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Can hair really be sensitive to protein? Episode 139

Is the NIOD brand really “ultra-scientific?”3144190133_14d3bd4d15_b

Saania says…I have a question about a skincare brand that’s gained a cult status amongst serious skin care junkies. The brand NIOD, under the umbrella brand Deciem, claims to be “skincare for the hyper-educated”.  Their star product is called Copper Amino Isolate Serum. I wanted to know what you thought about the science behind this serum, as well as some of their other super sciency sounding products and claims.

I was not familiar with this company so I had to do a little research on Deciem. The first thing I found was the company tagline which is…


I also found out that Deciem was started in 2013 and that now the company owns 10 different brands, one of which is NIOD which stands for “Non-invasive Options in Dermal Science.” The others include Hylamide, Grow Gorgeous (proven to make hair visibly longer, fuller and thicker), Inhibitif (all about hair removal), and White Rx (which is “ultra-scientific leader in skin care pigmentation.)

I’m not sure what their credentials are but I’ve never seen any leader in the industry refer to themselves as “ultra-scientific.”

But you asked specifically about their Copper Amino Isolate serum so let’s talk about that. Here are some of the claims from their website:

“This product contains 5.0% pure Copper Tripeptide-1 (GHK-Cu) to be mixed with a specialized activator before first use.

“This extraordinary concentration …help to prevent and reverse largely all aspects of visible skin aging…. including textural damage, uneven pigmentation, loss of elasticity, lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores and general lack of a…radiance…”

“In short, the skin will act and look younger starting within 5 days with continued improvements over time.”

“Superb award-winning technology to stabilize and enhance the activation of copper peptides.”

Okay, let’s break this down. First of all, peptides are quite commonly used in anti-aging products. We’ve talked about peptides as anti-aging ingredients back in Episode 55 where we explained there are 4 basic types. Copper Tripeptide belongs to the type known as “Carrier Peptides” which deliver trace elements, like copper and magnesium, which help with wound repair and enzymatic processes. These trace elements have been shown to improve pro-collagen synthesis, elasticity of skin, and overall skin appearance.

I don’t see anything in their claims that seem highly unreasonable. The product probably does what they say it does but there’s no indication that it works any better than any other product containing copper peptide at a similar concentration. I should also mention that the product costs $200 for 15 mls and you’re instructed to use it twice daily. I wonder how long that bottle will last…3 or 4 weeks? That’s $200 per month!

What about the “superb award-winning technology?” Have they received some sort of “Nobel Prize” for their “ultra-science?” Not quite. We contacted to ask them about the award and we were specifically told that this product won “Tatler’s Best Serum” award. Tatler, in case you didn’t know, is a UK based website published by Conde Nast. I couldn’t tell if the website just picks the winners or if they have consumers vote. Either way it’s just a popularity contest of sorts, which is fine, but this is not any kind of independent validation of their technology.

Finally, what about this notion that the product can “stabilize and enhance the activation of copper peptides?” The product is a two part system that requires mixing to “activate.” We also asked the company about this and here’s their response:

“Copper Peptides on their own are very reactive to even the smallest variations in pH. Since they are only soluble in water, even the most precise formulations will lead to pH variations once water is present abundantly enough to solubilize the peptides. The activation step involves saturating the pure peptides with sufficient water for complete solubility (the activator contains a very high percentage of low-molecular hyaluronic acid as well to draw the water in quickly upon application) at time of use. There’s near 95% stability after 6 months of use but we encourage use within 3-6 months of mixing.”

Two phase systems are commonly used to stabilize ingredients which may not be compatible. Typically you need to mix the two parts together right before using the product but in this case the mixture is stable for up to 6 months. That sounds good but it doesn’t quite make sense chemically. If the peptides are that sensitive to pH changes then you’d need to use the product right away. I don’t really understand this.

The bottom line is that this product uses an active anti-aging ingredient that does have SOME data showing it works. This may be a great product but unfortunately I don’t see anything that would indicate it’s worth the high price.

Copper Amino Isolate Serum ingredients

: Glycerin, Copper Tripeptide-1, Aqua (Water), Methylglucoside Phosphate, Copper Lysinate/Prolinate, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol.

Aqua (Water), Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Glycerin, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ethoxydiglycol, Decapeptide-22, Ogliopeptide-78, Palmitoyl Decapeptide-21, Zinc Palmitoyl Nonapeptide-14, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Pentylene Glycol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Glyceryl Caprylate, Phenylpropanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol.

Is the Makeup Eraser cloth worth it?

Babis asks..I wonder if you guys know what is the technology behind Makeup Eraser – that towel that promises to remove makeup only by soaking it in warm water and rubbing in the face? Is it true and how can a simple watered towel be as efficient as a regular remover?

As Babis points out, this is essentially a towel that removes makeup without the need for additional cleansers. Here’s what the website says:

“The MakeUp Eraser removes 100% of your makeup with water only.  Just wet the cloth and remove your makeup. This includes waterproof eyeliner and mascara, HD makeup and much more. The best part is…it’s reusable. Throw it in the wash and no stains remain. The MakeUp Eraser will last up to 1,000 washes and eliminates the need to buy disposable product to remove your makeup.”

Is there any special technology at work here? I contacted the company and a representative told me…

“the cloth is a proprietary blend of 100% polyester. The fibers are so fine that they pull makeup away from the face.”
“So it’s all in the fibers! No added chemicals. All you need to do is add water to activate the fibers and the MakeUp Eraser removes all types of makeup.”

This does make some sense – a wet towel does have some cleansing efficacy and to some extent that can be optimized by configuring the fibers on the cloth.

Babis wanted to know how can it be as efficient as a regular remover. The company doesn’t say that it is, as far as I can tell. When I specifically asked how the cloth compares to conventional cleansers they said that “it’s reusable. Throw it in the wash and no stains remain. The MakeUp Eraser will last up to 1,000 washes and eliminates the need to buy disposable product to remove your makeup.”

So it’s “better” because it’s more convenient or because it saves you money. I’m curious if anyone has tried this thing to see how well it works. But regardless, if this convenience appeals to you it may be worth a try.

How do you get bubbles in hair gel?

Bobbi asks…I’ve been using a clear hair gel with bubbles. How do they get the bubbles to stay in there?

It’s funny – we’ve worked on products that needed to be absolutely clear with no bubbles and other products that have to filled with bubbles!

Creating the bubbles is the easy part – the basic way is to stir the batch more vigorously which incorporates more air. But the more controlled process is to introduce an air line that shoots a steady stream of compressed air into the batch.

The real trick is getting the bubbles to stay there. Part of it has to do with the thickness of the formula – obviously thicker products don’t flow as easily and they trap gas bubbles better. But you also need to add a special type of rheology builder that gives the gel more structure without making it too thick. These are typically based on acrylic polymers.

What’s the deal with protein sensitive hair?

Ryan in Forum…Hello, I’ve heard that too much protein can be bad for hair and cause it to become dry and eventually break off. I have a conditioner called Abba gentle conditioner that has protein but when I use it my hair looks and feels great. So is there any truth to this?

This notion that too much protein is bad for your hair comes up quite often. I’ve even heard the concern raised that you can have “protein sensitive hair.” But when you look at the science there’s no mechanism for topically applied protein causing hair to break. So what’s going on here?

I think this myth got its start from the relaxed hair community. People with African-American hair often relax it which can be VERY damaging. The relaxation process breaks the disulfide bonds in hair which makes the hair more porous. Hair that is extremely porous can soak up too much of the quats, fatty alcohols, and silicones from regular conditioners. This over-absorption makes hair feel mushy. So, special conditioners where developed for relaxed hair that contain LOWER levels of these ingredients. These are often referred to as “protein conditioners” because they contain (sometimes high) levels of proteins. Since the proteins don’t provide as much conditioning, it’s possible that the lower level of conditioning agents (not the higher level of protein) could result in more breakage because the hair wasn’t as lubricated.

This appears to be the origin of the “protein conditioners cause hair to break” meme. From there it spread to the general population so know we have a lot of people believing this and asking the same question. There is one area where proteins MAY be of legitimate concern and that’s where it comes to skin allergies. But that’s a different story.

For what it’s worth, I took a look at the Abba ingredient list. It’s a fairly standard formula based on fatty alcohols and cetrimonium chloride. It does contain several proteins but they appear to be below the 1% line so I doubt they’re really contributing much.

Abba Gentle Conditioner ingredients
Aqua (Water) (Eau), Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Propylene Glycol, Hydrolyzed Barley Protein, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Citric Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Parfum (Fragrance), Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hydroxyisohexyl-3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Limonene, Geraniol, Hydroxycitronellal, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

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Louise A says…These guys are cosmetic scientists who truly understand what they are talking about. I feel very empowered in using this acquired knowledge. But it’s quite funny hearing them talk about popular culture and social media, it reminds me of my dad (… they kinda get it, but not quite).

Bruiser68 from United Kingdom says…As the owner of a day spa in Birmingham I have learned so much that I can pass on to my clients from these guys. Their knowledge helps to cut through the cosmetic company marketing hype and identify the facts. I just love it – even the cheesy bits!


Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair? Episode 138

Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair?It_means_no_worries

Georgina asks…Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair? I’m looking at a Mason Pearson brush that’s about $100 and I want to know if it’s worth it.

It’s tough to give a definitive answer because as you might imagine there aren’t many double blind, peer reviewed scientific studies comparing different hair brushes. But we DID find a couple of studies that may be helpful.

The first study, “A Statistical Analysis of Hair Breakage,” pointed out the something that seems obvious: different combs and brushes will affect your hair differently depending on their structure. The researchers say that the spacing between teeth or bristles has a big influence. They also noted that “different comb or bristle materials may also have a different tendency for abrasion.” Unfortunately, the research didn’t provide any data on the differences in abrasion which would have been really helpful to answer your question!

A second study compared brushes to combs and confirmed the importance of the configuration of the brush bristles (or comb teeth.) It compared hair breakage resulting from use of three different styling implements:

  • A Goody flat paddle style brush with featuring plastic bristles with bulbous tips with a bristle bulb diameter of 0.2134 cm.
  • A cylindric Prive styling brush also containing plastic bristles with a smaller bristle bulb diameter of 0.1118 cm.
  • An Ace comb of unspecified dimensions.

Their results showed that both brushes and combs cause hair breakage because hairs become “looped” around individual bristles. Once they are looped, the friction increases and the hair can be pulled out or broken.

Interestingly the data showed that brushing causes more long hairs to break while combing causes shorter hairs to break. Apparently this has to do with how brush bristles are configured in multiple rows and columns.

The other interesting finding of this study is that brushes tend to distribute hair over a wider area than a comb which tends to confine the hairs to a narrow path. That means that in terms of oil distribution a brush could provide a better opportunity for even oil spreading than a comb.

Finally, although we couldn’t find any data to back this up, we hypothesize that boar bristles MAY do a better job of spreading scalp oils throughout the hair.

That’s because boar’s hair brushes would have a greater affinity for oils than plastic or nylon brushes. If the boar’s hair does act as a natural reservoir of oil it could lubricate hair better. Again, that’s just a guess.

So the bottom line is that we don’t have a definitive answer but it LOOKS like the configuration of the bristles is more important than what material they’re made from. Based on what we’ve seen it may be best to use a combination of a wide tooth comb to detangle and a natural fiber bristle brush (like boar’s hair) to distribute oils through your hair.

However, even though there MAY be some slight advantage to boar bristle brushes it’s hard to say how much money that difference is worth. You also have to consider the overall quality of the brush, how long it will last, and how it feels in your hand and so on. Even if there’s no clear scientific benefit sometimes it’s just nice to splurge on nice stuff.

Reference 1:
J. Cosmet. Sci., 61, 439–455 (November/December 2010) A statistical analysis of hair breakage. II. Repeated grooming experiments. Trefor A. Evans and Kimun Park.
Reference 2:
J. Cosmet Sci., 58, 629-636 (November/December 2007) Hair breakage during combing IV: Brushing and combing hair. Clarence Robbins and Yash Kamath.

Can you use  Magic Eraser to remove spray tan?

Marilyn says…I read that you can use a Magic Eraser sponge to remove spray tan. Will it work and is it safe? 

First of all, what is a Magic Eraser? It’s a brand name for a P&G household product under their Mr. Clean line. It’s made from a spongey like material called Melamine foam and I think it’s an interesting product because of how it came about.

Melamine foam is actually a formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer. It’s been used for decades as as insulation for pipes and ductwork, and as a soundproofing material for studios, sound stages, and so forth. At some point, an enterprising chemist figured out they could incorporate a surfactant into this stuff, make it into hand sized blocks, and sell it as a household cleanser that “erases” stains from hard surfaces.

Will it help get ride of spray tan? Probably pretty well. The DHA used in sunless tanners reacts with the upper layer of stratum corneum to stain the protein in skin. If you scrub that upper layer off you’ll make the tan go away faster. In fact, that’s one test used for exfoliation efficacy – you stain several spots on the skin, measure the color on each spot, then apply a different type of exfoliator to each spot and remeasure the color. The lightest spots are the most effective exfoliator because they removed the most stained skin cells.

Is it safe? That’s a different question. As a general rule it’s never a good idea to use a household product on your skin. That’s because they’re not subject to the same safety testing requirements as personal care products. It may contain some free formaldehyde but that’s not likely to be a problem unless it’s present at a fairly high level. But there may be other issues. For example, there could be small amounts of unreacted polymer that could elicit an allergic reaction. It’s one thing if you are just holding one of these in your hand as your scrubbing your kitchen counter. It’s another thing if you’re rubbing it all your body to scrape off a tan.

Is Milk of Magnesia a good makeup primer?

We blogged about this a few years ago but we haven’t discussed it on the show. This is one of those internet skin care hacks that just won’t die. I still see it pop up on Pinterest and YouTube. Milk of Magnesia is a common over-the-counter laxative. Technically speaking, it’s a solution of magnesium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite and it works by drawing water into the intestine so you can poop.

Can this stuff do anything for skin? Well, the ability to drive water absorption into the intestines MAY make it capable of tightening skin and leaving a smooth surface for make up. And it may also have some mild antibacterial properties. And since it’s such an effective absorbent it may get rid of excess oil. (Another rumor is that it’s good for acne.) So there’s enough here that you can sort of see how this idea got started. But is it safe?

Not really. Since it has a high pH (about 10.5) it can disrupt the natural acid mantle of skin which means it can dry it out, leave you open to skin infections, etc. If you use this stuff on a regular basis, ESPECIALLY if you leave it on your skin like you would a makeup primer, I think it’s far more likely to do damage than it is to help. Why wouldn’t you just use a product specifically formulated to be used on your face instead?

Are sheet masks better moisturizers?

Frances wants to know…I’ve recently gotten into skin care products from East Asia, mainly Korea, & sheet masks are a BIG trend over there. My question is, do they actually deliver superior hydration to the skin?

Sure, while the sheet is on your face it’s very good hydrator. These things cover a lot of surface area, they’re larger reservoirs of product and they’re quite occlusive which means they’ll trap moisture against your skin. If it’s a foil backed mask it’s even better because nothing will evaporate through that.

But… once you remove it what happens? These things don’t leave a lot of product behind. Compared to a cream or lotion a mask isn’t likely to provide much benefit after it’s removed. Of course it depends on if it contains the proper amount of an active ingredient but just from a hydration perspective masks are not the ideal delivery system. They also don’t allow your to fine tune the delivery like a cream does (you can use your fingers to apply exactly where you want it around your lips, eyes and nose.) Sheet masks aren’t that precise.

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We’ve reached our 100th review!! Meanie says… I am 65, obviously beyond anti-aging, and I love these boys. They are smart, funny and, I’m sure, so so handsome. I enjoy their bantering and foul language!


Are super foods good for your skin? Episode 137

Are super foods effective beauty ingredients?superfoods

Jana asks…What are your thoughts on super foods in skin care? Ingredients like acacia, coconut, grapeseed oil, berries, green tea, avocado, turmeric and resveratrol.

What the heck IS a super food? There is no scientific or medical definition. Typically you’ll see them described like this: “superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.”

Jana’s question comes at a good time because I was just asked this same thing by a reporter from R29. She asked about things like Kale, Spirulina, and Chia seeds.

First of all, this isn’t a surprising trend. Edible ingredients are a common source of inspiration for cosmetic products and it usually takes a few years for ingredient to “catch on” in the food industry before they become popular in personal care. We’ve seen this with things like Pomegranate, Açaí Berries, Kiwi, and Dragon Fruit. Why does this happen? First these things just SOUND like they’d be good for you. They’re very tempting.

Second, the food industry certainly has more stringent research requirements than cosmetics so there’s a lot of data on nutritional value. That kind of data does make for a good story which is one of the reasons you see so many food ingredients make their way into cosmetics.

What do we think about this trend? I think there are 3 reasons why super foods in beauty products are more marketing than science:

  1. The goodies in superfoods may be nutritious but they aren’t necessarily good for skin. Just because something is good for you when you eat it doesn’t mean it will do anything when you slather it on your skin. For example, kale is rich in iron which does nothing for skin.
  2. Even if the superfood does contain an ingredient that benefits skin that ingredient may not be effective when applied topically. There has to be a proposed mechanism for how the ingredient would work when applied to skin AND it has to penetrate skin to get to where it needs to work. Green tea is a good example. The active component EGCG is water soluble so it is not well suited for skin penetration.
  3. Even if the superfood contains a beneficial ingredient and that ingredient works when applied topically, t’s STILL unlikely to provide any benefit because there’s just not enough their. Most products contain an extract of the super food and they use that exact at very low levels. Vitamin C really works for example but it needs to be used at levels around 10 to 20%. Super foods contain very small amounts.

If you want the benefits of a goodie that’s in a superfood then why wouldnt you just use that ingredients like vitamin C?

Can I mix VO5 hairdressing with hair gel?

Scott says…I’ve read really great reviews about VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing and I’m curious to try it. I was wondering, will I be able to mix a dab of it with hair gel? I want to be able to add the products to my hair when it’s still wet and then leave it to air dry and set properly, before I brush it out.

VO5 hairdressing is a classic hair care product and one that we had the honor of working on for several years. It consists of a mix of oily materials like petrolatum, mineral oil, isopropyl myristate and some waxes. (Back in the day is used to contain lanolin too.) It’s good for giving hair shine and a little bit of hold. Hair gels, on the other hand, are typically water based. They include a thickening agent and some kind of hold or conditioning polymer.

Since the hairdressing is oil based and the gel is water based the two won’t mix very well. That means you won’t be able to pre-mix a bunch of it together. (Even if you could pre-mix it, that’s not a good idea because the preservative system could be compromised.) If you just want to mix a little dab together in the palm of you hand, that’s less of a problem. It won’t hurt your hair but it may have kind of a funky consistency and it may not dry properly. But if you want to experiment, go for it!

Should I use soap or shower gel – part 2

Back in Episode 134 we answered a question from Lil’ Tabby who wanted to know whether it was better to wash with shower gel or soap. We pointed out that a good alternative could be syndet bars (which stands for synthetic detergent bars) which are very popular in the US.

But our British buddy Colin Sanders from Colin’s Beauty Pages has a bit of a rebuttal to our answer. Listen to the show to hear him explain in his own words but I’ll summarize his key points:

  1. Syndet bars are not very popular in Europe.
  2. European soaps are richer because they’re based on palm oil.
  3. Cleansers always involve a tradeoff between mildness, cleansing power, and foaming.

How does semi permanent eyebrow makeup work?

Yimmy from Thailand says…My question is about the semi-permanent makeup trend that is buzzing in Asia right now.  There’s an eyebrow tattoo gel which you apply thick gel layers on your brows for a night & peel them off in the morning & poof! You get eyebrows that last for a week. Are such products safe & how do they work? 

I looked at the Etude House product you asked about and I was surprised to see that it is in fact a very clever formulation. Instead of relying on standard eyebrow colorants (which would wash off) this product uses DHA the same active used in sunless tanners. Essentially you’re tanning (or more accurately, staining) the skin underneath your eye brows. No wonder it lasts for a week!

As long as you don’t get the product in your eyes it should be safe. We’ll have to wait and see if it catches on as a trend.

Ingredients: Water, Alcohol, Butylene glycol, POLYVINYL ALCOHOL, Dihydroxyacetone, PVP, 1,2-hexanediol, Yellow 6 (CI 15985), POLYSORBATE 80, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, RED 33 (CI 17200), Citric Acid, Blue 1 (CI 42090), Disodium EDTA, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Extract, Lilium Tigrinum Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract

Beauty Science News

Consumers sue bogus over anti-aging serum


Reviva Labs is in trouble over their “Stem Cell Booster Serum with Swiss Apple Stem Cells.” It turns out that they’ve been claiming that the product uses apple stem cells to prevent aging. Sounds like a nice natural alternative to all those nasty synthetic chemicals. There are just two problems with that, according to the article I read…”there is no scientific evidence that plant stem cells can be used on humans” and the product is a “hoax which is being sold illegally as a cosmetic instead of as an unapproved drug.” Details, details.

To make a long story short, they company is being sued for $5M in a class action law suit. It’s one thing when companies are sued for safety reasons but I love the idea of them being held accountable for misleading claims.

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Nikkypoo says..This podcast is such a great combination of entertaining and educational. There are so many harmful myths going around social media today and these guys do a great job at addressing these myths from a scientific perspective.

Bestinbreed says…Love you snarky guys! As a professional pet groomer I have learned so much about not only what I use on myself but what I use on dogs as well. Thanks guys!

Image credit: http://www.fithealthy365.com/top-10-ultimate-superfoods/

Can I use clay to shampoo my hair? Episode 136

Can I use clay to shampoo my hair? Clayface_Tiny_Titans_001

Joneen says…I have a question about rhassoul clay. I’ve heard great things about using it as a shampoo. My concern, though, is mineral buildup. This is one of the results of hard water that has a negative impact on hair, and something I am currently experiencing and want to avoid in the future. I know rhassoul is largely silica and aluminum, but it does have some calcium and magnesium in it, the very same minerals that hard water contains that are so problematic. So it seems to stand to reason that these would also get deposited on the hair from using rhassoul. Is there a scientific reason why it may not cause mineral buildup – i.e. does the large amount of silica somehow prevent the calcium and magnesium from binding to the hair? I will be mixing it with aloe vera juice to create a consistencey that is easy to apply.

We touched on this once before when we talked about an article published on a blog called “The Natural Haven.”  It’s written by a scientist who goes by the name of “JC” and she posted a very interesting piece on evaluating different types of mild cleansers.

She did an experiment where she collected her own shed hair which she divided into several groups: a negative control group that was left dirty and oily. A positive control that was washed with regular shampoo, and several test groups which she washed with different types of cleansers. then, and here’s the cool part, she took micrographs of group to determine how well the test products cleaned.

Check out her website for pictures of the results but here’s what she found:

Best cleansers (all of the oil removal): Shampoo, oat water (oats boiled in water to release natural saponins), natural soap bar.
  • Good cleanser (most of the oil removed): Hair conditioner (cowash), liquid castle soap, clay
Poor cleanser (little to no oil removal): Baking soda, Shikaki (crushed acacia pods) and the worst of all apple cider vinegar.

So back to Joneen’s question…will rhassoul clay cause mineral buildup? Rhassoul clay comes from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. (It’s also known as Moroccan lava clay.) It’s primarily composed of a mineral called stevensite and another clay called montmorillonite. It can also contain impurities such as iron, potassium, Al, and other metals. So in part it depends on how purified it is.

Mineral buildup is a huge problem when the metal ions in hard water combine with soap and form insoluble “gunk” that’s hard to get off your hair. To a lesser extent you get mineral deposits when hard water dries on your hair. But this only occurs when you have the metal ions in the water in the first place. In rhassoul and other clays most of the metal ions are tied up in the molecular complex so their less likely to deposit on your hair. Again, this depends on how purified the clay is.

It’s interesting to note that there’s a patent covering the use of this clay combined with aloe vera.

It seems unlikely that this would cause a big problem but unfortunately the best answer is that just have to try it and see.

She said she’s already having this problem I presume from rinsing her hair in hard water. Won’t she still have an issue when she rinses her hair after this treatment?

Finally, remember these alternate cleansers like clay won’t do a good job of removing residue from heavy conditioners or styling products.

Why is Redken Pre-Art so good at removing hard water?

Nicole who asks… Why is Redken Pre-Art so good at removing hard water buildup?

She says she has well water which makes her blonde hair turn green. She color treats her hair and the areas that turn green are the more porous, highlighted sections. She’s tried everything to keep the green out and the ONLY thing that’s worked is Redken Pre-Art. She puts the product on her hair under a shower cap waits 30 minutes and then shampoos it out – she can “literally see the green sliding out of my hair.” She wants to know what makes it work like a true miracle?

I looked at the ingredients not expecting to see anything remarkable. But I was surprised to find this really is a unique product. The first four ingredients are: Water, Trisodium HEDTA, citric acid, and PEI-35. It also includes some conditioning agents.

It looks like the magic ingredient is Trisodium HEDTA (if you’re keeping score at home that stands for Trisodium Hydroxy-ethyl-ethylene-diamine-triacetate) which is a chelating agent. That means it’s able to grab onto certain minerals and prevent them from binding to your hair. In this case it’s chelating the copper which is responsible for the green tint. I haven’t seen this ingredient used very much but any product that has it high in the ingredient list should work the same way.

It’s also interesting that it contains PEI (polyethyleneimine) which is an ingredient we’re familiar with from VO5 Hot oil. It’s note worthy because of its high charge density which makes it attracted to hair. In fact, we co-authored a paper titled “Solid‐state Polyelectrolyte Complexes of Branched Poly(ethylenimine) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” which was published in the Journal of Macromolecular Science. I’ll put a link in the show notes just in case any of our listeners are BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS.  Seriously, there’s no way you’d want to read this.

This combination really is unique and it’s got some science behind it so I can see recommending this to anyone who’s got a problem with hard water buildup.

Can I use body lotion to condition my hair?

Grasielle asks…I ran out of hair conditioner, so I used a bit of my body lotion instead, my hair didn’t feel bad afterwards and the lotion smells great. Is it safe to use body lotion on the hair? Or conditioner on the skin? I feel that these products are similar but I have very curly hair and I wouldn’t use my body lotion as a detangler because it’s not slippery enough and conditioner tends to leave a soapy feel on the skin. But what if a want to use lotion on my hair once a while after shower, are there any ingredients that are harmful for the hair?

It’s certainly SAFE to use body lotion as a hair conditioner. Whether it works well or not is really up to your personal preference.

Lotions contain emollients, humectants, and occlusive agents that moisturize skin. These are similar to ingredients in leave in conditioners although I’d expect they’d be too heavy/greasy for most people’s hair.
Lotions are less likely to work as a rinse out hair conditioner because the ingredients are not designed to stick to hair after rinsing.

She also asked if it’s safe to use hair conditioner on your skin. In some cases, no. That’s because rinse out conditioners sometimes use higher levels of quaternium ammonium compounds can be irritating if left in contact with skin. These ingredients don’t pose a problem when rinsed out. Leave in conditioners should be safe to leave on your skin but these formulas don’t usually contain the kind of moisturizing agents that your skin needs.
The bottom line is that products are optimized for their intended purpose. It’s usually not a good idea to use something for a different part of the body than it’s meant for.

Is horse oil good for skin?

Wendy says… I’m making my way through the podcasts but I wonder if you’ve gotten to the more… shock-inducing ingredients like snail mucus, bee venom, and horse oil?

We have talked about snail slime and bee venom before but I thought surely this must be a typo. There’s no such thing as horse oil, right? I asked her and she responded: “It’s literally oil that comes from horses fat! It’s one of those ancient chinese remedies for skin-related problems like eczema, skin burns, bug bites, aging). Recently it’s caught on as a current asian beauty trend with some Korean actresses actively endorsing it. The science bit that I see tossed around the most is that the lipid composition of horse oil is similar to human sebum so it’s better absorbed.”

Wow. I can’t believe in this day and age that anyone would market a product with oil from horses. What’s next? Keratin from mashed up kittens? But setting the ethical issues aside for the moment how can we find out if there’s any science behind horse oil being good for skin? It’s easy you just read this technical paper I found: “Composition of horse oil in relation to the fats of other pasture fed animals.” (It’s from a 1949 biochemistry journal, by the way.)

Anyway, it turns out that horse oil consists mostly of a blend of oleic and linoleic acids with some palmitic acid thrown in. Is this really “similar to human sebum so it’s better absorbed?” Well, human sebum does contain a good slug of these fatty acids (about 20 or 30%) but it also contains glycerides, wax esters and cholesterols. So it’s similar-ish but if you really want to use a skin identical oil why wouldn’t you just use one of the many products that contain oils rich in linoliec acid. We did an entire show about rose hip oil for example. There’s no need to hurt a poor little horsey.

By the way, is this one of those examples we’re always hearing about how Korean beauty industry is so advanced compared to the US?

Beauty Science News

Robots that can wash your hair and brush your teeth
It seems like the industry is obsessed with smart phone apps that can help with your beauty routine but I say screw that. I want to jump right to robots that do my personal care tasks for me.

Ridiculous you say? Then you haven’t seen the work of Swedish robotic pioneer Simone Giertz who’s calls herself, get this, the ”Queen of Sh*tty Robots.” Simone has invented a robotic tooth-brushing helmet and a hair-washing robot made from “a bottle of shampoo, a rubber hand, and a bunch of servos.” The article described as these inventions as “hilariously futile.” There are, of course, YouTube videos of these in action. I think these were tongue in cheek but I’d love to see some enterprising beauty company go into robots big time.

Bad cosmetic advice

Deodorant Limes

New Zealand cosmetic chemist quack 

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Hanne15 says…This is the best new podcast discovery I’ve made since Serial! Why is it not better known in the beauty blogosphere? Going through the back catalogue now! Thank you!

CageyKid says…These guys are so funny and informative; they really know their stuff (obviously!) and they help their listeners understand the oh-so-confusing world of beauty. They cut through the bs so common in the beauty community with science and humor. Their advice has really helped me cut through the marketing hype and fear mongering I encounter when researching products. Keep up the good work, Randy and Perry!


Do anti-aging patches really work? Episode 135

Do anti-aging patches really work?

Julia asks…Can micro needle patches really work to deliver anti-aging ingredients like hyaluronic acid?patch-147001_960_720

Coincidentally I just read a study about a new technology for lightening age spots that involves, get this, Dissolving Micro Needles. This research was published by a Korean team in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology and here’s what they did…

They developed a patch containing 4-n-butylresorcinol an active ingredient which is able to prevent melanocytes from producing melanin (the pigment in hair and skin.) They had 45 panelists use the patch for 8 weeks and then they measured the amount of melanin in skin.

Best of all, this study was done the right way… a double blind, placebo controlled trial. That means the active ingredient was tested against a control and neither the subjects nor the researchers knew who was receiving which treatment.  The results showed that the patch with 4-n-butylresorcinol was twice as effective as the control. (I wonder why the control was effective at all?)

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of DMN – we talked about a similar technology made of collagen needles in a previous show. But this is the first study I’m aware of that shows these needles really can boost efficacy. If this technology is compatible with other anti-aging ingredients it could open up a range of possibilities for enhanced product performance.

Julia asked specifically about HA I haven’t seen any data that these needles will work with that ingredient. It certainly won’t deliver it to the same degree that an injection would but it might deliver enough to boost moisturization.

Does Crepe Erase skin cream really work?

Chloe asks…What do you think of “Crepe Erase” cream. I was hoping to get your opinion on the ingredient list. Do you think it could really diminish crepey skin?

Crepey skin gets its name because it looks like tissue paper or crepe paper – the skin is loose and saggy and may have little bumps or ridges. It’s thought to be caused by a reduction in the collagen bundles that exist in dermis. Collagen loss occurs through the natural aging process but crepey skin can also be caused by massive weight loss or topical steroid use which thins the skin. There is no topical cure for this condition although if you can boost collagen production it could certainly help.

If you review the copy on their website you’ll see the typical “weasel wording” that companies use to avoid making direct claims. For example…

“Crepe Erase™ is designed to improve the look of dry, wrinkly, crepey skin”
“it’s proven to reveal visibly firmer, younger-looking skin.”

What is visibly firmer skin? It’s not the same as saying it makes the skin firmer.

They include before and after pictures that look impressive but I see they include the disclaimer “Results will vary” which gives them a lot of wiggle room.

How does this stuff work? They tell us it’s “powered by a triple complex of skin-restoring plant extracts.” Based on the ingredient list, it primarily consists of moisturizing agents like shea butter and coconut oil. The only potentially “active” ingredients that I see are the humid acids and ursolic acid. Humic acids are similar to coal tar derivatives that can treat dandruff and related conditions but I’m not aware of any evidence showing they can boost collagen production.

Ursolic acid comes from natural waxy coating we find on fruit. It SUPPOSEDLY boosts collagen production but the only evidence I could find was from so called “natural remedy” websites and from the supplier. I couldn’t find any peer reviewed scientific literature that says this stuff really works. (Ref: Ursolic acid  Humid acids)

The process of ordering this stuff seems to be a bit sketchy – here’s what the website says:

“Approximately 12 weeks after your first order is shipped, and then approximately every 12 weeks thereafter, you will be sent a new full size supply… Each shipment will be charged to the card you provide today, in three installments, approximately every 4 weeks at the guaranteed low price of $59.95 per installment, unless you call to cancel.”

So it looks like you’re on the hook for about $60 every month unless you remember to call them.

This may be a perfectly fine product but it makes me nervous because it has all the danger signs of a potential rip off:

  • The products are only sold on the internet.
  • It doesn’t contain any ingredients that are proven to provide any special benefit.
  • And, you have to sign up for “pay every month” program that could really screw you over if you forget to cancel it.

Crepe Erase ingredients
Water (Aqua), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, PEG-6, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Butylene Glycol, Polysorbate 60, Tocopheryl Acetate, BHT, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Extract, Peucedanum Graveolens (Dill) Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Maltooligosyl Glucoside, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Humic Acids, Ursolic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Ceteareth-20, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Fragrance (Parfum), *Citral, *Geraniol, *Hexyl Cinnamal, *Limonene, *Linalool.

Can I really scrape conditioner residue off my hair?

Sherry says…I have a very dear friend who’s a stylist. She showed me the leavings on the knife from scraping Pantene buildup off some hair. I have used Pantene for years and I love it. Yes I scraped my hair and got the same white flakey substance…so then I thought wait a minute…I will check my husbands hair. He does not use any conditioner at all…ever…and I got the same white flakey residue when I scraped his freshly washed and dried hair with a knife. I don’t know what the white flakey residue is from scraping hair…maybe it is the outer part of the hair shaft. Just in case of further damage, I won’t be scraping my hair anymore!

Well done Sherry! You’ve stumbled across the truth behind an old stylist trick. When I started in this industry lo those many years ago, I remember that one of my bosses who had developed products for salon brands, explained to me how stylists can demonstrate “build up” by scraping hair with a knife. In case you’ve never seen this it’s just as Sherry describes – it’s a white residue that certainly looks like it could be left over conditioner that didn’t rinse off of the hair.

But, as you point out, you can generate the same white flakey stuff on hair that’s never been treated with conditioner. So what’s going on? A clue is that you get a LOT of this residue when you scape the hair backwards from tip to root. That’s important because the cuticle of hair (the outer layer that looks like over lapping shingles) grow such that the edges of the scales point to the tip end of the hair. So when you’re “back combing hair like that you’re essentially prying up the cuticles and scraping them off. AND, in case you didn’t know, the cuticles are clear. When you scrape them off this way they look white. (All the color is on the inside of the hair shaft.)

I say this is a stylist’s “trick” but I don’t know how many stylists are aware of what’s going on and they’re being deceptive or how many have been told this myth and truly believe it. In any case this is NOT an indication of conditioner buildup and it IS a practice that can damage your hair.

Will coconut oil catch fire in my microwave?

Lindsay Girl asks…I have used extra virgin coconut oil in my hair as a deep conditioning treatment once a week for several years now. I melt the oil in the microwave. This morning I was reading in an article on the naturallycurly.com website that the author of the article “heard” that you shouldn’t warm coconut oil in the microwave because that will “alter the bonds” in the oil. What say the Brains? Can I safely put the coconut oil in the microwave to melt it? Or is there a better way?

Remember that coconut oil penetrates hair because of its size and the configuration of its carbon chain. But some grades of coconut oil are solids at room temperature so you need to heat them up before using them. Unless you’re heating it above the point where it will decompose, microwaving coconut oil should cause no problems. In other words, “melting” it is just fine. BUT you need to be very careful when using this approach. Here’s why:
Microwave ovens work by exciting the bonds between atoms, causing them to vibrate. The motion of the molecules vibrating and bouncing around generates heat. Different substances will absorb microwave radiation differently depending on a property called the “dielectric constant”. Water molecules have a high dielectical constant; they are very mobile and will bounce around a lot. Oil molecules are larger and more fixed. Their dielectric constant is smaller so and they will take longer to heat up. HOWEVER, the specific heat capacity of oil is less than water which means that oil will hold about twice as much heat as water will. And that means that it’s easy to over heat oil to the point where it could burn you.

(If you really want to geek out on dielectrical constants and specific heat capacity we’ll put a link in the show notes to an article about microwave absorption by oil in the Physics Forum.)

So the bottom line is that melting coconut oil in the microwave is unlikely to hurt the oil but you could accidentally over heat it and give yourself a nasty burn. To be safe you might want to melt the oil in a bowl of hot water instead.

Scary skin stuff

Link 1 Link 2

Let’s take a moment to talk about skin allergies and infections. I have not one but two stories that kind of scared the crap out of me. The first one involves a woman in Florida who is allergic to her own sweat.

It’s a condition known as cholinergic urticaria that causes her to break out in hives in response to her own sweat. I don’t know if this is over her entire body or just where you would have a lot of sweat like your armpits. I had never heard of this and given how incredible this sounds I assumed it was quite rare. But, research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (“Prevalence of cholinergic urticaria in young adults”) said it’s as high as 20% of the population depending on age group. That just blew my mind. Most people who experience this have very mild symptoms and don’t need to seek medical attention. But for the Florida woman it’s a VERY serious problem.

The second story about skin irritation is even scarier because it could happen to any of us. An Australian woman was paralyzed in fact she was nearly killed just because she used her friends make up brush. Unfortunately her friend had a staph infection on her face and that was transferred through the make up brush so the woman contracted a drug-resistant strain of staph called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). The infection damaged her spine and she may never walk again. She’s lucky she’s not dead. So when we say be careful about sharing cosmetics we are not kidding around. Now back to you Perry for some lighter news.

Beer makes you beautiful


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Serikaya says…Informative and witty. I love how much it educates consumers on their beauty purchases. Their banter is pretty amusing too, haha.

Usava85 says…This the greatest source of information for the cosmetic formulator as well as for anybody who uses cosmetics. It’s run by the unbiased cosmetic scientists who have tremendous industry experience. These scientists are available to answer any questions that you might have.

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Should you be worried about aluminum in deodorants? Episode 134

Should we be worried about aluminum in deodorants?

Erin asks…Should we be worried about aluminum in deodorants?anonymous-438427_960_720

First of all don’t get confused between anti-perspirant and deodorants. Anti-perspirants contain aluminum salts that help plug your pores so you don’t sweat as much. Deodorants do not contain aluminum and they don’t stop you from sweating. They only reduce body odor. (By using fragrance or anti-bacterial compounds.) This started around 1985. Researchers found that Alzheimers patients had high levels of aluminum in their brains. There have been a number of studies since then – at least one, done in 1990, did suggest a link. Researchers tracked aluminum exposure of 130 Alzheimers patients BUT the study has been discredited because it relied on other people to provide data for the patients. It just wasn’t reliable.

More reliable studies have indicated that this is NOT a problem. For example, a 2002 studied evaluated over 4000 people over the course of several years and found no increased risk of disease (whether the patients used APs or even ate antacids which also contain Al salts.)

The current hypothesis is that the high aluminum content in the brains of patients with Alzheimers is a RESULT of the disease, not the cause. It has to do with how the brains cells eliminate toxins. Ref: NY Times. So, the bottom line despite all the fear mongering you hear about aluminum in cosmetic products the best evidence to date shows that there are no significant health concerns. (Other than the fact that some people experience skin irritation from anti-perspirants.)

The flip side to this is the popularity of so called natural deodorants. We’ve continue to get questions about these. In one discussion thread in our Forum, Kiri said that “crystal deodorants are soo good!”  Just remember that crystal deodorants may contain Alum crystals which contain aluminum. Also, Allure recently asked about using coconut oil as a natural deodorant. I looked into and found that coconut oil does have some mild antibacterial properties so it’s not inconceivable that it could act as an underarm deodorant. However, I couldn’t find any evidence in the scientific literature that it’s been tested against Staphylococcus hominis which is the bacteria species primarily responsible for producing underarm odor. That means that even though it MAY work theoretically it may not work very well. In reality, it seems like a very impractical solution due to its greasiness. It also has a low viscosity at body temperature which means it will drip down your arms and chest. An ordinary deodorant or antiperspirant will do a much better job.

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Should I wash with shower gel or soap?

Little Tabby says…I saw these 2 articles about Shower Gel versus bar soap – 1 article states that shower gel is a waste of money and the other one mentions that Bar soap is less drying to the skin compared to shower gel. I’ve had severe issues with washing my hands frequently when using these gels but not with soap. Please give your opinion on what is the better option. 

It depends on what you mean by “soap” and on what kind of detergents are used in your shower gels. TRUE soap (saponified fatty acids) has a higher pH which can (temporarily) impair skin’s natural acid mantle. Shower gels don’t have this problem but they are made with detergents (like sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate) that can degrease the skin.
Perhaps the best compromise are syndet bars which are milder detergents (like sodium cocoyl isethionate) which are extremely mild and don’t have the issue with low pH.

You mentioned “severe issue” after frequent hand washing with shower gels. The problem MAY have nothing to do with the cleansing system and more about the preservative system. If those products use Methylisothiazolinone (MI) as a preservative, you might have developed a sensitivity.

Is “lauryl” a bad ingredient in my shampoo?

Alessandra asks…Can you please check the ingredients of this Lenor Greyl Bain shampoo? I bought it in Italy and it makes my (oily) hair stay clean longer, but I see “lauryl” as opposed to my usual sodium laureth, is it too harsh?

Lauryl is just the name for the carbon chain. It can appear in a number of different detergents. It seems to have gotten a bad name because it’s used in SLS but it’s not the lauryl part that causes the problem. I’m more because it’s a sulfate salt.

This Lenore Greyl product doesn’t contain ANY SLS but it does contain there other detergents that use Lauryl as a backbone: Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Sodium Lauryl Glucoside, and Sodium Lauroyl Oat Aminoacids. These are, in fact, very mild surfactants and won’t be as harsh as SLS can be.

Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate (and) Sodium Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Sodium Lauroyl Oat Aminoacids, Glycereth-2 Cocoate, Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride, Cocamide Mea, Wheat (Triitcum Sativum) Extract, Polyquaternium-70 (and) Dipropylene Glycol, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Sacchoromyces Cerevisiae Extract, Propylene Glycol, PEG-15 Cocopolyamine, Nelumbium Speciousum Flower Extract, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Iris Florentina Root Extract, Daucus Carota Extract, Fragrance, Tocopherol, Polysorbate 20, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Metylchloroisothiazolinone (and) Methylisothiazolinone.

Can you suck your way to plumper lips?

Krunce asks…What’s the deal with products like Liptiful and Fullips?

In case you’re not familiar with these products they’re another variation on the “sucking lip plumper” trend. They’re like little plastic cup that you press against your lips – you suck on them to create a vacuum which pulls fluid into your lips. This hydraulic pressure provides a temporary plumping effect. After a while the fluid gets reabsorbed into the tissues and the lips go back to normal. That’s why you have to repeat it every day.

If you just did this occasionally it’s probably not a big deal but I found an article quoting Dr. Dendy Engelman who’s the director of dermatologic surgery at New York Medical College. He says that the suction from this process causes “vessel engorgement” (BTW if your vessel engorgement lasts more than 8 hours please call your physician.) but anyway… all this extra blood in your vessels sets off an inflammatory response (histamine release.)

If you suck hard enough you can even break these blood vessels which will result in bruising. This is especially a problem for fair skinned people. So, these products are not a great way to plump your lips on a regular basis. 

Ref: Fusion.net

New hair repair technology

Over the years we’ve written a number articles about split end mending. For the most part conditioners and other hair care treatments can do very little to actually repair a split end – which by the way is one of the biggest of hair problems. We have talked about the Poly Electrolyte Complex that’s used in Tresemme, Nexus, and a few other brands because it actually can mend a split.

Well, this webinar introduced another technology that really works. This one is called “Kerabeads” or “Vegabeads” (that’s the trade name so don’t look for that on the label.) The come from a company called “Earth Supplied Products.”  These are capsules made from natural materials alginate polymers which come from seaweed. The presenter used an interesting analogy – he likened the structure of the capsules to a paper bag. The inside wall of the bag is positively charged and the outside wall is negatively charged. This dual charge allows the capsules to attracted to damaged hair (which has a negative charge) as well as other capsules. The capsules are small enough to get inside the split end of hair and when the capsules dry they actually pull the split shut. There’s a great video on the company’s website. Apparently, the capsules also work to help smooth the raised edges of cuticles so they can benefit from hair that hasn’t even split yet. And, as a bonus, they can deliver oils and other materials which is something the PEC technology isn’t designed to do.

I’m always skeptical about these vendor presentations but knowing how well the PEC technology works it seems very feasible that there’s really something to this. If we identify any brands using this technology we’ll be sure to let you know.

  • One ‘N Only Argan Oil Split End Mender
  • Perfectly Posh has several products that contain it.
  • Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Fresh cut split end mender

The Nivea app “nose” when you have body odor


Nivea Men collaborated with Happiness FCB to to come up with a smartphone app called Nose which will tell men when they smell bad and need to use a deodorant. It’s actually more than just an app. It’s a phone case that has the electronic nose sensors in it plus the app. You hold the phone up to your arm pit and it will tell you if you stink. The ad is certainly tongue and cheek but it looks like this is a real thing that Nivea is testing world wide. They say it will launch onto the consumer market next year.

The personal care industry hires a lot of women!

One of our loyal fans asked me to share this study for the Personal Care Products Council. Do you want to explain to our audience who that is? (Founded in 1894!) So the PCPC has found that not only is the personal care products industry is a major contributor to U.S. Economy. In 2013, the industry added nearly $237 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and supported 3.6 million domestic jobs. But the really interesting finding of this research is that women, including women with diverse backgrounds, are at the heart of the industry. The share of management positions held by women in the personal care products industry is higher than the U.S. average. Women and those with diverse backgrounds account for nearly 74 percent of all industry employment and 61 percent of management positions. Yay! We’ve lamented that aren’t more female cosmetic scientists but they are represented well across the industry as a whole.

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Leec23 says…Such great information. For example, I love how you explain the difference in alcohols, for many years you hear things like “stay away from any products with alcohol, they just dry everything out” Now I understand what alcohols to avoid and what alcohols are good. (I’ll drink to that….)

Madame Broccoli Cupcake says…I love these guys! They’re smart, honest, and the best kind of nerdy. I personally love Randy’s snark, and really enjoy learning about Perry’s various OCD idiosyncrasies.
Personalities aside, I’ve learned so much from this podcast like what types of beauty “hacks” to not waste my time on.


Will silicone ruin a coconut oil hair treatment? Episode 133

Is the “Remedy” hair treatment by Rita Hazan really magic?

Lizzy asks…Does the Rita Hazan Remedy have any magic in it? My hair feels soft and shiny after I use it, but it didn’t do anything for my sister.

I must say I’ve never seen a product quite like this before. It’s a two part system involves something like 60 different ingredients. (See below.) Just having a lot of ingredients doesn’t mean it’s a better product (a lot of the ingredients are just botanical extracts that are primarily there for show) but the product is packed with a LOT of different conditioning agents. Some of these are very standard (like Behentrimonium Chloride, Cyclopentasiloxane, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride) and some of which are rather uncommon (like Cystine Bis-PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Polysilicone-15, Hydrogenated Ethylhexyl Olivate.)

By the way, Silanetriol apparently helps reduce breakage when incorporated into relaxer systems. Another unusual addition is Inulin lauryl carbamate which is best known for stabilizing products with a high powder content.

The products are also formulated with a lot of emulsifiers which seems strange to me. You don’t usually see so many surfactants used to combine ingredients like this and I’m curious why the formulator took this approach. These ingredients may also contribute to the unusual feel of the product.

It’s also interesting that it’s a two part system. According to their website, Step 1 “treats and opens the hair cuticle.” I doubt this is really how it works because lifting the cuticle is damaging and most of these ingredients are surface conditioners which don’t need to penetrate. Step 2 supposedly seals the cuticle.

So, the bottom line is that I don’t see anything in this product that’s proven to have extraordinary efficacy but it is an unconventional combination of ingredients and that could account for why you thought it felt so different. HOWEVER, before anyone in the audience rushes out to try this stuff be warned that it’s expensive – $42 for 2-2 oz tubes.

“Remedy” Ingredients:
STEP 1: 
Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Quaternium-87, Cetyl Alcohol, Amodimethicone, Hydrogenated Ethylhexyl Olivate, Glycerin, Isododecane, Fragrance (Parfum), Silicone Quaternium-22, Cetyl Esters, Panthenol, Hydrogenated Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysilicone-15, Quaternium-95, Hydrolyzed Ceratonia Siliqua Seed Extract, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Seed Protein, Cynara Scolymus (Artichoke) Leaf Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Cystoseira Compressa Extract, Hydrolyzed Linseed Extract, Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract, Propanediol, C11-15 Pareth-7, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Keratin, Sucrose Laurate, Polyquaternium-7, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysorbate 60, Laureth-9, Trideceth-12, Octocrylene, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Steareth-21, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Phytic Acid, Aminomethyl Propanol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, BHT, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Methylisothiazolinone, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicylate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene.

Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Ethylhexyl Olivate, Isododecane, Glycerin, Fragrance (Parfum), Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetyl Esters, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Amodimethicone, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Prunus Insititia Seed Oil, Panthenol, Hydrogenated Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Jojoba Esters, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cystine Bis-PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Cynara Scolymus (Artichoke) Leaf Extract, Hydrolyzed Linseed Extract, Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Seed Protein, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Stearamine Oxide, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysorbate 60, Steareth-21, Dimethiconol, Polysilicone-15, Propanediol, Quaternium-95, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Keratin, Octocrylene, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Phytic Acid, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Sucrose Laurate, Caprylyl Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, BHT, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Methylisothiazolinone, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicylate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene.

How do Enzyme hair dye developers work?

Lana B Star asks…Trionics is an enzyme based line of hair color developers that claims to be faster and much gentler than traditional peroxide developers. I don’t understand how their developer is gentler/faster/better/softer on the cuticle.

In her original questions Lana included a quote from their website. Let me read it to you now:

“Deep within the planet’s oceans lives a vibrant marine ecosystem—seaweeds and algae that secrete natural enzymes rich with minerals and antioxidants. When isolated in the right combination, they infuse hair with health, strength and vitality.”

To which I respond…huh? Here’s a little more detail: from the FAQ section of Trionics site:

”Trionics developers gently lift the cuticle scales enabling solutions to be inserted directly into the hair shaft…Trionics developers are free of ammonia, dyes, sulfates, parabens, 1,4-dioxane, phthalates, glutens, neurotoxins, aluminum compounds, formaldehyde donors, propylene glycol, DEA and carcinogens.”

This sounds like marketing hype to me. I’m not aware of any enzymes that be useful in the hair coloring process and in fact if you read the website carefully they don’t directly say that the enzyme is responsible. They just say enzymes “infuse hair with strength” and they say their developer “gently lifts the cuticle.” As far as the enzyme lifting the cuticle is concerned I’m not aware of any enzyme that would specifically just attack 18 MEA (the “glue” that holds down the cuticle. ) The only thing that makes sense AT ALL is some sort of keralytic enzyme could degrade/soften the hair to provide enhanced penetration but I don’t see how you could do this without causing overall damage. Even then, most enzymes won’t be stable in a high peroxide system. It’s funny that they proudly state that their developer doesn’t contain sulfates, dioxane, glutens, neurotoxins etc. No developers use those kind of ingredients.

So what’s really going on here? It’s hard to say for sure because I can’t find an ingredient list ANYWHERE. My guess is that is uses something besides ammonia to raise the pH like an alkanolamide. Or even sodium hydroxide. There are other ammonia free products on the market that use this approach.

Will silicone ruin a coconut oil hair treatment?

Kat from Berlin asks….Something really strange happened to me today at the salon, and I’m still flabbergasted. At home I use coconut oil for the ends to combat frizziness (it’s the best thing I’ve ever used for my hair.) Anyway, everything was fine until the hairdresser applied generous amounts of silicone based products. Mostly Cyclomethicone and Dimethiconol . She couldn’t even comb through my lengths any more, especially the parts that had been in contact with coconut oil a couple days earlier. The hairdresser couldn’t even finish my cut because my hair was completely unmanageable. Do you know of any cross-reaction between coconut oil and silicone based finishing products? She swears she sees it everyday.
I’ve never heard of this problem and I can’t think of any solid explanation for what happened. The only GUESS I can make is that the coconut oil made the ends of your hair very hydrophobic and so the silicone tended to deposit in larger amounts. The “over-dose” of silicone made your hair feel draggy. Like I said, that’s just a guess. I’m curious if anyone else has experienced this problem.

I wonder if the hair dresser used any strongly cationic materials on her hair. If her ends where super damaged they would have a stronger negative charge which would make any positively charged conditioning agents deposit to a great extent. So maybe it was the combination of products not just the silicone treatment.

Can you help me find a cheaper primer?

Nicole asks…I love this YSL primer but is there a cheaper version?

Let’s take a quick look at the ingredients…It’s primarily a mix of silicones and hydrocarbons. The main two ingredients are Poly-methyl-sil-sesqui-oxane. and dimethicone.

I Googled the ingredients and found one with the first two ingredients are identical and two other ingredients are similar. The product is called MALLY BEAUTY Face Defender. It’s probably not identical but it’s close enough to merit checking out. Especially if you can get your hands on a tester before you buy it. 
Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, PCA Dimethicone, Silica.

The YSL product sells for $55 for .33 oz or $167 per oz. The Mally product sells $40 for .46 oz. or $87/oz. So just by listening to this podcast you’ve gotten a savings of over 50%. (That’s an $80 value if you bought an entire oz.)
Of course, you may find other options if you web search those ingredients and look for the first 5 to be as similar as possible. If you do find some options send them to me and I’ll take a look.


Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Dimethicone, Isononyl Isosonanoate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, C30-45 Alkyldimethylsilyl Polypropylsilsesquioxane, Caprylyl Glycol, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Paraffin, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Silica, Magnesium Silicate, Tin Oxide, [ /- May Contain: Mica, CI 77891 / Titanium Dioxide, CI 77491 / Iron Oxides, CI 75470/Carmine], (F.I.L. C165606/4)

iTunes Reviews

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Beauty Science News

Dry shampoo danger


It’s getting tougher and tougher to be a marketer of beauty products, especially in this age of social media. It used to be that if a consumer used your product and they were unhappy about it, they might send a letter to your company or complain to the store. But nowadays, they take pictures and post it to social media. This has actually led to lawsuits as in the case of EOS lip balm and Wen hair care. Now, the people who make dry shampoo are under fire.

A Facebook post has gone viral in which a UK consumer claims that her Batiste dry shampoo caused blisters and sores on her scalp which eventually led to widespread hair loss. She claims to have visited her doctor who told her that she had triangular alopecia and would need a scalp biopsy.

She stopped using the dry shampoo and her blisters and sores were gone after 6 weeks. This suggested to her that the dry shampoo was the cause. She wrote “…dry shampoo caused me to have this bald patch on my head and have a terrible scalp for ages.”

The post was shared over 30,000 times and received a lot of press. Somehow the Batiste dry shampoo people managed to dodge the really bad press and the articles I’ve seen focus on dry shampoo in general.

Now, I don’t really know what’s going on in this particular case. Most likely she had a reaction to one of the ingredients in the product (or it could have been something else that she just isn’t connecting). But the damage that stories like these can do to brands in incredible. And on some level it’s pretty unfair. True, this lady may have had a reaction to the product (or maybe not) but there are now thousands of people around the world who will be afraid to buy dry shampoo when it is perfectly fine for them.

The moral of this story for me is that just because a post goes viral on social media or even gets picked up on the Internet, that does not mean it is true or representative of what will happen in the vast majority of cases. Don’t decide on whether to buy a product based on scare stories you read on the Internet!

Why Donald Trump thinks hairspray doesn’t work


The headline in the NY times: “Donald Trump Says Hair Spray Is ‘Not Like It Used to Be’ He said…

“You know you’re not allowed to use hairspray anymore because it affects the ozone. you know, hairspray’s not like it used to be. It used to be real good. Today ya put the hairspray on and it’s good for twelve minutes, right? So if I take hairspray and I spray it in my apartment which is all sealed, you’re telling me that affects the ozone layer?’ Yes? I say no way folks. No way.”

In reality, hairsprays don’t contain CFCs any more which was the ingredient that was bad for the ozone. However, many brands these days do contain water which can affect the product quality. So he’s sort of right but not completely.

Bull sh*@ shaming

Last week we answered a sunscreen question from Eva that was actually posted as a comment on the notes for our show on sunscreen shaming. That was back in Episode 85, remember That?

Anyway, that got me thinking that this idea of “shaming” is all over the place – fat shaming. Body shaming. Slut shaming. Even drink shaming. (A barista got into trouble for writing “Diabetes here I come” on someone’s Starbuck’s drink cup.”

So if you’re critical of someone for just about any reason you can be seen as shaming them. It occurs to me that’s exactly what WE do when we bash all the pseudo scientific info we see on other beauty blogs or magazine articles or on product claims.

We’re really shaming them. So I came up with a name for what we do. Ready for this? I call it Bull Sh*$ shaming. If you’re spreading beauty B.S., we will shame you!

Image credit: http://prominentoffers.com/coconut-oil-hair-treatment/

Can I mix my own sunscreen? Episode 132

How do I find a sunscreen that doesn’t cause acne?


Allison asks…What’s the difference between a sunscreen and a sunblock? Also, what ingredients should I look for in a product that will not contribute to acne? And, when’s the best time to apply sunscreen in my morning skin care routine?

Sunscreens use UV absorbers to protect your skin while sunblocks use minerals like zinc and titanium compounds to scatter the sunlight and prevent it from reaching your skin. (Actually, the regulations in the US have changed recently and companies are not allowed to call their products sunblocks anymore.)
Both types of sun protection products are classified as drugs by the FDA which has determined that they are safe and effective. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re without controversy. Some people find the so called “chemical” sunscreens to be irritating and there is concern that some of these ingredients may be endocrine disruptors. On the other hand, some of the physical sunscreens (which have long thought to be very inert) may interact with sunlight in such a way to damage skin.

Should you worry about which type of sunscreen ingredient to use? For now, I’d continue to go with the FDA’s recommendation on what’s safe and effective and not pay too much attention to all the rumors you might hear about these ingredients.

When it comes to acne, it’s impossible to tell you for sure which sunscreen ingredients to look for and which ones to avoid. I say that for a couple of reasons. First, in addition to the sun protection ingredient there are many other ingredients used in the formula. Sometimes a carrier oil a product can make another ingredient more likely to cause acne. (A classic example is red dye. As a powder it doesn’t cause acne but when combined with certain oils it does.

You might have luck looking for a sunscreen that’s labeled “noncomedogenic.” But, that brings me to the second reason which is that comedogencity testing is not an exact science. That kind of test has historically been done on rabbit ears and it just doesn’t extrapolate very well to people.
Finally, in terms of when to apply sunscreen in your morning routine – typically sunscreens should be applied first so they can soak into the skin and form a protective film. You should do this about 30 minutes before being exposed to strong sunlight.

Can I mix my own sunscreen?

Mindy asks…So the sunscreens in moisturizers that I use has only small amount of ZO, 3%. I usually use it first thing in the morning. I would like to put some sunscreen on before driving home in the afternoon.

I don’t want to put on moisturizer over my makeup, and I don’t like the off the shelve sprays because they feel oily. I was thinking if I put 5% ZO and 5% TiO each (or 10% if 5% is not enough) in witchhazel as a spray, would it work as a sunscreen? I use Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Rose w/Aloe Vera. I know it would not be water proof. I just need something to top off my sunscreen in the afternoon.

I hate to tell you this Mindy, but this NOT a good idea for several reasons. First, the physical sunscreens you asked about are not soluble water or even water-alcohol solutions. That means whatever you put in which just settle to the bottom of the bottle.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…can I just shake it up really good before I spray it? NO! These materials, especially TiO2, tend to aggregate if they’re not properly dispersed. That means the little particles come together to form larger particles. Not only would this make it hard to spray but it reduces coverage on your skin and impacts the product’s efficacy.

And don’t even THINK about trying to mix them into a different product form like a cream or lotion. You can make a stable dispersion in a cream but to get them to mix properly you have to sheer these things like a mother f*c&@r! Finally, even if you could get the particle size small enough, I don’t think these materials are safe to inhale. Not used in spray sunscreens to my knowledge.

The bottom line is don’t screw around with making your own sunscreen.


Are mineral sunscreens more stable?

Eva asks…Do I really have to reapply physical sunblock (zinc based) every 2 hours? (Assuming my skin don’t perspire or sunscreen doesn’t get physically rubbed off.) Also, for zinc based sunblock, does the 3 year expiration date really apply?

First, the so called “chemical sunscreens” or the UV absorbers (as opposed to the UV blockers) actually get used up over time. It works like this: a molecule of sunscreen absorbs a photon of UV light and then remits the light at a different frequency that doesn’t damage your skin. But every time it goes through this “absorption/re-emission” cycle, it fatigues the molecule a little bit and eventually it will break down and stop working. That means you need to reapply more.

That’s NOT the case with the mineral sunscreens because they reflect the UV light instead of absorbing it. So it is reasonable to ask if physical sunscreens can be applied less frequently.
But the problem is these mineral sunblocks WILL be physically removed from your skin – either by sweating or from rubbing against your clothes or from jumping in the pool. You CAN’T make the assumption that you don’t perspire or that it won’t get rubbed off because it will. Even just touching your face unconsciously a few times will remove some of the lotion. So if you want to make sure your skin is protected, yes, you have to reapply.

You also asked if expiration dates apply to zinc based sunscreens and the answer is yes because the emulsion in which the zinc/Tio2 is suspended may not be stable for that long especially if it’s left in the sun, hot trunk of a car, etc. The particles of the physical sunscreen can agglomerate and they wouldn’t be as effective.

Beauty Science News of the Week

Color changes at Kraft


Here’s an interesting announcement by the Kraft company about their mac and cheese product. How does this relate to beauty products? Well, I’ll get to that in a moment.

Kraft just announced that it reformulated it’s classic Mac and Cheese product by removing artificial preservatives, flavors and dyes from it’s products.

To do this they replaced standard food colorings with spices like paprika, annatto and turmeric. For preservation they probably rely on a low level of water and high level of salt. In fact an entire box of the stuff contains 72% of the recommended salt intake.

The interesting part of this story is that they made the change back in December of 2015 and they are just telling people about it now. They’ve sold 50 million boxes and apparently no body noticed the changes.

This kind of thing actually happens a lot in consumer goods industries like food and cosmetics. In fact, your favorite products are being changed right under your noses pretty frequently.

Now, Kraft claims that they made the changes because of requests from parents. I’m a bit more cynical and I think this was a marketing ploy to trick consumers into believing that Mac n Cheese will now be more healthy for people. I should say that there is no evidence the changes they made (removing artificial dyes and flavors) made the product more healthy. Indeed with a 72% of the level of recommend salt intake it still doesn’t seem like much of a health food.

So, marketing reasons is one reason a formula might be changed.

Another big reason is cost savings. We spent a lot of time coming up with formulas that would perform the same but be less expensive. For hair products maybe you change the fragrance level or the detergent level or make other minor tweaks. Consumers are surprisingly bad at noticing differences.

Another reason to change formulas is because of regulatory reasons…

Finally, when a big company buys a small company they often have to change formulas to get economies of scale.

When companies do change formulas they go through consumer testing to do their best to ensure that people don’t notice a difference. This is what Kraft no doubt did before launching their new reformulated macaroni and cheese. Mostly, people didn’t notice. And since the product is eaten mostly by children it doesn’t surprise me much. Even if a kid noticed a subtle difference I doubt they would say anything to their parents.

One thing about these formula changes is that while they aren’t typically noticeable by a population, individuals might notice more. So, if you have a product that you’ve been using forever and it seems to not be working the same, there’s a pretty good chance that the formula has been changed.

Writing about beauty science may enslave rather than empower


You may be familiar with the website “Realize Beauty” which is written by Amanda Foxon-Hill who’s a cosmetic chemist in Australia. She recently published an article that really resonated with me and I wanted to get your thoughts and also see what our listeners think about it. I’ll put a link in the show notes so you can read the entire thing, but I’ll quickly summarize it here. The gist of the article is that she’s asking herself if writing about beauty science actually empowers people.

After some reflection, she says that no, it doesn’t and that that in some cases “the scientific discipline that I am a part of has contributed to a dumbing down of the very thing I was trying to promote.” She explains by saying that “Anyone can blog about cosmetic chemistry and these days anyone does.” She says at first, bloggers who wrote about beauty science were industry experts who wanted to help people better understand how products work and so forth. (That certainly describes us!) But now she says that “people with very little or no experience of how the industry works or what procedures, guidelines or laws are in place in the global marketplace are now happily sharing their pearls of wisdom out onto the general public and passing it off as gospel.”

As that has happened, she feels that people are becoming more paralysed by all this information – they may “FEEL they’re getting the right answers but in reality they “are often completely lost.” In addition, she says when people realize they don’t know whether or not they can trust the answers to these endless questions about what’s true and what really works, they become frustrated and even angry. There’s so much conflicting advice, which on the surface seems reasonable, that people don’t know where to turn. So, it’s gotten to the point where she’s believes that writing about beauty science has the “POTENTIAL” to empower people but sometimes it just ends up enslaving them.

What do you think about that? I say look for real credentials!

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Do silicones really melt on your hair? Episode 131

Cosmetic Questions

Do silicones melt on your hair?bad_hair_day_by_ohsnapstephanie-d54vu6z

Kylie asks…I am attempting to remove years of black hair dye and came across Scott Cornwall and his product Decolour. He makes a claim that if it doesn’t work likely cause is hair plasticised due to using heat over 220 deg cel. Quote “If you use heated styling products such as hot irons you can seal this build up onto the hair, gluing down the cuticle layer, trapping in the silicone and making it difficult to remove. Is there scientific merit to this? Can silicone boil, coat the hair shaft and remain there plasticised for ever?

To answer this, I spoke with one of the most top experts in the chemistry of silicones used for hair care. This person has over 100 patents on the subject, expertise in development and scale up of silicones for personal care. dozens if not hundreds of publications on the subject. Long story short – this guy knows what he’s talking about. Here’s what he had to say…

The difficulty in answering your question is it is very vague. Silicones cover a variety of compounds smog of which can polymerize, like bath tub sealer, and if applied to the hair could cost the hair, but I assume your audience has the sense not to put bath tub caulk on the hair. The silicones one finds in the personal care do not work that way. They are liquids not solids and do not polymerize on hair. As far as boiling, if they at temperatures that hair processing would experience, they do not polymerize. I suspect the high temperatures of hair treatment exists for a very short period of time. In short the thesis is without any known support.

You might find it interesting to know that nail polishes do work this way. The cross linking catalyst can even be heat or UV light

Is it safe to hack your foundation with food coloring?

Sea horseshoes asks…As a lot of folks with a yellow undertone to their complexion know, it can be really had to find foundation that matches your skin colour. I found quite a number of blog posts and youtube videos suggesting that mixing foundation with a few drops of food colouring would be a good way to alter it. The proportion would be very small; food colouring is quite strong, after all. But I was wondering if this is a practice? It seems to me like it should be, since food colouring is obviously food grade, but are there other risks I’m overlooking, since it’s being applied topically instead of ingested?

It depends on which colorants you’re talking about. As we mentioned in a previous show, some ingredients are safe to eat but can irritate your skin (e.g., cinnamon, peppermint.) The safest thing to do is check to see if the food colorant that you want to use is also approved for use in cosmetics. You can do that by checking the FDA’s approved colorant list.

Also keep in mind that just because something is safe for skin doesn’t mean it can be used all over. For example, there are lots of colorants that are approved for skin but not for use around the eye.

Finally, as you mentioned, food coloring is so concentrated so you’d have to do this very carefully. I would think this would be VERY hard to reproduce. Also, if you add too much of a water based food color to an oil based foundation it could affect the stability of the product.

How does “Hair Print” hair color work?

Zenity asks…Do you know about this product called Hairprint? It is a mystery to me how it “restores one’s natural color” as they claim.

Hairprint IS an interesting product. It comes from a small California based company called The Nature of Hair, LLC. Here’s how they describe the technology:

“Hairprint is not a dye. Think of it as a Hair Healing System that just happens to reverse gray hair to its natural color” “Hairprint creates a process whereby the natural pigment in your hair called eumelanin is recreated in the hair shaft.”

Wow! That sounds pretty incredible – a natural way to restore hair color without dyes. The product itself is relatively simple: it contains Water, baking soda, mucuna pruriens (which is the scientific name for Velvet bean extract), sodium carbonate, carbomer, hydrogen peroxide, diatomaceous earth, manganese gluconate, and ferrous gluconate.

So what’s the deal? To find out, I once again checked with an expert in the field, – this time a cosmetic chemist who’s specialized in hair dye chemistry for over 30 years. Here’s what he had to say…

As you probably know, the type of pigment that gives hair and skin their color is called melanin. There’s a related complex called “dopamine-melanin” which is thought to be the pigment in brain tissue (gray matter.) Dopamine-melanin can be made by oxidizing L-DOPA which is a precursor to dopamine. Got all that?

It turns out that “Velvet Bean” has a high concentration of L-DOPA. It looks like the hydrogen peroxide in the formula may oxidize the velvet bean which MIGHT create the dopamine-melanin which might add some color to the hair.

The ferrous gluconate and manganese gluconate would also cause some color (similar to the lead acetate used in Grecian Formula That’s by reacting with sulphur in hair to create a pigment.)

The bottom line, according to our expert, is that “this is just another way of putting color back into the hair. It must work to a degree, but the price is crazy and I’m sure it doesn’t work as well other products.”

How do rinse off products work?

Harper asks…How do in-shower self-tanners and lotions work? How do they sink in so quickly and not wash off. For example, St. Tropez has a new gradual self-tanner that you apply to wet skin, wait 3 minutes, then wash off; Jergens has a wet skin moisturizer. Are these less effective than other methods and if so, why?

In shower self-tanning products work the same was as leave on products – by using DHA to react with skin protein to give the tan color. Rinse off products like this may contain a higher level of DHA to compensate for the amount that’s rinsed off but in both cases the DHA is in contact with skin long enough to react and form the tan. A leave on product can use a lower level that is in contact with the skin longer, rinse off products can use a higher level that is in contact with skin for a shorter time. In this way, rinse off products can be used a couple of times to achieve a “gradual tan.”

In shower moisturizers work by suspending a water insoluble moisturizing agent (Jergens uses mineral oil.) When the lotion is applied to wet skin the emulsion “breaks” and the mineral oil is deposited on the skin. BTW, if you read the directions, you’ll see that the Jergens product is applied to wet skin but it’s NOT rinsed off. Some in shower moisturizers (like Olay) use a similar system that deposits moisturizers on the skin during the rinsing process.

As a general rule, rinse off products are never as effective at delivering active ingredients as leave on products but I’ve never seen data for these specific products.

Beauty Science News of the Week

The Honest Company may not be so honest


Boy the class action law firms are really active this year in the beauty business. There was the J&J suit, the Wen suit, the EOS lawsuit and now, ironically, the Honest Company is being sued for not being honest.

Here’s what happened.

A few months ago there was a report published in the Wall Street Journal that suggested a claim made by the Honest company was false. The company was claiming that their liquid laundry detergent, dish soap, and other cleaners were “free of sodium lauryl sulfate.” In the Wall Street Journal article, they had independent labs test the Honest detergent and found high levels of SLS.

The Honest company insists that are not misleading consumers. In fact, they claim that they don’t use SLS, but rather Sodium Cocoyl Sulfate.

It makes some sense to explain the difference here. Both SLS and Sodium Cocoyl Sulfate are detergents. It’s a little complicated but the important parts to consider are the Lauryl and the Cocoyl. Lauryl refers to the part of the molecule that has 12 carbon atoms. So, most of SLS is a detergent that has that 12 carbon atoms. Cocoyl refers to a blend of hydrocarbons with different lengths. It comes from coconut oil. So it will have some 10 carbon detergents, 14 carbon detergents, 16, etc. It just so happens that it mostly contains detergents with 12 carbon atoms. You know, what we chemists refer to as Lauryl.

The Honest company argues that they don’t put any Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in their products. However, they put a blended detergent that contains about 50% sodium laurel sulfate. That’s how it can show up in the test.

This is a classic case of greenwashing. Essentially, they are using sodium laurel sulfate but they don’t want to put it on their label so they use the less refined sodium cocoyl sulfate. They claim SLS free even though it isn’t. I don’t know how their chemists let this one go through. Or their legal department for that matter.

We’ll see what happens with this lawsuit.

It’s good to see that companies like this are being called out for their BS.

The dangers of mineral oil in lip products


Our friend Colin Sanders recently published an article on this very subject. He reviewed a paper from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science which addressed the issue of long chain hydrocarbons in lip products.

Remember that Mineral oil is really just long chains of carbon atoms surrounded by hydrogen atoms. It’s used in lip products to provide slip and shine and overall it’s quite safe for use in cosmetics as long as it’s properly purified.

But here’s the issue for lip products: Our bodies aren’t equipped to break down mineral oil like they are other fats and oils. That means that most mineral oil will just pass through our body (in fact it’s been used as a laxative) but some will be retained. And research on rats has shown that high intakes of mineral hydrocarbons may have some harmful health effects.

Of course, this is where it gets tricky – there’s no indication that it’s harmful in humans but better to be safe than sorry so the scientific body in the EU that looks into this sort of thing has published a new recommendation that says “Cosmetics Europe recommends to use only those mineral hydrocarbons in oral and lip care products, for which an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) has been identified.” In other words, only use mineral hydrocarbons for which there is clear data that it’s okay to ingest a certain amount.

As Colin points out, this is probably much ado about nothing BUT the good news is that there are plenty of vegetable oil alternatives to mineral oil so it shouldn’t be a problem for you to find mineral oil free products if you choose.

The tricky part is that these same concerns apply to waxes that are used in lip products and those are potentially harder to replace. (Things like microcrystalline wax, ozokerite, ceresine, and paraffins.)

Follow the link to read his original article where he provides references to the specific studies.

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The Age Fix by Dr. Anthony Youn

For more evidence-based beauty advice, check out the latest book by plastic surgeon and friend of the Beauty Brains, Dr. Anthony Youn. Click here to learn more about The Age Fix.


Do anti-aging hair care products really work? Episode 130

Hair and skin have some things in common but there’s one big difference: skin is alive and responds to so called “anti-aging” ingredients while hair is DEAD. Check out this encore episode where we give you the straight scoop on hair care products that claim to make your hair younger.The_Bocksten_Bog_Man_1


Click here for the our anti-aging hair care show notes.