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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: http://www.ifanca.org/halal/


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.


Are ceramides good anti-aging ingredients? Episode 77

Do you wonder which anti-aging ingredients really work? Today we’re reviewing the evidence for ceramides.


Which anti-aging ingredients really work?

When it comes to anti-aging products it’s easy to be tricked into spending a lot of money on products that aren’t worth it. That’s because there’s so much pseudoscientific misinformation out there about anti-aging cosmetic ingredients. Also, once you buy an anti-aging product, it takes you a long time to determine if it’s really working for you or not. That’s why we’re going to focus some of our podcast episodes on specific anti-aging ingredients, Today we’re talking about ceramides.

What are ceramides?

“Ceramide” is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around a lot in the beauty industry, especially with regard to anti-aging. But I’ve never seen a good explanation of what a ceramide is, what it really does, and what to look for in a product. That’s what we’re going to cover today, starting with a little chemical background…

Ceramides are a special type of oily wax that’s naturally found in our skin (and other places.) In fact, the word ceramide comes from the Latin cera which means wax. Ceramides form a kind of water-proofing barrier in the upper layers of skin. They’re not only critical for helping skin retain water but they also help repair the skin’s natural barrier and regulate cells. Ceramide production dwindles with age which can result in dry skin, wrinkles and even some types of dermatitis.

Did you know that newborn infants, especially premature ones, may be born with a waxy or cheese-like coating on their skin that prevents them from losing too much moisture? That coating is called the vernix caseosa and it is composed, primarily, of ceramides.

Chemically speaking, ceramides consist of a long-chain or sphingoid base linked to a fatty acid. By the way, “sphingoid bases” were first discovered in brain fluid and they’re named after the Sphinx because the chemist who found thought them thought they had an “enigmatic structure.” Anyway, sphingoids make up about half of a ceramide. Therefore, ceramides are not a single thing – different types of ceramides can be made depending on which specific base and which fatty acid are combined. There are at least 9 different types of ceramides found naturally. To make things even more confusing there are not only ceramides but phytoceramides, psuedoceramides, and synthetic ceramides. So let’s define these before we go any further.

  • Ceramide: A waxy lipid that is occurs naturally in skin. It’s made by combining combine a fatty acid with a sphingoid base.
  • Phytoceramide: A ceramide made with a phytosphingosine (a special type of sphingosine found in yeast, plants and some mammalian tissues. Don’t get tricked by this because “Phyto” is a buzz word for made from plants so this sounds like a cool, green ingredient. In reality its sourced from yeast.)
  • Pseudo-ceramide: A lipid that has similar properties to a ceramide but which has a different structure. For example, Ceramide E is a pseudo-ceramide. Another example is Arachamide MEA. Pseudo-ceramides may be naturally occurring but typically are made synthetically.
  • Synthetic ceramide: A lab-created version of a ceramide found in nature.
  • For the most part, ceramides used in skin care are synthetic (whether they are true ceramides or pseudoceramides.) Ceramides can be sourced naturally but they are present at only low concentrations in plants and animals so naturally derived ceramides are expensive. And besides, based on what we’ve seen, it doesn’t matter if the ceramide is natural or synthetic as long as it has the right structure.

Understanding ceramide nomenclature

Understanding which ceramides are used in cosmetics is confusing because there are three different ways they can be named:

1. The original INCI name which simply refers to each ceramide by a number.

2. The revised INCI name (sometimes called the “Motta” system) which uses a three letter designation. The first letter is the type of amide-linked fatty acid. (N stands for Normal Fatty acid. A stands for Alphahydroxy fatty acid and O stands for Omega hydroxy fatty acid.) The second letter is the type of base. (S stands for Sphinogsine base, P stands for Phytosphingosine base and H stands for Hydroxysphingosine base.) If there’s an “E” in front of the two letters then that means it’s an ester linked fatty acid.

3. Some times the chemical name of the ceramide is used (which doesn’t include the word ceramide at all.)

What to look for on the label:

  • Ceramide 1 = Ceramide EOS
  • Ceramide 2 = Cermamide NS = N-stearoyl sphinganine
  • Ceramide 3 = Ceramide NP = N-stearoyl phytosphingosine
  • Ceramide 4 = Ceramide EOH
  • Ceramide 5 = Ceramide AS
  • Ceramide 6 = Ceramide AP = α-hydroxy-N-stearoylphytosphingosine
  • Ceramide 6 II = Caproyl sphingosine
  • Ceramide 7 = Ceramide AH
  • Ceramide 8 = Ceramide NH
  • Ceramide 9 = Ceramide EOP
  • Ceramide E = Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide and Hexadecanamide

Now that you know what ceramides are and how to spot them on your product labels, let’s talk about what these things really do for skin. Are they worth the hype?

Ingested ceramides for skin

We’re going to focus our discussion on topically applied ceramides but I want to quickly touch on ingested ceramides. If you’ve listened to our previous anti-aging spotlights on collagen and hyaluronic acid you know we looked at the data for ingesting those materials to help your skin. For ceramides there is SMALL amount of research that shows they can improve the skin barrier when swallowed. A company called Hitex that makes phytoceramide capsules conducted their own study that showed a “perceived” improvement in dry skin.  Another study showed that taking 20mg or 40mg/daily for 3 weeks decreased transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and increased skin moisture content compared to a placebo.  And, for what it’s worth, the FDA has published a paper which essentially says phytoceramides are safe to ingest and that they’ve never seen any problems from dietary supplements that contain them. That, however, doesn’t mean they’ve actually been proven to work. ”New Dietary Ingredient Notification: For Phyto-Derived Ceramides.”  There just doesn’t seem to be as much as a push for ingestible ceramides like we’ve seen with collagen.

Ceramides as topical moisturizers

Overall, topical application is much better studied and that’s where the majority of interest is in the beauty biz so let’s get to that.

As always we’ll be using the 3 Kligman questions as a framework: is there a scientific mechanism to explain HOW ceramides work? Do ceramides penetrate into the skin where they COULD work? And are there any legitimate studies on real people showing ceramides DO work?

Is there a mechanism?
It’s well understood that natural ceramides waterproof skin. Furthermore, we know they do this best when they’re combined with other oily materials in a specific ratio. The optimal mixture of 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 15% free fatty acids forms what are called “crystalline lamellar structures” which have unique moisture retaining properties. So yes, there is a mechanism for how ceramides benefit skin.

Do they penetrate?
Yes they do and it’s not surprising given that ceramides are “skin identical” lipids. This is not some foreign ingredient, it’s one that’s naturally present in the upper layers of skin. It’s been proven that topically applied ceramides can move into the upper layers of the stratum corneum by a method called tape stripping. We’ve talked about this method before – essentially it involves sticking a piece of tape on your skin, ripping it off, and then analyzing it for the ingredient that you’re looking for. Each time you do this you tear off a few more layers of skin cells so by repeated tape stripping you can get a sense of how far an ingredient penetrates into the stratum corneum. Here are two quick examples:

Friend of the Brains Dr. Zoe Draelos published one such study. Cosmetics and Dermatologic Problems and Solutions, Third Edition By Zoe Diana Draelos. Another source confirms that finding but, interestingly, the degree of penetration may depend on what else is in the formula. The Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology says that without a glyceryl ether the ceramides weren’t any better than the placebo.

Are there studies proving they work?
There a numerous studies on the efficacy of ceramide creams but there are two problems to watch out for. First, a number of the studies are “open label” which means they’re not blinded and there’s no control. So even if they show that ceramide cream does work you can’t tell if the cream without the ceramides would have worked just as well! The second problem is that there are so many different types of ceramides, that can be used at different levels, in combination with so many other materials that’s it’s impossible to pinpoint a definitive study showing what works “best.” Despite these problems, though, the weight of the evidence makes it apparent that ceramides can be beneficial. We’ll cite a few example studies to give you a flavor of the work that’s been done.

  • A study published in the J Clin Exp Dermatol shows that topical ceramides not only repair the skin barrier but they actually protect it from future attack by surfactants. (This study was done on mice.)
  • A Japanese study shows that plant-derived ceramides improve skin moisture better than a placebo.
  • The Kao Corporation published a study showing that a cream containing 8% of Ceramide E improves water content of skin and symptoms of atopic dermatitis. But, ceramide cream wasn’t compared to any other product. So the test had no control and it wasn’t blinded. By the way, this 8% concentration shows up in a couple of studies and it’s MUCH higher than the typical use level of ceramides which is a few tenths of a percent.
  • According to the Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology, certain ceramide combinations are better than a placebo at repairing skin barrier function.
  • And a paper titled “Skin-identical lipids versus petrolatum” shows that ceramides work but they aren’t any better than petrolatum. They tested a blend of ceramide-3, cholesterol, oleic acid and palmitic acid and they say the lack of superiority may be due to a “suboptimal lipid mixture.” Again, it’s this notion that you have to have the right blend at the right ratio for ceramides to perform their best.

There are many more of these studies so it appears there is ample evidence that ceramides really do work.

Let me very quickly interject a note about a completely different approach. Instead of restoring ceramides you’ve lost, you can protect the ceramides you already have. There are enzymes in your skin called ceramid-ases that break down these lipids so if you can limit these enzymes theoretically you can keep more ceramides in your skin. I found one research paper on this topic and apparently it’s a little bit tricky because of the difficulty in sourcing these enzymes. Researchers can’t get them out of skin very easily so instead they get them from…get this…fecal extracts and nasal secretions.

So, anyway, now that we know ceramides really work what does this all mean if you want to buy an anti-aging ceramide cream?

How to pick the ceramide cream that’s right for you

First, let me summarize why picking a ceramide cream is so complicated:

1. There are many different types of ceramides. But at least most of them (at least the ones commonly used) appear to be beneficial to skin.

2. Sometimes they’re beneficial because they are just providing an occlusive layer on the surface of skin that locks in moisture. If that’s the case, ceramides may work no better than conventional, less expensive ingredients like petrolatum.

3. Other times they’re MORE beneficial because they’re penetrating and moisturizing from within. This means they may have a more prolonged effect compared to conventional ingredients. However, this seems to be the case only when the ceramides are combined with other materials like cholesterol and fatty acids. AND, they have to be combined in very specific ratios. For example, in skin the natural ratio is 3.6 to 1.2 to 1. We found one patented product that uses a ratio of 3:1:1. And who know what ratios other products use – but we do know it’s critical. Unfortunately we could find no side by side studies to prove which products are best. Which means that it’s very difficult for you to know if any given product is worth trying, especially if it’s expensive.

So, if you want add ceramides to your anti-aging regimen, here’s what we recommend: Start cheap and work your way up. To help you get started, we’ll list a few products starting with the inexpensive ones that may only have a single ceramide followed by more costly ones that appear to contain the optimal blend of actives (hopefully at the right ratio.) Try the cheapest one first. If you don’t like the way that one makes your skin feel, go up to the next most expensive one and continue the process until you find one you like.

Product examples

Curel Ultra Healing

Cost: $0.45/oz

Comments: You can’t beat the price but this Curel product only contains a single ceramide without the other critical ingredients.



CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion

Cost: $0.92/oz

Comments: Impossible to tell for sure without seeing the formula but this one seems to offer the best blend of ingredients at the best price.

Key ingredients: Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 1, Cholesterol, Phytosphingosine

Full ingredient list: Water (Purified), Glycerin, Capric/Caprylic Stearic Triglyceride, Behentrimonium Methylsulfate/Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Dimethicone, Polysorbate 20, Polyglyceryl 3 Diisostearate, Potassium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Phytosphingosine, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum


Cost: $8.80/oz

Comments: An over the counter medication used to treat eczema.

Key ingredients: Strangely the ingredient list just says “ceramide” without specifying which one. It also contains linoleic acid which is good but none of the other key actives.

Full ingredient list: Active: Purified Water, Lanolin, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceramide, Glycerine, Petrolatum, Dimethicone, Curcumin, Soybean Sterol, Linoleic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Stearic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, Carnosine, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

DHC Ceramide Cream

Cost: $27.14/oz

Comments: Even though this is called a ceramide cream it doesn’t appear to contain any actual ceramides. Go figure.

Key ingredients: cholesteryl hydroxystearate, sphingolipids,

Full ingredient list: water/aqua/eau, dipropylene glycol, caprylic/capric triglyceride, squalane, stearic acid, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, lanolin, glyceryl stearate SE, pentylene glycol, sodium PCA, methyl gluceth-10, hydrogenated lecithin, batyl alcohol, cholesteryl hydroxystearate, phenoxyethanol, behenyl alcohol, dimethicone, tocopherol, serine, butylene glycol, potassium hydroxide, allantoin, sodium citrate, pyrus cydonia seed extract, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, phospholipids, ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed rye phytoplacenta extract, sphingolipids, glycine soja (soybean) seed extract

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Night Cream

Cost: $42.35/oz

Comments: This product appears to have all the right pieces but who knows if the ratio is correct. However, it’ll cost you!

Key ingredients: Ceramide 1, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 II, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Oleic Acid,

Full ingredient list: Water/aqua/eau, Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Butyrospermum Parkii (shea butter), Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Isostearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Theobroma Cacao (cocoa) Seed Butter, Ceteth-20 Phosphate, Butylene Glycol Cocoate, Isodecyl Salicylate, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6 Ii, Calluna Vulgaris Extract, Chondrus Crispus (carrageenan), Dioscorea Villosa (wild yam) Root Extract, Glycine Soja (soybean) Sterols, Hibiscus Abelmoschuss Seed Extract, Trifolium Pratense (clover) Flower Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Erythritol, Glycine Soja (soybean) Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Isohexadecane, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Acetyl Octapeptide-3, Sodium Pca, Trehalose, Urea, Homarine Hcl, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Hydrolyzed Potato Protein, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Yeast Protein, Lauryl Peg-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Lecithin, Phospholipids, Phytosphingosine, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/beheneth-25 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/vp Copolymer, Ceteth-20, Cholesterol, Oleic Acid, Oleyl Alcohol, Peg-100 Stearate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Dicetyl Phosphate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysorbate 60, Polysorbate 80, Polyquaternium-51, Ethylcellulose, Beta-glucan, Hexylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Thioctic Acid, Ubiquinone, Disodium Edta, Cyclohexasiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Parfum/fragrance, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Limonene, Linalool, Isopropylbenzyl Salicylate, Benzoic Acid, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbic Acid, Triacetin, Chlorphenesin.


I don’t have the price for this one since it’s a prescription drug but it is approved for treating atopic dermatitis. We also know that it contains ceramide, linoleic acid, and cholesterol in the ratio of 3:1:1. It looks promising but you’ll have to ask your doctor for it. http://www.epiceram-us.com/physician.html

The Beauty Brains bottom line

“Ceramides” refers to a class of ingredients which are waxy lipids naturally found in skin.

Ceramides are good moisturizers but may be not better than regular lotions unless correctly formulated.

The best formulas blend ceramides with cholesterol and fatty acids to replicate skin’s natural moisture barrier.

To save money, start with the least expensive ceramide creams and work your way up until you find one you like.

Improbable Products

We also played the Improbable Products game in this week’s show. Can you guess which of these three products is just made up? (Listen to the show for the answer.)

1. Robo manicurist
If you like the look of well manicured nails but you’re too lazy to do it yourself, you’re in luck! A Japanese company has invented a robot designed to paint your nails.

2. Smart sock
Anyone who’s suffered from calluses will love this new salicylic acid impregnated sock that treats your feet while you walk.

3. Moisture monitor
Researchers have developed a sensor that detects when your skin is dry and alerts you to apply more lotion.


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.3436159484_1e273a9f0f_o

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!

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How often should I exfoliate my face?

Susan says… My question (& I’m sure other’s too) is how often should we exfoliate? With ever increasing choice in exfoliators on the market and differing advice as to regularity of use (sometimes as a marketing ploy to buy more product), ideally how often should we be exfoliating? Are we doing more harm than good with daily products?

The Beauty Brains respondwhat_is_this_____by_a_dawg13-d574e78

This is another one of those questions where there’s no “one size fits all” answer. As you pointed out there are many types of exfoliators on the market and it’s difficult (impossible?) to find a consensus of opinion on how often to use them. We tend to look for expert dermatologist point of view but even there consistency is lacking. For example, according to Dr. Badreshia-Bansal of the American Academy of Dermatologists, “exfoliating once a week is sufficient.” But Clinique’s staff dermatologist recommends “relatively gentle exfoliation twice a day.” Whoever you chose to believe, the most important factor to consider is the harshness of the exfoliating treatment: the more severe the treatment the less frequently it should be used.

Type of exfoliators

The following list of exfoliators are ranked in order from mildest to harshest. In terms of frequency of how to exfoliate face, our rule of thumb looks like this: items 1-3 can be used daily, 4-5 weekly, 6 monthly, and 7-9 should be at the direction of your dermatologist.

  • Washing face with cleanser and wash cloth
  • Scrubs (harshness depends on particles type: polyethylene microbeads, walnut shells, sugar and salt scrubs)
  • Salicylic acid
  • Enzyme peels (Subtilisin based)
  • Glycolic acid/Lactic acid
  • Home dermabrasion (Aluminum oxide small particles, small)
  • Professional chemical peels (higher acid concentration)
  • Professional Dermabrasion (Aluminum oxide medium particles)
  • Professional Dermabrasion (Diamond particles, coarse grit)







Image credit: http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2012/194/b/9/what_is_this_____by_a_dawg13-d574e78.jpg
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Pop stars Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are headed to court for their roles in make up commercials which are potentially false and misleading, according to a press release by the Federal Trade Commission.mascara_by_steveoh11-d5emu8d

Misleading cosmetic advertising

According to an attorney familar with the case, if the pop divas are declared guilty at the very least they’ll be prohibited from participating in future cosmetic advertisements. At worst, they could actually be banned from wearing any make up whatsoever during public performances.

This is not the first time that a make up ad featuring a high-profile celebrity has been ruled deceptive. In 2012 Natalie Portman’s mascara ad for Dior was actually banned by UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. The FTC is taking these latest violations even more seriously because of the massive popularity of Taylor and Perry. Apparently, this explains why they’re going after the celebrities themselves and not just the companies that manufacture the cosmetics.

Please follow this link to learn important details of the scandal.

Image credit: http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2012/257/d/0/mascara_by_steveoh11-d5emu8d.jpg

Can body wash fragrance be touch activated? Episode 76

 On this week’s show Perry and I explain how the new Caress Body Wash fragrance is “touch activated.” We also cover a handful of beauty science news stories. 

Claim to fame: Can body wash fragrance be “touch activated?”unnamed

This is the segment where we review popular beauty product claims and tell you what the claims really mean, how the company might support them, and if the claim is compelling enough to entice you to buy the product. Today we’re talking about the new Caress Fine Fragrance Body wash.

What is the claim and what does it mean?

Here are the claims featured on the package :

  • Up to 12 HR Fragrance Release
  • The World’s First Body Wash with Fragrance Release Pearls™
  • A touch-activated technology that releases a burst of perfume every time you touch your skin, all day long.

And there are some additional claims in their promotional materials which are interesting:

  • Fragrance Composed by the World’s Best Perfume Experts
  • Why shouldn’t your body wash have the same touch-activation as your mobile device? …now it does.
  • And my favorite…”It took 25 scientists across 4 continents to perfect the design of this collection.”

I think they did a great job making this product sound breakthrough, so kudos to them. But when it comes down to hard-core technical claims there are just a couple things to focus on:

  • The fragrance release lasts for 12 hours.
  • The fragrance release is touch activated.

Those are both pretty impressive claims so let’s take a look at how they might be delivered.

How could they support the claim?

The simplest approach would be to use some sort of consumer panel. You could have panelists wash one arm with this special body wash and the other with either a regular body wash or, ideally, some placebo version where it’s the body wash without any special fragrance technology.

Then you have other panelists smell that person’s arms without knowing which one was treated with which. You do this at some set interval probably every hour and ask them to rate the fragrance intensity. If panelists can still smell the fragrance after 12 hours you’ve supported the long lasting part of the claim.

But what about this idea of “touch activated?” They would need to build in some kind of “activation” step where the skin is touched or rubbed and then sniffed again to see if the fragrance intensity increases.

It’s also conceivable that instead of, or in addition to, just having people smell the skin they could use a gas chromatograph to actually detect and quantify the fragrance components that are remaining.

I’m pretty confident this technology really works because I did the sniff version of this test for myself. I washed one arm with the “Love” version in the other arm I watched with my usual body wash which happens to be a highly scented Axe product. The Axe product has so much fragrance in fact that I fully expected both arms to smell for several hours. Then I had people smell my arms and to my surprise not only did the Axe fragrance completely fade in the first few hours but the Caress fragrance really did remain throughout the full 12 hours and beyond.

But here’s the really amazing part. I rubbed the lower part of my arm and had panelists smell the difference between the lower part and upper part. It was actually very easy to notice that the fragrance intensity significantly increased after rubbing my skin. The fragrance character changed somewhat into a bit more of the green note but there was no question that rubbing did release additional fragrance.

Obviously this is not a scientific test but it certainly was eye-opening to me to see the magnitude of the difference. There really is something here. So let’s talk for a minute though this technology might possibly work. By the way I asked the company for a more detailed explanation on their technology and did not get a response.

How does this product work?

My guess would be that they use some sort of encapsulation technology with the capsules designed to be substantive to skin even after rinsing. This is consistent with their claim that describes the technology as “Fragrance Release Pearls.”

In principle this is similar to the scratch and sniff capsules that you see used on fragrance advertisements in the beauty magazines. Of course this is trickier because they need to be dispersed in a surfactant system that will not dissolve the capsules and the capsules need to stick around on the skin even after rinsing. I think that’s why they needed those 25 scientists on four continents to figure it out.

We get a hint of what it might be from looking at the ingredient statement. The only thing I see that is likely to be any sort of encapsulating agent is a polyurethane derivative. Polyurethane dispersions contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic segments could help with this sustained fragrance release.We’ll put the ingredients in the show notes if you’re interested.

It’s hard to tell if this is some sort of stock technology from the fragrance house or something that was custom developed just for Unilever (but either way we may see this technology turn up in other Unilever products.) Regardless, it’s certainly interesting technology.

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Fragrance, Acrylates Copolymer, Cocamide MEA, Sodium Chloride, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Polyurethane Crosspolymer-2, Citric Acid, PPG-9, Tetrasodium EDTA, Mica, Urea, Acrylamidopropyltrimonium Chloride/Acrylamide Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Red 33 (CI 17200), Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Blue 1 (CI 42090)

Should this claim persuade you to buy the product?

If this claim appeals to you then yes. This is true product differentiation. That’s not to say it’s for everyone but not every product will do this so I’d say this is a pretty compelling claim.

Review us on iTunes

You can really help us out with a review on iTunes. Just click this link.

And here are a few of our most recent reviews…

  • Chalenegirl from Canada says…The hosts make the science interesting and relevant to the consumer. I def recommend it!
  • 212bdd says…Thanks to the Beauty Brains, I feel much more savvy when I shop for beauty products. There’s so much hype out there, it’s great to have unbiased scientists explain what to look for, and what’s fluff.
  • Lilian C. says…Endearing duo dispensing trustworthy insights. This has been my best source for reliable information. I trust them more than I trust my dermatologist!

Beauty Science News

Will aging be a thing of the past?
According to this story scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have discovered a new class of drugs called Senolytics. These are compounds that target old cells and kill them off. They found by killing off the older, non-dividing cells they can keep mice looking and feeling younger.

So in our bodies we have these stem cells which are highly resistant to dying off. That’s good because these are the cells that continually make new layers of skin for example. Well, most cells adhere to the Hayflick limit which is about 30 generations. That is they can divide about 30 to 50 times before they stop. Now, most of these cells will just die off but many of them can stick around and start causing diseases associated with people who are older.

Anyway, this new drug class finds those old cells and kills them off. This allows new, younger cells to take over their place and, theoretically, life would be extended. They’ve found in mice that on these drugs the animals have improved cardiovascular function, exercise endurance, and an extended health span. They say with just one treatment older mice had highly improved cardiovascular function. It sounds pretty exciting.

I could imagine this same thing going on for skin cells. One of the reasons people get wrinkles is that their cells stop producing collagen and elastin. So maybe a drug like this could help replenish the younger cells and aging skin might not be as problematic.

We’ll see. I bet it will be a long way off though. The researchers want to do more testing in mice before they do any human trials. That’s probably a good idea. Who knows what effect killing off all your old cells will have. I wonder how that would affect your memory.

Does water cause acne?
As a savvy Internet marketer you certainly know the power of a good headline. And I have to admit I have tweeted some articles just based on the headline alone. But you have to be careful because the headline doesn’t always tell the story accurately. Here’s an example of a story from the Gloss with the headline “Does your water cause acne?”

Reading the article I found that the Gloss was just quoting a story from another website called the Bustle that had the headline “Is water making you break out?” And, the Bustle was in turn just quoting something that appeared on Livestrong with the title “Is acne caused by water softeners?” (which is not the same!)

The LiveStrong article said that theoretically, the ions in hard water can react with soaps to form insoluble salts that can help plug your pores. BUT even the author acknowledged there no scientific study that establishes this.

So first of all it’s not really the water itself causing acne. And secondly this is really only an issue if you have hard water and you use true soap as opposed to synthetic soap bars or liquid soaps. And thirdly, there’s no proof that even if you do have that combination it will make you break out because acne isn’t caused by a chemical “plugging” your pores. It’s caused by the chemical having a hyperkeratotic effect. But after getting sucked in by that headline I had to read three articles to get to the bottom of it. It’s no wonder there’s so much misinformation out there – who has time to read all the references that you need to sift through to get to the truth.

Laser turns brown eyes blue

Did you know that there is no such thing as blue eyes? Let me rephrase that – there is no such thing as a pigment that makes your eyes blue. Instead the blue color is sort of an illusion that’s caused by the scattering of light as it passes through the iris of the eye. This is really just Rayleigh scattering which is the same principle that makes the sky blue.

So why are your /my eyes brown? Because of a thin layer of brown pigment that tints the iris – it sort of covers up the blue light or prevents it from scattering. But here’s the really interesting part…scientists at Stroma Medical have developed a laser that can burn off that thin layer of brown pigment so they can make brown eyes blue.  This is not as disturbing as that story we discussed about eyeball tattoos but as you can imagine it still is somewhat controversial. The researchers say it’s safe and that the procedure has been successfully completed on 17 patients in Mexico and 20 in Costa Rica. But critics, like some ophthalmologists, say that fragments of the lasered pigment could “clog up” the eye and lead to glaucoma.  Either way it’s just fascinating to me that people will go to such lengths to change their natural appearance.


What’s the best product for frizzy hair?

Harshleen asks…I’ve always had thick, poufy hair that also frizzes easily. Is there a way or product to bring down the volume and smoothen hair without using a flat iron to straighten?

The Beauty Brains respond
Hi Harshleen. Your question reminds us of the one we received from Kenya about which hair products are best for working out. In both cases, there is no definitive technical answer because there are so many different ways to style your hair and so many different product types. that depend more on personal choice not technical stuff. So, just as we did in Kenya’s case, we’ll give you our point of view and then throw it open for comments from the Beauty Brains community. Here are the main causes of frizzy hair…

1) The natural shape of your hair

If the natural shape of your hair has some curl, you will tend to have more frizz. Hair shape is primarily determined by the shape of the follicles that the hair grows out of. There’s not much you can do about this frizz!

2) How you cut and style it

Long hair has more frizz from damage. That’s because it’s experienced a lot of brushing and combing that causes it to break and split. Broken hairs tends to spring outward uncontrollably because the proteins in hair get “stretched” when the hair is pulled and they don’t go back to their original shape. A shorter cut can control this kind of frizz to some extent.

3) The environment

Humidity can get inside your hair and make fine, curly hair fall flat and it can make smooth, straight hair frizz out. (How does that work? The inside of your hair consists of two different protein regions: the Orthocortex and the Paracortex. These areas absorb water differently, so they don’t swell the same. This differential swelling causes the hair shaft to bend or twist to one side or the other which causes frizz. You can’t completely overcome the effect, but a good conditioner can help block the effects of water on your hair. (Look for something with a good slug of dimethicone in it) and then use high quality styling products that are effective against humidity.

Does anyone have any non-flat iron suggestions for frizzy hair? Leave a comment and help out Harshleen!