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Beware beauty products in jars – Episode 106

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Is Rodan and Fields really different?pump-40698_640

Dawn asks…
I’m interested in getting your opinion on whether or not Rodan and Fields is different from any other skin care line. My gut says they are the same.  I participated in a virtual information session (my friend wants me to join her team) and all the other consultants raved about the products as if nothing else had ever worked for them before.  I feel the price point is high. And to be frank, my degree is in chemistry and I recently closed my own skin care business.  So, when I received some samples from my friend, I thought it was funny how one of their products is formulated with the same peptide I used in my product but they paired theirs with retinol and mine was paired with an AHA.  I’m interested in your take.

I reviewed the ingredients in several of their products and the first thing that struck me is that it doesn’t appear that R&F has any technology that’s not available in other products. (In other words there’s nothing patented or proprietary here.)

However, having said that, they do appear to use ingredients that are somewhat less common. For example, in their Unblemish acne wash the active ingredient is sulfur as opposed to sal acid. Both are approved OTC actives but you don’t commonly see sulfur used. Similarly, in their toner they use Lactobionic Acid, and Glu-cono-lactone which can be found in other products but are not used that frequently. And then there’s their ReDefine line with Tetrapeptide-21 which you’ll see less frequently than other peptides.

So, it appears to me that they use some rather interesting formulation approaches that you probably won’t find in very many, more common (less expensive) lines. That doesn’t guarantee they will work better, of course, or that their products are worth the high price. If you’re the kind of person who wants to “go off the beaten path” and you don’t mind spending the extra $$, then this might be a brand to try.

Does Vitamin C cause sun sensitivity?

Nathalie asks…Here in France, a lot of people think that Vitamin C is photosensitizing and are scared to use it under the sunlight. Have you ever seen a publication on this side effect?


Does Vitamin C cause sun sensitivity? I can’t find any proof of that. It’s true that if you ingest a lot of vitamin C it can interfere with the absorption of B vitamins that help protect your skin from the sun. It’s also true that citrus fruits (which contain vitamin C) can increase sun sensitivity but it’s the components in the citrus oils causing the problem, not vitamin C. (As far as I’ve been able to determine.)

What’s the difference between a facial wrinkle and a crease?

Jayne S says…Can you clarify what would be a facial crease as opposed to a wrinkle?


I’m not sure there’s a clear answer here. 
My understanding is that “wrinkle” is used to describe a line or any other disturbance in the smoothness of the skin that is caused by factors which lead to collapse of collagen and elastin. (Like smoking, UV exposure, dryness, etc.)
”Crease” is a more specific term used to describe a deeper line that is caused by an external force (sleeping on a pillow) or internal force (repeated contraction of facial muscles.)

This seems consistent with language used by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive surgery. On their website, they talk about “Prominent forehead creases, brow furrows or eye lines (crow’s feet) are produced by specific facial expression muscles repeatedly creasing the skin.”
They talk about using injectable fillers to treat…”deeper creases and folds that are not due to muscle activity.”
Source: http://www.aafprs.org/patient/procedures/wrinkles.html

Should I avoid products in jars?

Beth says…Within the past year or more, I have been under the impression that jar packaging should be avoided all together. Is it worth the money to invest in products with jar packaging? For hygienic purposes, as well as product integrity?

There are two basic problems with jar packaging.The first potential issue is that an open mouthed jar can increase exposure to bacterial contamination (because you’re dipping your fingers into it.) This could cause some preservative systems to be overwhelmed. This problem applies to all types of products in jars.

Second, the “open mouthiness” of the jar exposes the product to oxygen and to light which can hasten oxidation. If the product is a simple moisturizer it probably won’t make much difference. But if the product contains antioxidants (which are typically more expensive) then those active ingredients may be “used up” before you even apply the product to your face. So, I would say certainly avoid jar packaging for expensive, antioxidant-based anti-aging products.

Can I dilute liquid soap to make a foaming cleanser?

Daniela…I have found on the web DIY recipes to make your own foaming hand soap using an empty foaming dispenser and diluted liquid hand soap or body wash. At first I was rejoicing – what a great idea – but I wonder whether there are any cons? For example, is there a risk the hand soap diluted with tap water (say 1 part liquid soap, 3 parts water) goes bad as there is not enough preservatives? Or, most importantly, is the washing potential worsened? I understand a soap removes dirt and germs mechanically and not by disinfecting, but still maybe the diluted soap does not have so much washing power as concentrated one?
I would very much appreciate your opinion as a cosmetic chemist. Would your mind be at peace using such a DIY foam soap?


You’re exactly right. By diluting a finished product threefold you’re seriously compromising the preservatives system. Granted there’s less of a risk with this type of product because the pump dispenser doesn’t allow much contact with the outside world, however, bacteria love to feed on fatty surfactants and it’s probably only a matter of time before some bacteria growth takes hold.
Once that happens you really have a problem because it’s easy for a biofilm to build up in the internal mechanism of the pump head. This kind of film which consists of layers of bacterial colonies is extremely hard to get rid of.

Cleansing power is a secondary concern. When formulated professionally foaming cleanser’s are not just diluted versions of liquid soaps. Both foaming cleanser’s and liquid soaps have approximately the same surfactant concentration (which would range from about 10 to 15% on an active basis.)

The big difference is in the type of surfactant chosen because of the amount and quality of foam generated through the pump mechanism and because you need to use a surfactant blend that doesn’t build viscosity so it’s easier to pump.

You’re diluting it down to approximately 4%. This is especially problematic in some cheaper brands of hand soap which are probably formulated on the low and anyway so you could be below 3%.
So what’s the bottom line? You certainly CAN make your own foaming cleanser but why would you bother? You’re only saving a few dollars and you’re giving yourself a product that’s prone to bacterial contamination and that doesn’t have as much cleansing power.

Are these shampoos the same?

Mandy says…The ingredients listing for these two shampoos are almost Exactly the same…. so… my question is, are there different grades of the ingredients? More concentrated levels of one ingredient in one product vs another?? Why are the formulas so similar? I know they are both owned by L’Oreal, but could there actually be a difference between the two?


Welcome to the wonderful world of hair care marketing! Based on reviewing these ingredient lists I don’t see any functional difference between these two products. The extracts, fragrance and color are different but that’s about it. 
The idea of “different grades” is a myth, for the most part. (Let’s elaborate on this a bit.) Could they use lower concentration of dimethicone or something? Maybe but not likely.
It’s very common for companies to leverage formula bases across multiple brands so this isn’t all that surprising.

So which one should you buy? Bioloage costs about $0.68 per oz while Garner is about $0.25/oz (depending on where you shop and which size you buy.) Either way, Biology is almost 3 times more expensive. So, unless you love the Biolage fragrance that much you might as well buy Fructis.

Biolage Color Last Shampoo

Water , Sodium Laureth Sulfate , Coco-Betaine , Sodium Chloride , Glycol Distearate , Dimethicone , Fragrance , Sodium Benzoate , Hexylene Glycol , Cocamide MIPA , Salicylic Acid , Carbomer , Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride , Limonene , Hexyl Cinnamal , Coumarin , Linalool , Butylphenyl Methylpropional , Benzyl Alcohol , Benzophenone-4 , Hydroxycitronellal , Amyl Cinnamal , Methyl Cocoate , Orchis Mascula Extract , Sodium Hydroxide , Citric Acid

Garnier Fructis Color Shield Shampoo
Aqua/Water/Eau, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Coco-Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Glycol Distearate, Dimethicone, Parfum/Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Hexylene Glycol, Cocamide Mipa, Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract, Salicylic Acid, Carbomer, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Linalool, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCl, Benzophenone-4, Citric Acid, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Alcohol, Saccharum Officinarum Extract / Sugar Cane Extract / Extrait De Canne A Sucre, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera Seed Oil/Grape Seed Oil, Amyl Cinnamal, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract, Methyl Cocoate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Hydroxide, Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract/Lemon Peel Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, CI 17200 / Red 33

Improbable Products

This week we played a special “beauty blunders” version of the game with special guest Mary Ellen. Which of these stories is the fake? Listen to the show to find out.

1. A Eastern European woman accidentally used spray insulation as a hair mousse.
2. A Florida woman inadvertently used super glue as eye drops.
3. An Australian man mistakenly used hemorrhoid cream as toothpaste.

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Alessandra October 27, 2015, 8:06 pm

    Love the shampoo comparison! The truth is, I end up shelling out more for high-end brands not because they are more effective but because they seem to invest more into the fragrance. I don’t want to smell like bathroom deodorant.

    • Eileen October 28, 2015, 12:04 pm

      LOL I hear ya! For me, the esthetics is an important consideration whenever I choose a grooming product. I want to enjoy using it and if it is in a garish container, has a smell that I find objectionable, a texture that I dislike, etc., I’m not going to buy it. It has to please the senses or it’s a no-go for me.

  • Kathryn Fenner October 27, 2015, 8:37 pm

    It seems like the Garnier has a cinnamate, which means it has sun protection, am I right? If so, it would be more color-protective than the Biolage.
    I wish they wouldn’t use such awful, strong fragrances in cheaper lines.

  • casey October 27, 2015, 10:49 pm

    I *need to know* regarding the jar x antioxidant efficacy controversy! I found your site via this article: http://skinandtonics.com/debunking-skin-care-myths-interview-cosmetic-chemist-perry-romanowski/

    …where you say jars are probably fine (presumably, even in terms of efficacy of antioxidants)

    but when i visited your podcast, i.e. episode 106, i’m seeing (in response to Beth) that you say to avoid jars, in part because of potential issues with efficacy of antioxidants.

    what does the research say? i was about to purchase Olay Regenerist moisturizer because I’m interested in the effects of niacinamide and green tea, but an accidental stumble upon the jar controversy gives me pause. i would love to stick with something cheap-ish (like the Olay line), since research on antioxidants, IMO, is not particularly compelling. i wanted to try it as a “why not” approach to making my skin look better, in addition to the retinoid I already use. but if an antioxidant-based product doesn’t work very well when it comes from a jar, i don’t want to buy it. i’m totally hearing the “no jar as a general rule” recommendation from the podcast, but is there any evidence one way or the other?

    thanks so much!!

    • Perry October 28, 2015, 4:36 pm

      As you can imagine there is not a lot of published research on this topic. But I’m going to stand by my assertion in the article that whether you have an antioxidant in a jar product or not will not matter much. Theoretically it could matter but the practical answer is that in practice you won’t notice a difference.

      • Madge December 3, 2015, 1:45 pm

        Hi Randy,
        Is that a politically correct way of saying that the anti-oxidants do not work on skin anyway, so other than spending extra money for them, the fact that they are in a jar does not matter much. From what I understand from your past comments on the topic, in either form, they will do nothing for your skin since they have not been proven to work outside a controlled lab experience on human skin. I am drawing the wrong conclusions? Please, inform me. Love your podcast!

        • Randy Schueller December 3, 2015, 2:59 pm

          Hey Madge. No, I’m not saying that anti-oxidants do nothing. It’s just really hard to prove how much benefit they actually provide when applied topically to skin.

          • Madge January 24, 2016, 4:13 pm

            Thanks for your reply. That makes it tricky to rationalize investing large sums of money in a lotion that may or may not work. No wonder that you stick pretty much to the basics as far as caring for your skin is concerned. 🙂
            Just wondering, is methylisothiazolinone really such a big deal in leave on products such as a skin lotion- if you are not specifically allergic to it already? Would the constant exposure sensitize your skin over time to the chemical?
            It seems to be the “new” thing to avoid any laundry detergents with Kathon CG in it among those that are very concerned about chemicals that can harm them in products. What is your take on it?
            Yes, I do actually have two questions here.
            Happy 2016!

  • kellly October 28, 2015, 8:38 am

    I’m very conscious about the fragrance of products, too. If I don’t like a product’s fragrance I’m not going to enjoy using it, even if it is effective, and especially if there is another product that will do the same thing with a fragrance I like more. And I learn a lot about which products are worth the money and why from reading this column.

    • Vickylacewigs October 31, 2015, 8:04 pm

      This is true for me too most of the time, though I’ll make an exception if something is really effective at whatever I’m needing it to do (treat dandruff for instance). Though I’d really wish in that case that they would just make the effective stuff smell good too!

      • Eileen November 2, 2015, 10:14 am

        I agree that a little bit of masking fragrance can go a long way towards making a product more enjoyable to use. Perhaps manufactures think that using a pleasing scent like a light citrus or floral will make the product seem less effective (more frivolous?) and that a more “medicinal” smell will lead people to believe the product is more effective at treating a particular problem like dandruff. Marketing!

  • James Huff March 16, 2016, 12:11 pm

    The BIGGEST problem for me is SILICONES. It seems that every line in every brand has some form of silicone in it which seems to give me scalp eruptions (pimples). But I agree about the Shampoos / Conditioners being all the same but, some people SWEAR that this brand or that brand is superior (Usually some outragiously over-priced brand like Kearastase) and this brand or that brand is horrible for your hair / scalp (Usually Pantene or some other popular drugstore brand) I myself have used and liked brands like Prell which cleans quite well and rinses in a flash.

  • JP July 29, 2016, 10:47 am

    Just commenting regarding the completely different and contradictory advice you give on one website vs another when it comes to jar packaging.
    This is incredibly confusing and I don’t feel that a satisfactory answer has been given. Are you able to clarify from a scientific viewpoint whether packaging in jars does impact on the efficacy of a product or not? Your reply states only that antioxidants may or may not be beneficial to the skin but you appear to leave out whether being packaged in a jar would have any impact in terms of the degradation of the product…
    I do enjoy your website but it’s very hard to take the opinions expressed seriously with such contradictory advice!

    • Randy Schueller July 29, 2016, 12:35 pm

      I’m sorry for the confusion. If you’re asking whether jar packaging can be bad for certain products the answer is yes. For example, if a product contains antioxidants, open mouth jar packaging can expose the product to oxygen which will “use up” the antioxidants prematurely.

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