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How can I tell if a product will cause acne? Episode 155

Can a patch test predict acne?

Janelly asks…I would like to know if patch testing a product for acne can really work. I see this concept mentioned a lot on Reditt as a way to test if a new skincare product will cause acne.14130436354_2488c613eb_b

That’s a great question but patch testing for acne does NOT work. Unlike an allergic reaction (where can occur in minutes or hours) the process of acne genesis takes much longer.

According to Fisher’s Contact Dermatitis, acne can result from topical application of cosmetic products via two mechanisms. The first is referred to as a “true comedone” process and that takes several months to develop. The second is the result of follicular irritation and that takes weeks to occur.

A patch test that involves leaving a product on your skin for only a few hours or even a few days will not accurately predict whether or not you will break out.

Even if you could patch test and leave it on, or reapply it, I’m not sure I’d trust the result because it could be a false negative based on the small area of skin which you applied it to.
She said applying it all over her check for several weeks but at some point that’s not a patch test that’s just using the product.

We shared this response with Janelly via email and she asked this follow up question: “Now that I know that it takes at least several weeks to a few months to know if product is breaking me out, is there a way of isolating which product is breaking you out? Is this even possible?

Trying to isolate which product is breaking you out is not very practical because you can’t really do long term single variable tests on yourself very well. I don’t think anyone is really going to put a single product on their face and leave it there for several weeks/months without washing face, wearing any makeup, putting on sunscreen, etc.

And you have to repeat that process for every product you want to evaluate. Even IF you did all that you still can’t really control for other factors like hormonal changes and changes in diet.

About the best you can do is buy products that are labeled as “non-comedogenic.” Even that is no guarantee because the testing that’s done to evaluate whether or not a product will give you acne is NOT very definitive.

We’re talking about the rabbit ear assay. In fact, there are some people who say that test is not predictive AT all. So at best it can give you some guidance.

The bottom line is that predicting acne is VERY difficult and don’t waste your time on patch testing.


Can shampoo and conditioner be concentrated?

Scott says…I use a shampoo and conditioner by Pureology and on the front of the bottles they claim the products are concentrated formulas. Do you know if this is true or not? Is it possible to formulate shampoos and conditioners in a way that makes them more concentrated?

A claim like that is meaningless because it doesn’t provide a comparison to anything else. More concentrated than what?? And even if it is true, what’s the benefit? Do they claim that it works any better? And again, better than what?

Now, I can think of a couple of applications where this MIGHT make sense. The first is in the case of deep cleansing products where a slightly higher surfactant load is justified. (Although most shampoos have plenty of cleansing power.)

The second is It MIGHT make sense from a sustainability point of view – you make the product more concentrated so you get more uses per bottle which reduces packaging waste. I’ve seen this used successfully in dishwashing soaps and laundry detergents.

But you have to realize that there are some negatives associated with increasing concentration. Hair care products have to have the right aesthetics or they don’t feel right on your hair – it’s tough to make a highly concentrated product that isn’t hard to disperse through your hair.

And some ingredients just don’t work well at have a higher concentration. For example Polyquat 7, which is a great condition agent used in shampoos, can build up on hair if you use to much and it can make the product very stringy and pituitous. “Consisting of, or resembling, mucus.”

In most cases, when a company tells you their shampoo or conditioner is “more concentrated” it’s probably just a marketing gimmick. The bottom line is that the claim could be true but rather pointless.

Is Nugene Worth the money?

Lee asks… I need to know if NuGene Universal Serum is worth the astronomical price of $300 a bottle!! Is there comparable products for less money?

This is a product based on stem cell media. We’ve talked about stem cells before and science says that they don’t work when applied from topical products. (in fact here’s a recent article on that very topic: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/health-fitness/skin-deep/article62053467.html)

The product also contains 4 different peptides. Peptides are promising ingredients that do have some data which indicate they have anti-aging properties including collagen stimulation and slowing the breakdown of the structure of skin. But there are plenty of cheaper peptide products on the market. To be honest, I didn’t have time to track any down but you can Google products that have these ingredients and you’ll find cheaper versions.

Their website includes links to clinical studies in which their product(s) were tested (single blind, half face test) against nothing. The results showed their products moisturize, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, etc, better than no treatment at all.

Most anti-aging products will produce similar results so I don’t see anything compelling that shows this product is worth $300. They did have one study showing gene expression but this was done in vitro (on cells in the lab) so it doesn’t necessarily translate to real life. I say save your money.

Ingredients: Human Adipose Derived Stem Cell Conditioned Media, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 / Glycerin, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Polysosbate-20, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-5, Aloe barbadensis Leaf Juice , Pentapeptide-18 / Caprylyl Glycol, Nano Chloropsis oculata Extract / Pullulan, Citrus grandis Seed Extract, Sodium Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Phenoxyethanol / Sorbic Acid / Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Fragrance, DL-Panthenol, Niacinamide, Camellia sinensis Leaf Extract, Nanosome Copper Peptides, Human Oligopeptide-1

Beauty Science News

Perfume can influence your dreams


Here’s an interesting article I stumbled on which discusses work that researchers did looking at the influence that smell has on your dreams. According to scientists at the University Hospital Mannheim in Germany, people who were exposed to the scent of rotten eggs during sleep had unpleasant dreams while people exposed to the scent of roses had pleasant dreams.

In this study of 15 women…oh brother, researchers hooked them up with tubes taped to their nostrils and had them go to sleep. They monitored the subjects’ brain activity. When they hit the REM stage they gave them a shot of either rotten egg smell, rose smell, or no smell for 10 seconds.

The scientists then let them sleep for another minute and woke them up. They asked them to describe their dreams at that moment and rate the experience as positive or negative. It turns out that people who had the rotten egg smell dreamed negatively while those with the rose dreamed positively.

They think that this could be a potential treatment for nightmares or other sleep disorders. I’m thinking this might be a whole new product category for fragrance makers.

UPF: The SPF of clothing


We talk a lot about sunscreen products on the program but I hadn’t given much thought to the sun protection factor of clothing. Fortunately, our friend Nikki at FUtureDerm has. She published an interesting article about sun protection from clothing which is called UPF or Ultra Protection Factor. Here are a few key points:

Dark protects better than light fabrics.
Heavier fabrics are better than lighter fabrics
Tighter weaves are better than looser weaves and knits
Synthetic is better than natural fabric (e.g. cotton)

If you’re interested, you can look up the ratings for different fabrics. There’s a rating scale published by ARPANSA which stands for Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

Perfumes pollution in the canals of Venice


You ever wonder what happens to the fragrances used in soaps, shampoos and skin lotions? Well, according to this study they end up in our water supplies and can persist for a long time. That is if you live in a place like Venice where there are no sewers.

Between April and December 2015, scientists repeatedly collected water samples from 22 places between the inner canals in the historic center of Venice, the island of Burano and at two points in the far-north lagoon. They were looking for the presence of 17 fragrances among the most used and chemically stable between the thousands available to the cosmetics industry.

Traces of ‘scented’ molecules have been identified in all sampling sites, including those more distant from inhabited areas, though illustrating concentrations up to 500 times higher in the inner city canals. Samples collected during conditions of low tide in Venice and Burano showed concentrations comparable to those of untreated waste water.

Of course, they don’t know the consequences of this build-up of fragrance molecules and they aren’t at levels that would be toxic to marine organisms.

So what does it all mean? I don’t know. It seems like these scientists were looking for some way to convince people that there might be a problem and that they need more money to study it. It seems like there is a lot of research like that.

New mascara will make you more popular


A recent article from Cosmetics Design discusses a Japan based company that is developing what they call “an aesthetic shape-controlling mascara” that will give you “enhanced social impression in Asia.”

I’m not sure I totally understand this but the company, Kosé, says that their studies show that women who wear mascara has higher self esteem and social status and they link that to curve of their eyelashes because it makes the eye appear bigger and more open. So, they developed a mascara specifically to enhance this eyelash curl. It uses water based resins like you’d find in hairsprays to control the lash shape. That’s an interesting trend based on Asian culture, I wonder if it will ever make its way here. (Cheap Trick Big Eyes)

New sunscreen applicator


Putting on sunscreens is a pain in the ass. And this is why people don’t do it more. I know I don’t like to. And the spray sunscreens seem like such a waste to me.

Well, here’s a new packaging design that might change that. It’s called the BlokRok and it reminds me of an antiperspirant stick. You put your sunscreen in the container and then roll it on your skin. No mess and you get the proper amount in the right places. We’ll see if this takes off.

iTunes reviews

Shinobuchin from Australia says…Very informative and brilliant show! — 5 stars. Randy and Perry are like my besties when it comes to beauty, trust them and nothing else any packaging or fancy ad campaign will ever tell you.

Blondenicky says…Educates While Entertains — 5 stars. This show has taught valuable lessons, for example, It’s Ok to Have Lead In Your Lipstick, and has answered Other Beauty Questions I’ve Been Dying to Know 😉 What started out as a way to keep my entertained at work has also given more insight into the cosmetics I use. I’ll never walk into a store the same way again.


Are cosmetics poisoning our water supply? Episode 154

Should your cosmetics be biodegradable?

Fabi asks about biodegradable products… I have an outdoor shower and it drains into the ground and everyone tells me I have to have biodegradable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash for the ground. Can you explain biodegradable products? It’s really hard to find them. What they’re all about and why would it be important to use them? What are some pros and cons of these products?old_outhouse_-_the_seats

This is a great question that we’ll try to answer but everyone should recognize that this is not our usual area of expertise. We’re not environmental chemists or water treatment specialists but we’ve tried to sort this out the best we could If we’re not quite right on any of these points please let us know and we’ll make corrections as needed. We’ve included references where ever possible so you guys can check out work. Let’s start by explaining what the term “biodegradable” means.

What is biodegradability and how is it measured?

Biodegradable means that a material can be broken down, or decomposed, by the action of bacteria, fungi, or other biological processes.

Here’s a simply analogy from Biodegradable Product Institute (BPI) that explains it really well: “If you think of a long string of popcorn on a thread as a “plastic polymer” chain, then step one (fragmentation) is when the thread is cut randomly between the popcorn kernels and you have a shorter chains of popcorn. The second step “biodegradation”, occurs when you get short enough for you to eat the popcorn and use it as a food.”

It’s important to break down these ingredients because if they persist in the environment they may have adverse effects like toxicity, effect on ozone, bioaccumulation in the food chain to name a few. But if an ingredient is biodegradable, it’s much less likely to cause any of these other problems because it rapidly breaks down.

Not every ingredient is a candidate for biodegradation. Bacteria can only feast on carbon-based materials. (Mention true meaning of organic.) Silicones and other inorganic materials have to be separated and disposed of in a different way. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Biodegradability can be measured in different ways. One key factor is to measure something known as the “DOC” which is Dissolved Organic Carbon. My favorite biodegradability test is the “Porous Pot” test which sounds like something we used to do back in college. But this is apparently different because it simulates the effect of aerobic microbe activity like you’d find in a waster water treatment plant.

Measuring biodegradability is also complicated because an ingredient can be readily degraded into components but some of these components may or may not degrade further. Dialkyl sulfosuccinate is an example. So you have to consider not only each ingredient but WHAT it degrades TO because an ingredient may be biodegradable but parts of it can still persist in the environment.

It’s also important to note that time is a factor when measuring biodegradability. Some tests look at how much degrades in 28 days others look at degradation in just 10 days.

BTW, You’d think that this would be easier for natural derived ingredients but actually it can be MORE difficult to test them because they frequently consist of mixtures of materials compared to synthetic compounds which are more purified and therefore more singular.

So as we said, this is quite complicated. Frequently testing is done for one ingredient and then various models are used to predict how similar materials will biodegrade. For example, there’s the BIOWIN model that uses peer reviewed literature, government databases, and research done by cosmetic ingredient suppliers to predict biodegradability.

Are biodegradable claims meaningful or just marketing?

So clearly, this can be a confusing subject area. How are consumers supposed to know if a product is really biodegradable and if that’s meaningful or not? The answer is…it’s hard to tell.

Different countries have different requirements for making biodegradable claims. We’ll mention a few but you can find more at the Biodegradable Product Institute http://www.bpiworld.org

In the EU the European Commission has established a voluntary eco label scheme which allows you to label your product with a flower symbol if it meets specific requirements. The regs say that each surfactant in the product must be biodegradable and they establish some very specific parameters for how much non biodegradable materials are allowed in shampoos, liquid soaps and shower products. So, look for the flower.

Canada uses the “Mobius Loop” symbol which I’m sure you’ve seen. It looks like three twisted arrows following one another to form a triangle. Canada does not allow any degradation products to be harmful to the environment, the require substantiation of biodegradability, and they require the conditions for biodegradability to be specified. In other words, you can’t claim that a product is biodegradable if most of time it ends up in a land fill where is won’t degrade.

The U.S. doesn’t have an official symbol, as far as I can tell, although the Biodegradable Product Institute does have symbols. For the most part you’ll have to rely on the company to specifically tell you that the product is biodegradable.

The claims are are governed by the Federal Trade Commission. There are 3 basic guidelines to determine if you can say if your product is biodegradable or not. One, you must have “competent and reliable scientific evidence that the entire item will completely break down into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.” Two, solid waste items must break down in 1 year. Three, “claims must be qualified to the point that they’re not deceptive.” That’s similar to Canada, it also means that you have to be clear whether you’re talking about the only the formula or the formula and the package.

So is it more of a marketing story? The testing is complicated and the requirements are vague/broad enough that if a company wants to make a claim, they can. There’s little context/data to know if one product is more biodegradable than another. (No one is doing competitive product testing that I’ve seen.) Also, testing is expensive and there’s not a lot of benefit unless your positioning is natural so most brands don’t do additional testing. They’ll just look at supplier data or previously tested versions.

Based on what we’ve read it looks like a lot of ingredients used in shampoos, conditioners, and body washes are biodegradable to some extent when properly processed. According to a water quality report by Cornell University which says “most laundry detergents and surfactant-based cleaning products are considered safe for both septic systems and groundwater.” And just in case you’re worried about things like silicones, check out this report from Dow Corning that says silicones used in personal care products degrades into silica and carbon dioxide.

It seems like this is more of a concern for products that can “exist in the wild” like sunscreens. Sunscreen ingredients get rinsed directly into the ocean where they may be creating adverse effects.

Examples of biodegradable products

You do tend to see this claim more from brands positioned as natural and organic. Brands that make biodegradable shampoo include Avalon Organics, Kiss My Face, Dessert Essence, Nature’s Gate, Live Clean and Toms of Maine. Lets look at a few examples:


Even a big brand like Garner is making these claims. For example, for their Pure Clean shampoo, Garnier claims the product is “92% biodegadable” which is great. But if you look at the ingredients you see the product is based on standard surfactants like Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. So at lot of shampoos will have similar biodegradability just by using standard ingredients. 


Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract, Parfum/Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyl-Trimonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Salicylic Acid, Benzoic Acid, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCI, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Saccharum Officinarum Extract/Sugar Cane Extract/Extrait De Canne A Sucre, Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract/Lemon Peel Extract, Camellia Sinesis Extract/Camellia Sinesis Leaf Extract, Malphighiapunicfolia/Acerola Fruit Extract, Sodium Hydroxide.

California Baby

California Baby Shampoo is formulated with glucosides which are less common surfactants derived from corn. They claims the product is “extremely biodegradable” which doesn’t tell us very much.

Ingredients: Water, Decyl Glucoside (Sustainable Palm Fruit Kernel and/or Coconut), Lauryl Glucoside (Sustainable Palm Fruit Kernel and/or Coconut), Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract (Soap Bark) (Certified Organic), Vegetable Glycerin USP (Sustainable Palm Fruit Kernel and/or Coconut), Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract (Calendula) (Certified Organic), Viola Tricolor Extract (Pansy) (Certified Organic), Yucca Schidigera Root Extract (Yucca), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Aloe Vera) (Certified Organic), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (Certified Organic), Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Xanthan Gum USP, Panthenol (Vit. B5), Phytic Acid (Rice Origin), Gluconolactone (Sourced from Corn (Non-GMO)) (and) Sodium Benzoate. No Fragrance or Scent Masking Agents.


Then there’s the brand Method that seems to provide the most information. For their Mickey Mouse body wash and shampoo http://methodhome.com/wp-content/uploads/method_greenskeeping_toolkit_final_complete-100614.pdf They claim the ingredients “degrade into simple and benign components in the environment. Method follows the highest technical standard for defining biodegradability, whereby at least 70% of organic ingredients break down within 28 days.” This particular product uses baby shampoo type surfactants.

Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Propanediol, Disodium Oleamido MIPA Sulfosuccinate, Fragrance, Citral, Limonene, Linaool, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycerin

Do beauty products contaminate the water supply?
With all that background in mind, let’s go back to the first part of Fabi’s question. Essentially she wants to know if she needs to buy special BD products for her outdoor shower.

For indoor plumbing, waste water is pumped to a treatment center. For an outdoor shower it drains into an underground septic system which is a tank buried underground. Either way, it works like this: the oil and fat based materials (most of the surfactants and conditioning agents) float to the top to form what is called the scum layer.

These materials can be treated with bacteria to be broken down. The water layer in the middle can be drained away and the bottom layer, the sludge that doesn’t degrade can be sent to a landfill (in the case of water treatment plants) or it can be pumped out (in the case of home septic systems.) Home septic tanks are supposed to be cleaned out every few years.

So, Fabi, if you have a septic tank it doesn’t really sound like you need any special products. If you don’t have a septic tank and you’re just letting waste water drain into your yard then that’s kind of messed up. Talk to a plumber.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

So the bottom line is that while there are specific ingredients used in shampoos that don’t biodegrade, it appears this isn’t a big problem because the majority of cleansing and conditioning agents (which make up the VAST proportion of the stuff that gets into waste water) are pretty readily degradable.

If Fabi is worried about her outdoor shower, this doesn’t seem to be a huge problem. If you want to make the planet a better place and reduce stuff that ends up in land fills and so forth, then vote with your dollars and buy products that make it clear that they adhere to higher standards. Method is apparently one of these.

It’s tough to tell in the US because there’s no universal standard. If enough people do this it will encourage companies to follow stricter standards (like the EU Flower) because that’s where the money is. As always though, be careful about companies that try to get you to spend a lot more money products just because they have a vague claim of “biodegradble.”

What are Dry Oils?

United States 35 says “Can you please talk about this kinda new, not new anymore, trend of dry oils?”

“Dry oils” seems like such a strange term. Oils certainly aren’t “wet.” I think what they really mean is more like “non-greasy, quick absorbing oils.” That would be in contrast to things like mineral oil and most traditional vegetable oils like olive oil. That “oily” feeling is a function of the long carbon backbone that’s characteristic of these oils.

Since this is a marketing term there’s no universal scientific definition so companies can call just about anything they want a “dry oil.” But typically they fall into two categories. Some are true oils, like squalane, that just have a lighter texture. But most “dry oils” are not really oils at all.

Sometimes they’re silicones like cyclomethicone and sometimes they belong to a class of materials known as esters. Esters are esters are typically derived from a carboxylic acid and an alcohol so they have different properties than just a long chain of carbon atoms with hydrogens attached. They have a lighter texture.

In either case, these materials feel like they sink into skin quickly and don’t leave as much residue. However, the trade off is that these “dry oils” are not as occlusive as traditional oils. So don’t think you can get a great moisturizer that’s formulated exclusively with “dry oils.”

Beauty science news

New scar technology


Here’s a story about some new technology to help prevent scarring on people who are severely injured. A team out of the University of Western Australia are studying compounds that inhibit an enzyme that enables the cross linking of collagen. See when a scar is formed, this enzyme causes collagen molecules to form chemical bonds within themselves which leads to scar formation.

The idea is that if they can prevent that cross link bonding, then they will prevent scar formation. They are working with a pharmaceutical company to find compounds which inhibit an enzyme called lysol oxidase or LOX.

They test new compounds using a “scar in a jar” model which is a lab culture which mimics scar formation in a petri dish. Who knew there was such a thing?

Anyway, they have found a few compounds that have inhibited the LOX enzyme in the petri dish model and will be moving on to mouse and pig models. If that’s successful they’ll move on to human trials in a couple years.

While the technology is being developed for burn victims or others with severe scarring, there is no reason why this couldn’t work for cosmetic applications too.

So maybe there is hope for me to get rid of the scar in the middle of my face caused by the chainsaw accident.

Facial hair transplants are growing


Remember last week or the week before we talked about the breakthrough scientific study showing that bald guys are less attractive? Well while we’re waiting for the hate mail from that story to come in and start flooding in I thought I would share another male hair related story.
Apparently facial hair transplants are on the rise. Up like 200% in the last few years.
Here’s how it works they cut out follicles from the back of your scalp and transplant those viable follicles to your face.

It seems to me this would appeal to a very small sub segment of the population three overlapping circles one would be guys who have trouble growing a beard and I would have to include myself in that first group. Second group are the ones who have enough money to actually have a procedure like this done because it’s bound to be expensive. And thirdly they also have to give a crap about this. I’m going to hold off investing in that facial hair transplant clinic for right now.

Grey hair pills don’t work


Have I ever told you how I feel about dietary supplements? Well, the way they are regulated in this country is shameful, dangerous and embarrassing. Now, I’m sure there are some reputable supplement makers who attempt to create quality products, but there are a ton of sketchy manufacturers who try to scam people by selling products that don’t reflect what’s on the label, making impossible claims, and generally tricking people into buying useless products.

According to this story apparently one such company went over the line when they tried to claim that their product could reverse or prevent the formation of gray hair.

A US district judge ruled that Coorga Nutraceuticals Corporation violated the law by claiming they product Grey Defense which is a dietary supplement could reverse or prevent gray hair. They were ordered to pay nearly $400,000 fine and told to stop making those claims because they are misleading and not supported by scientific evidence.

The bottom line is that gray hair preventing pills don’t work. Don’t waste your money.

The thing that is troubling about this is that the companies only have this small fine (I’m sure they made more than $400,000 on sales of this product) and they can continue to sell the product as long as they don’t make the claim. Or they can just start up another company, make the same claims and bet that the FTC won’t be able to catch up to them. It’s ridiculous.

Science says Clark Kent’s glasses are a good disguise


You know the deal with Superman’s secret identity? He doesn’t wear a mask or anything. When he switches to Clark Kent he just puts on a pair of glasses and POOF no one recognizes him. Pretty ridiculous right! Wrong! Science says this really works. Sort of.

A study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology described how a researcher showed panelists pairs of pictures of people with and without glasses. When both pictures either had or didn’t have glasses the panelists could tell they were the same person. 80% But when just one picture had glasses only 74% of people could tell. The researcher concluded that glasses are a good disguise and that Clark Kent and Superman did indeed look like two different people. It doesn’t work with people who you know well so Lois would have been able to tell.

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Is store brand mouthwash as good as name brands? Episode 153

How can I tell if a store brand mouthwash is the same as the expensive name brand?mouth-1234269_640

Victoria says…My husband insists that all name brand products are stronger and better than store brands. He feels strongest about Listerine and his dentist agrees with him. Does it matter in areas other than cosmetics?

When discussing store brands, I don’t think we’ve ever said “there’s NO difference” if the ingredients are the same. Comparing ingredient lists is a great way to see if a store brand is “in the ball park” compared to a more expensive brand but unless you see percentages listed you don’t know for sure if the concentration of ingredients is the same and if there are other factors, like manufacturing techniques, that may result in the products being different.

Fortunately, she picked a great example because Listerine DOES list the percentage of its active ingredients so we can do a much more precise comparison to store brands.

Listerine is named after Dr. Joseph Lister who pioneered the used of disinfectants in hospitals. It was invented in 1879 by two scientists Joseph Lawrence and Jordon Lambert. Lambert became one of the founders of the Warner-Lambert company that marketed Listerine until 2006 when it was bought by Johnson and Johnson.

Before we get to the chemistry of Listerine here are a couple of fun facts according to Wikipedia:

  • For a little while in in 1927 the company marketed Listerine Cigarettes.
  • From the 30s’ until the ‘50s they advertised that Listerine could be rubbed on your scalp to prevent “infectious dandruff”.
  • And, until the mid 70s, Listerine was marketed as a “preventive and remedy for colds and sore throats.” But then the Federal Trade Commission determined Listerine doesn’t do that at all and they ordered them to to stop making those claims.

But what Listerine DOES do it give you fresh breath and it does that by using four essential oils that give the product antiseptic properties. Those are still listed on the bottle today: http://www.listerine.com/active-ingredients?icid=subnav

  • Eucalyptol: Derived from the eucalyptus tree
  • Thymol: Developed from the ajowan herb
  • Methyl salicylate: Identical to methyl salicylate in natural wintergreen
  • Menthol: Identical to menthol found in natural cornmint

In addition, Listerine contains about 26% ethanol which is a solvent for the essential oils and also give it a more powerful mouthfeel. The rest of the ingredients are essential control agents to maintain the pH, give it color and flavor and so on.

Now, let’s look at a popular store brand to see how it compares. The Walgreens version of Listerine also lists the percentages of its active ingredients so let’s make a direct comparison of each one:


Listerine: 0.092%

Walgreens: 0.092%.


Listerine: 0.064%

Walgreens: 0.064%

Methyl salicylate

Listerine: 0.06%

Walgreens: 0.060%


Listerine: 0.042%

Walgreens: 0.041% So, other than the difference of 1/1000th of a % less Menthol, the active ingredients are identical.

There is a slight difference in alcohol concentration. It looks like Listerine uses about 26% while Walgreens contains about 22% but the ethanol is not an active ingredient so that isn’t an issue. It appears there’s NO reason to assume that these products would function differently. If Victoria’s husband’s dentist says otherwise I’d love to see his or her rational for that.

Right. I mean it’s POSSIBLE that Listerine has done side by side testing that shows their product out performs the equivalent store brands so if that’s the case we’d gladly change our mind but lacking that kind of proof we have to say that there is no difference.

You know there’s an interesting statement on their website that’s relevant to this discussion. Here’s the quote: “No other branded mouthwash brings power to your mouth like this botanically derived, four-ingredient formula.” At first glance that sounds like a superiority claim – it seems like they’re saying no other product works like Listerine. But look carefully at the wording. No other BRANDED mouthwash… And that’s true. I couldn’t find any other brand name product that uses this same cocktail of active ingredients. Only the store brand knock offs. So that’s clever of them to make a claim out of that. So what’s the bottom line for Victoria?

It’s tough to tell if a store brand is identical to a name brand unless they list the ingredient percentages but in the case of Listerine it seems clear cut that the two versions are pretty much indistinguishable in terms of performance. I recommend she just buy the store brand and pour it into a Listerine bottle.

Walgreens brand
Active Ingredients: Eucalyptol (0.092%), Menthol (0.041%), Methyl Salicylate (0.060%), Thymol (0.064%)
Inactive Ingredients: water, Alcohol (21.6%), Sorbitol, Flavor, Poloxamer 407, Benzoic Acid, Sodium Saccharin, Sodium benzoate, FD&C Green No. 3

Is the new “mirror chrome look” nail polish dangerous?

Camille says… There is a “chrome effect” nail video swarming the internet but I read some pigments that provide this mirror effect are made of aluminum and are dangerous if inhaled either in application or when filed off. Do we order this powder or save our lungs and dollars?

Based on what I’ve been able to find you are correct that aluminum is providing the “chrome” or “mirror” look in this nail polish. This isn’t entirely new. This look has been offered in the past in the form of stick on films, press on nails or streaky liquid polish. Sally Hansen Color Foil, for example uses aluminum powder.

And that’s perfectly fine because aluminum powder is approved by the FDA as a colorant. Specifically, the FDA says that “Aluminum powder may be safely used in coloring externally applied cosmetics, including cosmetics intended for use in the area of the eye, in amounts consistent with good manufacturing practice.” (http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=d098fe49ba80a72c842d0da5b8452f83&r=PART&n=21y1.

BUT the FDA regs are designed with finished products in mind. The safety profile can be different in this case because you’re mixing a powder into a nail polish and that powder can become airborne. Or you’re filing nails after they dry which can also generate airborne particulates. That’s a potential problem in this case because it is known that excessive inhalation of aluminum dust can cause scarring of the lungs. I’m not a doctor but that sounds bad. (http://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/0054.pdf).

So Camille’s concern certainly seems valid. It’s especially problematic for the nail technicians who might be exposed to larger amounts of aluminum dust throughout the day. I would think that if you could be exposed to significant amounts of dust from this pigment (either from mixing the pigment into a base or by filing nails coated with polish containing this pigment), I think wearing a mask would be a wise safety precaution. Once the application is complete I don’t see why there would be an additional risk.

Is my vitamin C cream giving me cancer?

Pazzaglia asks…I stumbled on an article about how Benzoic acid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzene_in_soft_drinks) turns into carcinogenic Benzene in the presence of Vitamin C. I’m guilty of having access to enough information at my disposal to freak me out without any of the knowledge to draw useful conclusions. So.. should I be worried about pairing my Italian Retin-A Cream (Airol) with a vitamin C serum. Would these two products create a carcinogenic cocktail on my face?

Let’s start by explaining a bit about the benzene controversy. Benzene, which is a 6 carbon ring, has been proven to be carcinogenic. The benzene can come from benzoates which are used as preservatives.

Specifically, “The benzene forms from decarboxylation of the preservative benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and metal ions (iron and copper) that act as catalysts, especially under heat and light.”

The FDA sets limits on how much benzene can be drinking water and other beverages. They looked into this and found that most products are below the safe limit which is 5ppb but they did find a couple of soft drinks that had higher levels.

The soft drink industry has responded by removing benzoates to a large extent although there are still products that use them.

That’s enough background because this is not the Beverage Brains podcast. What does all this mean for Vitamin C creams?

It doesn’t seem like this a problem in skin products for two reasons. First, benzene is a much greater health concern if you’re ingesting it which was the issue in the case of the benzene in soft drinks.

Second, the product she mentions also contains EDTA which chelates metal ions and reduces the chances of benzene formation.
Ref: http://www.icba-net.org/files/resources/icba-benzene-guidance-english.pdf

I would expect that your chances of getting cancer from using a vitamin C cream that converts a benzoate preservative to benzene, are WAY lower than your chances of getting cancer from smoking or drinking or eating grilled meats.

iTunes reviews

The first one comes from Cristina from Moldova. My favourite beauty webiste. The podcast is very educative and hilarious. I particualry like when they insert bits of vintage addvertising. Listen to save money on your beauty purchases!

Brit222 says…I love this podcast- with so much pseudoscience and so many grandiose claims in skincare and beauty, it is nice to have a reliable source that I can trust!

Canadian Angela says…Since finding The Beauty Brains podcast I no longer mind being stuck in traffic! I have learned so much listening to Randy and Perry’s method of informing consumers of the science behind why some products work and why some are a complete waste of money. Oh and you should really buy the book!

Beauty science news

Smell dating


Here’s an idea that might revolutionize the way people do online dating. Instead of picking people based on their looks or dating profiles, this project called Smell Dating matches people based on whether they like their natural body odor.

When you sign up for this service you are sent a T-shirt to wear for three days. You are not allowed to wear perfume or deodorant. You then send off your shirt and you receive samples to sniff in exchange. You choose the scents you like the best. If someone you like likes the way you smell then they connect you via email. No information about age, gender or sexual orientation is known prior to the shirt smelling.

The idea is that if you like someone’s scent then you theoretically will be more biologically compatible with them. There is evidence that people like the scents of others who have compatible immune systems.

So, does it work? Well, it didn’t seem to work for the reporter who wrote the story in the Guardian. She got four matches (two men, two women), went on one date and there was no “chemistry” between them. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone but I suspect humans & dating are a little more complicated than using our noses to pick our mates.

Dental care breakthrough


Scientists have learned how to grow new teeth from a somewhat distasteful source: human urine. This gives a whole new meaning to the term “potty mouth.”

This study was published in Cell Regeneration Journal and it shows that stem cells from urine could be grown into tiny tooth-like structures. The researchers are from China and hope that someday their technique could be used to replace lost teeth. Of course not everyone agrees with this approach. One stem cell researcher noted that that “that goal faces many challenges.” No kidding. But seriously, there are other, richer, sources of stem cells than urine so this seems like an odd choice. Regardless, just in case this catches on I’ve begun designing companion products to go with urine teeth the first product I’ll be launching is…Dental floss made from toilet paper,

Weird beauty ingredients


Cosmetic marketers are always looking for exotic ingredients to put in products. Usually, there is some story that goes along with it and sometimes the material can be really weird. For example, last show we talked about Centipede excretion that was being included in skin products as an anti-inflammatory. Well, here’s a story from LuxurySpot which lists some of the weirdest ingredients. Look for these ingredients to be featured in future cosmetic launches. We’ve talked about some but many we haven’t.

  • Snail slime – it’s a mix of proteins that are supposed to repair skin damage. It doesn’t.
  • Bee Venom – Supposed to plump up your skin. Not likely
  • Bacteria – The folks at Mother Dirt think this will be the cosmetics of the future. They may find a niche but I doubt we’ll see a big shift towards bacterial laced cosmetics.
  • Hemp – With all the states that have legalized marajuana it’s not surprising people want hemp products. The oil is a fine enough natural oil but there isn’t any data showing it’s anything more special than soybean oil.
  • Donkey Milk – supposedly good for your skin. I wouldn’t count on it.
  • Ice plant – this is an extract taken from plants that grow in icy conditions. It’s supposed to rejuvenate your skin. Maybe it’s a good story but I doubt it will noticeably improve your skin.
  • Camel milk – Apparently people love to bath in milk and they think it will improve their skin. Camel milk is supposed to have more lactic acid than cows milk so the marketers say it will be good for exfoliation and skin brightening. I don’t know why the formulator wouldn’t just put lactic acid in the formula.

Don’t be fooled by exotic ingredients. These story ingredients almost never provide additional functions to products but marketers continue to add them. And the main reason is that people want to buy products with ingredients that sound exotic. Argan Oil was a big hit last year but the reality is that the products that featured Argan Oil were really just standard silicone products that had a drop of Argan Oil in them. Consumers bought the Argan Oil, but the Cyclomethicone and Dimethicone were actually providing the benefit.

RS Bogus baby products


I bring up this next news story because it’s sort of a coincidence. A few weeks ago I saw a product in my local Walgreens that caught my eye it’s by the brand Babyganics. It was a combination pack of sunscreen and insect repellent. It had the usual claims about being natural and organic I took a look at the sunscreen and saw that it was using legitimate mineral sunscreen active so OK fine I can see how you could say that’s natural and maybe organic.

But then I looked at the insect repellent product and saw that it had nothing other than some natural extracts things in it like citronella. Now those products are controlled by the EPA they don’t fall under cosmetic regulations but I’m not aware of any approved insect repellent other than things like DEET that really work. So I left the store scratching my head on how this product could get away with it.

Turns out they’re not really getting away with it because there’s a class action suit against the brand for misleading claims. The most interesting part of the story though was the last line which informed me that this brand was recently bought by SC Johnson.

That’s a very reputable company that always plays by the book so I’m wondering if they bought this brand and then had just not gotten around to making the necessary regulatory changes before everything hit the fan. So. If you know anybody and if SCJ see if you can get the inside scoop on this lawsuit confidential lawsuit that then we can share with our tens of thousands of listeners.

Beware contaminated cosmetics


There’s one thing that bugs me about cosmetic manufacturer more than anything else. You know what that is?

No, it’s companies that sell contaminated cosmetic products. It is not hard to ensure your products are safe and free from microbial contamination. You just need to use GMPs and a proper preservative system. Ever since ingredients like Parabens or Formaldehyde donors got bad press and fear mongering groups started spreading misinformation, some cosmetic manufacturers have made it a marketing angle that they don’t use these ingredients.

But you know what happened? Now we’ve got more instances of products being recalled by the FDA due to bacterial contamination.

So, as a public service I just want to call out those brands who received warning letters from the FDA for selling products that were contaminated with microorganisms.

  • The Aura Cacia brand has voluntarily recalled their Milk and Oat Bath due to microbial contamination. The brand says that their products are made from simple & pure botanical ingredients that unlock nature’s ability to improve our well-being. Well, if they think exposing people to disease causing bacteria is improving well-being, we have different meanings for the term well-being.
  • Arbonne International – They got contacted by the FDA due to bacterial contamination of their Black and Brown liquid eyeliner. Nice going Argonne. And on an eye product? I wonder if they blinded anyone.
  • Aplicare Castille Soap Towelettes – These were recalled due to bacterial contamination.



Can Baby Foot really make your feet smoother? Episode 152

How does baby foot work?

Leslie asks…Can you please explain how Babyfoot works and if it is truly safe to use. I have used it and my feet did peel but I really don’t understand how it works. 149580816_a956e46245_b

In case our listeners aren’t familiar with this product, it’s a special type of exfoliator designed just for your feet. For $25 you get two “booties” lined with a gel product.

Here’s what the website says about it:

Our scientifically formulated product contains 17 types of natural extracts…
The principal ingredient …is fruit acid which…penetrates into the layers of dead skin cells and breaks down the desmosomes which hold the layers together.
…skin is undamaged but peels easily away from the fresh layer beneath. After peeling, your feet are reborn just like a baby’s foot.
Note: Baby Foot must only be used on the feet.

As you can see from the website they’re very proud of their 17 natural extracts. But, surprise, the natural extracts have very little to do with how the product actually functions.

Yea, this is a great product in the sense that will do exactly what it says it will. However it doesn’t work because of the reason they tell you. If you look at the first two or three ingredients you’ll see our old friends glycolic acid and lactic acid. These are both alphahydroxy acids which as most of you probably already know are very good at exfoliating.

AHA’s work by loosening the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together and as you strip away that upper layer of dead skin the remaining skin will be very soft and supple. These are sometimes called “Fruit acids” but fruit extracts are not the source of these fruit acids. Fruit acids only occur naturally at very low levels to make commercial quantities of lactic acid, for example, you have to use a large scale fermentation process.

That involves giant vats of sucrose and glucose mixed with lime or chalk. The mixture is fermented in a fermenter until crude calcium lactate is formed. The gypsum is stripped way which leaves crude lactic acid, that in turn is purified and concentrated into the material used in this product. I could go on but I’m already boring myself.

But just because this is based on common alphahydroxy acid’s don’t think you can use your normal exfoliating face lotion on your feet. This is a case where buying a special product probably is justified.

That’s because there are two bits of “magic” that make this product work. First, it’s designed only for your feet which tends to have a thicker layer of callused skin so they have formulated the product with higher levels of the alpha hydroxy acids. You could use your regular exfoliating facial on your face and use that on your feet and it may not work very well but it won’t hurt you. On the other hand if you use baby foot on your face it could leave you with a chemical burn.

The second bit of magic is the fact that it has an occlusive application method. That’s the little plastic sock that you wear after applying the product. This application method accomplishes two things it keeps the solution from evaporating so it stays more active against your skin and it prevents it from being rubbed off presumably while you walked around or put on regular socks or whatever.

So the higher concentration and the occlusive application really boost the efficacy and help this product deliver the softness of the baby’s foot. Great. It works. But she also asked if it’s safe.

The answer is “mostly yes.” Alphahydroxy acid’s are used in thousands of products with very little problem. However because this is a higher concentration if you were to have more sensitive skin it is conceivable that you could get a chemical burn on your foot from this. And apparently that indeed has happened to some people.

According to dermatologist Sandra Bendeck, who works with One Medical Group, (http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/baby-foot-safe/) , it’s a bit concerning that the company doesn’t disclose the level of fruit acids. AHAs are typically used at up to 10% but we don’t know HOW much are in this product. She also pointed out that some of the reviews for the product mention side effects like “bleeding, cellulitis, and having to go to the ER after using it.” She also says that diabetics, who can have issues with nerve endings in their feet, should not use it.

In addition, according to the Baby Foot website, the product should be avoided “during pregnancy, lactation, or menstruation because during this period the skin becomes more sensitive due to the disruption of normal hormone balance.”

Finally, the website also mentions that the product also contains salicylic acid which is classified as a category C drug by the FDA and that animal studies have linked salicylic acid and birth defects.

So the bottom line is that the product does use technology which is very effective although it’s rather expensive for what you get. The ingredients it’s based on are commonly used in the beauty industry but the concentration and application method MAY cause problems for some people.

Active ingredients: Water, Alcohol, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Arginine, Butylene Glycol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glucose, O-Cymen-5-Ol, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Nasturtium Officinale Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Saponaria Officinalis Leaf Extract, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Clematis Vitalba Leaf Extract, Spiraea Ulmaria Flower Extract, Equisetum Arvense Extract, Fucus Vesiculosus Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Salicylic Acid

How do makeup setting sprays work?

Roni says…I have a question about makeup setting sprays. I have tried doing half face test and the half with the setting spray wears longs, the makeup looks better at the end of they day. What is making the product do that? Why does it make it last longer?

The name “setting spray” seems a little inaccurate to me. It implies you’re doing something to the make up to “cure” it or anchor it to the skin. In reality what you’re doing is putting a thin film on top of the make up that helps it remain undisturbed.

That’s right. Let’s take a look at a couple of products starting with the one emailed us about: Wet N Wild Picture Perfect Setting Spray. (Not Wet And Wild.) The main ingredient is PVP which is a polymer that is a film former. PVP stands for…

Poly Vinyl Pyrrolidone. It’s used in in products like mousses and gels to form a film on hair that holds it in place. By the same principle PVP can form a film over your make up that prevents it from smearing or smudging as easily. The disadvantage to PVP is that it’s hygroscopic which means that it can absorb moisture from the air which can make it sticky.

In this particular product the PVP is dissolved in a mixture of water and alcohol, which of course will evaporate. The product also contains propylene glycol to plasticize the film and keep it from cracking.

So how do you use this stuff? The website instructs you to…”Hold the setting spray 8 inches away from your face and mist in a criss-cross pattern.”

And finally, what about the cost? This Wet N Wild product is relatively inexpensive at $5.00 for 1.5 ounces or about $3.30 per ounce.

Next let’s take a look at the Matt Finish Setting Spray from NYX COSMETICS.

This one is based on VP/VA copolymer. You can think of VP/VA copolymer as the next generation of PVP. It provides similar benefits but it is less likely to absorb moisture. That means in hair sprays it provides superior hold. I assume this property would make it better for setting makeup as well.

The instructions are to “Hold 8-10 inches from face, close eyes, and spray in downward motion 3 times to cover entire face.” So NOT criss cross but downward motion. Got it.

It sells for $8 for 2 oz or $4.00 an ounce so it’s slightly more expensive but it could very well be worth it.

Finally, let’s look at an example that uses different technology: URBAN DECAY COSMETICS All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray

It’s different it uses a hybrid approach. In addition to PVP for film forming it also contains a couple of fluorinated ethers and a couple of additional polymers. In theory, this kind of system could provide a much more durable, waterproof makeup shield.

The website describes it as a “groundbreaking, clinically tested formula… [that] features patented Temperature Control Technology…. actually lowers the temperature of your makeup to keep foundation, eyeshadow, blush and concealer in place – even in hot and humid or cold and windy conditions.

I don’t know about temperature control but it certainly could work better in high humidity.

I was kind of blown away because the website describes a 7-day clinical study the conducted on this product. They found that:
“78% of participants said All Nighter helped their makeup last for 16 hours.
Over 80% said their makeup not only looked better, it stayed on better (even in the T-zone) without settling into fine lines.
88% or more said All Nighter was the best product to help their makeup last.”

And just for the record, you’re instructed to “mist face 2-4 times, in an “X” and “T” formation.” Not criss cross. Not downward motion. Just x and T. Got it?

But here’s the catch: The product sells for $30 for 4 oz or about $7.50 per ounce. That’s more than twice as much as the Wet N Wild product. Is it twice as good?

If you’re really curious I would recommend getting a sample or a tester of the more expensive product at Sephora or someplace and doing your half face test again with the more expensive product versus the cheaper product and see if you see a difference.

Matt Finish Setting Spray from NYX COSMETICS Ingredients
Water / Aqua / Eau, Alcohol, VP / VA Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Niacinamide, Sodium Salicylate, Plantago Lanceolata Leaf Extract, Mahonia Aquifolium Flower / Leaf / Stem Extract, Phenoxyethanol.

Wet N Wild Ingredients
Water/Eau, Alcohol Denat., PVP, Propanediol, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Dimethicone PEG/PPG-12/4 Phosphate, Glycereth-5 Lactate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Poloxamer 127, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance/Parfum.

Urban Decay Ingredients
Aqua (Water/Eau), Alcohol Denat, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, PVP, Methyl Perfluorobutyl Ether, Methyl Perflouroisobutyl Ether, Dimethicone PEG-7 Phosphate, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Caprylyl Gylcol, Menthyl Methacrylate Cross Polymer, Poloxamer 407, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Cocamidopropyl PG Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Glycereth-5 Lactate, N,2,3-Trimethyl-2-Isopropyl Butamide, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Fragrance, Aloe Barbandensis Leaf Extract.

Do sunscreen pills work?

Silvia from Spain says I want to know if sun protection pills really work.

Personally, I think SPF pills are in the realm of quackery but according to the American Academy of Dermatologists there is SOME promising research in this area. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/could-protecting-your-skin-from-the-sun-be-as-easy-as-popping-a-pill

Yeah, we found an article from 2014 which quotes a Dr. Lim from the AAD who says that there is SOME data showing that Polypodium leucotomos, an extract of a Central American fern plant, can increase the amount of time it takes for skin to become sunburned. That’s in pill form!

According to Dr. Lim…“We’re not completely sure how sunscreen pills work, but the main understanding is that Polypodium leucotomos acts as an antioxidant, so it protects the skin from oxidative damage caused by sun exposure,”

Wow, that sounds too good to be true. How much SPF protection does it provide?

It’s tough to compare directly because this ingredient is take orally not applied to skin but Dr. Lim says studies estimate it as having an SPF of about 3 to 5. That’s WAY less than Academy’s recommended SPF level of 30 or higher.

So if the best studied sunscreen pill ingredient MAYBE gives you an SPF of less than 5 it seems kind of pointless. THere’s no way that could replace using a sunscreen lotion. At best it might supplement the protection you get from your lotion but not by much. That’s assuming of course that the pill you buy even has the right ingredient at the right concentration.

iTunes reviews

JanellyL says…New favorite podcast 5 stars. They provide great insight on how products work and call out what products’ claims are bs. Plus they are never boring with their dry humor and sarcastic banter. Another plus is that if you ever have a question, they are so quick with responding to your email.

Slithy tove says…Beauty is a lot more than science 3 stars. It’s great to have a resource that encourages consumers to think more critically about the content of the products they buy, and this show has taught me a lot in that respect. But as a woman, sometimes it’s hard to listen to two men laugh about how ridiculous beauty marketing can be when most of it is unrelentingly targeted at women’s self esteem. For example, when they were discussing unlicensed “butt injections” – a horrifically dangerous practice that disproportionately affects lower income trans women who can’t afford to get the procedure done safely – and making callous puns about “the bottom line,” the insensitivity made me cringe. Or another direct quote: “If you want to give yourself the best chance of getting a good grade, just make yourself as attractive as possible” (this just after recognizing the same study found this bias didn’t apply to male students). I know you guys focus on science and you like to keep things light-hearted, but I often wish you’d recognize there’s way more to all of this than chemicals. Marketing hype and unfair biases about beauty come from cultural norms and contexts that can be seriously messed up. (Props to Randy for acknowledging this from time to time.) How about a dedicated regular feature about ridiculous products for men, to balance things out? Or letting your female intern speak on the show? That’s what I’d call being even more brainy about your beauty.

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How does Tresemme Beauty-Full Volume Reverse Wash haircare system work? Episode 151

How does Tresemme Beauty-Full Volume Reverse Wash haircare system work?

Jess says…I just saw an ad for the Tresemme Beauty-Full Volume system. Is there really something to conditioning first and then shampooing or are they just convincing us to wash our money down the drain?4049368260_2181e7ea07_b

Let’s talk a little bit about the process of reverse washing just in case our audience isn’t familiar with the practice. This is where you take a product that’s typically applied AFTER shampooing, like a conditioner or some kind of oil, and you apply it to your hair BEFORE you shampoo.

The idea is that the shampoo will remove the “excess” materials and leave just enough behind on your hair to provide conditioning benefits but without the feeling heavy residue that some conditioners cause. So this is targeted toward those people with thin, fine hair and those people who don’t want to lose volume when then condition.

Here’s how their website describes it:

Introducing the NEW TRESemmé Beauty-Full Volume collection – a revolutionary new reverse wash haircare system,

Using conditioner after you shampoo can weigh hair down and leave it flat. TRESemmé Beauty-Full Volume Reverse System is a game-changing regimen that gives your hair amazing body and bounce. Condition first to soften, then shampoo to wash away the weight.

So this is different from other techniques we’ve talked about like co-washing or no-poo. This is more of a pre-poo method. This isn’t a new idea. In fact, one of the most iconic products in the entire hair care industry, VO5 Hot Oil is a “pre-poo” conditioner. Although not everyone seems to realize that. Coconut oil is typically used this way as well – you apply it to hair, let it soak in, and then wash it out.

Right, but Tresemme is the first major brand to market a companion shampoo and conditioner to be used in this way. What have they done that’s different?

Technically they haven’t really done things very differently. If you look at the ingredient lists for the new Beauty-Full volume products you’ll see that the shampoo is based on Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine, two very common surfactants with a bit of Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, which is a conditioning agent used in 2 in 1 shampoos. If you look at their Moisture Rich shampoo you’ll see the ingredients are almost identical.

The Pre-wash conditioner is based on Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Behentrimonium Chloride, with some Amodimethicone. This is very similar to their Healthy Volume conditioner. So the products aren’t really that different. Does that mean that reverse washing is just a scam?

No not really. There are two ways that reverse washing can provide a different level of experience. The first has to do with how much stuff you’re leaving behind. First, remember that conditioners work by depositing lubricating agents on the surface of your hair. So in a sense, conditioner is putting “clean dirt” on your hair. The shampoo has to work harder than usual, gets used up by the combination of the dirt on your hair and the conditioner residue.

Second, you have to realize that shampoo and conditioner ingredients are soft of magnetically opposite. What I mean by that is that shampoo surfactants tend to be anionic which means they have a negative charge and many conditioning agents are cationic which means they have a positive charge. So it’s possible that the positively charged material on your hair from the conditioner could cause the negatively charged materials in the shampoo to deposit on your hair. That’s exactly what happens with VO5 Hot Oil.

Yes, the complex that’s formed by combining a cationic material with an anionic one is called a “Cat-an” wax. These waxes will vary depending on the type of conditioning agent and the strength of the cleansers in the shampoo. When this kind of complex is formed it is less soluble than either of it’s components so it tends to fall out of solution and stay on the hair.

If you’re following the Tresemme instructions, which tell you to completely rinse the conditioner before applying the shampoo, then I’d be surprised if you’d feel a tremendous amount of interaction between the two products. But I did find one popular beauty blogger who says the secret to reverse washing is to NOT RINSE the conditioner. She uses the shampoo to remove the conditioner. If you follow these instructions you could end up with with quite a bit of deposition.

Depending on the nature of the formulas, how much you use, and exactly how you apply them, you could see a wide range of results on your hair.
So, what’s the bottom line for Jess?

Reverse washing is really “a thing” but you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on special products. You might experiment with your regular shampoo and conditioner before rushing out to buy something new. But if you like the approach, the Tresemme products are worth a try because they’ve presumably been optimized for this method of application and they’re really not that expensive.

Shampoo ingredients
Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Dimethiconol, Fragrance, Glycol Distearate, Carbomer, PPG-9, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Citric Acid, DMDM Hydantoin, Disodium EDTA, PEG-45M, Sodium Benzoate, Acrylates Copolymer, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Mica, Titanium Dioxide

Pre-wash Conditioner ingredients
Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Behentrimonium Chloride, Dipropylene Glycol, Fragrance, Amodimethicone, DMDM Hydantoin, Disodium EDTA, PEG-7 Propylheptyl Ether, Cetrimonium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Acrylates Copolymer, Methylisothiazolinone

Health volume conditioner ingredients
Ingredients: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Behentrimonium Chloride, Lysine Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Gelatin, Keratin Amino Acids, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Hydrolyzed Silk, Ascorbic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Soluble Collagen, Niacinamide, Biotin, Fragrance, Dipropylene Glycol, Potassium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Amodimethicone, Disodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, PEG-150 Distearate, Cetrimonium Chloride, PVP, Polysorbate 20, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, VP, Methacrylamide, Vinyl Imidazole Copolymer, Methylisothiazolinone

Healthy moisture conditioner ingredients
Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Behentrimonium Chloride, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Panthenol, Niacinamide, Biotin, Fragrance, Dipropylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Amodimethicone, Disodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, PEG-7 Propylheptyl Ether, Cetrimonium Chloride, Polysorbate 20, PEG-150 Distearate, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Are banana peels good for acne?

Boom says…the internet told me that if i rub banana peel on my acne and acne marks that it will help soothe and diminish them. Any truth to this? There is loads about this on youtube.

We know that bananas peels are rich in Vitamin A, which is a proven topical treatment for acne. So, yes, absolutely, rubbing banana peels on your face is probably the best natural treatment for breakouts.

Hang on….Just because banana peels contain vitamin A that doesn’t mean you can just rub them on your face and get rid of zits. Let’s break this down. Vitamin A is a group of chemicals, not one single compound. What kind of vitamin A is good for acne?

That would be Retinoids, like retinol or retinoic acid.

Ok, do bananas contain Vitamin A in the form of retinoids?

Not exactly, they contain Beta carotene. But beta carotene can be converted into retinol, so like I said banana peels are a great natural….

Wait a minute. HOW does beta carotene get converted to retinol?

Uh, well. there’s an enzyme in the digestive tract of some animals that can convert it.

Can humans convert it?

No, humans don’t have that enzyme.

And can it be converted when applied topically to skin?

Well, I couldn’t find any data proving it could but I can’t prove that it can’t either. So maybe all that beta carotene in banana peels DOES end up as retinol which can fight acne. Then it would work!

Ok, maybe. Assuming there’s enough of the active ingredient. How much beta carotene is in banana peels?

About 150 micrograms of BC per gram of banana peel.

The average banana peel weighs about 10 grams so if you rubbed 2 peels on your face that would give you about 3000 micrograms of BC which is about 0.003 grams. So if ALL the BC converted to retinol you’d have .003 grams of retinol. right?

No one wants to hear you do math on the podcast.

Just answer the question.

Ok, yes 0.003 grams.

Now, just rubbing the peel is not going to release all of that but how much is reasonable? Half of it?

Yeah, OK let’s assume just rubbing the peel on your face releases 50% of the total vitamin A.

So you end up with maybe 0.0015 grams of retinol on you face. Right?


And how much retinol does a typical anti-acne cream contain?

Maybe 1% retinol and you apply maybe a few grams to your face so you’re applying about 5 grams of product and 1% of 5 grams is 0.05 grams of retinol.

So even IF … all the vitamin A in a banana peel gets converted to the correct form (which it doesn’t) and even IF you could get all that vitamin A out of the peel and onto your skin (which you can’t) THEN you’d still have only about 0.0015 grams from banana vs. 0.05 grams vs a cream.

That is correct.

So the vitamin A from banana peels is AT LEAST 30 times more dilute than what’s used in a cream. And that’s a BEST case scenario. In fact, its probable that you’d have much much less than that. Do you STILL think banana peels can work for acne?

Yes but according to your calculations, if you rubbed 60 banana peels on your face maybe then could work.

Let’s just go on to the next question…

Fine. I win.

Does wearing liquid foundation “dilute” your sunscreen?

Sarah says…I read that .wearing liquid foundation over sunscreen “dilutes” your sun protection. I guess my take is that you may be moving your sunscreen around a little while applying foundation, but it’s unlikely you’re removing it altogether–where would it go? I’m not going to lose sleep about this, but I’d be curious for your take.

We can think of a few reasons why this might be plausible…First, if you apply foundation over sunscreen before the sunscreen has a chance to form a proper film, that can cause problems. This could disrupt the emulsion to the point where you could lose coverage. Waiting about 15 minutes would solve that problem.

Second, you may (consciously or unconsciously) use less sunscreen if you know you’re applying another product on top of it. Obviously if you under dose the sunscreen it won’t provide the targeted SPF.

On sort of a related note….perhaps whoever wrote was referring to makeup that contains SPF. Some people think that SPF is additive but it’s not: SPF 50 plus SPF 15 does not equal SPF 65. At best you’ll get an average of the two which in this case would be SPF 57.5.

So if you’re layering SPF and expecting them to add up, you will be “diluting” that total. Sort of.

Beauty Science News

Microbes in skin care


Here’s a story that shows you the direction that the cosmetic market may be taking in the future. Beneficial microbes in your skin care products. Now we all know that bacteria is typically not a good thing. In fact, those antibacterial soaps were all about killing all the bacteria that’s on your body. Well, scientists have recently been studying the surface of the skin and the microbial ecosystem and have found that while there are some harmful disease causing bacteria, there are also good bacteria that protect your skin from viruses, other bacteria and microbes.

Some marketers are now taking advantage of these helpful bacteria by creating pro-biotic cosmetics. Probiotics are common in the food industry and like most things that work in the food industry, the cosmetic industry figures people will like it in their cosmetics. There are a couple of challenges to this technology the least of which is how to talk about it. Do consumers really want to use a product that contains live bacteria? Who wants to put bacteria on their bodies? So experts suggest talking about the micro biome and giving it a positive spin. I know there’s a brand called Mother Dirt (http://motherdirt.com/) that is all about pro-biotic for the skin. This brand was started by some university types. We’ll see how well they do. They do claim the product to be preservative free mostly because if they had preservatives in the product that will kill the good bacteria too.

Most of the products that are taking advantage of this pro-biotic trend are not delivering live bacteria but rather deactivated probiotics. The claim is that these ingredients will help boost the wellness of resident bacteria. It seems like a sketchy claim to me.

I don’t know where this will go. I think consumers like foam and these products are going to have lower levels (if any) of surfactants and they probably aren’t going to smell great. It’s also difficult to see the actual benefit you get. But what do I know. Lots of companies think this is the future of skin treatments and maybe it is. But I’m skeptical…as we’ll see in the next story, J&J isn’t


Anti-bacterial soap ban


The FDA is further restricting which ingredients can be used in antibacterial hand and body washes. We’ve touched on this in the past – in the last few years use of these AB products have exploded so the FDA has been taking a fresh look at them to make sure there are no issues.

First of all they found that these types of products don’t really work all that well. In fact, there’s no compelling data to show they work better than regular soap and water. Secondly, over-exposure MAY cause some health concerns, although the data there is not conclusive either. But, the FDA did the prudent thing – if there’s no real benefit and there is some slight risk – then it makes sense to prohibit use of these ingredients. It’s still kind of complicated – This new rule applies to wash products containing one or more of 19 specific active ingredients, including the most commonly used ingredients – triclosan and triclocarban. The FDA is still looking at the data for 3 other ingredients. Also, this applies only to the wash type products sold to consumer. It does NOT include hand sanitizers or antibacterial products sold for use professional health care.

J&J get into microbe research


According to a recent report in cosmetics design, J&J has signed a research agreement with a company called Xycrobe Therapeutics. They are exploring how engineered bacteria can be used in personal care treatment products. Xycrobe has sever bacterial strains that have a close relationship with the human body. They see these organisms as ones that will have the ability to help treat an array of skin issues. It will be looked at for treating things like acne, psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema.

This good bacteria area is ripe with research. And for good reason because it really is a new line of study. The truth is most cosmetic products that you use right now aren’t drastically different than the things that people were using in the 1950’s and 60’s. There hasn’t really been a significant technological development in a long time. But these microbes could certainly be a new technology.

So, look for this technology to first be applied to anti acne products. That’s probably the biggest market and there are just some people who don’t respond to standard treatments.

Citrus fruits and skin cancer


Apparently eating a lot of fruits like oranges and grapefruits can increase your risk of contracting melanoma. This study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology says that citrus products contain psoralens and fur-O-coumarins which can stimulate certain cancers when they’re exposed to light. The study looked at the diets of over 100,000 people over the course of 4 years. After controlling for other factors, the melanoma risk was found to by 36% higher in people who ate citrus fruits more than 1.5 times per day. So I’m sure it won’t be long before some enterprising beauty company starts selling sunscreen in the produce aisle of the grocery store.

Millennials aren’t buying soap bars


Remember back in the early 90’s when we were working at Alberto? That is when body washes were just getting started. At that time soap was still the dominant product. But boy have things changed. Now bar soap is seen as old fashioned and Americans in the age range of 18 to 24 just aren’t buying it. The people buying it the most are men over the age of 60.

According to a study published by Mintel the overall market growth in soap, bath and shower products was plus 2.7%. But sales of bar soaps have slipped 2.2%. Young consumers and women just don’t like traditional bar soaps any more. One reason is that millennials believe bar soap is covered with germs after using them. And some health authorities like Minnesotas Department of Health is suggesting that people should use liquid soaps because germs can grow on bar soap and spread infection. That seems questionable to me. I know big companies would prefer people buy liquid soaps. The profit margin is higher.

iTunes Reviews

Googerstu says…Both Perry and Randy are knowledgeable, have great chemistry (with each other. pun intended), and care about the public. Only critique: I wish we knew more about Randy: has he ever tried joggling? What is his favorite long-named cosmetic ingredient? What does he like to read? Does he appreciate wild animals? The lack of personal info makes the dialogue a bit like an effective half-head-test; it’s a bit lopsided.

Asair2139 says…The beauty brains approaches beauty from the side of science…and it has saved me money and made me smarter! Some people complain about their banter at the beginning of episodes, but I think they’ve found the right mix of fluff and hard science to make the podcast fun and substantive.

Robert from Canada says…A bit of a drag on those quiz things but the tighter format is much better. it’s much better on my patience and my ears. Really would like more product reviews. I swear by the brand Live Clean. I would love your feedback on it. Who makes it any inside info.

Quick answer: The company doesn’t list ingredients on their website or anywhere else I could find.  That’s a huge red flag. I went to the website to find out more about their company…usually look at for legal footer info on who owns who. The link doesn’t work. The background just says…Proudly a Canadian brand, Live Clean launched with the premise that hair care products could be environmentally friendly, highly effective, and a pleasure to use. They also say that SLS/SLES are derived from petro-chemical ingredients but they are also derived from coconut oil. Finally, they’re against parabens which is not good science.

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Are Micellar Water makeup removers the real deal? Episode 150

What’s the deal with micellar water make up removers?

Taylor asks…I’m a new listener and enjoy your show so much. (Gets me through the work day) I want to know the hype about micellar water and is this something new or just a mild makeup remover with a “fancy name.”screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-3-46-32-pm

Micellar waters are named after the technical term, micelle, so before we talk about the products we should explain what that is.

Micelles are structures that are formed when surfactant are dissolved in water. Remember that surfactants, short for surface active agents, are used in beauty products as cleansers and emulsifiers that help mix oil and water soluble ingredients.

If you look at the chemical structure of surfactants they typically have a long oil soluble tail and water soluble polar head group.  When surfactants are present in water at a certain concentration, they begin to assemble into larger structures based on the water soluble/oil soluble parts of the molecule. The oil soluble tails try to group together to get away from the water. The lowest energy state for them is to have all the tails together so they are shielded from water by the polar head groups – which again, water soluble. Think of it as a ball or sphere of surfactant molecules with head on outside, tails facing inside.

These spheres of surfactants are called micelles and the concentration of surfactant required to form them is called the Critical Micelle Concentration or CMC.

Micelles have a couple of useful properties – the oil soluble tails can interact with other oil soluble materials like dirt and oil, and sort of trap them inside the micelle away from the water. That’s how micelles allow surfactants to mix oil and water soluble materials.

Secondly, the structure of the micelle helps reduce the irritation potential of certain surfactants. It’s kind of counter intuitive but because of micelle formation, a surfactant may actually be more irritating at a LOWER concentration (when the molecules are floating around by themselves) rather than at a higher concentration when they’re tied up in micelles. And that brings us back to micellar waters…

The idea is that Micellar Waters are milder or better for you skin because the surfactants are tied up in micelles. I think these products are more likely to be mild because they don’t use harsh surfactants in the first place.

Yeah, if you look at the ingredient list for products that claim to be micellar waters they tend NOT to use traditional, high foaming surfactants. Instead they use a combination of nonionic surfactants, which tend to be milder on skin. One of most common nonionic surfactant used in micellar waters is Poloxamer 184.

This ingredient is made of units of polyoxyethylene, followed by a unit of polyoxypropylene, followed by a unit of polyoxyethylene. It can reduce surface tension and help lift away dirt. Some versions of Poloxamer can give the skin a soft and smooth appearance.

Micellar waters also use solvents like hexylene glycol. In fact, that’s the number one ingredient in almost every micellar water I’ve seen. HG can help remove oily makeup all by itself and it’s not harsh on skin. Also use PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides which function similarly.

It’s also import to note that some MW do use more traditional anionic foaming surfactants but they are typically more mild, like Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate.

So overall, yes, these MW products are likely to be milder than many other cleansers. And, unlike traditional foaming cleanser’s they don’t necessarily have to be rinsed. They may even provide more of pleasant after feel than other cleansing products.

I have to say that companies have done a great job marketing these products. Somehow, these seem so special that they should be really expensive.

Yea, remember “micellar water” is a marketing term not a true technical term. (Technically we would say it’s a makeup remover “with a surfactant levels that has met or surpassed the Critical Micelle Concentration.”) There’s anything wrong with that being marketing driven but just don’t be tricked into thinking it’s worth more money because of the fancy name.

But they SHOULDN’T be that expensive. There are some very affordable MW products on the market. You can spend Simple has one that only costs about $1.00 per ounce. Of course there’s Lancôme EAU FRAÎCHE DOUCEUR Micellar Cleansing Water which is 6x the price. I doubt it’s 6 times better.

Do vitamin c boosters really work?

Sam says…I like using Paula’s Choice C15 booster exactly as indicated: adding it into my current lotions to “boost” their performance. This is super convenient because it doesn’t alter my existing routine, AND I can mix it into my body lotion and get this serum’s benefits all over without going bankrupt.

However, I am super confused about how Paula’s booster actually works when mixed with other products. Since ascorbic acid requires a pH below 3.5 to remain stable, how can the it possibly maintain this when mixed with any variety of unknown products? Paula’s customer service says the serum was formulated with this in mind and it has penetration enhancers to ensure that the ascorbic acid is viable when mixing.

NuFountain makes a similar product but they say mixing it with other products will likely affect the pH and render the ascorbic acid useless. They say to apply their serum first to allow full absorption of the ascorbic acid without any chance of altering its efficacy.

So what is going on? Are these two serums really radically different or is someone just wrong here?

I don’t think it’s a question of who’s right or wrong, I think it’s more about degrees of rightness. I understand the appeal of the “booster” premise. Essentially you’re turning any regular skin cream into a vitamin C treatment. That’s a great idea. It another way of making a 2 in 1 product. And you know what we say about 2 in 1 products…

You may gain convenience when you make a combination product but you’re always going to compromise one benefit or the other, or both, when you try to combine two products into one.

In this case you’re sacrificing the efficacy of ascorbic acid to gain the convenience of quicker product application. Let’s look at the facts.

There are 3 factors that can impact the stability of ascorbic acid in a situation like this.

  • pH – as Sam said, the pH needs to be around 3.5 for maximum stability.
  • Ingredient interaction – it’s well established that certain ingredients like oxidants and metal ions can degrade the stability of AA.
  • Dilution effect – The ideal concentration of AA is about 15 or 20%. Much more than that and it will irritate skin. Much less than that and it won’t be as effective.

So what happens when you use the “booster approach?” You’re mixing AA serum with other products that may have any or all of these 3 factors.

The pH of a typical skin lotion is in the range of 4 to 6 so you’re raising the pH out of the ideal range. I don’t see how a small amount of this booster could lower the pH of a large amount of a secondary product.

Lotions do contain oxidants and metal ions so you may be introducing destabilizing agents.

And, you’re putting a few drops of a concentrated serum into a larger volume of another product – so by definition you’re diluting the AA.

That’s ESPECIALLY true in Sam’s case where she’s using it in a body lotion to “get the benefits all over.”

Okay, so we’ve established that the boosting approach is more likely to reduce AA efficacy compared to using the AA serum on it’s own. Does that make Paula’s Choice a liar?

NO! Because none of these 3 factors we just described COMPLETELY deactivate AA. They just make it less stable. Some percentage will still work it just won’t be optimal.

In other words, if you use the product as Paula describes you’ll get the convenience and some of the benefits of vitamin C.

Right but the efficacy of the vitamin C may not be at the same level as using the serum on its own – depending upon what you mix it with.

The bottom line is that both companies may be correct but to different degrees. You have to decide which benefit is more important to you.

The best approach is to use Vit C serum by itself, apply other products later. Less convenient but maximum efficacy. Mix booster with other creams: Get convenience but sacrifice some efficacy.

How do salt sprays create texture on hair?

Annie asks…How does sea salt work to create texture in the hair? Why is it so good at creating waves? Can it be bad in any way?

Salt dries on hair and it forms a coating. Because of the crystalline nature of salt this coating has a gritty feel. This type of coating is especially good at increasing friction between hair fibers which gives texture. BTW, sugar behaves similar but may be sticky, especially in high humidity.

I don’t see any reason why it would make straight hair wavy but if your hair has a natural wave it could enhance that creating more entanglement between fibers.

What are the negative impacts sea salt can have on hair health? It’s a fact of nature that water tends to move from areas of high concentration to areas of lower concentration. This is the principle of osmotic pressure. So moisture that’s inside your hair MAY migrate outward toward the salt where it will evaporate.

That means if you have very dry/porous hair, you might want to stay away from salt-based styling products. The more porous your hair the easier it is for moisture to leach out.

That, of course, presumes that the salt is really what’s providing the benefit. If you’re interested in a salt spray just make sure you read the ingredients to see it’s really the salt doing the work and not something else. Polymers do the same thing but provide more hold less grit. (PVP or ones that start with PVP/VA).

Beauty Science News

Self-cleaning hair brush


Here’s an innovation that I think is very cool – a self cleaning hairbrush. Scientists at The Ohio State University (go Buckeyes!) discovered that a lot of people just throw away their hairbrushes because they’re so hard to clean. That means cleaning your hairbrush is a sustainability issue.

So, they designed a 3D printed hairbrush that has a flexible backbone – you simply bend back the top of handle part and the bristle part moves forward which makes it very easy to pull all the hair and junk right off. You let go and it snaps right back into place.

The university is looking for licensing partners to commercialize this patented hairbrush (US 8,857,005) in the health and beauty industry — for people and for pets.
I can’t wait to see this on the market – and I suggest it may make a good gift for Mrs. R.

Who are the top beauty brands so far in 2016?


The midyear beauty brand rankings are out and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the leaders.

So this is a ranking put out by YouGov BrandIndex. This company is supposedly the authority on measuring brand perception. They measure public perception of thousands of different types of brands in different sectors. They do this by interviewing thousands of customers every day and they do it on a global basis.

They published the results of the top brands in the US for beauty products. Specifically, they got their rankings by asking consumers “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”

And unsurprisingly the top spots are held by traditional beauty companies like P&G and Unilever. Here are the top 5 beauty brands for the first half of 2016.

5. Pantene with a score of 12.6. These scores can range anywhere from +100 to -100 so that gives you some perspective on the overall score.

4. Neutrogena is next with a score of 14.0

3. Olay has the next highest buzz score at 14.2

2. Is Head and Shoulders with a score of 14.7

And the number one beauty brand thus far in 2016 is Dove with a score of 16.8

If you look at the brands that have most improved in scores from the same time period last year, Head & Shoulders is best followed by Dove, and Neutrogena. Then L’Oreal Paris comes in next and finally MAC cosmetics. It seems they done something to improve their scores.

I guess what I find most interesting is that big brands still dominate the minds of consumers. I thought in this age of the Internet that smaller brands would be able to break through the noise of traditional advertising and steal the spot light. But it’s not true. So far, you can’t beat real advertising when it comes to making yourself known.

Shocking new information on hair loss


Let me just say that in discussing this next article I intend no disrespect to our follicularly challenged male listeners. But, science says bald guys are less attractive.

This seems to fall into the category of another one of those scientific studies that we probably didn’t need to waste money on.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Facial Plastic Surgery answers the question “Does how much hair a man has matter in how he is perceived?” The researcher, who by the way is from Johns Hopkins University, surveyed 122 people and found that men with hair were rated as “more youthful, attractive, successful and approachable.”

My favorite quote: “Limitations of the study include its small population and study design. “

We could do a better job than that using our email list and Survey Monkey. One would’ve thought that the billion-dollar hair growth industry might have been a clue that having hair on your head is a desirable attribute. Nonetheless now we have scientific proof.

Skin care line made from centipede poop.


We’ve got some beauty news out of South Korea. It seems like all the hot new beauty trends start there doesn’t it?

Anyway, researchers there have now launched a cosmetics line using an antibiotic substance found in a species of centipede. These centipedes have apparently long been used in traditional Korean medicines for generation but now this knowledge has been applied to cosmetics. Specifically, they focus on the centipede’s antibacterial property.

The extract is known as scolopendrasin I and it’s a peptide excreted by the centipedes to fight bacteria. Scientists believe that it is a proven effective treatment for atopic dermatitis.

They say that two companies are in the process of commercializing products using this centipede ingredient.

I wonder what their brand names might be.

Cent Impede – the brand that stops bacteria in it’s tracks

SPF = Savory Poultry Fun


The term SPF typically stands for Sun Protection Factor but I think it could also mean “Savory Poultry Fun.” That’s because it was in the news this week that fast food giant KFC now has a sunscreen that smells like fried chicken.

Apparently this is a promotional stunt for the Extra Crispy chicken because they tell us “The only skin that should be extra crispy this summer is on your fried chicken.” Their website describes how it works: “Harmful ultraviolet rays bounce off your skin while the lovely fragrance rays penetrate it to give you a healthy chicken aroma.”
My favorite quote: Several Associated Press reporters who tested the sunscreen said the smell did not immediately bring to mind chicken, however.

Remember our cosmetic chemist friend Colin Sanders who runs Colin’s Beauty Pages? Do you think he’s related to Colonel Sanders?

iTunes reviews

Patrickbooth says…5 stars I came for the science, but stayed for the banter. Perry is a loquacious, good natured fellow, while Randy is the somewhat curmudgeonly of the two slyly jabbing at Perry which makes for a fun time. Sometimes I think Perry could offer Randy a nice belly rub to open him up to the audience more.

Jenni4ever…5 stars Great chemistry. These two guys bring thoughtful and well articulated discussion to beauty. I specifically appreciate that they don’t use a beauty consultant as previously suggested by another reviewer. I think this untainted take on the chemistry/utility of the products gives me the most educational and straightforward information.

Kangopie from South Africa says…4 stars This is a great show! They are a bit lame but funny all the same … thats a compliment. Somehow having never met them I trust their reviews and commentary because they look at the science.

Jus1Me says…Love it when you don’t take breaks 3 stars. You take far too long on your breaks. This is the third week where you are playing repeats. Unacceptable. It doesn’t take much effort to sit and put a good show together, even when on vacation. You guys are too good to slack for so long.

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Is Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle cream really miraculous? Episode 149

Is Charlotte Tilbury Multi-miracle cream really worth it?2941691931_dbabec0f53_z

Jo asks…I love Charlotte Tilbury’s Multi-Miracle Glow product but I’m afraid I spent too much and I worry that it really provides any benefits. Can you tell me if it has any special properties and if not is there a more budget conscious version?

Thanks for the question, Jo. It sounds like you’re really torn about using this product so let’s see if we can help.

First of all, don’t be confused if you decide to look for this product because in addition to Mult-miracle glow she also sells a “Magic Cream.” Apparently Charlotte went to the “Harry Potter School of Cosmetic Marketing.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerous Skin Cream? By the way that brings to mind another beauty question, if you have a Harry Potter, do you shave it or pluck it? Wax it? Anyway…

Let’s begin by taking a look at exactly what this product claims to do. Here are some of the claims from the website:

  • The basic idea is that this is a 3 in 1 product: a deep cleansing face balm with anti-wrinkle benefits; a regenerating mask with an “overnight facial” finish; and a “SOS remedy that you can use on cuticles, elbows, heels and shins to cheat the body of an angel!”
  • It features ingredients like Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil and Cranberry Seed Oil that “are highly effective anti-oxidant pure oils that moisturise the skin & stimulate micro-circulation.” That’s a drug claim!
  • It also has “extracts of frangipani flower soothe and help purify dirt and makeup” Purified dirt?
  • Then there are Rose hip and camellia oil regenerate the skin to delay the signs of aging
  • Finally, our old friends Vitamins A, C and E to “smooth wrinkles and bring the skin’s complexion back to life.”
  • So as you can see, the anti-aging claims are pretty standard – lots of products make these kinds of claims. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain any of the best anti-aging ingredients like retinol or niacinamide.

It does contain a functional version of Vit C (Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate) but since it appears on the ingredient list below fragrance we know it doesn’t contain a very high level. That means it probably isn’t very effective.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of the product is that can be used as a cleanser as well as a moisturizer. That’s because unlike most products it’s based on Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride which is a coconut oil derived material that can have both cleansing and moisturizing benefits.

Yea but as we’ve discussed before there are always trade offs when you combine functionality like this. That means it won’t be the best cleanser or the best moisturizer. Which brings us back to the question of product value.

Jo is right about the product being expensive. It’s costs $100 for 100 mls which is A LOT especially when you consider Charlotte’s telling you to use it on your elbows, shins, etc.

So it doesn’t have any special anti-aging benefits, it makes some compromises between being a great cleanser and a great moisturizer, and it’s really expensive. Sorry Jo but this doesn’t sound like the best way to spend your money.

Like we always tell people, if really love a product and you can afford it, then you should buy it. But don’t buy it because of the things that the company tells you. There are similar products that can save you a lot of money.

Yes, we found a couple of other products that are based on Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride. I’ll put links in the show notes but one is Credentials Collagen Elastin 14-1 Creme and it costs $14 for 2 ounces.

Another is Hyaluronic Acid Beauty Cream which costs about $24 for 2 ounces. We’re not saying these are identical to Charlottes product but they may have a similar feel and they cost a LOT less.

Charlotte Multi-miracle Glow ingredients: Glycerin, Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride , Cyclopentasiloxane, Sucrose Stearate, Phenyl Trimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance (Parfum), Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, PEG-8, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Rubus Chamaemorus Seed Oil, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Bht, Plumeria Rubra Flower Extract, Red 40 (CI 16035), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Benzoate

Replacement options:

Credentials Collagen Elastin 14-1 Creme

INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Methyl Gluceth-20, Stearic Acid, Polysorbate 60, Cetyl Alcohol, Soluable Collagen, Sorbitan Stearate, Hydrolyzed Elastin, Fragrance (Parfum), Sodium Dehydroacetate, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben

Hyaluronic Acid Beauty Cream

Ingredients: Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Emulsifying Wax NF, Glycerin, Isopropyl Myristate, Stearic Acid, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Butylene Glycol (and) Calluna Vulgaris Extract, Glyceryl Stearate, Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E), Phenoxyethanol (and) Chlorphenesin (and) Propylene Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 80, Perfume, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethanolamine, Sodium Magnesium Silicate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Bisabolol, Tocopherol (Vitamin E).

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Is “Not Your Mother’s” shampoo” any good?

Brokensticker says…I bought this shampoo- “Not Your Mothers Way to Grow Shampoo” thinking the ingredients sounded good but I find it’s drying to my hair. Can you please explain what I’m finding to be drying? I can’t figure out why- all of the ingredients seem good to me.

You know what’s more confusing than the ingredients? The branding! It’s Not Your Mothers. Or is it Not your Mothers Way? Or Not your mothers way to grow…Long and strong shampoo.

I wasn’t familiar with the brand so I checked out their website. It looks like they’re all about creating what they call “the highest quality, salon comparable products at the most affordable prices.”

That sounds laudable, let’s take a look at the ingredients in this shampoo to see if they succeeded. The backbone of the formula consists of cocamidopropyl betaine, which is typically used as a secondary foam boosting surfactant, and a blend of sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, sodium methyl oleoyl taurate, and sodium cocoyl isethionate. It also contains a conditioning polymer polyquaternium-7.

The isethionate/taurate combination does make for a mild system but it’s kind of unusual to use the betaine as the primary surfactant. I’m wouldn’t be surprised if the foam feels significantly different. In terms of what’s drying your hair, it could just be the lack of conditioning agents.

Yeah, the Polyquat-7 is the only thing that’s going to stay on your hair after rinsing to provide some slip. They don’t use any silicones or other two in one type conditioners like guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride.

In terms of value, this stuff sells for $6 for 8 ounces so as they promise it is more affordable than many salon products. And unlike many salon products, they are using premium cleansers. (You’d be surprised how many salon shampoos just use basic SLES based formulas.)

Brokensticker might be better off with one of the sulfate free shampoos from the L’Oreal line. They’re slightly cheaper, they use an even better surfactant mix and they contain more conditioning agents.

Ingredients: Water, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, sodium methyl oleoyl taurate, acrylates copolymer, fragrance, sodium cocoyl isethionate, polyquaternium-7, polygonium multiflorum extract, aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) seed extract, retinyl palmitate, tocopherol, inositol, calcium pantothenate, linoleic acid, biotin, apigenin, oleanolic acid, biotinoyl tripeptide-1, alcohol, PEG-35 castor oil, polysorbate 20, butylene glycol, PPG-26-buteth-26, PEG-40 hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glycol Distearate, Laureth-4, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Does this eyelash growth product really work?

FLA Girl in NJ asks…Would you please analyze the ingredients of Shiseido’s Full Lash Serum and comment as to whether any of these ingredients are prostaglandins or prostaglandin derivatives, or whether it contains any other ingredient that could potentially change eye color?  Are there any other lash growth serums you could recommend that are proven 100% safe with regard to not changing eye color?

Remember the great: “Jan Marini Eyelash Growth Controversy?” back in the 2000s? Back in 2003, a group of dermatologist published a paper in the Dermatology Online Journal suggesting that a drug used for glaucoma (latanoprost) actually stimulated eyelash growth. This could be the basis for the Jan Marini eyelash product.

I was amazed that this could be true! It seems to me that this would’ve been HUGE news in the cosmetic business and the general public. But it went by without nearly a mention. Imagine the money this discovery could bring in!
 Then I dug a little deeper and found out why the discovery likely passed unnoticed. Subsequent studies were not able to repeat what the original scientists demonstrated. According to these scientists in an article published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, topical application of latanoprost was NOT EFFECTIVE.

Not having seen the original papers, I can’t say which research study is more believable. However, in terms of credibility, the American Academy of Dermatology is one of the premiere organizations in the area of dermatology so they win out there. Additionally, amazing claims like “Renews hair growth” require amazing proof. One paper in an online journal that can’t be reproduced by peers is hardly amazing proof.

In the case of this product, it appears that the active ingredient is arginine. There is some information that suggests that arginine can stimulate release of nitrous oxide which in turn stimulates increased blood flow to the follicle and therefore increases hair growth.

We couldn’t find any definitive studies which back this up although there are several patents along this line from Proctor, L’Oreal and others.

Just because something has a patent doesn’t mean it really works. The patent could be a method of composition or even something related to packaging.

Shiseido Full Lash Serum:
Water (Aqua/Eau), Dipropylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Sorbitol, Alcohol, Polyvinyl Acetate, Glycerin, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Methylparaben, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Potassium Hydroxide, Arginine, Xanthan Gum, Zizyphus Jujuba Fruit Extract, Simethicone, Trisodium Edta, Tocopherol.

Beauty Science News

Scorpion nail polish


Here’s a story about a weird beauty trend that is going on in Latin America. Women are getting scorpion manicures. That is, they get manicures and glue tiny scorpions to their nails.

According to the story published in the Daily Mail, it started out as a joke by one beauty parlor and just caught on from there. They were having a scorpion theme day at the salon and had the crazy idea to glue dead baby scorpions to people’s nails. They posted a video on their Facebook page and it went viral. This led to people from across North America to visit the salon to get a manicure with baby scorpions attached to their nails.

Before applying them they kill the tiny insects with bug spray but these things still have their stingers and venom. It’s highly unlikely that you would get them venom in your bloodstream but still, it seems pretty crazy. And I feel a bit bad for the scorpions.

Incidentally, I searched and didn’t find any comment about this from PETA. No one is looking out for the ethical treatment of scorpions.


Marvel for men


You know I’m always on the look out for stories that intersect two of my passions: beauty science and comic books. That’s why I was excited to hear that the brand Magic Shave has teamed up with Marvel Comics to create a media program around their shaving products using the hero Luke Cage. The storyline is titled “Luke Cage in a Close Shave!” Get it?
Hearing about this once again turned my mind to other Super hero themed personal care products. I have 3 suggestions, are you ready?

  • Stretch mark cream for Mr. Fantastic.
  • Some kind of eye drops for Daredevil.
  • And for Jessica Jones maybe a bourbon scented skin lotion.

Is flossing really just a waste of time?


This story reminded me of one of my goals from a couple years ago. My goal was to floss every single day. And I was successful. I guess once you get into the habit, it’s pretty easy to do.

Anyway, the next year I restarted the goal and was doing fine until I heard a dentist interviewed on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast and this guy said that there was no scientific basis for the recommendation to floss. He claimed there were no peer reviewed studies to demonstrate flossing helps prevent gum disease or cavities. After that I sort of waned on flossing after I ran out of floss.

The thing is that no one believed me. I had a discussion with my dentists and neither he nor my hygienist thought what I was saying made sense. They told me they were taught in dental school that flossing was a good thing to do.

Well, according to Associate Press, they verified what the skeptical dentist on the show was saying. There is no scientific evidence that proves the benefits of flossing.

So, do you think that means people should stop flossing?

What it really means is that this is a subject that hasn’t really been studied very well. There are no groups who find it important enough to do a peer reviewed double blind study on the subject because everyone just assumes that there is benefits.

P&G who sells lots dental floss pointed to a two week study which “proved” that floss fights plaque but a scientific review of the study found that it was lacking (and only lasted 2 weeks). J&J declined to comment when presented evidence that flossing doesn’t reduce plaque.

So what do we make of this?

I don’t know. It seems obvious that there should be a benefit to flossing but there haven’t been good enough studies to show that it is. Maybe there just needs to be more studies.

I know I still floss just not as obsessively as I did that one year. And I don’t feel bad about it either.

This does go to show you that just because you do something and that experts recommend it, doesn’t mean that a scientific evaluation of the advice will show that their is any benefit.

Why swimming pools make your eyes red


For those of you listening to this in the summer of 2016, swimming pools have been in the news lately because of the Olympics. BTW I’m not saying Perry and I went to Rio on vacation…Anyway…Everyone knows that the chlorine compounds used to sanitize swimming pools are irritating and can make your eyes red. Right? WRONG! I just read an article that explains that the chlorine itself does NOT do that. But chorine reacts with nitrogen it can form a compound called chloramine that IS irritating. Chloramine can make your eyes string and look blood shot it can even irritate your lungs and make you cough. AND how do you think the nitrogen gets in the pool?

That’s right, mostly from poo and pee and sweat. A clean chlorinated pool will NOT cause you any irritation. Only ones full of dirty diapers, or whatever.

iTunes reviews

  • RachelMarie13 says…Randy and Perry give great unbiased information which is hard to find in beauty these days. Up there with Serial and this American Life. The best beauty podcast I have found.
  • Pam says…I am so excited to continue my journey learning from these wise scientists. Thank you for all that you do!!!
  • Bubafzhyvx says… informative, unbiased and funny, love it!
  • LaurisseRT has “Only one suggestion. The only way this show could get better is if they played airhorn sounds after the hosts burn each other with their witty quips.
    Eyelash growth product
  • FLA Girl in NJ asks…Would you please analyze the ingredients of Shiseido’s Full Lash Serum and comment as to whether any of these ingredients are prostaglandins or prostaglandin derivatives, or whether it contains any other ingredient that could potentially change eye color?  Are there any other lash growth serums you could recommend that are proven 100% safe with regard to not changing eye color?

Does an anti-aging skin cleanser really exist? Episode 148

Our plane just landed and I’m posting this from my phone while waiting for Perry who’s stuck in customs. Unknown-2Apparently they think his juggling balls are contraband. We’ll be home soon! In the meanwhile listen to this blast from the past about skin cleansers and active ingredients.

Click this link to read the original show notes.


Zika or bug spray: which is more dangerous? Episode 147

I thought for sure we’d be back in the country by now but before we could board the plane Perry was detained by the police. I’m still not sure what’s going on but apparently it has something to do him getting robbed on the way back to the hotel.  mosquito-clip-art-mosquito-clip-art-9

Don’t worry though, you can still listen to this encore episode where we discuss the infamous “date rape” nail polish controversy and the safety of DEET, the active ingredient in mosquito sprays.

Click here for the original show notes.


Are fragrance allergies all in your head? Episode 146

I thought we’d be flying home from our tropical vacation today but it turns out Perry lost our plane tickets in a poker game last night. Looks like we’ll be flying stand by. Until we get this all sorted out, please enjoy this encore episode on fragrance allergies.images

You an find the original show notes here.

Image credit: http://www.blossomofhealth.com/