin irritation.)
  • Another study found that fermented red ginseng had higher levels of antioxidants and supposedly “increased anti-wrinkle efficacy, [and] whitening efficacy.”
  • A Korean skin care company claims that fermented medicinal herbs are more easily absorbed through the skin.
  • LaMer has a so-called Miracle Broth that contains some kind of bioferment.
  • The skin care line SK-11 is based on fermented rice. According to their website “Scientists noticed that the brewers had wrinkled faces but youthful hands. This led to SK-II’s secret ingredient, Pitera™, which allows the skin’s natural surface rejuvenation process to function at its prime.”

Tommy Chong’s smoke wipe product
Pop culture stoner, Tommy Chong, has launched a clothing wipe that supposedly removes the odor of pot smoke. This could be the most appropriate celebrity-endorsed product ever. (Although it’s somewhat surprising that he chose a wipe as the delivery vehicle for use on clothing because a Febreze like spray may be better.)

Will cosmetics list all their fragrance ingredients?
We’ve talked about cosmetic ingredient lists in the past and at one point someone asked why all the ingredients in fragrances aren’t listed. Why is that? First, all the ingredients can’t fit on the package so you need an insert or you have to put online. Second, it’s just going to bewilder most people. If you’re allergic to something specific you can already look up the allergens which are listed.

This may become a hot topic because SC Johnson just announced that will begin to voluntarily disclose product-specific fragrance ingredients. Consumers will be able to go online or call a special number and find out what fragrance ingredients are used in their air care products. But, here’s the catch, they’ll list all the ingredients as a group rather then tell which specific ingredients are in which specific products because as the company says…”we see those as secret recipes.”

Orangutans like red heads
Did you know that orangutans are attracted to red haired humans? According to “Zoo Times” one specific orangutan is a big fan of Nicole Kidman. You can’t make up stuff like this.

The beauty science of brass
The Oligodynamic effect explains the antimicrobial properties of certain metal ions (like silver, copper, lead) which can actually kill harmful bacteria. Apparently the effect works because these metal ions can denature certain enzymes. That’s why some hospitals and schools use brass doorknobs to stop the spread of disease. Brass is made of copper and zinc both of which exhibit this effect.  Brass door knobs completely disinfect themselves in about 8 hours while stainless steel or aluminum knobs never do. However a recent study has shown that human sweat can reduce anti-bacterial properties of brass objects in hospitals and schools. Within just an hour, sweat can cause enough micro-corrosion on the surface of the metal knob to reduce its bactericidal properties.

LIL buy it now button

Buy your copy of  It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

      • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
      • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
      • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
      • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.


Can LED lights cure nail polish?

Anonymous asks…What is the difference between the polishes and why do some require UV where others require LED? If I buy an LED lamp, will that still work on Shellac polishes, which normally use a UV lamp? Or if I buy a UV lamp will this work on the ones that normally use LED? Does the wattage of the lamp make a big difference to the curing time?

The Beauty Brains respond:

To get a definitive answer to this question I spoke with a marketing coordinator for Nail Systems International, one of the top manufacturers of nail lamps. Here’s what I was told:

“UV and LED lamps are different. Generally a gel polish will cure faster in an LED lamp, and it will take a bit longer in a UV lamp. As long as the polish is labeled to work both in LED and UV lamps, the person should be OK. Just make sure the gel polish is formulated to work in both lamps. Check the cure time suggested for each of the different lamps as well (Example: Our balance UV gels only cure in UV lamps… Our NSI Polish Pro is curable in both UV and LED. The Polish pro takes about 2 minutes, per layer, to cure in a UV lamp; where as in an LED lamp it takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute.”


Do I have egg on my face? Should I?

Olivia asks… I read that putting egg on your face is good for your skin. This sounds like an old wives tale what do you think?

The Beauty Brains respond:

What do I think? I think that “urban legend” is probably a more politically correct term then “old wives tale.” I point this out just in case there are any old wives reading this who might be offended. But I digress…

Many people believe that an egg facial mask will get rid of wrinkles. That’s a myth that got its start because eggs contain albumin protein which is a good film former. This film makes skin skin temporarily feel tighter which may make you THINK your wrinkles have been reduced.

But, despite this myth, it turns out that eggs really do contain a chemical that’s quite good for your skin: cholesterol. That’s right the same waxy gunk that can clog your arteries is actually one of the main natural moisturizing agents in skin. So should we skip the expensive skin lotions and just rub egg on our faces? Well it’s not quite that easy.

The problem with eggs

Applying eggs directly to your skin is not a good idea for several reasons:

  • They’re messy. Eggs have that… well… “eggy” consistency that makes them unpleasant to spread on skin. They’re just not as aesthetically nice as a well formulated moisturizing product.
  • Eggs are prone to spoilage. I seriously doubt if anyone out there once their face to smell like rotten eggs. (Although some dandruff shampoos will make your hair smell like rotten eggs.)
  • Cholesterol is only one component of the egg so you have to put quite a bit on your face to gain a significant benefit.
  • And lastly some people have an allergy to the proteins contained in eggs which would make applying them to their face potentially risky.

Eggs-tract to the rescue

Don’t worry though I’m not going to tease you with good news about a natural ingredient and then snatch it away from you before you even get a chance to try it. Luckily, technology has come to the rescue with a solution. Some cosmetic suppliers offer an egg extract which captures just the good stuff. This ingredient is known as “egg oil” and it’s a concentrated version so there’s plenty of cholesterol to do its moisturizing job. And it doesn’t contain any of the other eggy ingredients which makes it a sticky mess and prone to spoilage. Finally, it is stripped of the proteins that can cause some people to have an allergic response.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

If you’re in the market for natural moisturizing ingredients look for moisturizing products that have “egg oil” high on the ingredient list.

During this holiday season ANY purchase you make on Amazon.com helps to cover the expenses of running the Beauty Brains blog. You don’t have to buy anything extra and it doesn’t cost you ANYTHING, we make a small commission from any of your regular purchases as long as you click this link before going to Amazon.com:

Support the Beauty Brains when you shop Amazon.com


Is Kerastase worth more than Elvive?

Tiffany wants to know…Could you please do a chemical comparison between the new Kerastase and Elseve shampoo and conditioner? They are both packaged very similarly- pink bottles- claiming no silicone and krystal shine. I’m not sure of the exact name in the USA since I am in France, but I spend 35 euros on the Kerastase shampoo and 3 euros on the Elseve! Quite the price difference! Please tell me there is something worth the 10xs time hike!

The Beauty Brains respond:

Tiffany is referring to Kerastase “Cristalliste” and Elvive “Nutri-Gloss” both of which are made by L’Oreal. While the Elvive product has been around for a while, Cristalliste is newer and makes several breakthrough and compelling claims including:*

  • Rebalances the hair fiber.
  • Roots are left pure and weightless.
  • Ends are smooth and polished.
  • Hair is perfectly clean, luminous and weightless.

*I was being sarcastic. These kinds of claims have been made by other hair care products for years.

Is Kerastase worth 10 times more than Elvive?

A comparison of the Cristalliste Bain Cristal (Fine Hair) shampoo ingredients and the Elvive Nutri-gloss shampoo shows that both have water as the first ingredient as is expected. As the second ingredient, both have a “laureth sulfate.” Kerastase has ammonium while Elvive uses sodium Both ingredients work the same way so it doesn’t really matter. As the third ingredient and fourth ingredients are salt and betaine. These are essentially foam boosters and thickeners. The the formulas are the same so far. After that we see that Kerastate uses a guar conditioning ingredient while Elvive uses a combination of guar and silicone.

What does all this mean? Both shampoos have the same cleansing “backbone” although their conditioning systems are somewhat different. You may prefer one over the other but there’s NOTHING in the Kerastase formula that would merit a ten-fold increase in price!

Now onto the conditioners: In this case both products are based on a mixture of Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-180, and Behentrimonium Chloride. The Cristalliste version contains 2 additional conditioners that may or may not significantly alter the feel of the product but again, there’s no advanced technology that would drive the price up.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Both Cristalliste and Elvive shampoos and conditioners are well formulated and you should buy the one that you like the best and that you can afford. But if you’re trying to save a few dollars you’d be much better off with the Elvive product.

Cristalliste Bain Cristal shampoo ingredients

Aqua/water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium chloride, hexylene glycol, sodium benzoate, hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, salicylic acid, benzoic acid, citric acid, aloe barbadensis/aloe barbadensis leaf juice, limonene, linalool, hexyl cinnamal, benzyl salicylate, benzyl alcohol, citronellol, sodium hydroxide, parfum/fragrance

Elvive Nutr-gloss shampoo ingredients

Aqua / Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cyclodextrin, Dimethicone, CI 17200 / Red 33, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Cocamide MIPA, Sodium Methylparaben, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Cocoate, Hydrolyzed Conchiolin Protein, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Limonene, Linalool, Propylene Glycol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Carbomer, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Methyl Cocoate, Citrus Medica Limonum Extract / Lemon Fruit Extract, Hexyl Cinnamal, Parfum / Fragrance, (F.I.L. C28530/1).

Cristalliste conditioner ingredients

Aqua/water, cetyl alcohol, peg-180, behentrimonium chloride, amodimethicone, isopropyl alcohol, cetyl esters, hydroxyethylcellulose, lauryl peg/ppg-18/18 methicone, bis-diglyceryl polyacyladipate-2, aloe barbadensis/aloe barbadensis leaf juice, tricedeth-6, limonene, linalool, chlorhexidine digluconate, dodecene, poloxamer 407, hexyl cinnamal, cetrimonium chloride, benzyl salicylate, benzyl alcohol, citric acid, citronellol, parfum/fragrance.

Elvive Nutrigloss conditioner ingredients

Aqua (water), Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-180, Behentrimonium Chloride, CI 17200 /Red 33, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Dodecene, Hydrolyzed Conchiolin Protein, Trideceth-6, Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, Poloxamer 407, Limonene, Lanolin, Linalool, Amodimethicone, Propylene Glycol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Cetyl Esters, Methlparaben, BHT, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Citrus Limonum/Lemon Fruit Extract, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Hexyl Cinnamal, Parfum / Fragrance.

{ 1 comment }

If you like to use natural oils on your skin you’ll want to listen to this week’s show about the benefits of sesame oil. Plus, I try to stump Randy (and the audience) with a quiz about holiday foods in cosmetics.  

Click below to play Episode 59 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Question of the week: Is sesame oil the best thing for your skin?

Amira asks…I read on The Food Babe website that sesame oil protects skin from bacteria, chlorine, UV rays, and cancer. And when it’s in your blood it prevents migraines, diabetes, and hepatitis. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

We hear claims like this about ingredients like this ALL the time. So we’re going to take this opportunity to give you the scientific scoop on sesame oil but we’ll also give you our step by step approach for assessing similar claims that you might encounter in the future. Sort of our blueprint for thinking skeptically about beauty science.

What the author actually say about sesame oil?

First step is make sure you understand what the author is actually claiming. It’s easy to mis read something or hear about it from a second hand source. So we went to the Food Babe website to see exactly what she said about sesame seed oil.

When you’re evaluating information from any source watch out for statements that appear to be generalizations or wild exaggerations. For example, the Food Babe says:

  1. “Don’t assume if you use a certain brand, your product is safe. Many companies have products across the spectrum from really safe and natural to horribly deadly.”
  2. “Your skin is your largest organ! What you put on your skin, is absorbed into your blood.”

If you want to learn more about skin penetration, check out our show #27, Can skin lotion make you fat.

In addition to wild assertions like these you should look for the specific claims the author makes. They say the devil is in the details and this is especially true when you’re looking into beauty science claims. Here are the claims verbatim:

Sesame oil…

“is considered one of the best because it contains several vitamins and minerals.”
“is naturally antibacterial.”
“is a natural sunscreen.”
“protects your skin from chlorine in a pool, radiation, and air pollution!”
“has been known to fight skin cancer.”
”when it is absorbed in your blood stream it can prevent migraines, diabetes and hepatitis.”

The second step is to look at the evidence provided for these statements.

Does the author provide sources of her information?

If I tell you that Stearamidopropyl dimethyl amine is an excellent hair conditioner, I don’t need to site any references because over the last 20 years I have personally formulated hair care products using this ingredient and have conducted hundreds of laboratory, salon, and consumer tests that generate data that indicates that formulas with this ingredient perform well on key hair conditioning attributes. But if I tell you a specific fact that involves research that I didn’t conduct, then you shouldn’t take my word for it and you should challenge me to document my sources.

So, does the Food Babe have the required expertise to back up her claims about sesame oil? Here’s her background:

She says that she was inspired to investigate “what is really in our food, how is it grown and what chemicals are used in its production. I had to teach myself everything…”

So, her experience involves about three years of self-directed study on healthy food choices. No indication of any kind of professional training or certification. Therefore, I think it’s reasonable to expect documentation on the kinds of skin care claims she’s making.

Does she site any external references that tell us where she gets her information about sesame oil? No, not all all. The ONLY reference she gives is to cite the EWG Skin Deep data base as proof that cosmetics contain dangerous ingredients but as informed listeners of our show already know, the EWG is known for driving a political agenda and doesn’t always present science accurately.

Since the Food Babe doesn’t have the background that makes her an expert and since she doesn’t provide references to support ANY of the claims she makes about sesame oil, we did some digging to see what kind of documentation we could find to support or refute these claims. Now we’ll break these down one by one starting with the claim that sesame oil contains several vitamins and minerals.

Sesame oil contains vitamins and minerals

To evaluate the first claim, about vitamins and minerals, we looked into the composition of sesame oil. (There’s a great paper titled simply “Sesame Oil” which appears in the 6th edition of Bailey’s Industrial Oil and Fat Products. Sesame Oil – ResearchGate.)

From that detailed paper we learned the following:

Sesame oil comes from sesame seeds – no surprise there. But the composition of the oil depends on what kind of sesame seeds. There are black seeds, yellow seeds, and brown seeds. But in general, sesame oil consists of about 80% oleic and linoleic acids. A lot of other vegetable oils are also rich in these two unsaturated fatty acids but sesame oil is unique because it contains approximately equal proportions of the two.

Compared to other vegetable oils sesame oil is relatively high in compounds such as sterols, triterpenes, tocopherols, and sesame lignans. Lignans which are complex molecules made of polyphenols. At least one of these lignans, called sesamol, is a powerful antioxidant. However, even though sesamol is found in sesame seeds only trace amounts are found in sesame oil. The concentration of sesamol also depends on how the seeds have roasted whether or not they were bleached, processed, deodorized, etc.

And finally, sesame seeds also contain a fair amount of protein and amino acids (about 25% total).

What does all this man? Since Vitamin E is a tocopherol it means the Food Babe is correct when she says that sesame oil contains a vitamin. However, as far as we can tell, it does NOT contain “several vitamins and minerals.” (And by the way, not all vitamins help your skin when applied topically anyway!)

Sesame oil is anti-bacterial

Let’s look at the second claim – that sesame oil is a natural antibacterial agent. A quick search in Pubmed revealed a paper “Antibacterial activities of the methanol extracts of seven Cameroonian dietary plants.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23961425 It says…”The results showed that Sesame seeds extract was active against 77.77% of the tested microorganisms.”

Note, however, that they tested an alcohol extract of sesame seeds, not actually sesame oil, and as we’ve seen the compounds in the seeds are not always present in the oil. So it’s probably more accurate to say that sesame oil has the potential to be antibacterial but I couldn’t find any other information confirming the efficacy of the oil itself.

So IF you’re applying pure sesame seed oil to your skin and IF that oil was processed in such a way as to maintain the properties of the seed extract, then yes, you might experience some anti-bacterial effect. Even if this is true I’m not sure what good that does you. If you’re just worried about casual protection from bacteria, your skin already does a good job of that with its acid mantle. And if you’re worried about disease transmission, you’re better off with a proven method of getting rid of bacteria like washing with soap and water.

Sesame oil is a natural sunscreen

This one is easy: I found a paper in Pubmed titled “In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140123/#!po=58.9286. One of which the oils evaluated was sesame oil and they found that it has an SPF of about 2 (1.77 to be exact.) Interestingly, olive oil and coconut oil were considerably higher with an SPF above 7. Of course proper sunscreens have an SPF of 20, 30, 50 or more. SPF in the single digits is NOT enough to protect you from damaging UV radiation.

So, if the Food Babe had said something like “sesame oil is a natural sunscreen but the value is so low that it can’t replace your sunscreen” she would have been correct. But she just said “it’s a natural sunscreen” implies that it CAN replace so called synthetic products. And furthermore, in the context of her article which is about the “best” natural oil, sesame doesn’t even come close to having the best SPF. No matter how you look at it, this claim is not true for all practical purposes.

Sesame oil protects from …chlorine in a pool, radiation, and air pollution

When you’re talking about this kind of protective effect on skin, for the most part, you’re talking about protection from oxidation. The antioxidant effect of sesame seed extract is well established because the sesame lignans we mentioned before work synergistically with the tocopherols.

There are two key measures used to determine how well an antioxidant functions: how many radicals it scavenges and how much lipid it stops from oxidizing. One study http://journal.scconline.org//pdf/cc2014/cc065n02/p00069-p00080.pdf says that sesamol has been tested in vitro and to be more effective than vitamin E at scavenging free radicals better less effective than vitamin E at stopping lipid oxidation.

The caveat once again is that the oil doesn’t contain very much of these magic lignans. You’d be better off rubbing crushed sesame seeds on your skin.

And finally, I couldn’t find any studies that directly assessed sesame oil for protection against chlorine but my guess is a good barrier cream that would prevent the chlorine from contacting your skin is probably the best defense.

Sesame oil fights skin cancer

Given the biological activity of some of the components of sesame seeds, it’s not all that surprising that there have been some benefits found in the anti-cancer research.

For example, when tested In vitro, Sesame seed oil has inhibited of human colon Cancer cells: ANTI Cancer RESEARCH 11: 209-216, 1992.

Sesame seed oil has inhibited the growth of malignant melanoma (a skin Cancer): PROSTAGLANDIN LEUKATRINES and ESSENTIAL Fatty Acids 46: 145-150, 1992.

The lignans we’ve been talking about have been shown to impact the production of prostaglandins which are influential factors for breast cancer.

And, when applied topically sesame oil components have been to inhibit the growth of certain artificially induced tumors.

So, there does seem to be some scientific basis for sesame oil components having the ability to affect certain types of cancers. However, once again I’m not sure what you do with this information. given the small amounts of the active lignans that are present in the oil it seems a bit foolish to rely on sesame oil for protection against skin cancer. If this is a real concern of yours I would suggest checking with your doctor.

I think making this kind of statement is particularly reckless: the implication is that using sesame oil will protect you from skin cancer. In reality it’s more nuanced…something like…some components of sesame seeds, which may or may not be present in the oil that you would buy for cosmetic purposes, have been shown to have an positive effect on some kinds of skin cancer when used at very high levels.”

Sesame oil treats migraines, diabetes, and hepatitis

Speaking of drug claims…the idea that sesame oil treats migraine, diabetes and hepatitis are CERTAINLY drug claims and we couldn’t find any evidence that topically applied sesame oil provides any of these benefits. However, I did find several studies on the nutritional benefits of sesame oil that did talk about about its impact on liver function and its ability to modify the way the body produces insulin. These are animal studies that evaluated the effects of ingesting high levels of these sesame lignans, so you certainly can’t assume that topically applied sesame oil will have the same effect.

Does sesame seed oil moisturize skin?

I’d like to talk about one more function of sesame oil that Food Babe didn’t bring up – moisturization. Oils moisturizer by preventing water from evaporating out of your skin. We call this occlusivity.Since sesame seed is an oil it makes sense that it could be a good moisturizer. But is it?

If found a paper (A new in vitro method for transepidermal waterloss:A possible method for moisturizer evaluation J. SCC 39, 1988) http://journal.scconline.org//pdf/cc1988/cc039n02/p00107-p00119.pdf

which measured the effect of sesame oil on water loss through the skin. Here’s what it found:

Negative control: With no oil applied to skin – lose about 400 micrograms of water per cm2 per hour initially, then levels off to about 300.
Positive control: Mineral oil, which we know to be an excellent occlusive agent, lowers water loss to about 80 to 100 micrograms of water per cm2 per hour.

With sesame oil on skin, skin loses about 250 to 300 micrograms of water per cm2 per hour.

So sesame oil isn’t much better than using nothing!
So it helps a little bit but no where near as effective as mineral oil.

And finally, by the way, at least one study says sesame oil is moderately to severely comedogenic: https://www.dowcorning.com/content/publishedlit/25-528-93.pdf

The Beauty Brains bottom line

So the bottom line for Amira is that sesame oil does appear to be a good source of antioxidants and it may help protect against some forms of skin cancer.

However, these benefits are highly dependent on the presence of sesame seed components that are not contained in the oil at a very high concentration which makes it unlikely that you’ll actually experience these benefits.

Sesame oil is a lightweight emollient and it feels good on your skin but there’s little to indicate that it’s “the best” natural oil to use.

Perhaps more importantly, we’ve explained the process you can use to evaluate similar claims that you find in the future. Of course, if you don’t have time to do the research yourself you can always ask the Beauty Brains so send us your questions!

LIL buy it now button

Buy your copy of  It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

      • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
      • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
      • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
      • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.


Dead babies in my skin cream?

Heather has a hunch…My neighbor asked me about this, and I didn’t really know much except what a quick google search gave me. She said her dermatologist gave her Neocutis that uses PSP. Her concern was spreading dead babies on her face and I was also interested on research regarding PSP’s effect on anti-aging or wrinkle reduction. I was hoping you’ve already looked at this and would have a quick answer. Let me know what you think!

The Beauty Brains respond:

Thanks for a provocative question Heather. To start with we’ll explain what PSP is.

Does PSP really come from dead babies?

PSP (or Processed Skin Proteins) is a registered trademark of Neocutis S.A. The ingredient’s origins can be traced back to research conducted at University Hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland which showed that cultured fetal skin cells could speed wound healing. The cells used in the original research came from a “small biopsy of fetal skin…donated following a one-time medical termination.” These original skin cells were then duplicated by culturing them in the lab and have been used to create a cosmetic version that is known as PSP. Hopefully the fact that PSP does not come directly from dead babies will help your neighbor rest a little bit easier. This is not a new issue and, not surprisingly, there has been quite a buzz in the media over using fetal-sourced material. This whole discussion will disturb some people and intrigue others but you can click here to read more about Neocutis’ responsible use of fetal skin tissue.

Does PSP do anything for skin?

We know from the Neocutis patent that the PSP cell lysate consists of a soup of proteins and hormone-like ingredients such as “cytokines, enzymes, hormones, extracellular matrix structural proteins, neuropeptides or neuropeptide antagonists.” We also know from published research by Goldwell, another company who works with these materials, that cytokines and human growth factors CAN improve signs of aging on skin. By about 10% to be exact. However, don’t take this as conclusive evidence since it’s only a single study – there’s not a ton of research in this regard.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Neocutis is not murdering babies to make their skin lotions but that hasn’t prevented them from getting a lot of bad press. And there does to be at least some basis in scientific fact for believing that their fetal cell lystate can reduce the signs of aging. But it doesn’t make very much of a difference. If your neighbor can spare the cash and she doesn’t mind potentially being called “dead baby face,” then maybe she should give it a try. Then again she could just use a good retinol product that’s been proven to work.


J Drugs Dermatol. 2007 Oct;6(10):1018-23. Human growth factor and cytokine skin cream for facial skin rejuvenation as assessed by 3D in vivo optical skin imaging. Gold MH, Goldman MP, Biron J.
Neocutis patent: http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20100183723#b#ixzz2BfbFXYGh


Since it’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. we’re re-running our annual post about hairy turkey…

What does your hair have in common with turkey? They both contain a chemical called tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of the amino acids that make up the protein structure of hair. It is also easily degraded by UV radiation so when scientists measure sun damage to hair, they can measure how much tryptophan is lost.
Hairy turkey

Tryptophan is also the chemical that people claim is responsible for making you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner. Except that’s not really true. Snopes.com has an excellent debunking of the turkey-tryptophan myth. While it IS true that some forms of tryptophan can be a natural sedative, the kind in turkey (and many other meats as well) doesn’t make you drowsy. So, if you doze off after a big Thanksgiving meal, blame it on too much wine and mashed potatoes and not the tryptophan!


As always, Perry and I are VERY thankful for all our wonderful readers who make this blog possible. We love you all!!!