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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)

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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.


Are you sick of greenwashed cosmetics? Episode 129

In this encore episode we discuss why cosmetic companies STILL make so many fake natural products. There are a few main reasons:2674778713_8fc9a93f77_o

  • True natural consumers are still a small market segment
  • All-natural cosmetics do not work as well
  • Consumers don’t know the difference
  • Greenwashing keeps costs down
  • There are no required standards

Click here to read the show notes.


How can I tell if my product contains natural or synthetic colors? Episode 128

Just about everyone has been puzzled about how “natural” certain products are. This is especially true of color cosmetics because not very many of the colorants used in makeup are truly natural. bubles_in_happy_colors_by_martadesign

In today’s encore presentation, we discuss a quick history of cosmetic colorants, tell you where colorants come from, and explain the difference between organic, inorganic, and synthetic colors.


Click here for the show notes.


Are cosmetics really unregulated? Episode 127

Is it true that cosmetics are unregulated and that companies can put anything they want in beauty products? Find out as Perry and I talk about the laws that govern the cosmetics industry. Law3

This is an encore presentation of an important episode that most of our audience hasn’t heard yet. Please click here for the show notes



Everything you need to know about fragrance allergens – Episode 126

This week you’ll learn all about fragrance allergies – what they are and how to avoid them. 

Would you like to ask YOUR question on our Show?
Here’s how to submit an audio question to the Beauty Brains.

Question of the week

Nicole’s question: I was recently diagnosed with orris root allergy. My doctor says it is not often listed and that it falls under the category of general fragrances. Am I safe if I use fragrance free products or do I need to look for hypoallergenic products? Also, are there any other ingredients I should avoid?”

Disclaimer: We’re not doctors and we can’t give you medical advice. But we can explain how fragrance allergen labeling works and what hypoallergenic really means.

What is orris root and why is it used in personal care products

Apparently “orris” is a variation on the name “iris” so orris root comes from the root of certain iris species. It’s also related to the lilly. Its official INCI name is “Iris Florentina (Orris) Root Powder” but it’s known by many other names: such Yellow Iris, Flag Lilly, Myrtle Flower, and Poison Flag.

The root of the orris plant is used to make herbal medicines and can be found alone, and in combination with other herbs, in homeopathic dilutions and tea preparations.  It can supposedly purify the blood and do all other sorts of things that are completely unsubstantiated.

It does have a nice, light violet scent and so it is prized as a perfume ingredient. Actually it’s multipurpose because in addition to adding the floral scent it also can “fix” the scent of other fragrance oils. It helps to slow their evaporation and binds them to the skin so the fragrance is longer lasting. It used to be commonly used in face powders – until it was discovered that it can be irritating. But is still used today as a fragrance component and apparently it’s quite common in potpourris and sachets (because of staying power.)

As Nicole’s doctor rightly pointed out, since it’s a fragrance ingredient it doesn’t have to be listed as part of the ingredients. That’s because fragrances are composed of hundreds of different chemicals and it’s just not practical to list ALL those individual chemicals. The exception to this rule is for fragrance components that have been identified as known allergens – THEY have to be listed.

What is a fragrance allergen?

Because fragrances are composed of so many chemicals and because these chemicals tend to be reactive, it’s not uncommon for a small percentage of people to have a reaction to some of these compounds. Depending on which study you believe the numbers are as low as 1 to 3% for Europe or as high as 10% for parts of Scandinavia.

The two most common reactions to fragrance are skin allergies and skin irritations. Even though people will say “I’m allergic to this fragrance” most of the time they are having an irritant reaction and not a true skin allergy. The difference is that allergic reactions typically take about a day or so to develop while irritation occurs almost immediately. Once you’ve developed a true allergy it’s a life long problem and every time you’re exposed to that chemical you may experience redness, swelling and pus-filled vesicles. Regardless of where you apply the product, the reaction may show up on your face, hands or armpits.

If a certain ingredient irritates you then you’ll only have a reaction on the spot where you applied the product. Also, the irritation may not occur every time you’re exposed to the chemical because the effect also depends on the irritation potential of the other ingredients in the product and their concentrations. So just because “lavender” irritates you in one product doesn’t necessarily mean that every lavender product will bother you.

But regardless whether it’s irritation or allergy you’ll want to avoid fragrance chemicals which bother you. Fortunately, the fragrance industry has worked out a way to label these allergens.

How to tell if a product contains fragrance allergens

A number of industry organizations (including The Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food products (SCCNFP) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM)) have developed an official list of allergens. If a product contains any of these materials, they must be disclosed on the label. Typically they are presented at the end of the ingredient list.

Right now in the US there are 26 allergens which require labeling . The EU started with 26 but now has expanded that to 127 (not sure if these are proposed for labeling of already ratified and what is the US status.)

There are three lists of allergens, follow the links for some scintillating reading:

Surprisingly, orris root is NOT listed on any of these lists. The list is re-reviewed every so often so new allergens can be added as they are identified so hopefully if orris root is a common enough allergen (and it appears that it is) it will hopefully be added to the list.

Is hypoallergenic helpful or just hype?

Unfortunately, looking for hypoallergenic products doesn’t really guarantee you very much. Here’s what hypoallergenic means: First, companies typically try to formulate using mildest ingredients possible. However, there is no mandated list of ingredients that you have to use or, have to exclude, to be considered hypoallergenic.

Second, beauty companies send their product to a testing company for what is known as “patch testing.” Essentially this involves putting some of the product on the skin of volunteers, covering the product with a patch, and then evaluating the panelists skin over time for a reaction. If there is little or no reaction to the product then the company can say it is hypoallergenic.

This is a marketing claim and is it basically it means “won’t cause an allergic response in most people.” But here’s why the test doesn’t mean much – if the product being tested contains orris root and no one on the test panel has an orris root allergy, then the product could pass the hypo allergenicity test. Just passing this test doesn’t certify that the product is free from every possible allergen. So that’s why, in this case, looking for fragrance free products is better than looking for ones that have been labeled “hypoallergenic.”

The bottom line

The good news is that Orris root is used almost exclusively as part of a fragrance. Using fragrance free products AND double checking the label to make sure orris root is not added as a separate ingredient for some other reason should be sufficient to protect you. Hypoallergenic products could theoretically still contain orris root since that term is more for marketing.







Should I use antibacterial soap? Episode 125

The FDA has announced that it’s going to take a closer look at antibacterial soaps. In today’s show (an encore presentation from 2013) we discuss everything you need to know.

What is an antibacterial soap?maxresdefault-2

Soaps that contain antimicrobial or antibacterial agents are actually drugs that are controlled by the FDA (in the US). Since these drugs don’t require a prescription, they are called Over the Counter drugs just like aspirin and antacids. These OTC drugs, as they’re called, are defined in a FDA document called a Monograph which specifies which active ingredients you can use, how much you can use and so forth. OTC drugs are classified in 3 ways:

  • Category I = GRASE. (Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective.)
  • Category II = Not GRASE. (Denotes that an active ingredient has been shown to be unsafe, ineffective, or both. You can NOT use these.)
  • Category III = GRAS or GRAE.

Triclosan is Category IIISE which means they’d like to see both safety and efficacy data.

Starting in 1978 and ending in 1994 the FDA developed what it calls a Tentative Final Monograph on Antimicrobial products which said only Povidone-iodine at 5 to 10 percent was Category I, several were Category II and some were Category III. Since Triclosan is relatively cheap and easy to formulate with, it became the favorite. So the FDA said as long as you use this ingredient at these levels, you can make these claims but we’re going to keep looking at these ingredients in case there’s any new evidence that indicates there are any issues with safety or efficacy.

Soap vs sanitizer and consumer use vs professional use

There are two special cases to be aware of:
Soap vs hand sanitizer – the regulations are specific to “wash” products which means they are to be used with water (in other words they are rinsed off.) Alcohol is allowed in leave on products (hand santiziers) but NOT washes because they are rinsed away.

Consumer vs healthcare – Also note that the law treats consumer products differently than health care products. Different classes of ingredients are allowed for products used in hospitals, for example.

Why is Triclosan a problem now?

The FDA isn’t kidding when they say they want more data on Category III ingredients. They’ve been looking at Triclosan and there’s two new pieces of data that is making them rethink the drug status of this ingredient. First, some new evidence that bacteria may be becoming immune to Triclosan and therefore we maybe creating super bugs by over use of this ingredient. Second there’s some new data that suggests Triclosan may be an endocrine disrupter.

What’s the FDA doing?

FDA is doing three things:
First, they’ve put out a call for more data on Triclosan, asking manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate that their products are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections.

Second, they’re redefining what kind of products are allowed to use antibacterial ingredients. They’ve introduced a new categorization calling antiseptic washes and products we are now calling antiseptic rubs. Back in 1994 the TFM just called everything “soaps.” They’re also creating a distinction between consumer and health care products – the 1994 TFM did not distinguish between consumer antiseptic handwashes and rubs and health care antiseptic handwashes and rubs. This proposed rule covers consumer antiseptic washes only and does not cover consumer antiseptic rubs.

Essentially, back in ’94 the regulations were written for “soaps” which meant bar soaps since they were the primary cleansing product. Now there are hand washes, body washes, foaming hand washes, and so on. So the dosage and exposure dynamics may have changed – that’s one reason the rules are being revisited.

Third they’re looking at the other ingredients from the ’94 TFM as well and decided to change a few categories – to be more conservative. For example, Povidone-iodine is changed from Category 1 to Category 3.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

We have to wait for the latest data and see what the FDA’s final assessment is. The good news is, that if you’re concerned, it’s very easy to avoid personal care products with Triclosan – just check the labels on your hand washes, deodorant soaps, toothpastes, and anything else you have that claims to be “antibacterial.”