≡ Menu

Is it safe to use antibacterial soaps? Episode 143

Perry and I are on summer vacation.  While we’re gone please enjoy this encore episode of our podcast about antibacterial soaps. maxresdefault

Click here to read the original show notes about antibacterial soaps.

Thanks and see you soon!


Do you really need 3 kinds of conditioner? Episode 142

Do I really need to use 3 kinds of conditioner?Shower_gel_bottles

Dev asks… Is it absolutely essential to use a leave in, a rinse out, and a deep conditioner? I’ve been washing my hair and appling a regular rinse out conditioner and then I leave it in until the next time I wash my hair about a week later. Am I damaging my hair this way or do I really need to use a leave in, a daily and a deep conditioner?

No Dev, don’t be ridiculous. you don’t need to use a leave in, a daily rinse out and a deep conditioner. But you DO need to use a pre-wash treatment, a rinse out conditioner, a deep repair restructrurizer, a dry damaged masque, a hot oil treatment, and a leave in detangler. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

You have to keep in mind that a lot of these conditioner products overlap and that they only reason they exist if because marketing wants to sell more products.

Yeah, these deliver the same primary benefits, to different degrees, or they may just offer different ways to deliver that benefit. To give you some context let’s talk a little bit about talk about conditioners work.

Most conditioners work by lubricating the hair to smooth the cuticle. That’s the outer layer of the hair which consists of overlapping scales called cuticles. These cuticle are like the shingles on the roof of your house – they protect what’s beneath it. As your hair is damaged from washing and drying and combing and brushing and perming and coloring, the cuticle starts to wear away. When this happens your hair is broken more easily.

By smoothing the cuticles, conditioners make hair feel softer, look shinier and, most importantly, reduce breakage from brushing and combing.
This is the essential function of almost all leave ins, rinse outs, and deep conditioners. A rinse out and a deep conditioner or a mask that you leave in your hair for 3 to 5 minutes don’t really do anything different. They can deliver lubrication using different ingredients but they all do essentially the same thing to the outside of your hair.

Now, SOME conditioners can work on the inside. There are a few ingredients that have been proven to penetrate hair and strengthen the inside. Panthenol is one of those ingredients although you rarely see it used at high enough levels to make a difference. Coconut oil is another although again, the level has to be high and it has to be left on hair for hours to allow it to penetrate and to water proof your hair from the inside.

Also, there are some speciality products that have added benefits. Most split end menders are just hype. But there are a couple of technologies that can actually bind splits back together and keep them that way for several washings. We’ve written about this a few times.

Most color protect products are hype as well. We have seen a few technologies that can lock color in hair. Tresemme Color Revitalize is one of these.

Dev asked about using a rinse out as a leave in? In many cases, you should not. That’s because some ingredients are not intended for long term contact with the skin. For example, cetrimonium chloride is limited to 0.2% in a leave on product but it can be used at much higher levels in a rinse out product. If you’ve been doing this without any adverse effects you may be fine but if you try this with a different rinse out conditioner you may find your skin reacting differently.

The bottom line is that at the end of the day it’s really about your personal choice. If you like the way your hair feels after layering it with multiple conditioners there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s also very unlikely that you’re getting much additional benefit and you’re probably wasting money.

Can you get addicted to body lotion?

Courtney asks…Is it possible for your skin to become dependent on lotion? In the winter, I got in the habit of putting it on every time I showered because my skin was dry. I’ve kept it up into the warm weather and I’m wondering if it’s helping my skin, hurting it, or neither.

This reminds of the question about becoming addicted to lip balm. In some cases, what you do to the surface of skin, which is dead, does affect the living cells below. But, no, your body can’t get physically addicted to lotion.

Your skin does have different needs in different seasons. In the winter, your skin needs moisturizer because the humidity is low and water evaporates from your skin more easily. In the summer, the humidity is typically higher but exposure to sunlight can dry out your skin so using a moisturizer in warm weather is not a bad idea.

The bottom line is: Your skin won’t “get addicted” to it but you may also find that you don’t need to use it as much in the summer. If your skin feels dry, use lotion!

Does silicone build up on skin?

RJ says…I’ve noticed that you’ve oft touted silicones as excellent hair conditioners. However, you haven’t talked much about the impact of silicones on skin, more specifically the face. I assume they carry similar pros and cons to hair application; the pros being excellent occlusive properties and the cons being potential buildup. Is this a correct assumption?

I’ve never seen anything to suggest that silicones build up on your skin. First of all, cleansers will do a good job of removing silicones. Even on hair there’s not much evidence of buildup. The problem with hair is that the surface area is so great because each hair is tube shaped and there are so many of them. We figured that if you could take each hair and cut it open and flatten it out, the hair from one person with average length would cover a small living room (about 100 sq ft.) If silicones do build up on hair, the problem is even worse because of all that surface area that you have to clean.

By comparison, the surface area of the average face is less than 1 square foot. Plus it’s a lot easier to scrub your face with a wash cloth, a sonic cleanser brush, or whatever. Your face it just easier to clean.

Also, remember that unlike hair, your skin is constantly shedding its outer layer. That shedding process will help slough off any product residue.  The bottom line is that you really don’t need to worry about silicone buildup on skin.

Is Sodium PCA a good anti-aging ingredient?

Ramsey asks…Does anybody have any additional information on this ingredient? I’ve been using TwinLabs Na-PCA spray for over 10 years but I believe it’s been discontinued. I personally think it works great but it’s more of an aging prevention product as opposed to an aging reversing product.

I’m always surprised to find that NaPCA is not more widely recognized. It stands for Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid and it’s a component of the skin’s own Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF).

Yea, if you analyze the NMF you’ll see that it consists of about 40% amino acids, 12% sodium PCA, 12% lactate, about 8% sugars like glycerol, 7% urea, and bunch of other stuff. NaPCA is really important because it helps the skin hold onto moisture.

You don’t see it used all that frequently anymore but in the 90’s it showed up in a lot of anti-aging products. It doesn’t take the place of occlusive agents that lock moisture in skin but it is effective in helping the skin to hold onto moisture.

Regarding aging prevention vs aging reversing: I sort of agree. When it’s part of your skin it can be aging prevention. When applied topically it’s really just another way to moisturize.

Beauty Science News

No difference between men’s and women’s razors


I found an article that explains the difference between razors for men and women. According to their research, there are differences in the quality of razor blades between brands but within a brand there’s no functional difference between the blades used for men’s products and women’s products. As proof of this, they point to a press release issued by Gillette a few years ago in which they stated that the blades used in products for both genders “are both using the same “blade technology”.”

That doesn’t mean there are NO differences. Women tend to shave a much larger surface area than men (about 18 times more, according to some estimates) so women’s razors may have larger, more rounded head pieces.

Also, women tend to shave longer hairs than men do so some women’s razors include guide bars to align the hairs to provide a better cut. Finally, some women’s razors include lubricating ingredients again, because of the larger surface area. These things can all add to the price even though the blade itself is the same. So it sounds like in some cases a higher price may be justified but if you’re just comparing the most basic model of men’s and women’s razors there may not be much difference. I’ll put the link in the show notes so you read the rest of the discussion. By the way, there are a ton of scientists at work on this. At just one Gillette facility they have 100 PhD working on shaving products. Wow.

Pleasant smells increase facial attractiveness


Want to make yourself look better? Well, here is some research out of the Monell Chemical Senses Center which suggests that perfumes and scented products can alter how people perceive you.

Previous research had shown that you could change the perception of facial attractiveness by using pleasant and unpleasant odors but scientists didn’t know whether that was actually changing the visual perception or just an emotional response. This study involved having 18 young adults evaluate the attractiveness and age of 8 female faces. The images varied in terms of natural aging features like lines and wrinkles.

While evaluating the images the subjects were exposed to different odors, one pleasant (rose oil) and one unpleasant (fish oil). Then the subjects rated the age of the face in the photo, the attractiveness and the pleasantness of the odor. The result was that odor pleasantness directly influenced rating of facial attractiveness suggesting that odor and visual cues independently influence judgements.

One downside to using pleasant odors is that visual age cues were more strongly influenced when people smelled a pleasant odor. That means that people judged the photos to look older than they were and younger than they were. The unpleasant odor made you appear closer to your real age.

Beauty is in your genes (and here’s why)


We’ve often said that how you age is determined by your genes but there’s new research has discovered exactly which genes are responsible for which aspects of aging.

This comes to us from the fine folks at P&G who researched how changes in gene expression changes affect the appearance and quality of women’s skin as they age.

Most interesting, they looked at women who look extremely young for their age and found they share some unique genetic characteristics.

They found these women have a “unique skin fingerprint” that’s driven by about 2,000 genes. We all have these genes but the degree to which they’re expressed is what keeps these women looking younger later in life. The researchers believe there are several key biological functions controlled by these genes including “cellular energy production, cell junction and adhesion processes, skin and moisture barrier formation, DNA repair and replication, and anti-oxidant production.”

In the far flung future, if we learn to control gene expression reliably, this research could really impact antiaging. But for now it at least it may help us improve some of our compensating treatments like better use of antioxidants.

Skin treatment experiment


There was an article on New Beauty in which an author Courtney Leiva experimented with a skin treatment over the course of a week and she reported on how it went. I applaud her for making the attempt but it was really lackluster in terms of scientific rigor. The beauty treatment she was trying was liquid chlorophyll. According to the purveyors of this product, using liquid chlorophyll is supposed to oxygenate and refresh your skin.

For seven days she added chlorophyll to her water. She first found the liquid chlorophyll at a health food shop. That seems like a problem to me right away. How would you know that something is actually chlorophyll and not just green, flavored water? Anyway, she drank the chlorophyll and didn’t see any immediate improvements to her skin. Not surprising. She said it tasted pretty awful.

There was no effect after 2 days, then none after 3 or 4 or 5 or even after a week. So, if you tried something for a week and saw no difference, what would your conclusion be? Well, hers was that she’ll keep it up for another week. I wonder how long it takes before people give up on products?

Paramela oil: Yet another exotic natural beauty ingredient


I just read about a new exotic oil, Paramela. It comes from a evergreen sort of plant that is native to Argentina and it’s noteworthy because it can reportedly help soothe rosacea. The good news is that its benefits were established in a research study that was published in Cosmetics & Toiletries. The bad news is that research study is crap.

I think this was one of those vendor sponsored studies and it wasn’t very well-designed. There were no control whatsoever. They put the the oil in an emulsion and tested it on 10 people. TEN PEOPLE. They rated the panelists’ skin before and after treatment.

They found that people had less redness and less transepidermal water loss after using the product. But what does that mean? You can’t tell if the people just got better over time because the weather changed or whether the emulsion itself was helping – any lotion could provide this kind of effect. There’s no reason whatsoever to believe that this oil is anything special.

The reason I making such a big deal about this is this is why it’s so important to really read the research when you’re looking at products that use fancy exotic ingredients that are probably going to ask you to spend more money on them. Even if they can point to a scientific study that still doesn’t mean that the product does anything special which means you shouldn’t be tricked into spending more money on it!

Squeezing the last drops out of a shampoo bottle


Here was some cool technology I saw in a story about shampoo bottles. Since so many people are working on all the really big problems of the world, it’s nice to know that we still have people working on some of the more mundane problems. In this case, researchers at Ohio State University have come up with a solution to that problem the has bothered people for decades, leaving the last few drops of product in your shampoo, body wash, or skin care product bottle.

Inspired by the Lotus leaf, they created a slippery surface in which the surfactants in personal care products like shampoo will not stick to. Rather, they just slide out. The technology involved creating a surface that had tiny pockets of air and then adhering that special surface to a polypropylene plastic bottle using a silicate particle.

It sounds complicated. Anyway, the shampoo just slipped right off the surface. The video is pretty cool. Unfortunately, they said that over time the effect didn’t work as well so there is still more work to be done. I don’t know why they don’t just tip the bottle upside down like I do.


Can Coca Cola give you a better sun tan? Episode 141

Can Coca Cola give you a better tan?

Nanda asks…Will Coca Cola give you a better sun tan?

When I first head this I thought it was an obscure, ridiculous rumor. But I was wrong. it turns out it’s a very pervasive, ridiculous rumor.

Yeah, if you Google “using coca cola to tan” you get THOUSANDS of search results from people raving about the tanning powers of Coke. People all over the world say that you can get a darker tan if you apply Coke to your skin. My favorite is…Top ten myths about Coca Cola which just happen to be true. But all the article does is repeat the myth – there’s not a hint of evidence.
 Another website explained it this way…Imagine this, your body is the skillet, the sun is the fire, and the sugars and caramels are burning on you!

I don’t think that’s QUITE right. Even a high tech mechanism like that doesn’t convince me.

What about the Coca Cola company? Have they weighed in on this controversy?

The only official response from Coke I could find was on their UK website where they said “As much as we love Coca‑Cola, we really wouldn’t recommend using it in this way. There is no sun protection factor in it at all – it’s a drink!”

And that’ s exactly what I’d expect them to say regardless of whether it works or not. if they said it does work then someone could try it, get sunburned or skin cancer and sue them. Better to deny, deny, deny. So is there any science here?

First of all, some versions of this myth say to mix Coke with baby oil before tanning. So if you did this how do you know it’s not the baby oil giving a darker tan? There is evidence that oils can darken tans by reducing the amount of sunlight that’s reflected from the skin.  (Ref: Phototherapy treatment of psoriasis today) In this version of the myth it could just be the effect of the mineral oil.

But let’s take a look at the ingredients in Coke to see if there’s anything ELSE that could be accelerating the tanning process. The product is pretty simple it just consists of Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel coloring, Phosphoric Acid, and Natural Flavourings Including Caffeine.

The water certainly won’t do anything. I suppose in THEORY the sugars could dry on your skin and form a layer that reduces the reflection of sunlight (just like mineral oil does) but I don’t believe sugar has the right optical properties to do that.

Could the caramel coloring be staining the skin? Caramel does have staining properties but I doubt that as well because the concentration is so low. The viscosity of Coke is so low that you can’t really apply a thick layer to concentrate it either. So that doesn’t appear to be the answer.

Yeah, just about the worst application properties you can imagine. Phosphoric acid would have no effect it’s just there to control the pH.

Okay, so what about the natural flavors and caffeine?

Well, according to the text book Sunscreens by Nadim Shaath, insert reference] one way to boost a tan (which is actually increasing melanogenesis) is to increase the amount of an enzyme called tyrosine present in the melanosomes. One researcher demonstrated that a chemical known as theophylline may directly increase the rate of tyrosinase synthesis. (Of course this was done on cell cultures in the lab…) Theophylline is chemically related to theobromine which is found in the leaves of the cocoa plant so it COULD be a part of the “ natural flavorings” used in coke but since the exact recipe is secret we’ll probably never know.

Caffeine is another related chemical so the combination of the two THEORETICALLY may be able to boost melanogensis.

Of course, as I said a second ago, this has only been shown possible in cell cultures and NOT when applied topically. So you’d also have to prove that these chemicals penetrate skin and that there’s enough present to cause an effect.

Yeah. If there is Theobromine is Coke there’s not very much. since it’s only slightly water-soluble (about 330 milligrams per literhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobromine.) BTW, theobromine has also been identified as one of the compounds that may contribute to chocolate’s alleged aphrodisiac properties.

The bottom line: There doesn’t appear to be any scientific mechanism to explain how Coke could accelerate a sun tan.

How do sugar sprays texturize hair?

Allie asks…How do sugar sprays texturize your hair? There’s a Sugar Mist product, Cake Beauty has one and Bed Head has Sugar Shock. How do they work?

To answer this we took a look at the ingredients in these sugar sprays. The Sweet Definition Texturizing Sugar Mist product does contain a sugar extract. It also contains a classic styling polymer called VP/VA copolymer which is what’s actually responsible for it holding hair/providing texture.

I guess the name “Sweet Definition Texturizing VP/VA Copolymer Mist” just didn’t have the same ring.

The sugar may help a little but if too much is used it will make hair sticky because sugar is hygroscopic (meaning it can absorb water from the air.) Again, the polymer is really doing the work.

For the Cake Beauty product I couldn’t find ANY ingredient list. The website and their press release information only tells me what’s NOT in the product. I HATE when that happens. It’s impossible to tell WHATS in this thing. If it doesn’t contain a true styling polymer then it’s probably more of a texturizer than a holding product.

Finally, the Bed Head product has sucrose as well as PVP which is another classic styling agent. Most old school gels are PVP based.

I guess the bottom line is that if these sugar sprays are based only on sugar, they can give your hair texture (and some stickiness.) If the contain sugar but also have a true styling polymer then they can actually provide some hold.

Bed Head Sugar Shock Bodifying Sugar Spray ingredients

Water, PVP, Magnesium Sulfate, Sucrose PEG-17, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Polysorbate-20, Phenoxyethanol, Oleth-20,PEG-40, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Aminomethyl Propanol, Methylisothiazolinone, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citral, Coumarin, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool.

I don’t really understand how the salt and sugar will provide much benefit because the sugar (as well as the glycerine and to some extent the propylene glycol) will attract moisture to your hair. That means stickiness. The salt will provide texture if it’s “dry” but the other ingredients around it will probably plasticize it to the point there you don’t get a good feel in your hair.

Can you use less of mineral sunscreen?

Kit Kat says…a well-known dermatologist says the recommended 1/4 tsp on face and 1/4 tsp for the neck isn’t applicable for physical sunscreen and you don’t have to use that much to get the proper protection. Is this correct?

I’ve never seen any data that suggests this is true. All sunscreens require a relatively thick coating to ensure appropriate protection. Skimping on how much you apply is not a good idea.

But with claims like this it’s always a good idea to check out the source material. I did find a link to the source of the Kit’s question. It was Dr. Neil Schultz on Derm TV.

I saw that video. First, I gotta say it really bugs me that he refers to mineral sunscreens as “chem-free.”

He does advocate using use less mineral sunscreen. His reasoning is that mineral sunscreens are micronized so that the particles are so small that a given number of particles will cover a larger amount of surface area.

That much is certainly true. But it seems to me proper coverage also depends on the exact concentration of the mineral sunscreen active and the spreadability of the formula. Does he offer any more proof?

In the video, he says “on the basis of personal experience and the use of chem free sunscreens by many thousands of patients, using less chem free than traditional carbon based sunscreens still results in the effective sun protection as well as a cosmetically  acceptable experience.”

I certainly respect his opinion as a professional but his personal experience and the uncontrolled observation of patients still sounds like anecdotal data to me.  This MAY be true but I still can’t find any credible source that backs this up so I’m very skeptical. So, why would you take the chance?

Beauty Science News

How cosmetics affect how people perceive you


Here’s a study published in the Journal Perception that looks at the influence of cosmetics on people’s perception of other people. In the study they had people look at pictures of other people wearing makeup and not wearing makeup. They had to rank them for things like attractiveness, dominance and prestige. The researchers were attempting to find out how makeup affects perception of social status. They found that men and women both thought people looked more attractive when they wore makeup. big surprise. However, women perceived people who wore makeup as more dominant while men thought they looked more prestigious.

Skin lightening ingredient approved in EU


Here’s another update on cosmetic ingredient safety from Europe: The SCCS says that alpha-arbutin is safe to use in skin lightening products. (Remember that hydroquinone has some side effects that can make it dangerous so this may be a good alternative although it’s not as effective.) In the EU HQ is allowed but only in prescription products so it’s more tightly controlled.

Magic powder turns beauty products into sunscreens


This story published in New Beauty sounded pretty scary. There’s a company who came out with a product called MOSS Halo Sun Protection Powder. They claim that you can mix this powder into your favorite skin care product to get SPF protection. The powder is made up of zinc oxide and then some other BS ingredients like willow bark, bamboo, and green tea extracts. They claim you can get an SPF of about 15 – 20. This seems like a terrible idea to me because sunscreen actives are very difficult to disperse.

Lo-Wash your face (Lotion Washing)

This isn’t really a news story but rather just some speculation I’d like to share with you and our listeners. It was triggered by another article I saw about No-poo for hair where you “wash” hair with conditioner. There’s also the “Low Poo” version where you use products with just a touch of surfactants. But it made me wonder if there’s an analogous beauty hack for skin: If you can wash your hair with conditioner, why can’t you wash your face with lotion? I call it “Lo-wash.”  The analogy holds up pretty well – both conditioners and lotions contain some emulsifying surfactants and a lot of lubricating materials like fatty alcohol and silicones. I don’t expect that lotion would deep clean your skin so it may not remove heavy makeup but if you’re just trying to remove sweat and oil and you don’t want to risk drying out your skin, it seems like something that might be worth a try. Let’s make Lo-Wash a thing!

Female smokers should time quitting with their menstural cycle.


I know that people spend millions, maybe billions of dollars trying to fight the signs of aging, but in reality there are pretty much only two lifestyle choices you can make that will have the most significant impact on the way your skin looks. Number 1 is to always use sunscreen when going out in the sun. And number 2 is don’t smoke. Smoking and sun cause wrinkles, skin discoloration and other signs of aging.

The problem is that once you start smoking many people find it hard to stop. Well, we don’t have any advice for men but for women, this latest study published in the journal Biology of Sex Differences suggests that women who want to quit smoking can have better success by timing their quit date with optimal days during their menstrual cycle.

It turns out estrogen and progesterone modulate addictive behavior. These ingredients fluctuate over the course of the menstrual cycle so they hypothesized that there would be a time during the cycle where the progesterone-to-estrogen ratio is high and addictive behaviors would be thwarted.

The women in the study were separated into two groups — those in their follicular phase (the time when menstruation begins until they ovulate) and those in their luteal phase (the time after ovulation). Results revealed that during the follicular phase, there was reduced functional connectivity between brain regions that helps make good decisions and the brain regions that contain the reward center, which could place women in the follicular phase at greater risk for continued smoking and relapse.

Which is a complicated way to say, if you want to quit smoking and improve your skin and overall health, you should do it after ovulation but before you have your period. That will give you a better chance of successfully quitting, according to this research.

Anti-pee paint

Finally, here’s a story…I’m not sure how it related to beauty science but researchers have invented a paint that repels urine. It’s being used on the outside of night clubs and bars where people tend to relief themselves. With the new paint the urine just bounces off the wall and sprays all over the perpetrator. Our female listeners may want to use this at home for their husbands and boyfriends.

Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

Shadowdancer says…These guys are great at cutting through the BS and getting to the truth of how beauty products work. Sometimes they do seem to know more about the science than about current trends; I wish they put the same effort into googling trends as looking up studies and journal articles.

i4Imagine says…One of the best! They provide such honest, straight forward information backed with science. It has definitely piqued my interest in skincare!



Is fabric softener a good hair conditioner? Episode 140

Does blotting oily sunscreen reduce SPF?laundry-149854_960_720

Emma asks in Gmail…I don’t like the oily skin I get from using sunscreen so I blot off the excess with an oil absorbing sheet. Is this reducing the SPF of the sunscreen?

Yes, blotting some of the sunscreen off your face will reduce the UV protection, to some degree. That happens for two reasons:

First, most UV absorbers are not water soluble so they’re dissolved or dispersed in an oil phase. That means a high percentage of the active ingredient is in the oil that you’re removing. And less of that active ingredient means less sun protection.

Second, good sun protection depends on having a relatively thick, even film of the sunscreen on your skin. In fact, dermatologists specifically talk about sunscreen being wiped away as one of the main reasons to reapply.

Apparently this is well studied because I found a paper titled “Effect of Film Irregularities on Sunscreen Efficacy” in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Science. The researchers tested how well different sunscreen films worked and they found “Nonuniform distribution of sunscreen films on skin…account for large discrepancies between naively predicted efficacy and that observed clinically.” In other words, regardless of how good the sunscreen is, if the film isn’t uniform it won’t work as well.

The bottom line is that blotting off excess oil is one way to disrupt the film so if you want good sun protection, then you shouldn’t do it.

Is it safe to use fabric softener on hair?

Chloe asks…is it safe to use fabric softener on your hair?

I guess this qualifies as another of those DIY beauty hacks that we’ve been talking about lately. I’m not sure WHY you’d want to do this – to save money? To get better conditioning? Regardless of your rational here are 3 reasons this isn’t a good idea:

1. Beware of build up

Fabric softeners have a stronger charge then many hair conditioners. That means they may stick to fabric providing long-lasting softness. This is a good thing when it comes to your close which you wash rather infrequently. However in the case of your hair repeated, frequent use of fabric softer could result in horrific buildup.

2. You want the best for your hair

The ingredients are designed to stick to fabric but they can also stick to your hair after rinsing which is why they work so well. But that’s where the similarity ends. A good conditioner will include some sort of agent to add shine to your hair, for example a silicone. You will not find this in a fabric softener since “shine” is typically not desirable of clothing. The types of quats used in hair conditioners are fine-tuned to deliver the best aesthetic experience possible. The ingredients that are good at softening fabric may leave here feeling heavy and limp with a notable waxy coating. Fabric softeners are also heavily fragranced you may find yourself choking on the scent of Downey or Snuggles compared to your typical salon brand.

3. Skin safety

Of course the biggest concern is one of safety. Cosmetics (despite what other people may tell you otherwise) are formulated and tested to ensure they are safe for prolonged contact with skin. There are multiple regulations which control what may and may not be used in cosmetics.

Not surprisingly the laws that govern fabric softeners are different than the ones that control cosmetics. That’s not to say that fabric softeners are necessarily dangerous but they certainly aren’t intended to be used in direct, prolonged, contact with skin. Let’s look at the ingredients in Downy which is probably the most popular brand.

DEEDMAC: The main ingredient, which provides the conditioning, is diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride (or DEEDMAC). The good news is that studies have found this is NOT a sensitizer on skin. Similar And similar ingredients are used in cosmetics.

Formic acid: which is a skin sensitizer and can produce allergic reactions. Not used in cosmetics.

Benzisothiazolinone: The preservative is a cousin of MI and it’s known to cause allergic reactions in some people. One research paper talked about population allergic to this somewhere between 2% and 23%.  This is not used in cosmetics.

Colorant: Liquitint® Sky Blue Dye is a color molecule attached to a couple of polymers. Not approved for cosmetics but needed here to prevent your white towels from staining. Showed that typical water soluble blue dye stains more. This colorant is NOT allowed in cosmetics.

Finally, a word about pH is 4 which is typical for a cationic conditioning product like this. That’s because at a slightly acid pH the conditioner has a positive charge which means it will stick to the damage areas of hair or fabric which have a negative charge.

The bottom line is why would you risk messing up your hair and damaging your skin with a product that’s not designed or tested for personal care use?

What’s a non-irritating alternative for shaving cream?

Peter asks…All regular shaving creams/gels I tested have pH values between 8.5 and 10 and use surfactants like sles or cocamide mea these products leave my skin itchy, red and dry. A dermatologist recommended substituting face wash with a regular emmolient cream and to also shave with it. I tried it with a couple of basic cleansing milks and moisturizers, and my skin is less dry, but it doesn’t really give the same barrier/slip most of the times. So I wonder is it wise to substitute your shaving cream with an emollient moisturizer, and what ingredients have a slippery feeling and give a barrier on skin so that the blade glides easily over your skin?

(Most) shaving creams are true soaps which means they’re formulated with saponified fatty acids (stearic acid usually) and some kind of alkaline agent like triethanolamine (hence the high pH.)

The benefit of this type of formula is that it does a good job of wetting the hair and it provides a lot of lubricious slip. The disadvantage is that it can be irritating to some people. As you pointed out, shaving with an emollient cream is a great idea if you have sensitive skin but, depending on the formula, it may not provide the same level of slip.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy just telling you which ingredients have a slippery feel because it depends on how those ingredients are formulated into the finished product. For example, many silicones provide a lot of slip but if they’re formulated into a cream with cetyl or stearyl alcohols then the finished product can feel draggy.

This is one of those cases where you’ll have to use trial and error to find an emollient cream that gives you the right level of slip for your personal taste. Having said all that, I do have one off-the-wall suggestion for you. You might try one of those anti-chafing bikini gel products like Monistat product. It’s almost pure silicone so you might like the way it feels. (But it certainly won’t wet the beard hair so maybe it will be harder to cut? I don’t know it’s just a thought.

What’s the deal with ionic hair dryers?

Marta says…How do ionic hair dryers work? I’ve read one website that says they cause H2O molecules to divide into smaller particles that evaporate faster. Another website says the ions themselves offer some benefit to your hair. Could you explain it?

I can’t explain it because it’s not true! We’ve heard this claim for years but I haven’t seen a scrap of evidence showing that blowing ionized hot air at your hair provides any benefit.

Don’t get me wrong – ions do have their place in hair conditioning. Specifically, that’s how certain types of conditioners can stay on your hair after rinsing. One end of the molecule has a positive charge and that sticks to the negatively charged spots on your hair which is where the most damage is. So one end is the “anchor” but the other end of the molecule is a long chain of carbon atoms. This “fatty” part lubricates the hair like a thin coating of oil. If you blow ionized air onto your hair you’re just getting water ions which don’t have the same properties.

Want to learn more about beauty ingredients? Visit Cosmetic Composition.

We’re working on a project with another chemist, Paige DeGarmo, who runs the website www.cosmeticcomposition.com. She does a great job of explaining the science behind beauty products. If you like the Beauty Brains you’ll enjoy her website too. Here are a few of my favorite articles:

What is Micellar Water?

How does product order affect skin penetration?

What’s the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?

Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

Teelovespods says… I listen to this when I do my morning routine. I enjoy the matter-of-fact explanations, witty banter, and concise information.

Anonymous59724 says… This is helpful information, presented in an engaging way, definitely accessible for those of use without any more than high school chemistry knowledge. My only complaint is that it’s a little slow-paced, and that occasionally the hosts talk about beauty news articles that aren’t really  at all interesting.


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.

Beauty Science News

A recent scientific study has concluded that get this there are too many scientific studies.

Burger King sauna

Stress causes skin problems

Turn your skin into a touch pad

Anti-aging booze

EU approves old sunscreen, catches up with US

Second skin could erase wrinkles

Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

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.

Beauty Science News

Waste foods as beauty ingredients

The Pope likes beauty bloggers

Denmark may ban micro-beads

App that maps the wrinkles on your face

Chicken-Flavored Nail Polish

Tattoos can improve your immune system

Home remedy beauty product destroys a woman’s face 

Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

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.

Old Spice deodorant irritates consumers


Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

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 

Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

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


Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

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.

Please support the Beauty Brains by signing up for a free audio book at Audible.com.

Click here to get your free audio book.



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.

Please support the Beauty Brains by signing up for a free audio book at Audible.com.

Click here to get your free audio book.

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.

Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

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.