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Why isn’t everyone exfoliating with AHAs? Episode 159

Why isn’t everyone exfoliating with AHAs?

Melissa says…I’ve been using an night cream with glycolic acid and I noticed that my skin is actually brighter, clearer, and softer. I’ve been using this product for years and I still love it but I worry that it may be too good to be true. Are there any risks associated with alpha hydroxy acid products? Why aren’t we are using them?

Thanks Melissa. Long time fans of the show will remember that I love getting questions about Alpha Hydroxy Acids because it gives me an excuse to retell the story of the marketing director for St. Ives didn’t quite get the acronym and would instead of calling them AHAs would call them “Ah-Ha’s.” That always amused me during meetings because it sounded like she was speaking with exclamation marks. “We need to launch a new AHA!”

Before we can answer Melissa’s questions, let’s quickly recap what AHAs are and how they work. Alpha Hydroxy Acids are a class of chemical that is used to loosen dead skin cells.They consist of long chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms with a carboxylic acid group at the end. When naming carbon chains we start by labeling the carbon next to the carboxylate which is known as the α carbon, the next carbon is the β carbon, and so forth. So in this case the carboxylate is on that first carbon so this is an ALPHA hydroxy acid. Salicylic acid has the group on the second carbon so it’s a BETA hydroxy acid.

They work by softening the “glue” that holds skin cells together so the dead ones fall off more easily. When this happens, the basal layer is triggered to produce fresh skin cells. This is also referred to as “increasing cell turnover.”

There are several types of AHAs. The two most common are Glycolic and Lactic. Glycolic acid is the smallest, it can be derived from sugar cane or produced synthetically. Lactic is also known as “milk acid” because it can be derived from soured dairy products, as well as fermented vegetables and fruit.

One less popular AHA is actually Perry’s favorite to pronounce: Tartaric Acid. Other runners up include citric and malic acid. There’s another that’s technically a PHA or polyhydroxy acid and that’s lactobionic acid. Interestingly, According to research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Lactobionic acid is not only more effective than glycolic acid at improving cell turn over but it’s also less irritating. An international team from London, Serbia and Slovenia tested both AHAs in a cream and a gel. 26 volunteers used the products twice a day for two weeks. The researchers found that Lactobionic acid scored better in both forms even though their data indicated the gel base worked a bit better than the cream form.

But Melissa asked if there are risks associated with AHAs. Yes, there are. Some people can’t tolerate their effects and they experience redness and irritation (especially if they have rosacea prone skin.) Using products too frequently or using products that have too high of a concentration can exacerbate this problem. A potentially bigger problem is that if you misuse AHAs they can increase the danger of UV exposure. This was determined by the European Commission on Scientific Affairs. This is problematic is you’re using them improperly or too often but for most people, AHAs are perfectly fine.

So if they work so good and they’re safe for most people, why isn’t everybody using them? Great question! First of all, everyone’s skin is different and not everyone responds to AHAs to the same degree. Some people (especially if they’re prone to conditions like rosacea) are likely to see redness and irritation to an extent that can over whelm the benefits. Other people may have dabbled with AHA products but perhaps they didn’t choose one with a high level of actives and were so disappointed in the results that they just gave up. But there are a lot of people like yourself who have picked a good product to which they respond to well. Good for you!!

The other factor, in my opinion, is that the beauty industry wants to sell more products (and more expensive products) by enticing you with the latest and greatest technology. We’re so bombarded with information on all these new product launches that sound so amazing, that sometimes it’s hard to focus on the basics that really work. Companies may think it’s harder to sell “old” technologies like AHAs when they can hype the latest and greatest algae extract or whatever.

ALS vs. SLS vs. SLES vs. ALES

Long time fan Alessandra asks…Which is more harsh SLS vs ALS vs SLES vs ALES?

First, let’s decode that alphabet soup: Most people know that SLS is sodium lauryl sulfate. They may not know that ALS is Ammonium lauryl sulfate. When you see an “E” added to the name that means it’s Sodium or Ammonium “LAURETH” sulfate.

Yes, the “eth” stands for ethoxylation which essentially means that you’re extending the molecule by inserting some oxygen atoms. Why would we do this? Because the ethoxylation process makes the detergent milder (and a little less powerful as a cleanser.) Essentially that’s because it’s more water soluble. So that means that sodium lauryl and ammonium lauryl are harsher than sodium laureth and ammonium laureth? Got it?

Now what about the sodium vs ammonium versions? There’s really not much difference. It’s the lauryl sulfate part of the molecule that’s the issue not the counter ion.

Alessandra pointed out that several brands like Organix and Leonor Greyl, advertise their shampoos as SLES-free but they have ammonium lauryl sulfate as the first ingredient. Now you know how misleading that is!

Are silkworm cocoons good for skin?

Becky says…I’ve read a few articles about the collagen-promoting qualities of silkworm cocoons – apparently rubbing them on your face improves the texture of your skin, improves signs of UV damage and all those other impossibly amazing things. It sounds like another crazy gimmick but I noticed in this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2837024/Rub-face-silkworm-cocoons-wipe-away-wrinkles-sounds-bizarre-works.html they back it up with some pretty convincing words from a dermatologist. 


Becky’s right, the dermatologist quoted in the article says some very convincing things. For the most part the woman rubbed her face with cocoons every day for about a month and at the end of that time her skin looked better. Of course this can’t be considered scientific evidence because the test involved one person and there was no control.

But there ARE some studies showing sericin (silk protein) may have anti-aging properties under certain conditions. For example, one study showed that silk sericin can “stimulate collagen type I synthesis, suppress the regulation of nitrite, which nitrite may induces oxidative stress.” This test was done by applying pure sericin directly to cultures of cells in the lab which does NOT prove that rubbing cocoons are your face will do anything. http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/jas/article/view/22487/15481

I’m still skeptical, however, because rubbing a cocoon on your face is not a very efficient way of delivering sericin to the skin and the amount of the protein that can be delivered that way seems like it would be very low. Stick with the anti-aging products that are proven to help.

Should you worry about counterfeit hairspray?

Redheaded 4 Trouble says… I’ve seen this picture floating around Facebook. It shows a hairspray can with the label torn off to reveal a different brand underneath. The caption says: “This is why you do NOT buy product from TJ MAXX, ROSS or MARSHALS!!! Only buy from your stylists, that’s it.” I’m thinking this is probably just something salons are spreading so people will buy these products from them at a higher price. What do you think?

This isn’t nearly as sinister as it appears and it is NOT proof that TJ Maxx is selling counterfeit hairspray. My guess is that the company had too many cans decorated of the blue product so rather than destroy them and lose the value, they decided to have them relabeled and then used them for another product.

Yeah, If it were TJ Maxx or any other third party labeling over one product with the label from another then the ingredient list would be wrong (as well as other information) which would be illegal.

How would this even work? They buy a cheaper, inferior product and then relabel it? But the product underneath is Egyptian vs Chi – prove that this is the same brand. Why wouldn’t they buy Suave hairspray and relabel it? IT MAKES NO SENSE!

After I wrote this, I found a Snopes article that gives the same answer: http://www.snopes.com/chi-products-tj-maxx-marshalls/

Beauty Science News

Lifestyle matters more than genetics for looking young
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New makeup trend

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We’re routinely criticized for not being in touch with the latest beauty trends – but not today! Here’s a story from Refinery29 about the newest, most exciting thing in cosmetics: ear makeup. Apparently some trendy Instagrammers are posting pictures where they have applied a dab of glitter or a spot of color to their ear lobes. Violette is one of the most popular.

It’s interesting because this isn’t an area of the body that’s been used for cosmetics much but apparently now it’s quite the rage. Right now these women are just repurposing other make up and applying to their ears but it’s only a matter of time before some savvy cosmetic manufacturer catches on and starts to create make up specifically designed for the ears.

I predict we’ll see MAC launch a line of Ear Shadow and Ear Gloss to light up your lobes! Now, this creates a new problem: which is makeup residue on ear jewelry. Inevitably your earrings will get gunked up so you’ll need a special product to to clean makeup from earrings. Well, I’ve created that product and I call it – wait for it…”Earring Aid.” Get it?

iTunes reviews – it’s an All International edition of iTunes reviews!

Twiddly dee from Canada says…As an Esthetician I can appreciate all the science behind products. Keep up the great work!

Hrwlondon from UK says…Both informative and soothing listening. Lots of interesting facts and anecdotes. Would like a top ten greatest ingredients show soon!

MeginMunich from Germany….Excellent Beauty Advice! I really appreciate the scientific basis behind these beauty tips. Most of the information available these days is distributed by marketing teams and can be totally confusing.

Livdane from Latvia says…Funny, evidence based and informative. I used to think that I was an informed and skeptical consumer. Now in hindsight I can appreciate the Dunning-Kruger effect on me at its best. The podcast revealed me the whole new world of the cosmetic chemistry in the amazingly geeky and entertaining way Randy and Perry delivers it. Now I can make the claim: “listening to The Beauty Brains minimizes the perceived feeling and appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

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How does color changing makeup work? Episode 158

How does color changing makeup work?url-6

Julia asks…I’m a make up artist and my question is how does color adjusting makeup work? I’ve tried a few and they didn’t adjust very well. Also, what are both of your favorite ingredients to use on your own skin?

Thanks for bringing this up Julia! Color changing makeup has never come up on the podcast before but we’ve written about it a couple of times. On our website someone once asked “People have called self-adjusting makeup the mood ring of makeup, does it actually change with your mood?” Great way to rephrase Julia’s question…So, Perry, what say you?

The idea is great! But this is one of those amazing beauty products that don’t really exist.

Right. in fact, back in Episode 51 we talked about 10 amazing beauty products that don’t exist and true mood ring lipstick was one of them.

Yeah, the notion that these products change color with mood is a myth. But color changing makeup, or self-adjusting makeup as some people call it, does change a LITTLE bit.

Yes, in fact, there are two different ways that these products can work.

Color change by pH

The first way involves color that changes with pH and solubility. Most of the products that we see that make these claims use this approach. The main ingredient that provides the effect is a colorant known as “Red 27,” a red dye which is colorless when dissolved in a waterless base. When it comes in contact with moisture, the change in solubility and pH causes the dye to turn bright pink.

The product appears to change with your personal chemistry because the color changes when it comes in contact with moisture in your skin or even just the humidity in the air. Red 27 can be used in powdered cosmetics, waxy sticks, and gels.

We’ll list a couple of examples in the show notes including Smashbox O-Glow Blush, Stila Custom Color Blush, and DuWop Personal Color Changing Lipstick.

Color change by encapsulation

The second way to make a product change color is to use pigments which are encapsulated. In this case the colorant is coated with a waxy or gel-like ingredient and suspended in an uncolored base. When the product is rubbed into your skin the friction breaks open the dye capsules releasing the color.

The product appears to change with your personal chemistry because the more your rub in the color, the more is released.

Encapsulated colors work best in cream and powder based products, although they can be used in water-based lotions with the right kind of encapsulating agent. Some examples of products that uses encapsulated colors include Wet n’ Wild’s Intuitive Blend Shade Adjusting Foundation , The Body Shop’s All in One BB Cream, and Carmindy and Company’s Diamond Fusion Powder.

I want to quickly mention a third type of color changing product. It’s not quite the same thing but consider products that provide a “natural tan glow.” These may use a different name but they’re just self-tanners and they work by using an ingredient called “dihydroxyacetone” or DHA. This chemical reacts with the keratin protein in the upper layers of your skin, staining them a light orangish-brown color. The product appears to change with your personal chemistry because it uses low levels of DHA that provides a very gradual change in skin color. The more you use, the more pronounced the “glow” effect is. Jergen’s Natural Glow is an example.

Finally, here are a few tips if you’re planning on using any self-adjusting makeup. If you’re using the pressure sensitive type you may have to play around with it a bit to find out how much you need to rub it in to match your particular skin tone. (Or at least to get it as close as possible.)

You should also keep in mind that color change has little to do with you individual skin chemistry. However, the color of your skin will have a significant effect on the appearance of the cosmetic color. As your skin color changes (either with age or sun exposure) the color of these cosmetics could look different. This is not an issue for lip products since the skin on your lips doesn’t change color much because it doesn’t tan.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

While it’s true that cosmetics can change color, the idea that they can match your mood is a myth. If you find a product that gives you the color you like, then fine. But don’t be fooled into buying these products because you expect them to magically adjust to your skin tone.

Does lipstick make bubbly drinks go flat?

Jessica asks…I heard an interview on NPR that said if you have lipstick and you drink something out of the glass the lipstick interacts with the champaign and makes it go flat. Is that correct?

Very interesting question. I had never heard this before but we tracked down the interview which was with a chemist by the name of “Richard Zane” who said that “any greasy thing like chips, fries, or lipstick will actually break up the bubbles. So will leaving too much soap in the glass.”

This makes sense – at least for the part of the liquid that actually touches the lipstick. especially if you’ve just put on a fresh coat of lipstick and you leave a large smear of it on the inside of the glass then there may be enough left over to continue to break up the bubbles. It most cases it doesn’t sound like wearing lipstick will make the entire glass of champagne (or beer or soda or whatever) go flat.

The ingredients that are causing the problems are the primarily the oils and the silicones in the lipstick. Certain silicones are actually used as anti-foaming agents which are specifically designed to break up bubbles. You could certainly avoid silicone containing the lip products to maximize bubbles. You could also look for lipsticks that are higher in wax content since those are less likely to transfer to the glass.

Do high ph shaving creams work better?

Christopher asks… Many shaving creams seem to have very high pH’s. Some assert that alkaline shaving cream opens up the cuticle of the hair, which makes the oils and conditioners enter the strands more effectively and therefore making cutting it easier. This seems like a well-marketed excuse. Is there merit to the idea that opening the cuticle of the hair with a pH cream better accepts the conditioning agents and makes it easier to cut? If so, is it worth the high pH trade-off?

Shaving creams traditionally are formulated from true soaps which mean they inherently have a high pH. It is true that very high pH can swell the hair shaft which would soften and weaken the hair. (This is one of the tricks used in hair coloring products and to some degree relaxers.) It’s not really about opening the cuticle but about swelling the hair shaft.

However, I’ve never seen any data showing that shaving cream works that way, possibly because the pH isn’t as high as the other products we mentioned and it’s not left on the hair/skin for very long. But at least it’s theoretically possible.

The “trade off” that Christopher mentioned is that high pH soaps can deplete the natural acid mantle of your skin which protects your skin. If any slight improvement in the ease of hair cutting worth a potential compromise of your skin barrier? I guess that depends on how hard it is for you to shave…

Will salt ruin your hair straightening treatment?

Liz says…”After using a hair straightening treatment, I’ve heard that it’s not only sulfates one should avoid but also (and perhaps more importantly) sodium chloride. Is it true that sodium chloride is the so-called Kryptonite of these treatments?”

We’ve never seen any evidence that the level of salt that one would encounter during normal shampooing would have any impact what so ever on the longevity of hair straightening treatments. I can’t even think of a plausible mechanism for this effect, can you?

Nope. Of course it depends on what kind of straightening treatment you’re talking about. Some straighteners do actually modify the chemical bonds in hair. I can’t think of anyway that those would be effected by quick contact with salt. Others products straighten temporarily by coating the hair with silicone or something – but any shampoo will reverse that effect, not just ones that contain sodium chloride. I think the whole “salt is bad for your hair” thing is highly exaggerated.

I can see how people would think this, though. They’ve seen their hair be damaged by swimming in the ocean, so they assume salt water is bad for hair. But being in the ocean (or even the pool) exposes you to multiple sources of damage: extra UV radiation, multiple wet and dry cycles of your hair, chlorine, etc. The exposure time to the saltwater is also a lot greater.

Yeah, there’s a big difference between salt exposure from being in the ocean or in a pool and simply washing and conditioning your hair. And besides, just about every shampoo has salt in it anyway even if it’s not listed on the label. That’s because sodium chloride is a byproduct in the production of many surfactants.

Beauty science news

Alarm clock wakes you up with scents

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During the holiday season I was in the market for a new alarm clock. Mostly, I wanted to get one in which I could plug in my phone and listen to podcasts while I go to sleep. Anyway, while looking for one I stumble on this product called the Sensorwake alarm clock. It’s an alarm clock that wakes you up by diffusing a burst scent in the room. You can wake yourself up to the smell of coffee, bacon, the forest, waves, grass and 10 other scents. Each scent blasts last about 30 uses and it costs $5 for each cartridge. I suppose if it takes off famous fragrance companies might get onboard. This product seems a bit ridiculous to me. Who would wake up just from a strong odor? Does that happen? Well, they also have a backup traditional alarm just in case the odor isn’t enough to wake you up. Anyway, if you’re curious about the product you can go to their website https://sensorwake.com/ to learn more.

St Ives face scrub may be dangerous

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Remember when the company we worked for bought the St. Ives brand? When was that…late 90s? At the time St. Ives had shampoo and conditioner as well as skin care. Do you remember one of the most popular skin products? 
St. Ives Apricot Scrub! In fact, at one point it was the number one facial scrub in the country. Well, it’s back in the news but not for a good reason – the current owner of the brand is being sued because the product is “”unfit to be sold or used as a facial scrub”.

There’s a class action lawsuit that argues the particles in the scrub can cause the skin to tear. Interesting sidenote contrary to what you might think the scrubbing particles are not Africa pieces but actually walnut pieces. 
the article mentions a couple of dermatologists who say that this kind of product can be too abrasive. Unilever, naturally, says their product is safe.

So what’s the truth? I expect both sides are right to some extent. I’ve personally use this product and I know there are tens of thousands hundreds of thousands of consumers with used it with no problem. If you miss use for either use a product like this I wouldn’t be surprised if you could cause some skin abrasion. I don’t expect this problem will go away but I wouldn’t be surprised if you leave her and some extra warning statements to their label.

On an ironic endnote there is an ingredient that they could substitute for the walnut shells that would completely solve this problem. That’s right – plastic microbeads. Unfortunately they’re being banned world wide because they contribute to pollution.

iTunes reviews

Oznuck from Austraila says…Mansplaining — 1 star. I’ve tried to like this podcast because I love science and skincare. But this is the epitome of mansplaining. I’m tired of the condescension and the sexual comments. I’m tired of hearing the hosts’ mocking comments about what their listeners must be watching on tv (the Bachelor? Really?). I’m tired of their “humor” and the snide remarks made to put others down, including the other host. It could be so much better.

Smelliness says…5 stars
 “As a science student I quickly developed an interest in the chemistry of beauty products. Imagine my disappointment in trying to find podcasts to further my understanding, I found a veritable drought of science focused cosmetic podcasts. Then lo and behold, beauty brains popped up on my phone and at last I had the scientifically backed podcasts of my makeup dreams.”

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Are lotions with water bad for your skin? Episode 157

Are lotions with water actually bad for your skin?pool-519453_640

Veronica asks…I heard that using lotions with water is actually bad for your skin because as the water evaporates it removes the skin’s natural moisture and oil. Is this true?

Veronica’s question is an interesting twist on a theme that we have discussed a couple of times – and that is how moisturizers actually work.

There are two fundamental ways that lotions can moisturizer your skin: one way is to provide an occlusive barrier that prevents the moisture that’s already in your skin from evaporating. That’s what ingredients like, petrolatum, mineral oil, silicones and so forth do. The technical term for this is reducing TEWL or Transepidermal Water Loss.

The second way lotions work is to attract moisture to you skin using an ingredient that has an affinity for water. We call these ingredients “humectants” and they are things like glycerin, sorbitol, and hyaluronic acid. They essentially bind water to the surface of your skin.

The best skin moisturizers use both mechanisms to moisturize skin. And the best way to do that is through an emulsion that’s a combination of oil and water.

This brings us back to Veronica’s question – what about the water that’s contained in the cream or lotion? What does it do?

There’s enough water in a lotion or cream to give your skin a little quick moisture boost which the oils and other occlusive agents can lock in your skin. Let’s be clear – most of the moisturizing effect comes from preventing the loss of what’s already in your skin, but it doesn’t hurt to add that extra little topical boost of moisture.

Right, some of that extra water will be absorbed by your skin and some of it will evaporate but that process of evaporation doesn’t cause any harm to your skin. It’s not going to cause the loss of skin’s natural moisturizing capacity in any way. So what Veronica has heard about lotions is just a myth. BUT I can see where this myth may have got its start.

It could have come from the fact that soaking your skin in water is not good for it. That swells the skin cells and does allow leaching out of some water soluble moisturizing components like urea and sodium PCA. But that only happens when your skin is submerged in water for a considerable period of time.

So I could see some clever marketer taking this little half truth and then saying that skin care products that contain water are bad for skin so they can sell you their special oil based product that doesn’t contain water. But it just doesn’t work that way. So, Veronica there’s nothing to worry about from using skin lotions that contain water.

Is air drying hair more damaging than blow drying?

DaniD in our Forum says…I recently came across this article claiming that air drying is actually bad for your hair. “The reason? When hair comes into contact with water, it swells which damages the protein. The longer your hair is wet, the longer it swells and the greater the chance for damage.” Is this true? I also wonder if all the extra tugging from brushing during blow drying could add additional damage as well.

We wrote about this a couple of years ago. I think the post was lost when our server crashed. I can’t remember if we ever talked about it on the show before or not. But, yes, there is showing that air drying your hair does cause some damage. The mechanisms is exactly as you explained.

That swelling and shrinking process she described is actually called “Hygral Fatigue.”

Exactly. But the study that we found didn’t compare this damage to the damage caused by blow drying, so we don’t have data to say which is worse. If I had to choose, I’d say that blow drying is more damaging for 3 reasons:

1. You still get some fiber swelling whether your blow drying or air drying.

2. The additional heat from blow drying can be damaging by itself.

3. The tugging that she described does cause additional damage.

I think it’s really interesting, and kind of counter-intuitive, that air drying causes any damage at all but it’s probably still better than blow drying. But you know what doesn’t blow…the fans who review us on iTunes.

Can tomatoes really shrink your pores?

Renee asks…According to Easyhacker.com, rubbing tomatoes on your face is a good way to shrink your pores, is that true?

Let’s take a look and see exactly what Easyhacker says about using tomatoes on your face. According to the video on their website: “Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and acids, both of which are effective at reducing the appearance of pore size.” http://easyhacker.com/how-to-reduce-large-pores-naturally/

There is a kernel of truth to this: In the video the author mentions that the acid in tomatoes is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a keralytic agent which means it can loosen dead skin cells. This is one way to keep pores clear of debris and keep them from appearing larger. So yes, sal acid is good for minimizing pores. But do tomatoes contain enough of it?

Tomatoes contain about 1mg of sal acid per 100 gr which about 0.01%. http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fi27.htm
Salicylic acid products that are effective against acne need to contain about 3% sal acid. So tomatoes are about 300 times weaker than a product that you can buy over the counter. I really can’t see how that small of an amount of sal acid would have much effect.

You can do the same kind of calculation for vitamin C. Tomatoes contain about 23 mg of ascorbic acid per 100 gr of the fresh fruit. That’s about 0.23%. We know from previous research that the most effective level of vitamin C is somewhere between 15% and 20%. That’s almost 100 times too low. http://ucanr.edu/datastoreFiles/608-1086.pdf

The bottom line: Tomatoes do contain natural chemicals that can help keep your pores clean. However, they contain FAR less than products that are optimized for this purpose.

Beauty science news

FDA Recommends Limiting Lead In Cosmetics

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Lead is NOT a cosmetic ingredient that is added to the product for any reason whatsoever. Rather it is a contaminant that occurs naturally in the environment that comes in in trace amounts with certain ingredients.

It’s difficult if not impossible to remove all lead from any given product depending of course on what ingredients you’re using.

This hit the news pretty hard a few years ago when I believe there were two studies showing that many brands of lipstick, especially those with red colors, do contain small amounts of lead.

The amount of lead ranges from a couple of parts per million two up to about 9 ppm.
We’ve also said before that such small amounts don’t seem to really present much of a risk because your body can process these. Now for very young children or pregnant women even smaller amounts do raise some concerns but remember that small amounts of lead are approved even in drinking water and candy. So limiting lead to very low levels is a prudent thing to do and it should be done but getting to absolute zero doesn’t always seem to be necessary or feasible.

So the new news is the FDA has said they want to limit the amount of lead in cosmetics to 10 ppm. What does this mean?

Since the highest amount of lead that was found in the study a lipsticks was 9 ppm the FDA is really just saying make sure you don’t go any higher than what we’re already finding in your products.

The bottom line is that’s a good safeguard but it really doesn’t change much in terms of what’s already in the products you’re using.

Dumpster diving for luxury makeup

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Have you heard about the latest strategy for getting beauty products? It’s dumpster diving. According to a story in Marie Claire, Beauty bloggers, and other motivated people I suppose, are heading out to the dumpsters behind stores like Sephora and Ulta and finding discarded beauty products. These stores probably have to throw away old product and testers to make way for the new stuff and some less-than-squeamish beauty aficionados are diving into those dumpsters to retrieve what they see as perfectly fine products.

One beauty vlogger posted a video in which she found nearly $2000 worth of product in an Ulta dumpster. And since the video has over a million views no doubt this will inspire some other people to take the dive.

In the story they also got quotes from a guy in New Jersey who has been reselling found make-up since the 1970’s. He says he makes 100 percent of his income from beauty product dumpster diving. So, if you’re buying things on eBay or Craigslist, well…sometimes a good deal might not be such a good deal.

So you might be wondering whether this is safe. It really depends on the product and the risk you’re willing to take.

Aloe free aloe

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I just talked about lead, a contaminant you don’t want to have in your products but it’s there. Here’s a story about an ingredient that you DO want in your products but it seems to have gone missing.

Bloomberg News reported that some private label brands of aloe vera skin care lotions that are sold by Walmart, Target, and CVS didn’t actually contain any aloe vera. Bloomberg commissioned a lab to test samples of these products and low and behold, they couldn’t find any traces of aloe. Which makes me think…Bloomberg has got a LOT of time on its hands.

If you go back to episode 156 you’ll find out why this is kind of much ado about nothing because except in a few rare cases aloe doesn’t really do anything in the skin lotion anyway so if you’re missing it you’re not missing much.

Still, no one likes to be deceived. Companies should be held responsible for deceptive advertising. If they’re selling you an aloe lotion you should expect to find aloe in it. (Unless it’s just aloe scented which we’ll get to in a second.)

But here’s the piece that makes no sense to me. It’s very common in the beauty industry to sell a product with a featured ingredient in this case aloe and that product only contains a very small amount of aloe or maybe it only smells like a aloe. There is no law on how much you have to put in your product so you put in a small dusting of aloe you call it an aloe product and you’re done. That’s perfectly legal. Why would you risk a lawsuit and even action by the government by lying on your label and saying it contains aloe and it doesn’t. You’re not saving any time or money. It makes no sense!

Now I should point out that the test method used by the lab to measure aloe is a bit controversial it’s not 100% accurate so it’s possible these results could just be a fluke.

Taking more selfies makes you happier

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According to a study published by researchers at the University of California-Irvine, they tested forty-one students who were instructed to take selfies for four weeks straight. They also had to share the selfies with others. They then reported their moods over that time. Researchers found that this group of people were happier and more confident over the course of the study. Just smiling (even fake smiling) made people feel better.

Now, I had to dig a little deeper because the report on this study was pretty weak and left open a lot of questions. Like did it have to be selfies or could just any picture do? Also, was there a control group.

Well, it turns out that there were actually three groups. One group took selfies, another group took pictures of things that made them happy, and the third took pictures of things that thought would make other people happy. Only the selfie takers reported feeling more confident and comfortable.

So, the bottom line is that this research suggests a good strategy for becoming more happy. Run every day and at the end take a smiling selfie. Then share it on twitter every day.

iTunes reviews

Breathe Easy 4 Once…Great fun for this med student — 5 stars. I appreciate their easy rapport, nerdball humor, and the SCIENCE. This podcast makes you a better consumer, science nerd, and human being. Okay, that last one might be a bit of a stretch but not by much. Keep it up! The world needs good podcasts like this to balance out the many shows about “Housewives of the Rich and Brainless.”

Cool Maven…5 stars. I realized that I have never before heard two highly intelligent men bicker and it’s very amusing. I’m a podcast freak and am very selective about those that I actually ‘subscribe’ to and they easily made the cut. THANK YOU, Beauty Brains — you ROCK!

Liz says… 5 stars. The Beauty Brains help you see through marketing claims and pseudoscience to make informed decisions and often save you money. Some may not like the banter at the beginning and throughout but I often laugh and enjoy it.

Look says… This is a great podcast to debunk a lot of beauty science myths and get to the truth of what’s in your bathroom. Really big fan though they tend to digress. They have a teensy blindspot about natural ingredients/ethnic hair care so I’d take their advice there with a pinch of salt.

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Is aloe vera lotion really good for skin? Episode 156

Is aloe lotion good for skin?

Gemma asks…I am a huge fan of Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Fresh lotion. However, I have found another aloe lotion that is even cheaper: Perfect Purity. So I’m wondering can you tell me if the Perfect Purity will perform as well as my beloved Vaseline? Or should I just bite the bullet and save my dollars for a big bottle of the Vaseline Aloe Fresh?_mg_3478

Thanks to Gemma for taking the time to record her question. We can answer this pretty conclusively just based on reviewing the ingredients and we’ll cover that first. But then we we want to take this opportunity to talk more about aloe vera itself and discuss why it is (or isn’t) so good for your skin. So, let’s break down the differences between Vaseline and Perfect Purity.

The Vaseline product contains 4 key moisturizers let’s look at each one in order of descending concentration. First there’s glycerine. Glycerine is a humectant which means it attract and bind water to skin. That’s one of two basic ways that a moisturizer works.

The other way a moisturizer works is to occlude the skin which means it seals the moisture in by preventing evaporation. That’s how the second ingredient, mineral oil, works.

The 3rd key ingredient is dimethicone which is a silicone that not only helps seal in moisture but it also protects the skin from detergents and other harsh ingredients. Which is why it’s approved by the FDA as a skin protectant.

The 4th ingredient is petrolatum which is one of most effective, if not the most effective, occlusive moisturizing ingredients.

So Vaseline contains a potent cocktail of simple but effective moisturizing agents. Now let’s look at all the effective moisturizers in Perfect Purity. Ready? Here we go:

Mineral oil. That’s it. The rest of the formula is just emulsifiers and control agents. Vaseline is better because a mixture of different occlusive agents blended with a good humectant will moisturize more effectively than just a high level of mineral oil.

In addition, Vaseline has a better balanced emulsion system so I’d expect it to be more stable and more aesthetically pleasing. Finally, for what it’s worth, the amount of aloe in either formula is pretty much irrelevant.

And that brings us to the second part of the discussion – what is aloe and is it or isn’t good for skin?
What is aloe vera?

Aloe vera gel is harvested from the aloe vera plant by cutting open the leaves and collecting what oozes out. This thick, clear “ooze” is known as a mucilage. The term mucilage comes from the work “mucus” or it least it comes from the same Latin root. Talked about pituitous.

The gel is sterilized, through Pasteurization, and filtered. It can be sold that way or it can be spray dried and turned into a powder.

Most of the mucilage is water about 99.5%. The other 0.5% is a combination of mucopolysaccharides, choline and choline salicylate.

The polysaccharides include pectins, some celluloses, and sugars like mannose derivatives. It also contains amino acids, lipids, and sterols like lupeol.

Interestingly, the specifications for aloe allow it to contain 1 ppm arsenic, 2 ppm lead and 0.01 ppm mercury.
What does aloe do for skin? Here’s the good news. This stuff really works.

According to Dr. Zoe Draelos, MD a dermatologist who is frequently quoted on matters of cosmetic science, aloe vera is a good treatment for burns.

Mucopolysaccharides are film formers that create a thin, protective covering over the burn as the aloe dries; this film helps shield exposed nerve endings. Choline salicylate (which is chemically similar to the active ingredient in muscle rub creams) is an anti-inflammatory that soothes burned skin.

WHO agrees that it works for burns. “Aloe Vera Gel has been effectively used in the treatment of first- and second-degree thermal burns and radiation burns. Both thermal and radiation burns healed faster with less necrosis when treated with preparations containing Aloe Vera Gel.” I saw at least one test that compared it to a petroleum jelly coated gauze and it was statistically better. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/6.html

But wait, there’s more! Aloe also has anti-inflammatory properties. There both in vitro and in vivo studies showing aloe is reduces acute inflammation (at least in rats.) The mechanism appears to be based on enzyme active and through inhibition of prostaglandin F2. The sterol components of aloe (specifically lupeol) are thought to be responsible.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here’s the bad news: aloe is effective only under very specific conditions.
Things to look for in aloe product

A lot of aloe lotions contain aloe powder. But Dr. Draelos points out that reconstituted powdered aloe vera doesn’t contain the same 0.5% of goodies that make the aloe work. That means it won’t have the same activity.

The research summarized by WHO confirms this. They say …”At present no commercial preparation has been proved to be stable. Because many of the active ingredients in the gel appear to deteriorate on storage, the use of fresh gel is recommended.”

In addition, WHO says that concentrations of between 10% and 70% of the fresh gel are required to get the benefits. That’s a lot! (The described dose or posology)

So, it seems unlikely that most of the aloe lotion products on the market will provide all the benefits we described. Don’t have the right posology. It’s a poser!

If you’re still determined to use aloe here are a couple of things to look for. First make sure you’re getting the right kind of aloe.

Actually, the first step is to make sure you’re getting aloe AT ALL. One of the products that Gemma asked about in her email was “Dermasil Aloe Fresh.” But when you look at the ingredient list it doesn’t actually contain any aloe! (Of course this could be a typo on the ingredient list but still…come on!

But back to the right kind…To make sure you’re not getting the reconstituted version look for “juice” in the ingredient name. Allowed names include “aloe barbadensis leaf juice” or just “aloe vera juice.” If it says aloe or aloe extract you not getting the right stuff. (Mention difference between different INCI versions. 2nd edition vs 9th edition.

Second, look for high concentrations. You won’t find 10 to 70% in a typical lotion but there are products on the market that use aloe at this level. One that we found is Jason Natural Cosmetics Aloe Vera Super Gel. It’s not fresh but this kind of product has the best chance of providing aloe benefits – just keep in mind that it won’t replace a conventional moisturizer because it doesn’t contain the type of ingredients we talked about at the top of the show.

Aloe is an effective natural ingredient but only when used fresh and at high concentrations. Most commercial products won’t provide the full benefits you get from the plant itself.

We should mention that Gemma has her own blog which is  visagemaquillage.blogspot.com

Ingredient lists
Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Fresh lotion ingredients:
Water, glycerin, stearic acid, isopropyl myristate, mineral oil, glycerl stearate, glycol stearate, dimethicone, peg-100 stearate, petrolatum, cetyl alcohol, tapioca starch, phenoxyethanol, magnesium aluminum silicate, methylparaben, acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, fragrance, propylparaben, disodium edta, xanthan gum, stearamide amp, aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder, titanium dioxide (cl77891)

Perfect Purity:
Water, stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, glycerol monostearate, mineral oil, triethanolamine, carbomer, aloe vera, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e) , propylene glycol, diazolidinyl urea, iodopropynyl, butylcarbamate, DMDM hydantoin, fragrance, Yellow 5 (CI 1940) Blue 1 (CI 42090)

Jason Aloe Vera Super Gel ingredients
Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Gel, Aqua (Purified Water), Vegetable Glycerin, Allantoin, Polysorbate 20, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Potassium Carbomer, Argnine, Natural Menthol, Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Chlorophyllin-Copper Complex, Fragrance Oil Blend

Dermasil Aloe Fresh lotion:
Water, glycerin, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Stearic Acid, Dimethicone,, Glycol Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Peg-40 stearate, Cetyl alcohol, Cetyl Acetate, sodium hydroxide, fragrance, dimethicone, phenoxyethanol, carbomer, Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, disodium edta, Acetylated Lanolin, methylisothiazolinone, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, magnesium aluminum silicate, lecithin, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Cholesterol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Prunus Amygoalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Ethylene Brassylate, Santalium Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Rosa Damascena Extract, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Stearmide Amp, Disodium Edta, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Dmdm Hydantoin, and other Ingredients. Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glycerin

Are serums really necessary?

Sheila asks…Thank you for recommending The Age Fix. I read the book and have throughly enjoyed it. My question is are the use of serums really necessary?

I‘m glad to hear you enjoyed The Age Fix! Remember that’s the book by friends of the Brains Dr Tony Youn who runs the Celebrity Cosmetic Surgery website. Very entertaining! Check it out.

First let’s talk about serums. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer because the term “serum” is used differently by different companies. 
All it really tells you is the consistency of the product – it’s not a liquid, or a cream or a lotion. I think in most cases the term has just come to mean “a product with a heavy consistency.” Typically clear and applied with a dropper or some other controlled dispensing packaging.

Whether or not a product provides a benefit is not typically dependent on the product form but rather the active ingredients it contains. For example, a serum with retinol? Probably worth the money. Unless you’re using a cream or lotion with retinol in which case you don’t need both. What about a serum with chamomile extract? Probably won’t provide much benefit.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be “are serums necessary?” But rather something like “which active ingredients are necessary to provide the benefit I’m looking for.” Once you’ve decided that you can decide which product form is best for you.

Is this a good nail oil package?

Sonja in our Forum says…. A lot of nail art bloggers and Instagrammers swear by this nail oil pen, but I can’t help but wonder if packaging nail oil this way is safe. The pen has a brush on one end and the oil comes out through the brush, which you can sweep across your cuticles and nails. I can see how it’s =convenient, but I worry that the brush would pick up germs from my hands and then the germs could migrate back into the reservoir of oil and contaminate the product. Is this kind of packaging safe?

I don’t think there’s much to worry about because this kind of product is not very prone to microbial contamination. If you look at the ingredients you’ll see that there’s no water in the product which means bacteria and mold won’t be able to grow very well.

Plus, the pen packaging prevents direct exposure to moisture so the product is likely to stay uncontaminated. For anhydrous products that are more exposed to the moisture in the environment (think of a bath oil in an mouth container) there’s still concern but I don’t think there’s much danger here.
Simply Pure Hydrating Oil Pen ingredients: Jojoba Wax Ester, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Fragrance Oil Blend, Olive Squalane, Vitamin A Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Tea Tree Oil http://www.myblisskiss.com/simply-pure-hydrating-oil-pen/

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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.

Ref 

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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.

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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

Europe
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
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.

US
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:

Garnier

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. 
http://www.garnierusa.com/products/haircare/pure-clean.aspx

Claim: 92% BIODEGRADABLE FORMULA

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.

Method

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.
https://www.epa.gov/septic/how-your-septic-system-works

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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

Eucalyptol

Listerine: 0.092%

Walgreens: 0.092%.

Thymol

Listerine: 0.064%

Walgreens: 0.064%

Methyl salicylate

Listerine: 0.06%

Walgreens: 0.060%

Menthol

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=21y1.0.1.1.27#se21.1.73_12645).

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

Link

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

Link

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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

Ingredients
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?

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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?

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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

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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.

Link

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.

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

SPF = Savory Poultry Fun

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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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