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Beauty Science News – March 30

Here are the last 5 beauty science news stories for this month…

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Signature Club Anti-Wrinkle Capsules – Look at the label

Signature Club’s Anti-wrinkle capsules are a best beauty seller on Amazon. Let’s look at the label to see what’s inside.

Claims and ingredients

But first, here are the product’s claims:

  • Help your skin look less wrinkled and younger.
  • These beauty treatment capsules contain 10% vitamin C plus bio-peptides and the addition of the Rapid-C delivery system.

The product contains two ingredients which can provide vitamin C. The first is ascorbic acid (which is “real” vitamin C.) Studies show that is it effective and 10% is a reasonable level to use but some people find that it can be irritating. It also contains Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate which will be less irritating but doesn’t penetrate skin as well.

Both forms of vitamin C are prone to oxidation so another advantage of this product is capsule packaging which will protect them from oxidizing before they can be used by your skin. The inclusion of  Tocopherol Acetate is good as well since vitamins C and E work better in combination. The product may be pricey  but it will probably provide good functionally.

Signature Club A Rapid Transport C Infused High Potent-C Anti-Wrinkle Capsule ingredients

Cyclopentasiloxane, Ascorbic Acid, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Dimethiconol, Tocopherol Acetate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Methyl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, BHT, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-8, Myristoyl Tetrapeptide-8

If you want to buy Signature Club Anti-Wrinkle Capsules please use our link and help support the Beauty Brains. Thank you!


Is Elumen Hair Color really less damaging?

Maddy asks…I’ve heard about Elumen Hair Colour on the long hair community as a less damaging hair colour alternative. It claims to last like a permanent dye, but be as undamaging as a temporary color. How does it work?

The Beauty Brains respond:

There are essentially three factors on which to judge a hair coloring product: its degree of permanence, the degree of damage it causes to the hair, and the range of shades it provides.

Permanent hair color

On one hand you have permanent hair colors (also known as oxidative hair colors) which work the “best” because they give you the longest lasting color with the greatest range of shades (even allowing you to go from dark shades to lighter shades via bleaching.) However, permanent coloring also causes the most damage because the process swells the hair shaft which disrupts the protein structure of hair.

Temporary hair color

On the other hand you have temporary colors that merely stain the outside of the hair shaft. These cause little, if any damage, but they don’t last very long and they only allow you to add color on top of the hair color you already have. (So it’s impossible to turn yourself into a blonde using temporary colors.)

Elumen hair color

Elumen hair color technology is somewhere in between these two extremes. It is a low pH system so it will not swell the hair shaft. It uses solvents to help the hair colors penetrate a little ways into the hair shaft so they will last longer. They will still wash out because they are not bound inside the hair like permanent dies are but they will last longer than temporary colors. Of course you can’t lighten your hair shade with Elumen.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

If Elumen has a shade that you’re happy with and if you’re looking for a “semi-permanent” color then this brand may be a good compromise for you. But it’s not some magical solution that has all of the advantages of oxidative dyes without any of the disadvantages.

Elumen Dye ingredients
Aqua, propylene carbonate, alcohol denat., lactic acid, hydroxypropylated polysaccharides, dimethicone copolyol, sodium hydroxide, parfum. May contain: Acid black 1, acid red 52, yellow 10, ext. violet 2, orange 4, red 33.

Elumen Lock ingredients
Aqua, alcohol denat., PEG-8, Benzyl Glycol, Sodium Isethionate, Butylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Carbomer, Dimethicone Copolyol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Parfum, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Amylcinnamyl Alcohol.

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The Story of Cosmetics, the Critique

You may have seen the Annie Leonard’s original video, the Story of Cosmetics, posted on our Twitter and Facebook feeds or in 1000 other places online. Sponsored by the Environmental Working Group, it is full of frightening misinformation regarding the dangers of cosmetic products.

Thankfully the good people at How the World Works have put together a critique of the video which includes references to peer-reviewed scientific journals to document the true facts about cosmetic safety. It’s a bit lengthy at a little more than 15 minutes but if you’re interested in the true story behind “dangerous” cosmetics it’s certainly worth your time.




Is Vitamin E a hormone disruptor?

Suzanne says…I’m an esthetician with a 60-year-old client who said she won’t use any product with vitamin E (among many other ingredients). She claims that the vitamin E is from soy, and since she is extremely sensitive to hormonal disruptors, she can’t use it. I can find nothing on the internet about sources of vit E. And I wonder, even if it is derived from soy, is there any constituent of the soy left to have such an effect?

The Beauty Brains respond:

First, it’s true that soy is used as a source of vitamin E. In fact it’s THE major source even though other plant oils, like wheat germ,  have a higher vitamin E content.

Second, I think the concern is not that there are “soy constituents” present in vitamin E but rather that the vitamin E itself may interfere with hormones. However, the data here is conflicting: I found one study that says Vitamin E acts like estrogen and another that says it may block estrogen receptors. But it is well established that vitamin E can penetrate the skin. So, if your client is really that sensitive to hormonal disruptors it’s probably wise to err on the side of caution and avoid the use of vitamin E in her skin care treatments.


Can you get rid of cellulite by rubbing coffee grounds on your thighs?  Find out in this week’s episode. Special bonus: Listen to Perry rant about Harvard spreading misinformation on cosmetic safety! 

Click below to play Episode 23 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Beauty Science News: Harvard says harmful untested chemicals rife in personal care products

Here’s the link to the article that sent Perry into a frenzy.

Question of the week: Can I make a DIY cellulite scrub? with coffee grounds?

Heather asks…Can a DIY coffee bean scrub can reduce cellulite?

According to an article from PopSugar you can “take down cellulite with this DIY coffee bean scrub.” The scrub is made of Coffee grounds, sugar and coconut oil. Massage into your skin, rinse it away and the caffeine will reduce the appearance of cellulite. Will this really work? First let’s look at caffeine to see if it really is effective against cellulite and then we’ll look at this coffee bean scrub to see how well it delivers caffeine to your skin.

We’ll start by asking the three “Kligman questions” about caffeine:

1. Is there a scientifically proven way that the ingredient could work?
2. Can the ingredient penetrate skin to get to where it needs to work?
3. Are there any controlled studies showing the ingredient really works when applied to skin?

Is there any known mechanism for caffeine reducing cellulite?

Yes there is a proposed mechanism. It’s a little complicated so to explain the biochemical pathways involved we’ll abbreviate the chemical names here and we’ll post the full names in the show notes.

To get rid of cellulite you need to increase lypolysis which is the breaking down of fat. And lypolysis is controlled by an enzyme called HSL. HSL is activated by a material called PKA (Protein Kinase A). You can increase the amount of available PKA by controlling cyclic AMP (cyclic Adenosine MonoPhosphate.) But an enzyme called PDE (PhosphoDiEsterase) breaks down cyclic AMP. So to get rid of cellulite you need to get rid of PDE And guess what, caffeine is a PDE inhibitor.

So theoretically caffeine reduces PDE which gives you more cAMP which means more PKA which activates more HSL which breaks down more cellulite deposits.

Does caffeine penetrate skin?

Yes! A search on Pubmed shows over 50 studies involving skin penetration of caffeine with number of different variables:

  • Different vehicles (water, alcohol, gel.)
  • Different substrates (In vitro, in vivo and ex vivo testing.)
  • Different methods (like tape stripping or Raman spectroscopy.)
  • Different skin conditions (intact skin, barrier impaired skin, skin with and without hair follicles.)

No doubt that it penetrates but how much and how fast varies with the method and vehicle. For example, small amounts in alcohol show penetration in as little as 5 minutes. Larger amounts from a gel base take up to 6 hours. So there’s a range of absorption behavior.

Are there any legitimate studies proving caffeine works when rubbed on skin?

When we say “legit” studies here’s what we mean:

  • in vivo (meaning on people, not just tested on skin cells)
  • Placebo controlled (meaning if one thigh was treated with a cream with caffeine then the other side is treated with the same cream without the caffeine)
  • Double blinded (meaning neither the subject nor the researcher knew which was the the “test” and which was the “control” side received the treatment)
  • Peer reviewed (meaning the results where published in a scientific journal and the study was reviewed by other scientists)

So are there such studies on caffeine?  No. But there are some in vivo studies that are worth of mention.

Study 1: tested 18 people, measured thigh circumference after 30 days of applying a “Slimming Complex” consisting of encapsulated caffeine, L carnatine and some other stuff to one thigh and nothing to the other thigh. Results showed a a reduction in thigh diameter of ranging from between 0 to 10mm.

Two problems with this study: They were testing a mix of caffeine and other ingredients which were encapsulated to enhance penetration. So it tells us nothing about caffeine alone. Also, there was no control. We know that just massaging skin can have a slimming effect so there’s no way to know how much of the effect of the cream was from just massage.

Study 2: Another study was placebo controlled and it evaluated a mix of caffeine, retinol and ruscogenine. They used more sophisticated measuring techniques:

  • Used digital imaging to measure the “orange skin” type bumpiness. The test product showed a 53% improvement, the placebo a 14% improvement.
  • 3D Ultrasonic imaging to measure thickness of dermis and hypodermis: Both test product and placebo showed some improvement.
  • A cutometer to measure mechanical properties of skin. No diff between test and placebo.
  • Laser Doppler Flowmetry to measure blood flow: The test product was better than placebo at increasing blood flow, even 1 month after test was over.

Problems with this study: Once again they were testing a cocktail of ingredients not caffeine alone. Also, the results didn’t show clear improvement on all parameters.

Study 3: In fact the only study that we could find on caffeine alone was not an in vivo study it was an ex vivo study done on swine skin. And it ONLY showed positive results when the caffeine was combined with ultrasonic waves. Caffeine alone did nothing.

So there are no high quality studies (that we could find) which where done with caffeine alone that clearly indicate an anti-cellulite effect.

We did learn, however, that in all the slimming studies we saw caffeine was used in the range of 3 to 7%. (7% is about the maximum solubility of caffeine in water). Which brings us to our next point. Even if caffeine does have some slight slimming effect by itself, will this DIY coffee bean scrub deliver it to skin?

Do coffee grounds have enough caffeine?

How much caffeine is in coffee grounds? Before brewing, ground coffee has somewhere around 5% caffeine. So dry coffee grounds have plenty of caffeine but it’s locked up in the grounds so it’s not available to enter your skin.

Used coffee grounds are moist enough to release caffeine but depending on how your processed them they may only have 0.5% caffeine left. (In other words, brewing coffee extracts about 90% of the caffeine from the ground beans.) Either way, using coffee grounds to deliver caffeine to skin is very ineffective.

Will this scrub deliver caffeine to the skin in a way that it can work?

As we said, caffeine is water soluble. By mixing the grounds with coconut oil you’re essentially blocking the caffeine from getting out of the grounds and into your skin.

Also, caffeine absorption takes time: Unlike many ingredients caffeine can penetrate skin, however it’s a slow process. The diffusion rate for a substantial amount of caffeine through human skin is 2.2 x 10-6 grams per centimeter squared of skin, per hour. So it will take an hour or two to get sufficient caffeine into your skin. No one leaves a scrub on that long.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

So IF you maximize the amount of caffeine left in the grounds by brewing weak coffee…
And IF you use the raw grounds (without oil that can block the caffeine from getting to your skin)…
And IF you massage the grounds on your skin…
And IF you leave the grounds on your skin as long as you can stand it…
And IF you repeat this daily for about month…
And IF the few studies that show a slimming effect are not an anomaly…
THEN you might see a slimming effect of up to 1/2 inch decrease in your thigh circumference. Would you even notice that difference?

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Arm and Hammer Whitening Booster – how does it work?

Anonymous says…What’s the chemistry behind the Arm and Hammer Whitening Booster? What’s the chemistry behind the Arm and Hammer Whitening Booster? It’s a whitening gel that you layer on top of your normal toothpaste on your toothbrush. It’s very specific on the box (and the instructions on the bottle) that the whitening booster should only be used with fluoride toothpaste. Is there something in the gel that reacts to fluoride to whiten teeth? It’s inexpensive, so I’m a bit suspicious.

The Beauty Brains respond:

The chemistry of this product is pretty basic – it consists of gelled hydrogen peroxide which is a proven tooth whitener. As the peroxide breaks down it release oxygen which bleaches the tooth enamel. As far as I can tell there’s nothing in that reaction that requires fluoride so I’m not sure why they so emphatic about that. (Maybe it’s just to make sure that you don’t brush with this gel alone.)

The product also make a couple of other noteworthy claims:

3x more whitening ingredient than the leading whitening strip

This is the most interesting claim to me. Adding a peroxide gel to your brushing routine puts peroxide in contact with your teeth for only about 2 minutes every time you brush versus strips which hold the peroxide against your teeth for 30 minutes or so. That begs the question, which works better – a higher level of peroxide for a shorter period of time or a lower level for a longer period of time? I don’t know the answer but my guess is that if this method worked better they would have done the testing to make that claim rather than just claiming that it contains more active. More is not necessarily better.

The easier, faster way to whiten

It’s certainly quicker and more convenient because it only requires a small addition to your normal brushing routine. (I find it a pain to use those strips). Of course that doesn’t mean it works better or even that it works equally well.

Peroxide formula with patented liquid calcium

If this formula is patented it could be because the product offers some unique competitive advantage. Or, they could just be referring to this patent which discloses a special form of dicalcium phosphate that is more compatible with water soluble fluoride salts (apparently as toothpastes age, the monosodium fluoride reacts with dicalcum phosphate and becomes less water souble. This special type of DCP solves that problem but I don’t see what that has to do with how this Whitening Booster works.

By the way, the cost doesn’t surprise me (about $6 for a 2.5 ounces) because none of these ingredients are particularly expensive.

Arm & Hammer Whitening Booster ingredients

Water , Glycerin , Poloxamer 407 , PEG 32 , Hydrogen Peroxide , Phosphoric Acid , Dicalcium Phosphate

A final note: This question didn’t really come from “Anonymous” but I lost the name of whoever submitted it through Facebook. If you read this, whoever you are, please leave a comment with your name so we can recognize you for submitting an interesting question!


Beauty Science News – March 23

More beauty science news stories for your enjoyment…

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Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream – Look at the label

Vanicream is an elegantly simple formula that is particularly well suited for sensitive skin. Why? Let’s look at the label…

This product only contains a few ingredients that are relatively inert and it doesn’t contain the usual suspects that can irritate skin such as anionic surfactants and fragrance. It’s even free of “typical” preservatives such as parabens and Methylisothiazolinone, instead it uses a combination of sorbic acid and BHT. If the product was packaged in an open mouth jar I’d be worried these preservatives aren’t robust enough to protect it from the microbes introduced when you dip your fingers into the product. Fortunately it’s packaged with a pump dispenser which provides some added protection against contamination.

The moisturizing ingredients are petrolatum, which provides an effective barrier to moisture loss, and sorbitol, which is a humectant that will help bind water to the skin.

Vanicream Ingredients

Purified Water, White Petrolatum, Cetearyl Alcohol and Ceteareth-20, Sorbitol Solution, Propylene Glycol, Simethicone, Glyceryl Monostearte, Polyethylene Glycol Monostearate, Sorbic Acid and BHT

If you’re looking for a simple, mild moisturizer you can shop for Vanicream using our link and support the Beauty Brains at the same time. Thanks!


Vintage cosmetic video – can makeup make skin better?

Even though this commercial is listed on YouTube under “vintage cosmetics” it’s only three years old. I guess vintage is in the eye of the beholder. Nonetheless it does contain a very interesting claim that one normally doesn’t see associated with makeup.

According to Jennifer Garner “It makes your skin look better even after you take it off.” She then offers this fact as proof: “98% of women saw improvement in skin’s natural texture. tone, and clarity.” How is this possible? Can makeup really make skin healthier?

The answer probably has something to do with the product’s active ingredient, titanium dioxide. You see, this product has an SPF of 20. So it’s not hard to imagine a test which could show that skin that has been protected with this product is in better condition than bare skin.

Of course the commercial gives no indication of HOW MUCH of an improvement women saw. Still, it’s a clever execution of an ingredient based claim.

And just think, in only another 17 years this product really WILL be vintage!