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Pop stars Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are headed to court for their roles in make up commercials which are potentially false and misleading, according to a press release by the Federal Trade Commission.mascara_by_steveoh11-d5emu8d

Misleading cosmetic advertising

According to an attorney familar with the case, if the pop divas are declared guilty at the very least they’ll be prohibited from participating in future cosmetic advertisements. At worst, they could actually be banned from wearing any make up whatsoever during public performances.

This is not the first time that a make up ad featuring a high-profile celebrity has been ruled deceptive. In 2012 Natalie Portman’s mascara ad for Dior was actually banned by UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. The FTC is taking these latest violations even more seriously because of the massive popularity of Taylor and Perry. Apparently, this explains why they’re going after the celebrities themselves and not just the companies that manufacture the cosmetics.

Please follow this link to learn important details of the scandal.

Image credit: http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2012/257/d/0/mascara_by_steveoh11-d5emu8d.jpg

Can body wash fragrance be touch activated? Episode 76

 On this week’s show Perry and I explain how the new Caress Body Wash fragrance is “touch activated.” We also cover a handful of beauty science news stories. 

Claim to fame: Can body wash fragrance be “touch activated?”unnamed

This is the segment where we review popular beauty product claims and tell you what the claims really mean, how the company might support them, and if the claim is compelling enough to entice you to buy the product. Today we’re talking about the new Caress Fine Fragrance Body wash.

What is the claim and what does it mean?

Here are the claims featured on the package :

  • Up to 12 HR Fragrance Release
  • The World’s First Body Wash with Fragrance Release Pearls™
  • A touch-activated technology that releases a burst of perfume every time you touch your skin, all day long.

And there are some additional claims in their promotional materials which are interesting:

  • Fragrance Composed by the World’s Best Perfume Experts
  • Why shouldn’t your body wash have the same touch-activation as your mobile device? …now it does.
  • And my favorite…”It took 25 scientists across 4 continents to perfect the design of this collection.”

I think they did a great job making this product sound breakthrough, so kudos to them. But when it comes down to hard-core technical claims there are just a couple things to focus on:

  • The fragrance release lasts for 12 hours.
  • The fragrance release is touch activated.

Those are both pretty impressive claims so let’s take a look at how they might be delivered.

How could they support the claim?

The simplest approach would be to use some sort of consumer panel. You could have panelists wash one arm with this special body wash and the other with either a regular body wash or, ideally, some placebo version where it’s the body wash without any special fragrance technology.

Then you have other panelists smell that person’s arms without knowing which one was treated with which. You do this at some set interval probably every hour and ask them to rate the fragrance intensity. If panelists can still smell the fragrance after 12 hours you’ve supported the long lasting part of the claim.

But what about this idea of “touch activated?” They would need to build in some kind of “activation” step where the skin is touched or rubbed and then sniffed again to see if the fragrance intensity increases.

It’s also conceivable that instead of, or in addition to, just having people smell the skin they could use a gas chromatograph to actually detect and quantify the fragrance components that are remaining.

I’m pretty confident this technology really works because I did the sniff version of this test for myself. I washed one arm with the “Love” version in the other arm I watched with my usual body wash which happens to be a highly scented Axe product. The Axe product has so much fragrance in fact that I fully expected both arms to smell for several hours. Then I had people smell my arms and to my surprise not only did the Axe fragrance completely fade in the first few hours but the Caress fragrance really did remain throughout the full 12 hours and beyond.

But here’s the really amazing part. I rubbed the lower part of my arm and had panelists smell the difference between the lower part and upper part. It was actually very easy to notice that the fragrance intensity significantly increased after rubbing my skin. The fragrance character changed somewhat into a bit more of the green note but there was no question that rubbing did release additional fragrance.

Obviously this is not a scientific test but it certainly was eye-opening to me to see the magnitude of the difference. There really is something here. So let’s talk for a minute though this technology might possibly work. By the way I asked the company for a more detailed explanation on their technology and did not get a response.

How does this product work?

My guess would be that they use some sort of encapsulation technology with the capsules designed to be substantive to skin even after rinsing. This is consistent with their claim that describes the technology as “Fragrance Release Pearls.”

In principle this is similar to the scratch and sniff capsules that you see used on fragrance advertisements in the beauty magazines. Of course this is trickier because they need to be dispersed in a surfactant system that will not dissolve the capsules and the capsules need to stick around on the skin even after rinsing. I think that’s why they needed those 25 scientists on four continents to figure it out.

We get a hint of what it might be from looking at the ingredient statement. The only thing I see that is likely to be any sort of encapsulating agent is a polyurethane derivative. Polyurethane dispersions contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic segments could help with this sustained fragrance release.We’ll put the ingredients in the show notes if you’re interested.

It’s hard to tell if this is some sort of stock technology from the fragrance house or something that was custom developed just for Unilever (but either way we may see this technology turn up in other Unilever products.) Regardless, it’s certainly interesting technology.

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Fragrance, Acrylates Copolymer, Cocamide MEA, Sodium Chloride, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Polyurethane Crosspolymer-2, Citric Acid, PPG-9, Tetrasodium EDTA, Mica, Urea, Acrylamidopropyltrimonium Chloride/Acrylamide Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Red 33 (CI 17200), Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Blue 1 (CI 42090)

Should this claim persuade you to buy the product?

If this claim appeals to you then yes. This is true product differentiation. That’s not to say it’s for everyone but not every product will do this so I’d say this is a pretty compelling claim.

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  • Chalenegirl from Canada says…The hosts make the science interesting and relevant to the consumer. I def recommend it!
  • 212bdd says…Thanks to the Beauty Brains, I feel much more savvy when I shop for beauty products. There’s so much hype out there, it’s great to have unbiased scientists explain what to look for, and what’s fluff.
  • Lilian C. says…Endearing duo dispensing trustworthy insights. This has been my best source for reliable information. I trust them more than I trust my dermatologist!

Beauty Science News

Will aging be a thing of the past?
According to this story scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have discovered a new class of drugs called Senolytics. These are compounds that target old cells and kill them off. They found by killing off the older, non-dividing cells they can keep mice looking and feeling younger.

So in our bodies we have these stem cells which are highly resistant to dying off. That’s good because these are the cells that continually make new layers of skin for example. Well, most cells adhere to the Hayflick limit which is about 30 generations. That is they can divide about 30 to 50 times before they stop. Now, most of these cells will just die off but many of them can stick around and start causing diseases associated with people who are older.

Anyway, this new drug class finds those old cells and kills them off. This allows new, younger cells to take over their place and, theoretically, life would be extended. They’ve found in mice that on these drugs the animals have improved cardiovascular function, exercise endurance, and an extended health span. They say with just one treatment older mice had highly improved cardiovascular function. It sounds pretty exciting.

I could imagine this same thing going on for skin cells. One of the reasons people get wrinkles is that their cells stop producing collagen and elastin. So maybe a drug like this could help replenish the younger cells and aging skin might not be as problematic.

We’ll see. I bet it will be a long way off though. The researchers want to do more testing in mice before they do any human trials. That’s probably a good idea. Who knows what effect killing off all your old cells will have. I wonder how that would affect your memory.

Does water cause acne?
As a savvy Internet marketer you certainly know the power of a good headline. And I have to admit I have tweeted some articles just based on the headline alone. But you have to be careful because the headline doesn’t always tell the story accurately. Here’s an example of a story from the Gloss with the headline “Does your water cause acne?”

Reading the article I found that the Gloss was just quoting a story from another website called the Bustle that had the headline “Is water making you break out?” And, the Bustle was in turn just quoting something that appeared on Livestrong with the title “Is acne caused by water softeners?” (which is not the same!)

The LiveStrong article said that theoretically, the ions in hard water can react with soaps to form insoluble salts that can help plug your pores. BUT even the author acknowledged there no scientific study that establishes this.

So first of all it’s not really the water itself causing acne. And secondly this is really only an issue if you have hard water and you use true soap as opposed to synthetic soap bars or liquid soaps. And thirdly, there’s no proof that even if you do have that combination it will make you break out because acne isn’t caused by a chemical “plugging” your pores. It’s caused by the chemical having a hyperkeratotic effect. But after getting sucked in by that headline I had to read three articles to get to the bottom of it. It’s no wonder there’s so much misinformation out there – who has time to read all the references that you need to sift through to get to the truth.

Laser turns brown eyes blue

Did you know that there is no such thing as blue eyes? Let me rephrase that – there is no such thing as a pigment that makes your eyes blue. Instead the blue color is sort of an illusion that’s caused by the scattering of light as it passes through the iris of the eye. This is really just Rayleigh scattering which is the same principle that makes the sky blue.

So why are your /my eyes brown? Because of a thin layer of brown pigment that tints the iris – it sort of covers up the blue light or prevents it from scattering. But here’s the really interesting part…scientists at Stroma Medical have developed a laser that can burn off that thin layer of brown pigment so they can make brown eyes blue.  This is not as disturbing as that story we discussed about eyeball tattoos but as you can imagine it still is somewhat controversial. The researchers say it’s safe and that the procedure has been successfully completed on 17 patients in Mexico and 20 in Costa Rica. But critics, like some ophthalmologists, say that fragments of the lasered pigment could “clog up” the eye and lead to glaucoma.  Either way it’s just fascinating to me that people will go to such lengths to change their natural appearance.


What’s the best product for frizzy hair?

Harshleen asks…I’ve always had thick, poufy hair that also frizzes easily. Is there a way or product to bring down the volume and smoothen hair without using a flat iron to straighten?

The Beauty Brains respond
Hi Harshleen. Your question reminds us of the one we received from Kenya about which hair products are best for working out. In both cases, there is no definitive technical answer because there are so many different ways to style your hair and so many different product types. that depend more on personal choice not technical stuff. So, just as we did in Kenya’s case, we’ll give you our point of view and then throw it open for comments from the Beauty Brains community. Here are the main causes of frizzy hair…

1) The natural shape of your hair

If the natural shape of your hair has some curl, you will tend to have more frizz. Hair shape is primarily determined by the shape of the follicles that the hair grows out of. There’s not much you can do about this frizz!

2) How you cut and style it

Long hair has more frizz from damage. That’s because it’s experienced a lot of brushing and combing that causes it to break and split. Broken hairs tends to spring outward uncontrollably because the proteins in hair get “stretched” when the hair is pulled and they don’t go back to their original shape. A shorter cut can control this kind of frizz to some extent.

3) The environment

Humidity can get inside your hair and make fine, curly hair fall flat and it can make smooth, straight hair frizz out. (How does that work? The inside of your hair consists of two different protein regions: the Orthocortex and the Paracortex. These areas absorb water differently, so they don’t swell the same. This differential swelling causes the hair shaft to bend or twist to one side or the other which causes frizz. You can’t completely overcome the effect, but a good conditioner can help block the effects of water on your hair. (Look for something with a good slug of dimethicone in it) and then use high quality styling products that are effective against humidity.

Does anyone have any non-flat iron suggestions for frizzy hair? Leave a comment and help out Harshleen!


Can skin lotions interfere with sunscreen?

Phil asks…Does using facial oils, from certain brands or in general, under a sunscreen affect how good it works? My skin loves certain oils and in spring/summer I use them during the day underneath my sunscreen. I was wondering if it affected the spf, how good it protects, does the oil dissolve some of the protection of it’s a chemical one?

The Beauty Brains respond:Use_Sunscreen_Spray?_Avoid_Open_Flame_(9196637400)

There is cause for concern because it is well documented that certain ingredients can interact with sunscreens. Sometimes this interaction is good, sometimes it’s not so good. For example, a chemical known as Mexoryl SX can improve SPF by reducing the photo degradation of certain UV absorbers like Parsol 1789. Iron chelators like vitamin C and E can also slow the breakdown of sunscreens. On the other hand, care must be taken when mixing sunscreens with insect repellants because of interaction with DEET (the stuff that repels the bugs) because skin penetration is increased.

So, it’s best not to mix sunscreens and other products. As SkinDoc pointed out in our earlier post on the right way to apply sunscreen, the best thing approach is to wait 10 or 15 minutes between application of prodcuts. If you apply an oil to the skin at the same time as the sunscreen you are essentially diluting the sunscreen and it won’t be as effective. Of course no matter what technique you use, the key message here is to wear sunscreen!

Image credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons

What’s the deal with topical Botox?

CosmeticChem is curious…What is a topical Botox(tm)? Does it work the same way as injectable Botox(tm)? So far how many “In-vivo” studies have been done to check the efficacy?

The Beauty Brains respond:cute_easter_bigfoot_sticker-rd656125a4b544110841bdc1f3d4cc6cc_v9waf_8byvr_324

Topical Botox? Yeah, right. That’s right up there with anti-wrinkle lotions that work like lasers, hair growth products, Bigfoot, and the Easter Bunny. Wait a minute…what’s that? There’s a peer reviewed, placebo-controlled study that says this might actually work?!? What the hell?!?

Promising test results for topical Botox

A 2010 study conducted by Dermatology Research Institute, LLC, Coral Gables, Florida , sponsored by Revance Therapeutics, Inc., Newark, California, found botulinum toxin type A (also known as Botox(tm)) significantly decreased lateral canthal lines (LCLs also commonly known as crow’s feet) when applied from a topical gel.

It’s a small study (n=36 adults) but it certainly looks promising: the results, which were statistically significant at the 99% confidence interval, 50% of the panelists showed a decrease in LCLs by 2 units or more compared to a placebo control (after 8 weeks). What does all that mean? Unlike so many studies on cosmetic products, this one was done with in vivo (on real people, not just in a test tube in the lab); it was done with a proper control (tested against a gel that did NOT contain the toxin); and the results where statistically significant (which is indicative that the results will be repeatable.)

Stylist.com interviews a dermatologist who comments on the study and raises concerns such as the fact that the effect is much less than you will see from injectable Botox(tm) and that it’s likely to only work on crow’s feet because it’s easier for the toxin to penetrate the thin skin around the eyes.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Topical Botox is apparently more reliable than Bigfoot or the Easter Bunny, which is more than you can say for a lot of anti-aging products. It will be interesting to see if further testing leads to a commercially viable product.

Reference: Dermatologic Surgery

Image credit: http://rlv.zcache.com/cute_easter_bigfoot_sticker

Is hyaluronic acid a good anti-aging ingredient? Episode 75

Do you wonder which anti-aging ingredients really work? Today we’re reviewing the evidence for hyaluronic acid.

Which anti-aging ingredients really work?

When it comes to anti-aging products it’s easy to be tricked into spending a lot of money on products that aren’t worth it. That’s because there’s so much pseudoscientific misinformation out there about anti-aging cosmetic ingredients. Also, once you buy an anti-aging product, it takes you a long time to determine if it’s really working for you or not. That’s why we’re going to focus some of our podcast episodes on specific anti-aging ingredients, Today we’re talking about hyaluronic acid.

What is hyaluronic acid?



Think of it as a large sugar molecule, what chemists would call a polysaccharide. But it’s a BIG sugar. Regular table sugar has a molecular weight of about 340 units (Daltons). HA has a MW of anywhere from 600,000 to 1,000,000 units. Its structure and this large weight give it the ability to hold between 500 and 1000 times its own weight in water. That’s why our bodies use it to hydrate tissues and lubricate joints.

The many names of hyaluronic acid

First let’s talk about the name…This ingredient is most commonly referred to as hyaluronic acid which obviously is the acid form. Another version is the sodium salt which is officially known as sodium hyaluronate. These two terms are used interchangeably. The official INCI Name is Sodium hyaluronic acid. Just to make things more confusing, it’s sometimes referred to as “Hyaluronan” which is the generic name that covers all forms of HA. Finally there are 2 alternate versions which we’re aware of.

  • Sodium acetyl hyaluronate
  • Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid

Where does hyaluronic acid come from?

The quick answer is it comes from animals. At least it’s found in mammals I’m not sure if it’s present in reptiles or fish. It might give you a little perspective if we went through a quick timeline starting from when hyaluronic acid was discovered.

1934 – Hyaluronic acid was first isolated from cow eyes in 1934 and it was given its name from the term “hyaloid” which means glassy. (Because hyaluronic acid gel is so clear and glass like.)

1930-40s – Hyaluronic acid was isolated from other sources including umbilical cords and rooster combs.

1951 – Chemists first determined the structure of hyaluronic acid.

1970s – We began to understand how hyaluronic acid interacts with cartilage which is why its such a good joint lubricant.

1980s- The 1980s saw the first cosmetic application of hyaluronic acid. When the stuff first burst on the antiaging scene I was working for a small high end cosmetics company that used it. At the time it was very expensive because it was sourced from rooster combs. As I recall it was about $500 a kilo maybe more.

1999- Researchers figured out how to clone hyaluronic acid from bacteria (specifically Group A Streptococcus). The bacterial type was lower molecular weight but it was cheaper and didn’t involve animal sourcing. But there’s some danger of contamination with strep toxins.

2003: The FDA approved hyaluronic acid approved as an injectable for facial lines and wrinkles.

2010 and beyond – In the last few years a new method has been developed that makes hyaluronic acid from a safe bacterial strain called Bacillus subtilis. So today state of the art hyaluronic acid is free from contamination, not made from animals, and is made without the use of organic solvents.

What does hyaluronic acid do?

We mentioned that hyaluronic acid is found in places like the fluid filled area of the eye and in joints. That’s because its ability to retain high levels of water. It’s also very viscous, very thick, yet it thins out during shear stress so hyaluronic acid is said to be “ideal as a biological lubricant.”  The average person has about 15 grams of hyaluronic acid in their body at any given time and about one third of that is turned over every day. There are enzymes that produce hyaluronic acid and other enzymes that break it down so it’s constantly being recycled.

Restoring lost hyaluronic acid can be an effective treatment for a number of conditions. For example, it’s injected into joints to treat osteoarthritis. (It can be taken orally as well but it’s not as effective.) It’s also used in eye surgeries like cataract removal and cornea transplants where it is injected directly into the eye. And of course, it’s also found in skin, where it helps keep it plump and wrinkle free.

Over time our bodies produce less hyaluronic acid and that’s another contributing cause of wrinkles. And that brings us to the key question…is hyaluronic acid a good skin care ingredient? There are 3 or 4 different levels to that question because you can restore hyaluronic acid different ways. (Much like our discussion of collagen back in Episode 73)

It’s used as an injectable filler, a topical moisturizer, a cell communicating ingredient, and as a dietary supplement. Let’s look at each of these to see what hyaluronic acid really does for skin. Once again we’ll be using the three Kligman questions which as if science has a mechanism to explain HOW it works, if the ingredient PENETRATES skin, and if there are any credible studies proving that it works on real people. Let’s start by talking about hyaluronic acid as an injectable filler.

Hyaluronic acid as an injectable filler

It’s always easier to talk about a treatment that’s been approved by the FDA because you know there’s plenty of research behind it. In this case, we know that injectable hyaluronic acid really works to plump up wrinkles. The mechanism is simply the physical force of the high MW polymer. It penetrates because a needle is used to bypass the outer layers of skin, and we know it really works for for filling wrinkles and that it typically lasts for six months.

Of course, just as with collagen or any other filler, you have to visit a professional to have the treatment done, it can be rather expensive, HOW MUCH, and it has to be redone every several months. Even though it works this approach isn’t for everyone.

Hyaluronic acid as a moisturizer

Is there a mechanism?
The mechanism of moisturization is the way that hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. It’s very unusual for a polymer to hold on to THAT much water.

Does it penetrate?
Since this kind of moisturization works at the surface of skin, hyaluronic acid doesn’t really need to penetrate in order to be able to work. It just has to be deposited on the surface of skin. That means it needs to be applied from a substantial, leave on product. Don’t waste your money on expensive hyaluronic acid products that are rinsed off (like cleansers) or ones that don’t apply a significant amount to your face (like a toner.)

Are there studies to prove it works?
Yes. For example, here’s one study from a 1999 Shiseido research paper that measured the moisturizing effect of hyaluronic acid the Sodium Acetyl version) on Guinea pig skin. It’s not difficult to prove this using a number of different techniques.

There is one interesting concern that has been raised about hyaluronic acid and other ingredients like glycerin that bind water to the skin: In dry climates, where there’s little moisture in the air, these ingredients may actually pull water OUT of the skin, and bring it to the surface where it can evaporate. In other words, these ingredients may actually make your skin drier. The best defense against that is to not rely on serums that are based ONLY on hyaluronic acid or glycerin. Instead, use a cream or lotion that also contains occlusive ingredients that can lock water into the skin.

So at the end of the day, hyaluronic acid is a good topical moisturizing ingredient but there are LOTS of good moisturizing ingredients out there. If you are going to spend a lot of money on an hyaluronic acid product at least make sure it contains a good level of hyaluronic acid. You’ll have to read the label carefully. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Sephora sells Peter Thomas Roth’s “VIZ-1000™ 75 percent Hyaluronic Acid Complex.” When I saw this I thought wow, that’s a high concentration HA. I don’t even know if you can make it that concentrated. But when I looked at the ingredient list I saw a bunch of extracts listed first and hyaluronic acid was listed as the 25th or 26th ingredient. It was almost last. If this is truly a 75% hyaluronic acid product then it would have to be the first or second ingredient. What’s going on here? Read the name carefully – It’s the 75% hyaluronic acid COMPLEX. So what they’ve done is taken hyaluronic acid, mixed it with a bunch of extracts that don’t do anything, and used 75% of this mixture. That doesn’t mean it contains a useful level of hyaluronic acid! This may be a perfectly fine product but that’s a very shady way of approaching the marketing.

By comparison, look at this Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel. It doesn’t even have hyaluronic acid in the name, yet its the second ingredient. Of course it could still be used at a low level but you have to appreciate the difference in marketing approach.

Hyaluronic acid as a “cell communicating” ingredient

Is there a mechanism?
Cell communicating ingredients are active ingredients that aren’t just superficial moisturizers. They may actually have an effect on underlying skin biology. I say “may” because the data on these ingredients is still sketchy and depending on the effect they have they could considered to be drugs. Still, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that some ingredients work this way. Surprisingly, hyaluronic acid may be in this category.

One study, performed at the University of Regensburg in Germany, measured the effect of hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid on gene expression. They used DNA-chip technology and reconstructed human skin to find that hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid changed the regulation of more than 40 genes including those responsible for cell to cell adhesion. Their conclusion was that this model could explain how hyaluronic acid improves skin tautness.

Another in vitro study found that supplemental hyaluronic acid may help stimulate collagen production. But this one was just done on cells in a lab and is not very definitive. Besides, hyaluronic acid is way too big to penetrate the skin. Right?

Does it penetrate?
I have to say that it was quite surprising for us to find out that hyaluronic acid may actually penetrate the skin! Why is this so surprising? Two reasons. First, hyaluronic acid molecules are too big. They’re about 3,000 nm in diameter and the space between skin cells is only about 15 to 50 nm. Theoretically there’s no way a molecule that large should be able to make its way through the skin. Second, hyaluronic acid is very hydrophilic, or water loving, and we know that to penetrate skin substances have to be more oleophillic, or oil loving. That’s why water soluble AHA’s are good on the surface of skin but oil soluble BHAs are better to penetrate pores to treat acne. So hyaluronic acid has two strikes against it.

But it turns out there are actually two ways hyaluronic acid may be penetrating. First, recent research in hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid shows that it can be made small enough to slip between these intercellular space. This hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid is chopped up into pieces with a molecular weight of about about 50 kDaltons. The researchers found that this could penetrate pigs ears. (Evonik study)

And second, the big shock was that even the full size molecules may be able to penetrate because the configuration of the molecule may over come the electric charge issue that comes from being hydrophilic. This was a 1999 study from the Journal of Investigative Dermatology titled Absorption of Hyaluronan Applied to the Surface of Intact Skin. The researchers radioactively tagged hyaluronic acid and applied it to both hairless mice and human forearm skin. Results showed that in both mice and humans, hyaluronic acid penetrated deep into the epidermis, the dermis and the lymphatic endothelium. They also found hyaluronic acid metabolites in blood and urine in the mice. This is the first and only study we’re aware of to show that full size hyaluronic acid penetrates deep into the dermis where it accumulates briefly before being degraded by enzymes. The researchers also said that not a lot ends up in the dermis and that it doesn’t stay there very long. But it really may penetrate!

Are there studies to prove it works?
The cell communicating properties of hyaluronic acid don’t seem to be very well studied yet but we did find a couple of relevant papers. One long term, placebo controlled in vivo study assessed the effect of hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid on skin elasticity and roughness. They found the formula with hyaluronic acid significantly increased elasticity (by about 14%) and significantly reduced roughness (by about 10%). That’s not a huge effect but it’s interesting.

Another study, from the The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology looked promising because it found that Hyaluronic acid can “boost skin’s moisture content, reduce inflammation, have cell-communicating abilities, and help prevent moisture loss.”

Finally, for what it’s worth, we found another study on “nano” hyaluronic acid which was reduced to 5nm so it could penetrate. But the study was NOT blind or placebo controlled. They just applied an HA cream for several weeks and the results are compared to untreated skin. http://jcadonline.epubxp.com/i/282497/17.

So, while we’d like to see more definitive research, it does appear that hyaluronic acid may be a cell communicating ingredient.

Hyaluronic acid as an ingestible dietary supplement

Is there a mechanism?
Finally let’s talk about hyaluronic acid as a dietary supplement. Mechanistically speaking this could work. We found a study titled “Dietary hyaluronic acid migrates into the skin of rats” which showed that when rats orally ingest radio-tagged hyaluronic acid, it shows up in their skin. About 90% of it was broken down in the digestive track but some did make its way to the dermis.

Does it penetrate?
Since it appears in blood and skin after ingestion, it appears to be “penetrating” via the digestive system.

Are there studies to prove it works?
Besides this study on rats we couldn’t find any studies on the benefits of ingested hyaluronic acid for skin in humans. The best thing we could find was a 2015 meta analysis of the studies using hyaluronic acid to treat osteoarthritis. According to the researchers, and I quote “Despite the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ recommendation against the use of hyaluronic acid in OA, some systematic reviews found some benefits in the knee.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25633815. So that’s not very encouraging but the area is also not very well studied.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Hyaluronic acid certainly works as an injectable but that’s not for everyone.

Hyaluronic acid is a good moisturizer but expensive compared to other options.

Hyaluronic acid MAY, repeat MAY have unexpected anti-aging properties but not fully understood.

There’s a mechanism to explain how it may benefit the skin when ingested but we couldn’t find any reliable studies confirming this on real people.

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  • ChemGuru

Steven says…What are your thoughts on perfluorocarbons in skin care? I’ve noticed the use of Perfluorodecalin and Perfluoromethyl-cyclopentane as a slip agent in some formulations. As well they are purported to deliver oxygen to the skin. Perfluorodecalin has been used in this way to enhance wound healing…However I know that perfluorocarbons in general can be environmental pollutants and can also bioaccumulate. Is their any justification in their use in skin care products?

The Beauty Brains responddiving-378214_1280

Perfluorodecalin is a fluorocarbon which, as Steven pointed out, is used skin moisturizers.

What does perfluorodecalin do?

It is notable for its ability to dissolve up to 49% of its volume in oxygen. This property makes it valuable in wound healing products because application of oxygen can “activate the inflammatory cells of the immune system that help healing.” (Reference: ScienceDaily.) For example we found this interesting paper on the use of perfluorodecalin enemas to treat irritable bowels. (You can write your own joke for that punchline.)

Is it good for skin?

Do I think use of this ingredient is “justified” in moisturizers? Well, while it’s ability to solubilize oxygen is impressive for medical applications, I can’t think of any reason why it would help fight wrinkles. Oxygen, by definition, oxidizes. Anti-aging products contain antioxidants to fight oxidation (from free radicals that can prematurely age skin.) Oxygen is the Anti-antioxidant! (The Un-antioxidant? De-antioxidant?) If there’s a rationale for why this is good for skin, I’d love to hear it.

What about perfluorodecalin’s ability to moisturize? Some of the brands we looked at referred to clinical studies showing an increase in skin moisturization and a decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But any decent anti-aging product will provide these benefits, you don’t need such a high-tech (and expensive) ingredient for that.

Is it bad for the environment?

Then there are the health and environmental issues that Steven raised. While we couldn’t find any data on bioaccumulation we did find this study that indicates perfluorodecalin can has a high GWP (Global Warming Potential.) That, and the fact that it so it will hang around in the atmosphere for along time because it doesn’t degrade easily, does seem concerning.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

While perfluorodecalin appears to be valuable for medical applications I could find no evidence suggesting it provides any differentiated skin care benefits compared to conventional moisturizing agents.

Image credit: Pixabay


Which hair products are good for working out?

Kenya’s question…I was just discussing with a good friend of mine on how to get women active and workout more when they’re constantly worrying about their hair. We determined that it has to be the types of products and not knowing how to properly style or care for their hair which often discourages them from working out. Crazy, right?! But, my question is–are there any products out there that can help women maintain their hair so they can’t use the excuse to not work out is because it ruins their hair? Good luck answering this one. I really struggled to find the right way to word this question…lol!!! I know the answer really depends on many factors, like hair type, possibly length, and others, but there has to be something out there (product wise) that can help, so there’s not anymore excuses to get healthy!

The Beauty Brains respondbicycle-bike-foot-1009

There is no definitive technical answer but we thought this was such a good question that we wanted to share it in the hopes that the Beauty Brains community can provide some good suggestions. Having said all that, if you don’t want to work out because you have to shampoo your hair, here are a few product ideas that could help erase your excuse.

Dry Shampoo

Don’t have time to wash your hair after a sweaty workout? A spray of dry shampoo can refresh your style without all the hassle of actually washing your hair.


You would work out but you don’t want to have to wash your hair again because it’s damaging? Try a co-wash product like Salon Grafix Conditioning Cleanser. It’s less stressful on your hair than regular shampoo and conditioner.

Conditioning stylers

You don’t work out because re-styling hair takes too much time? You can reduce the time it takes to style your hair (and the time it takes to wash styling products out of your hair) if you use cream-based stylers instead of traditional gels and hairsprays.

Do YOU have any suggestions for Kenya and all the other would-be worker outers? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

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A guide to cosmetic ingredients for the perplexed

Do you ever wonder about all those cosmetic ingredients you slather on your body everyday? Here’s a resource that you’ll find very helpful.


Fellow cosmetic scientist and friend of the Brains, Colin Sanders, has just released “A Guide to Cosmetic Ingredients for the Perplexed.” Colin calls this a “mini-book” but it covers nearly 50 different ingredients in as many pages so it’s packed with useful information. Vitamins, oils, waxes, anti-aging ingredients are all touched on here.

If you want to be more educated about the beauty products you buy check it out!

If you’re in the U.S., buy A Guide To Cosmetic Ingredients For The Perplexed here.

If you’re one of those U.K. blokes (is that the right term?) you should go here.


How can Listerine claim to make your mouth “dentist clean?” Perry and I break it down for you in this week’s show. And…more beauty science news!

Take our St. Patrick’s Day Beauty Science Quiz!

Are these statements about Irish Spring soap true or false? Listen to the show for the answers.

1. The first Irish Spring commercial in 1972 featured the same voice actor who did the Leprechaun from Lucky Charms cereal.
2. “Manly but I like it too” is arguably Irish Spring’s most famous slogan. One of its lesser known slogans was “You smell like you’re worth exploring.”
3. When Irish Spring launched in 1970, the first country it launched in was not Ireland but Germany.
4. The original Irish Spring soap bar contained Irish Moss Extract.
5. Irish Spring’s late 1990s “Up your kilt” campaign was dropped in the EU because it was too perceived to be too Anti-Scottish.

Claim to Fame: Can mouthwash really make your mouth “dentist clean?”

This is the segment where we look at the claims of popular beauty products and explain what the claim really means, how the company might support the claim, and most importantly, if the claim really makes enough of a difference for you to buy the product. Today we’re talking about Listerne Ultra Clean mouthwash.

Here’s the claim:

“Powerful DENTIST CLEAN feeling up to 3x longer*”
*vs brushing alone.


What does the claim mean?

What do you think when you first see the claim in this picture?  When I saw it, the words “DENTIST CLEAN” jumped out at me because they’re in a much larger, bold font. So I thought this product makes your mouth as clean as a visit to the dentist. That’s impressive.

The second thing that struck me was the numerical part of the claim because it says it lasts three times longer. Wow that is a powerful claim. How the heck do they do that?

Finally the first part of the claim caught my eye which says “feeling.” Then I realized what they had done. They’re not claiming your mouth is as clean as a dentist makes it or that that cleanliness last longer than a dental visit. They’re saying it makes your mouth feel as clean as a dentist visit. That’s much different! It also makes it clear that they’re just comparing the mouthwash performance to to brushing alone. Now that we understand the entire claim in its entirety, let’s talk about how they could support this.

How could they support this claim?

It’s really deceptively simple. Since they have defined the claim as a feeling they don’t have to do any instrumental analysis or chemical analysis. They can simply use a consumer panel. They could ask panelists something like… “on a 1 to 5 scale rate how clean your mouth feels after a dentist visit’ and then on that same scale rate “how clean your mouth feels after using this product.” Or they could say something like “Compared to a trip to the dentist rate how clean this product makes your mouth feel.”

Another set of questions could be crafted to support the 3x longer claim. Again one question could be “how long does your mouth feel clean after brushing alone” and another could be “How long does your mouth feel clean after using Listerine.” The difference doesn’t even have to be that great. For example if brushing alone makes your mouth feel fresh for 20 minutes and this product makes it feel fresh for an hour you have data to support three times longer.

Once again this is our guess of how they support the claim – they could be doing something much more rigorous and involved but I don’t think you would really need to. What we’ve just described is enough to establish basic clean support.

Should this claim persuade you to buy the product?

There’s nothing here that indicates this product is better than any other mouthwash. If they said “Listerine keeps your mouth feeling fresh three times longer than Scope” then that might be a compelling reason to buy one over the other. Without that kind of relevant comparison this claim isn’t very compelling and certainly shouldn’t be the thing to make you buy the product. (That doesn’t mean this is a bad product – it just means don’t be tricked into buying a product just based on the claims.)

Review us on iTunes!

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And here’s what some of our international fans have said…

Cayetana from Mexico says “You will learn, laugh and save a buck or two next time you buy cosmetics.”

HalfPintPete from Sweden likes how we “tackle controversial aspects , such as natural greenwashing, animal testing, and the lies that some companies use to make us buy their products.” He recommends the show to “everyone who would like to know more about the secrets behind the makeup.”

Marie from Belgium says “Love the show – hate the catchphrase”

Beauty Science News

More on self preserving cosmetics
I want to start with a follow up to our discussion on self preserving products from a few weeks ago.

We talked about Lush products and that self preserving systems may have a shorter shelf life. Therefore if you buy a big jar of a self preserved product you may having to throw it away before you use it up. Obviously that’s not a good value for the consumer.

After that show we were contacted by a start up cosmetic company that has a novel approach that could help solve that problem. The company is Stowaway Cosmetics and they make cosmetics in teeny tiny sizes. The founder of the company, Julie Fredrickson, described their proposition like this: For example…”mascara expires way before you can use it but BIG MAKEUP still sells enormous sizes that no one can finish because we all seem to have bought into the idea that more is better.”

I was intrigued by this – smaller sizes are used up more quickly which MAY make it easier to get by with a self-preserving system. I also found it interesting that they were able to devise smaller sizes of lipsticks and mascaras – that’s easier said than done because it requires custom packaging development.

In the spirit of transparency, I have to say that they were kind enough to send us some free samples to try. And, according to our product evaluator they’re all terrific. So, if you find this approach appealing, you can find them at Stowawaycosmetics.com

A final note of self-preserved systems…I just read that a European company is putting preservatives into the plastic packaging so the product itself can be unpreserved or at least minimally preserved. It’ll be interesting to see if this catches on.

Silicones from cosmetics are unexpectedly found in the Antarctic
Here’s something many of you may have not considered. Your hair shine spray may be contaminating Antarctica. How’s that you say? You’ve never been to Antarctica you say? Well, it comes down to silicones. There is a common ingredient in shine sprays called Cyclomethicone. You’ll also find it in hair conditioners, skin lotions, and any other place where you want to get the benefits of silicone without the negative side effect of it weighing down hair and building up.

Silicones are used in cosmetics because they provide excellent shine, they’re very slippery, and they can feel nice on the surface. Cyclomethicone is particularly useful because it is a volatile ingredient which means that it evaporates. Another silicone called Dimethicone is also commonly used but once you put it on your skin or hair it stays there where it can attract dirt and build up over time.

But cyclomethicone just evaporates away. And this is the problem. Scientists thought that silicone would just evaporate into the atmosphere and get broken down by hydroxyl radical in the atmosphere. The molecules would degrade so there wouldn’t be any significant build up in the environment. But it turns out that cyclomethicone doesn’t degrade as readily as was thought. These researchers found an abundant amount of cycsiloxanes in a couple pristine, remote ecosystems which prompted them to investigate other places on the planet.

They took some soil samples from a variety of locations in Antarctica and were surprised to find the presence of cyclic volatile methylsiloxanes. These are the same ingredients used in cosmetics. Somehow the molecules evaporate into the atmosphere, get spread around the planet, then fall back to Earth (probably trapped in snow flakes or something).

So, your cosmetics could be contaminating Antarctica.

Before you start calling for a ban on cyclomethicone in cosmetics (it’s already been done by a lot of groups actually), you should consider two things. First, this work needs to be repeated. It’s really easy to contaminate the samples and until another lab repeats the investigation we can’t be certain that these results are real. Science always requires duplication.

Second, there is no evidence that the compound has any negative effect on the environment. Just because you find an ingredient in the soil doesn’t mean that it will automatically be a negative thing. It might, or maybe not.

So, if you are super cautious about you impact on the environment you might want to avoid products with cyclomethicone. But in reality, you’re probably not making much difference anyway.

Don’t use crayons as makeup!
 There’s a thread on Reddit called Makeup Addition which has some very interesting discussions. One poster gave an 4 point excellent explanation of why you shouldn’t use crayons as makeup – which I’ll quickly review.

The first point had to do with crayons being “non-toxic.” If crayons are non-toxic why couldn’t they be used in makeup? It’s probably because the lack of toxicity refers to a kid accidentally eating a crayon one time. That doesn’t mean the product is designed to be used on your lips where it can be ingested over a long period of time. It’s the whole “dose makes the poison” discussion.

The second has to do with what happens to a crayon when it is accidentally swallowed. The wax that is typically used in crayons has a higher melting temperature than body temperature and crayons aren’t very soluble in acid so a lot of pigments stay stuck in the wax mixture and just pass through your body. But, when crayons are used to make makeup they may be mixed with a wax or oil with a lower melting point to make it spreadable. That could change the solubility of the pigments and make them more likely to be absorbed by your body, which is not good.

Third, and perhaps the most critical point, is that crayons don’t use colorants that are approved by the FDA for on the lips. These are strictly regulated in cosmetics but in crayons they are not.

And lastly is the practical consideration that crayons dont make very good lipstick. They don’t spread well and they won’t stay on your lips the way a well formulated product will. So, all things considered, this is not a good idea.

More beauty bloggers launching their own cosmetic line
I see that a bunch of beauty bloggers are making a splash by launching their own brands. According to this Yahoo! Beauty article they are giving supermodels and celebrities a run for their money in terms of product endorsements. The most famous beauty blogger turned cosmetic brand is Michelle Phan who made a splash last year or the year before by launch a brand with L’Oreal. Well there are others including Emily Weiss who has a line of moisturizers and lip balms, Cara Brook who has a makeup line, Elizabeth Dehn who has a line of Organic beauty products, and a surprising entry…a guy, Eric Bandholz who has a brand called Beardbrand. He’s got a red beard and a good following so I guess that makes sense. I’ll be curious to see how these brands do. I mean if you can get a following on the Internet you should be able to get enough consumers to buy your stuff.

Hey, why don’t we have our own beauty brand? We’ve got a big audience and we’ve been at this a lot longer than many of these people. Actually, we have thought of it but there are a number of reasons we haven’t launched our own line. Mainly, it’s pretty hard to tell people about the BS claims of the cosmetic world while simultaneously trying to sell them products. You should always be hyper skeptical of anyone who is giving you advice about a product they are selling.

Reverse shampoo to get rid of gunk
After being in the industry for so long I thought I’d seen it all but here’s an interesting shampoo tip that I’ve never heard of.

This comes from Herbal Essences celebrity stylist Charles Baker Strahan who says that styling products are hard to wash out because when water comes in contact with styling gunk “it congeals and acts as a barrier, so your shampoo can’t get in and break it up.” His solution is to apply shampoo directly to dry hair and THEN get in the shower to rinse it out. This way the styling gunk doesn’t have a chance to congeal and create that blockage. Therefore, your shampoo cleans your hair better. Isn’t that interesting?

It’s true that styling resins can swell up and form an outer layer that is hydrated which then slows the penetration of water to the inner layer. That’s especially true for some old school styling agents like PVP. It’s also true that modern styling polymers are very water resistant which is why you can’t wash them out very well with water alone.

I think this tip MAY help. The advantage is that it does put a higher relative concentration of surfactant in contact with the gunk that you want to wash away. But, there are there are two potential downsides. One is that some styling agents are more cationic and shampoos tend to be anionic which means they could form an insoluble complex.

The other issue is one of potential irritation. You’re putting a higher concentration of surfactant in direct contact with your skin which could make it more irritating. I don’t think this is a huge risk but it’s worth mentioning.

But the best thing is we don’t have to just speculate on this. You could easily do one of our half head tests to get to the bottom of it. Assuming you’ve styled your hair such that you have equal amounts of styling gunk on both sides you could just sort of split your hair down the middle and to one half apply shampoo first and on the other half don’t apply anything. Then get in the shower and wet your hair and apply shampoo to the other side. After washing and rinsing if you can’t tell a difference between the two sides then this method probably isn’t providing any benefit.

Beauty beverages are the fastest growing segment in beauty products
Here’s a story I saw about the drinkable beauty market. We’ve talked a bit about the ‘beauty from within’ trend in the past and I’m always intrigued to see where this is going. In truth, there isn’t a lot of science to support the notion that you can drink your way to better skin but I do believe that eventually this could be the future of cosmetics. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier just to drink your beauty products rather than having to smear them on your skin?

According to market analysts the nutricosmetics market will reach $7.4 billion in worldwide says. That’s a lot! To give you an idea of comparison the natural cosmetic market is about $30 billion. The total cosmetic market is about $450 billion. But they say the nutricosmetics, or ingestible cosmetics as I like to say is the strongest growing segment. It also represents the intersection between the cosmetic industry and the beverage industry.

I think cosmetic companies are in a better spot to take advantage of this trend but companies like Coke and Pepsi might also try their hand at these types of products. After all, it will likely be food scientists formulating these products. This is a good reason for cosmetic scientists to brush up on their food product formulating. The ingredients are a bit different.

They say that there is a bunch of research that documents the links between beauty, health and supplements but the reality is there isn’t much good research. In fact, like I said there is scant evidence that any supplement can be taken to specifically improve your skin condition.

I guess it doesn’t matter much though because we live in a world where people want to believe. People want to believe that taking vitamins or other supplements will improve their health and now apparently, their appearance too.

It’s also an area that is much less regulated than cosmetics so these companies can make much stronger claims without as much data to back up what they are saying. And consumers keep buying…sigh.

Anyway, look for more of these beauty products to be launched in the future. Just don’t look for them to actually work at least any time soon. The science just isn’t there.