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Are Easter eggs good for hair and skin?

Today is Easter so we’re re-running one of our favorite egg-themed posts.

Spring is here and today is the day the Easter Bunny leaves a little surprise on your doorstep. No, we don’t mean rabbit pellets, silly, we’re talking about Easter eggs! To commemorate the occasion, here are our top 5 favorite facts about eggs in cosmetics.easter eggs

1. Beware Botox

The popular wrinkle paralyzing treatment, Botox, is packed in egg albumin to increase its stability. So if you have an egg allergy – beware the Botox!

2. The awesome ovum

The French company, L’Avenir, has launched a line of products using special technology that allows them to include whole eggs in topical cosmetic formulations. Until now, egg yolks couldn’t be used in creams and lotions because they could cause spoilage.

3. Oily eggs

We recently blogged about Phyto Phytonectar Oil Treatment. Did you know one of its ingredients is egg oil? Did you even know you could get oil from an egg? It’s true: eggs are rich in cholesterol-type compounds which can be extracted to yield rich emollient oils.

4. Walking on eggshells

We’ve had a lot of interest in our upcoming project on mineral cosmetics and many mineral cosmetics use calcium carbonate as a base. Guess what? Eggshells are 95% calcium carbonate, so they can be used to make mineral cosmetics.

5. Egg shampoo

Finally and most famously, there’s egg shampoo. Our favorite is Mario Badescu’s Egg Shampoo. It contains only 4 ingredients: Deionized Water, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, and Egg. Mmmm, I bet that smells good!

Happy Easter everyone!


How does Finesse give different levels of conditioning?

Warning: 1980′s flashback ahead.

Do you remember this tagline for Finesse conditioner: “Sometimes you need a little Finesse, sometimes you need a lot.” Finesse was the first brand to make a big deal out of “variable conditioning.” What does that mean? I’ll explain after you watch the commercial.

In this version of the commercial they talk about “variable conditioning” which depends on how long you leave the product on your hair; in later executions they referred to it as “self adjusting conditioning.”

Either way, this was the first time the idea of “smart conditioners” appeared in a mainstream product. The basic idea is that somehow the product knows how much conditioning your hair needs. The brilliance of this advertising campaign lies in the fact that they’re taking advantage of something that almost EVERY  conditioner can do. But since no other brand was talking about it, it sounded like a big deal.

How it works

Certain types of conditioning agents (known as quaternary ammonium compounds) have a positive charge where as the damaged areas of hair have a negative charge. Since opposites attract, the more damage your hair has, the more the positive conditioning agents will stick to it. If your hair is in good condition more of the conditioner will just rinse away. Hence the “little” or “lot” idea.

There’s nothing special about Finesse in this regard because any conditioner with this type of ingredient will work the same way. But Finesse was the first one to communicate the idea in a way that sounded made their product sound differentiated to consumers. I like to think that some clever cosmetic chemist was the one who came up with the idea.


Do anti-aging creams cause autism?

Researchers at York University have published a study linking the lipids used in skin creams with increased rates of autism. Is there any real reason for concern? Let’s break it down.

Here is the key information as reported in this research study:
  • Earlier studies have shown the “Wnt protein” has an impact on embryonic development which is associated with autism.
  • New research shows that a hormone, Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), can increase the level of this protein.
  • Researchers speculate that lipids used in cosmetic creams can increase the level of PGE2.

Is there really danger?

I’m certainly not a neuroscientist so I’m not about to critique the research basic research on autism. Let’s assume for the moment that there is a cause and effect relationship between increased PGE2 levels and autism. The question, then, is whether or not antiaging creams increase levels of PGE2.
PGE2 is created in the body by the metabolism of phospholipids to arachidonic acid and then to some form of  PG or to another material called leukotriene, depending on the activity of certain enzymes. Phospholipids are SOMETIMES used in anti-aging creams (and in certain drugs). Do topical phospholipids even penetrate skin?
I don’t know if there is any evidence that phospholipids penetrate into the bloodstream. Although they are used to enhance skin penetration of drugs but I haven’t seen data that the phospholipids themselves penetrate. Still, here’s what would have to occur for anti-aging creams to influence autism:
  • Your skin cream would have to contain high levels of phospholipids…
  • Those phospholipids would have to penetrate through the skin into the blood at a high percentage…
  • The metabolic pathway would have to shift such that enzymes convert the phospholipids to more PGE2…
  • The PGE2 would have to affect the Wnt protein as described by the study authors…
At this time there appears to be data only for the last point.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Like I said, I’m not a toxicologist or a neuroscientist but there just doesn’t seem to be much cause for concern. Still, even though it seems like a tenuous link, it’s a good thing that the experts in the field are assessing the actual risks.

Why is there isopropyl alcohol in my conditioner?

Katemonster asks…I was looking at the new Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Conditioner and noticed it contained isopropyl alcohol. Curious, I tried to figure out why this was as it’s a drying agent rather than a conditioning agent. I have read that if the amount is low enough, it probably evaporates during manufacturing, and that is possibly used to dissolve other ingredients however I am unable to find anything definitive. Any ideas? 

The Beauty Brains respond:

You’re correct, KM, in assuming that you should avoid saturating your hair with isopropyl alcohol (IPA) because it can be drying. So why the heck is Garnier adding to their conditioner?

Why add alcohol?

As you suspected it’s there to help dissolve another ingredient. Specifically the ingredient Behentrimonium Chloride (which is a GREAT conditioner) is sold as an 85% slurry in isopropyl alcohol. (That means the ingredient itself contains 15% IPA.) The advantages of using this ingredient mixed with IPA instead of as a solid are related to simplifying the manufacturing process:

1. It’s easier to pump a slurry than it is to add a solid material.

2. A solid requires heating while A slurry can be added at lower temperature. Being able to cold process a conditioner saves both time and money. (If they’re using cold processing the IPA may not evaporate.)

Is alcohol bad for hair?

The mixture of Behentrimonium Chloride and IPA is in the final formula at a level somewhere around 2-5% so the most IPA you’d find in your conditioner is probably less than 0.75%. That level is so low and it’s on your hair for such a short period of time that there’s nothing really to worry about in terms of damaging your hair.

Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Conditioner ingredients

Aqua/Water/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, Paraffinum Liquidum/Mineral Oil/Huile Minerale, Behentrimonium Chloride, Isopropyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Glycerin, Parfum/Fragrance, Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract, Linalool, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCI, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Citric Acid, Benzyl Salicylate, Cocos Nucifera Oil/Coconut Oil, Theobroma Grandiflorum Seed Butter, Saccharum Officinarum Extract/Sugar Cane Extract/Extrait de Canne a Sucre, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Alcohol, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Cl 19140/Yellow 5, Cl 15985/Yellow 6, Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract/Lemon Peel Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract.


Does Folicure really grow hair?

Jeff asks… I’m a guy losing my hair in both the front hairline and the crown. I’ve started using Folicure, which is supposed to slow down and reverse hair loss. Are there any ingredients which may do this, or is my shampoo and conditioner just “helping”, meaning it’s not doing anything at all? If the latter is true, what ingredients should I be looking for. Is there any hope for me, or do i need to start practicing my bad comb over?

The Beauty Brains respond:

I was a bit surprised by Jeff’s question because I have actually worked on this brand in the past and I know from personal experience that they were careful not to make unsupportable hair growth claims.

What does Folicure REALLY claim?

I checked the internet for current claims and could only find the following:

  • Contains super Swiss conditioner Pantethine
  • Cleans and moisturizes dry, damaged hair
  • Imparts luster to damaged hair
  • Promotes fuller, thicker hair

Other than the vague “promoting fuller, thicker hair” claim there are no statements here which imply hair growth. So, I asked Jeff to tell me exactly what’s written on his bottle of Folicure and here’s what he had to say.

“Below is exactly what the product, 32 oz Folicure Moisturizing Conditioner has to say -

For fuller, thicker hair
Strengthens fine or thinning hair
Moisturizes and Stimulates Scalp
Revitalizes and Strengthens Hair
Eliminates Dryness

I could have seen the “moisturizes and stimulates scalp” along with “for fuller, thicker hair” and read that as promoting new hair growth, along with customer reviews, priming me to interpret it as such.”

Clearly the brand does doesn’t make any unsupportable claims about growing hair. (Which is a good thing because that would make it a misbranded drug.) Instead it appears to be a situation where the “aura” of the brand actually expands on and exaggerates the claims beyond anything the company actually says. In other words, as Jeff pointed out, people are just assuming that the product is claiming to promote hair growth and then spreading that exaggerated claims by word of mouth.

How do companies get away with hair growth claims?

I can’t say that cosmetic companies are totally innocent in this process. Claims like “promoting fuller thicker hair” or the common “helps you grow longer, stronger hair” can be misleading if you don’t understand their scientific basis. So how DO so many products get away with claims like this? If you’ll read between the lines you’ll see that in every case (at least in the case of reputable manufactures) this is really just a conditioning claim. Here’s how that works:

It’s easy to scientifically prove that hair breaks when exposed to excessive combing and brushing. A moisturizing shampoo and a good conditioner will lubricate the hair shaft so the friction caused by combing brushing is reduced which therefore reduces the breakage. And, if your hair isn’t breaking as much by definition it’s stronger.  Furthermore, using a conditioner to reduce breakage will let your hair grow to any given length faster because less of it is breaking off while it grows out. This has NOTHING to do with affecting the actual growth rate of the hair. It’s all about reducing the breakage rate.

If you didn’t know that little trick it would be easy to think that the product is promising to actually help make hair grow better. That is not the case. Any product that makes such direct claims is an illegal drug.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

It looks like Jeff will have to start practicing that comb-over after all.


What do anti-aging hair care products do? Can you really make hair younger? Randy and I explain what “youthful hair” really means. Also, tune in to find out if I’ll EVER win a game of Beauty Science or Bull Sh*t. 

Click below to play Episode 26 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Beauty Science or Bull Sh*t

This is the game where Randy gives me three beauty science headlines, two of them are true, one is made up. I have to pick the FAKE story. You can try it too, here are the headlines. Can you pick the phony?

1. The first commercial product delivered to the moon could be a Japanese sunscreen.
2. Earwax analysis is as effective as a blood test for detecting toxins in the body.
3. ‘Selfies’, the practice of posting your own picture to social media, is leading to an increase of head lice.

Question of the week: Do anti-aging hair care ingredients really work?

Master Barber Williams asks…How do we know that anti aging ingredients for hair really work

To answer it we need to explain a little bit about the difference between hair and skin biology.

A quick review of hair structure

First and most importantly – hair is dead! It doesn’t “breathe” it doesn’t metabolize so it doesn’t need nutrients or vitamins or anything else. Only the root is alive. The hair itself consists of mostly of protein that is organized into 3 structures.

The outermost part of the hair which we are most familiar with is called the cuticle which consists of 8 to 10 layers of overlapping hard flat cells that resembles the shingles on a roof. They serve the same function as shingles which is to protect what’s underneath.

The inner layer of hair is called cortex and it consists of long bundles of protein fibers which gives hair its strength. This is also where the tiny particles of melanin pigment reside.

The third, and frankly the least important structure of hair, is called the medulla. It is little more than a hollow space in the center of the fiber. It is not even present in all hair fibers and it is thought to be a vestige from when we had hair covering our bodies because the airspace provides additional insulation. Think of the quill of a porcupine that has a large vacuole in the center.

The hair grows out of the follicle which is a little tube-like structure located deep in the dermis. As the root, or the papilla, generates keratin cells, it pushes them upward and they take on the shape of a tube. It’s sort of like squeezing Play Doh through a mold. As this little tube of protein rises up to the surface of the skin it hardens. Pigment granules, oils, and other goodies are added along the way. By the time the hair has exited the skin it has hardened to form the hair structure as we know it. Once the hair grows out to a certain length it stops growing and then a new hair starts growing underneath the old one eventually pushing it out which is what causes your hair to fall out naturally. Of course this is assuming it doesn’t break off before it falls out.

So the key thing to understand is that hair itself is dead and the only living part is buried very deep in the skin. Now, compare that with skin structure…

A quick review of skin structure

Skin is ALIVE. It has blood vessels and sweat glands and hair follicles and it does need nutrients to grow and thrive. It also consists of three layers: The epidermis the dermis and they hypodermis.

The epidermis is the top seven layers the uppermost of which is the stratum corneum –  that’s the layer of dead cells that we can see and touch. That’s a relatively thin layer and below that are 6 other layers all the way down to the basal layer which is where new skin cells are created. This is where the epidermal stem cell live. These stem cells produce new skin cells that travel up through the layers. As they move upward they dry out and die until they become part of the stratum corneum.

Below that is the dermis where the hair follicles are along with oil glands, collagen and elastin fibers and some small blood vessels. And below that is the hypodermis which contains arteries and veins, fat, and other subcutaneous tissue.

Unlike hair, manipulating the outer layer of skin CAN affect how it behaves. For example, if you occlude the top layer with oil the deeper layers will retain more moisture and will be healthier. And if you scrape off the dead cells from the top you can trigger the production of new cells from the basal layer. (That’s called increasing cell turn over.)

So to sum up: skin alive, hair dead but both consist of three layers.

How do hair and skin age?

Given their different structures, it’s not surprising that hair and skin age differently.

For hair…
The follicles atrophy as they age and either stop producing new hair or produce hair that is finer and thinner.
The pigment producing cells stop working which causes hair to turn gray.
There may also be some reduction in oil production so hair feels coarser and drier as you age.

For skin…
Loses some of its ability to retain moisture so it’s drier.
Collagen and elastin production slows which leads to particle collapse of the structure resulting in wrinkles.
Age spots develop and pigment production become uneven.
And of course since skin is alive it’s susceptible to diseases like melanoma and basil cell carcinoma.

What do anti-aging products do?

Let’s talk about skin first…Anti-aging actives SHOULD increase production of new skin cells, increase collagen and elastin, protect from damaging UV rays, and lighten dark spots. These are all realistic to some extent. Ingredients like AHAs, retinol, niacinamide, and skin bleach can help.

For hair: A true anti-aging product SHOULD increase growth of hair cells in the follicle to produce more and thicker hair. Should also increase the amount of pigmentation so hair does’t turn gray. These are NOT realistic expectations for the most part. There are some drugs like Minoxidil that can increase hair growth to some small extent but for the most part you just can NOT anti-age hair in this regard. Why not?

The biochemistry is different for hair and the structures which need to be affected, like the follicle, are buried much deeper in the skin. It’s not easy to deliver active agents to these structures.

Therefore, and this is the key to this whole discussion, “anti-aging” treatments for hair are purely cosmetic. That means meaning they just affect the appearance of the surface of the dead hair. They can improve its appearance and texture, make it shinier, softer, smoother, temporarily thicken it, and strengthen it some some degree.  They can even change its color (after it’s grown out.) But that’s about it.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Hair is dead so you can’t really “anti-age” it. Skin is living and can be treated to reduce some of the signs and symptoms of aging . The ingredients that can impact the “age” of skin don’t do anything for hair because it has different structure and different needs. Also, to the second part of Master Barber Williams question, it doesn’t really matter what type of hair we’re talking about.

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.


Has coconut oil finally met its match?

As ardent fans of the Beauty Brains already know we’re strong proponents of using coconut oil to treat hair.

Based on what we have seen in the scientific literature, coconut oil is the only oil able to penetrate to the cortex of hair where it waterproofs from the inside out. But now it looks like the scientists at Unilever may have some new research showing that other oils work similarly.

According to some private correspondence we’ve received, the team working on the Dove Advanced Hair Series product line has been measuring “the absorption of other oils into hair that is damaged. When hair is damaged, the cuticle lifts and hair becomes more porous. This creates openings for other types of materials to penetrate into the fiber. Depending on the extent of the damage and the opening of the cuticle, other materials may be able to get inside the hair strand to provide a benefit.”

While this is far from definitive because we have yet to see any published data, it is an intriguing notion. Perhaps this could be the science behind the Dove product discussed in this video?

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.


Beauty Science News – April 13

Beauty news for nosey know-it-alls…



Vintage cosmetic video – Maybelline mascara


This 1956 Maybelline mascara ad is remarkable for one simple reason. (And no I’m not talking about the haunting echo effect at the beginning.)

It’s remarkable because of the straightforward scientifically, solid approach it uses to market the product. Basically the message is “use eyebrow pencil to make your eyebrows stand out and use mascara to make your lashes more pronounced. ”

There are no fancy exaggerations, no magic ingredients, and no claims about making your lashes look 97% thicker. It’s almost as if they’re selling the idea of using eye make up rather than any particular brand of makeup itself.

I wonder if this approach would still work today or is the market too jaded?


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What’s the deal with facial fillers?

Collagen is the scaffolding that supports your skin. As you age and those collagen fibers break down and are no longer replenished to the same extent, wrinkles start to form. If you want to treat wrinkles by getting some of that collagen back you have three choices.

1. Topical collagen creams

This is an easy and inexpensive option. The only problem is that they DON’T WORK! Rubbing collagen on your skin doesn’t do a damn thing for wrinkles.

2. Creams that stimulate collagen synthesis

This approach is a little more expensive (or a lot more expensive depending on which brand you buy) and scientifically speaking there’s a little better chance that this will do more for your skin than just rubbing on collagen. Unfortunately,  most of that scientific data on collagen is based on in vitro testing on human skin cells in the lab. There’s little if any data showing that it actually works on people.

3. Collagen injections

This is a little more painful and a lot more expensive but injecting collagen (or other fillers) really works. Just in case you’re  flustered over facial fillers we asked friend of the Brains Dr. Michele Koo to break down the details.

Filler Injections – The Newest, The Latest, is Collagen Passé

How do you choose what filler to use for what? How do you know what’s the “right filler to use” for your particular complaint? Are all fillers the same? Collagen injections are rather passé, as there are many products that far outlast the previous generations of collagen.

With so many different types of fillers that are currently available, Radiesse, Sculptra, Voluma, Juvederm, JuvedermUltra Plus, Restylane, ….etc etc, it is really tough to choose. Often times, your plastic surgeon or dermatologist will suggest only one type of filler for everything. Others will suggest one type for your eyes and another type for your lips and cheeks.

Hyaluronic acid and hydroxyapetite

There are currently two basic types of fillers on the market that are FDA approved. One is hyaluronic acid and the other is hydroxyapetite. The former is a type of thick viscous gel and the latter is more of a hard calcium substance. Both are injected with a needle.

The hydroxyapetite type of filler, Radiesse, is recommended for those who have true loss of volume from the face in cases of HIV facial muscle atrophy. Many plastic surgeons of dermatologists will use this product for large volume deficits of the face for cosmetic purposes other than the above.

The remainder of the products consists of hyaluronic acids,the differences are in their molecular make up. Some are more “cross linked” and more complex making the product more stable or more hydrophilic (attracting water from surrounding tissues) and will determine how “big” of a fill can be achieved. All products will last about 12-18 months. The Voluma is claiming longevity of 2 years.

The bottom line

Make sure your plastic surgeon or dermatologist is well versed in the use of the product they choose and ask why they are choosing that particular product. My personal favorite is Juvederm Ultra Plus for overall use in lips, lines of the face and even in the hollows under the eyes. I also use Restylane, Silicone (off label FDA use) and Juvederm and Juvederm Voluma. I tend not to use Radiesse or Sculptra as I feel they are too rigid and very unforgiving for facial creases and lips. I find that Restylane does not last as well as Juvederm therefore that is not my first choice for fillers, but in cases of a first time nervous patients or a very thin-skinned patient I might choose to use it.

You can reach Dr. Koo at www.drmichelekoo.com and follow her on Twitter at @drmichelekoo.

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