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

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

Click this link to read the original show notes.


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

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

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

Click here for the original show notes.


Are fragrance allergies all in your head? Episode 146

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

You an find the original show notes here.

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

Can the Think Dirty app really protect you from dangerous cosmetics? Episode 145

I was planning on coming back to work today but Perry just ordered another picture of margaritas. That means today’s podcast has to be another rerun. Check out our discussion of the Think Dirty app.

Click here for the original show notes.


Do you smell different when you ovulate? Episode 144

Perry and I are still at the beach but don’t worry he’s constantly rubbing me down with sunscreen. While we’re gone please enjoy this encore episode of our podcast about the odors of ovulation.  woman-546103_960_720

Click here to read the original show notes.

Thanks and see you soon!


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.

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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?

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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.

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EU approves old sunscreen, catches up with US

Second skin could erase wrinkles

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

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