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Why does oily skin make my eyes burn?

RizosMios says…Is it normal for sebum to burn the heck out of my eyes? I wash my face twice a day and my morning wash goes normally for the most part, but my nightly wash burns my eyes and leaves me looking high afterward, they are so red. Is it normal for sebum to affect one this way? Could it be something else that I’m not considering? I do think I excrete an excess of oil, by the way.

The Beauty Brains respond:

We addressed this question in our Forum a few months ago but thought that the rest of the Beauty Brains community might like to hear about this as well.

Skin oils can cause eye irritation

As the article “Sebaceous gland lipids” (from Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Mar-Apr; 1(2): 68–71.) explains, sebum consists of about 20 to 30% fatty acids, of which the most abundant is palmitic acid. And, according to this study, these fatty acids have been demonstrated to cause mild to moderate eye irritation in similar concentrations (at least in rabbit eye testing.) Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that if enough sebum enters your eye it could cause a burning sensation.

We’re assuming that you’ve already ruled out that the effect is caused by any makeup or moisturizer you might be wearing. If you’re still unsure of the cause, here’s an experiment you can try to see if it is the oil: get some of the oil blotting sheets and blot HALF your face. If everything else is constant and only the unblotted eye stings, then it is more likely to be the facial oil causing the problem.

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How do volumizing hair care products work?

TP asks…What makes our hair have the potential to be voluminous and what is the science behind volumizing hair care products?

The Beauty Brains respond:

There are four key factors that determine the volume of your hair.

Why does hair have volume?

1. The number of hairs per square inch of scalp
More hairs equals greater volume.

2. The thickness of each hair
The greater the diameter of each hair fiber, the more overall volume your hair will have.

3. The flexibility of the hair fibers (known as the bending modulus)
This is essentially a measurement of the stiffness of each hair fiber. Fibers that are stiffer will stand up more on their own contributing to greater volume. Fibers with a low bending modulus will tend to be floppy and limp.

4. The interaction between hair fibers
Friction between hair fibers can increase volume because the hair fibers will rub against each other more and sort of lock into the position. This is why the old trick of back combing or teasing your hair works so well to add volume. It lifts the cuticles and creates a rough surface so the hairs snag against each other to create a more voluminous network of fibers.

What is the science behind those formulas that ensure voluminous hair?

Unfortunately haircare products can do nothing to address the first factor. (Unless of course you’re using a drug like Minoxidil which can help grow more hair.)

Some products claim to “plump up” or even double the thickness of hair fibers but this is just marketing hype. The only ingredient we’ve seen capable of increasing hair diameter even slightly is a high amount of Pro-vitamin B5. Of course you can always use a damaging chemical treatment like hair color to swell the fiber but such processes also cause damage. This is why most women feel they get a volume boost from their dye job.

Haircare products can improve hair stiffness. Polymers can provide a temporary coating that give the hair more rigidity. This is how volumizing styling products like mousses work.

Dry shampoos do a good job of increasing interaction between hair fibers because they deposit powder. The tiny particles of starch and talc rub against each other increasing friction and therefore improving volume. Some styling products do this as well.

Does shampoo even matter since you condition after?

Volumizing shampoos help in two ways: They should remove residue form stylers and conditioners that can rob your hair of volume. They can also deposit small amounts of stiffening polmyers that help give the hair more body. They are more effective if you don’t over-condition your hair after shampooing.

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Why does Fructis Triple Nutrition have 3 layers?

Fructis Triple Nutrition Nutrient Spray has 3 layers. Have you ever wondered how that works and what each layer does for your hair?

How do the layers work?

The trick is there are three immiscible fluids that have different specific gravities (SPG). That means that the liquids won’t mix together and will separate into different layers. And since each layer has a different weight it will either rise to the top or sink to the bottom. Based on the ingredient list (see below) it appears that the three main ingredients are water, cyclopentasiloxane (a silicone), and isohexadecane (a hydrocarbon oil.)

Water is the heaviest (SPG = 1.0) and will sink to the bottom. The dyes used in this formula are also water soluble which explains why only the bottom layer is colored. The silicone has an SPG of about 0.95 so it’s just a little bit lighter than the water and the isohexadecane is much lighter with an SPG = 0.78 so it floats on the top.

Are 3 layers better for your hair?

What does this all mean for your hair? Well not a whole lot. The water and the silicone, for the most part, will completely evaporate. The oil will stay behind and provide some lubrication. This is mainly a gimmick to give the product a unique appearance and support claims of “triple nutrition.”

Fructis Triple Nutrition ingredients

Aqua/Water/Eau,Cyclopentasiloxane,Isohexadecane, Poloxamer 184, Hexylene Glycol, Parfum/Fragrance, Benzyl Alcohol, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide, Linalool, Persea Gratissima Oil, Avocado (Persea Gratissima) Oil, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Seed Oil, Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Red 33 (CI 17200), F.I.L. D38660/1

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Tune in to hear us discuss the latest beauty science news including the truth behind the 3 boobed woman, the anti-aging yogurt conman, and 10 beauty amazing products that don’t exist. Plus another challenging round of “Improbable Products.” 

Click below to play Episode 51 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Improbable Products

Can I win this new game twice in a row? Tune in to find out or to play along for yourself. All you have to do is guess which of the following new beauty products is the fake.

  1. Light Screen: UV radiation isn’t the only kind of light that’s bad for your skin, this next generation anti-aging lotion also protects your skin from visible light.
  2. Sun Lock: Even water resistant sunscreens wash off but new “Sun Lock” stays on skin until you apply the special release agent.
  3. Sunscream: Is the sun too hot for you? Then cool off with Sunscream – the only sunscreen that you keep in your freezer, just like ice cream. It chills and refreshes hot skin while protecting you from the sun.

Listen to the show for the answer!

Beauty Science News

Ancient mummy found with hair extensions
Did you know that hair extensions have been found on mummies that are over 3000 years old? Check out the pictures!

The 3 boobed woman
Jasmine Tridevil, the 3 boobed woman, burst onto social media with the story of how she decided to have plastic surgery to add a third breast. She claims to have seen 50-60 plastic surgeons before she could find one who would create a third breast for her. When the story first broke I reached out to friend of the brains, Dr. Tony Youn who runs Celeb Plastic Surgery and here’s what he had to say:

“Creating a third breast is possible…I doubt that any real, board-certified plastic surgeons in their right mind would perform this deforming procedure.”

Of course, since then the whole story turned out to be a hoax. But do you know HOW they proved it was a hoax? Snopes.com investigated and found that she is really Alisha Jasmine Hessler a Florida massage therapist and she was just trying to pitch a reality TV show. They found evidence that she had been charged in 2013 for use of fraudulent information and that recently she had filed a stolen luggage report at Tampa International Airport and when they recovered the luggage and conducted an inventory they found a “3 breast prosthesis.” So, she’s been busted. On the plus side, there’s already a 3 boobed woman Halloween costume available on the internet.

P&G told to modify their claims
Cosmetic giants Unilever and P&G are squabbling about an Olay body wash ad which claims that Dove body wash is “harsh.” After looking at the data the NAD (the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau which settles disputes such as this) has ruled in favor of  Unilever.

Dangerous skin tag products pulled from the market
A company called Solace International has recalled its Dermatend skin tag remover because it is NOT FDA approved, in other words, thus has not been shown to be safe and effective for skin tags. In fact, Using these Dermatend products instead of seeking medical attention could result in delayed diagnosis of conditions such as cancer.

Bacteria is the new weapon against acne
A new discovery shows that ammonia oxidizing bacteria can control acne. (It’s sort of like a probiotic for your skin.) The challenge, of course, is to be able to keep the bacteria viable during product storage.

The case of the anti-aging yogurt conman
Joseph Fox Batista, who’s described as an eccentric Florida inventor, was convicted for selling a yogurt-based cream to regrow hair and slow the aging process. He’s a self-described microbiologist and was convicted of second-degree grand theft and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Investigators say he tricked investors into buying $380,000 of bogus stock. He insists that he never stole money, but that it was actually shadowy forces like the hair-transplant industry conspired to prevent him from selling his invention. He claimed his yogurt cream could grow hair on balding men, stop hair from turning gray hair, and generally reverse the aging process. It’s supposedly based on telomerase technology which scientists do believe plays a role in aging but it’s not going to do any of these things when you slather it on the skin.

Can these beauty products really exist?
Follow the link for the full list and then listen to us opine about whether or not these products could exist or not.

  • Skin resistant nail polish – maybe if you use a two part sytesm second product as a barrier cream.
  • Instant makeup remover machine – Highly unlikely.
  • Kiss proof makeup – this already exists but probably not to the satisfaction of everyone.
  • Hair growth eye pencil – Even if this could exist it would be a drug.
  • Perfume scented laundry detergent – Yes, someone could invent an unscented detergent to which you add your own fragrance.
  • Hair removal lotion – Doesn’t this exist already??? You can’t make hair removal products much stronger because they will burn skin.
  • Push button color changing manicures – Maybe, if you used E-ink or LED plastic nails.
  • Eye shadow goggles – Not very feasible.
  • Mood ring lipstick – there are color changing lipsticks but they work based on pH not your mood.
  • Chocolate that burns calories – You wish!

LIL buy it now button

Buy your copy of It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

      • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
      • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
      • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
      • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.

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Can magic mushrooms really lighten skin?

BC says…I read this statement on another beauty blog: “Notorious for their hallucinogenic properties, mushrooms are more than just a mind-alerting substance. They also have powerful beautifying benefits!” This sounds like an urban myth to me what’s the scoop?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Scoop-wise we agree this does sound far-fetched but, even though the details are a bit screwed up, there is some true science behind using mushrooms for beauty benefits.

Mushroom extract does have skin lightening properties…

The product in question is the Elure Skin Brightening System which features Melanozyme,™ a trademarked version of lignin peroxidase. For those not up on your enzymatic mushroom extracts, lignin peroxidase is supposedly able to decompose eumelanin, one of the types of melanin found in the skin. (FutureDerm has an excellent in-depth review of the product so rather than rehash all the details here we’ll direct you to her post. But for now suffice it to say that there is at least some in vivo and in vitro testing that shows lignin peroxidase can indeed light skin.)

…but the mushrooms aren’t so magic

But back to the question about magic mushrooms. The idea that a potent hallucinogen can be safely used in a skin cream certainly makes for a compelling story. But in reality this skin lightening enzyme is not generally generally produced by the same type of mushroom that is used as a psychotropic drug. According to the patent which covers lignin peroxidase production, the enzyme is isolated from the fungus known as “White Wood Rot” which doesn’t sound nearly as awesome as “magic mushrooms” which are technically known as Psilocybe cyanescens.

The Beauty Brains bottom-line

There is some science behind the idea of using mushroom extract as a skin lightening agent. Unfortunately it doesn’t come from the same mind bending agent we all used back in college. (Wait a minute – did I just say that out loud?)

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Would you put radioactive dirt on your face?

You won’t believe what they do to this model’s face to sell Dorothy Grey’s cold cream!

They put RADIOACTIVE dirt on her face to prove how well the cleanser works – they actually show the Geiger counter!

Fortunately, modern cosmetic chemists don’t use such potentially dangerous test methods. Today we can quantify residual oil and dirt through a variety of techniques like Gas/liquid chromatography or Atomic Absorption which don’t involve exposing the test subjects to radiation.

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Is this mineral makeup really free of harmful stuff?

Moulin Rouge says…I just saw this Deep Bronzing Mineral Bronzer by Divine Cosmetics on Amazon.com. It’s cheap, it says its comparable to MAC makeup and it’s “FREE of harmful ingredients.” Should I buy it?

The Beauty Brains respond:

It depends on whether or not you’re Canadian. One of the ingredients in the formula, Ferric Ferrocyanide, is classified as “expected to be toxic or harmful, suspected to be an environmental toxin, and to be persistent or bioaccumulative,” according to Health Canada.

Risk is a combination of hazard and exposure

But seriously, the true risk of any given ingredient is determined by both the intensity of the hazard and the degree of exposure. In the case of a colorant such as this one which is only applied topically, the exposure should be quite low.

Still, one would think that any company wanting to make the claim “free of harmful ingredients” might have opted out of using something with CYANIDE in the name. Sheesh!

Deep Bronzing Mineral Bronzer ingredients:

Mineral Talc, Mica, Iron Oxides. May contain: Carmine, Ferric Ferrocyanide.

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There’s a lot more to making cosmetics than just mixing stuff up in a beaker. Listen to this week’s show to learn all about how cosmetic scientists create the products you use everyday. 

Click below to play Episode 50 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Take the cosmetic expert quiz

Here’s a fun quiz posted to test your cosmetic knowledge.  Go to the FDA website to check your answers or read them at the bottom of this post.

TRUE OR FALSE:

  1. FDA must approve cosmetics before they go to market.
  2. Using mascara the wrong way can cause blindness.
  3. Tattoos used to be permanent but now lasers are an easy, reliable way to erase them.
  4. Cruelty free or not tested on animals means that no animal testing was done on the product and its ingredients.
  5. There are non-animal tests that can replace all animal testing of cosmetics.
  6. If a product is labeled as all natural or organic it is probably hypo allergenic
  7. Even if a product is labeled hypo allergenic it may contain substances that can cause allergic reactions for some people.
  8. Choosing products with the claim dermatologist tested is a way to avoid an allergic reaction or other skin irritation
  9. Lots of lipsticks on the market contain dangerous amounts of lead.
  10. About 60 to 70% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body.

Question of the week…What does a cosmetic scientist do? 

Mia asks…You talk about not only ingredients but also advertising and regulations so there must be more to your job than just chemistry. Can you explain more about what a cosmetic chemist does?

What is a cosmetic scientist?

It’s not surprising Mia has this question considering that cosmetic science seems to be some deep dark secret unless you’re in the industry. Even in college teaching courses in chemistry there is literally zero mention of the field of cosmetics. A cosmetic scientist may involve chemistry or some other scientific discipline. But it involves much more than just being a “cook” who mixes products together.  The term “Product Developer” is more accurate in some respects.

Where do you find cosmetic scientists?

You might logically assume that cosmetic scientists would work for cosmetic companies. And of course it’s true that cosmetic companies do hire these researchers but you might be surprised to find out where else cosmetics scientists work.

The cosmetics industry can be divided into five basic categories:

* Finished goods manufacturers
* Raw Material Suppliers
* Consultants and Testing
* Laboratories
* Government
* Academia

And even across these different parts of the industry there are many different sub types of cosmetic scientists.

Types of cosmetic science careers

* Product Development Chemist/ Cosmetic Chemist
* Analytical Chemistry for raw materials and production
* Cosmetology
* Manufacturing Engineer
* Safety Specialist evaluates raw materials and finished goods to establish their safety during use
* Regulatory Specialist ensures compliance with local and global regulations
* Toxicologist/Safety Specialist evaluates raw materials and finished goods to establish their safety during use
* Microbiologist
* Packaging Engineer
* Perfumer
* Claims development to support product performance
* Quality Assurance
* Technical Sales Representative assists customers (product developers) with formulation and technical support
* Marketing
* Science Public Relations
* Educator

What does a cosmetic scientist do?

Rather than try to explain all the functions of all these different careers we’ll do a little deep dive into the role of the product development chemist which, arguably , has the broadest exposure/responsibility across all these careers.

Creating an idea
Driven by a combination of new technology, consumer insight, and business needs.

  • Co-author concepts for testing
  • Inspire the marketing department with new product ideas
  • Developing the product

Making the product

Mixing products,  stability testing, cleaning glassware, chasing down raw materials. Work with fragrance houses to make products smell good. This includes writing briefs, testing samples, running consumer panels, etc. Working with Packaging, Micro, Regulatory, etc.

Researching consumer insights

Sitting behind the two-way mirror in a focus group.

Efficacy testing and claims substantiation

  • Test products to prove that they really work
  • Tress testing, instrumental tests, large consumer panels.
  • Evaluating products in the salon
  • Work with stylists to test on real people. An opportunity to see/feel how your products actually perform.
  • Developing advertising

Create compelling demonstrations which bring product benefits to life visually

Working with advertising agencies to develop supportable claims

Technical consulting for TV commercials
Here’s a commercial that I worked on:

Writing and reviewing label copy

  • Claims (as discussed above), LOIs, warning statements, net weight, etc.

Trouble shooting manufacturing issues

  • Work with Operations team on scale up
  • Troubleshoot manufacturing issues

Educating the sales team and retail customers

Explain product benefits, help the sales team do a better job of selling the product to Walmart, Target, etc.

Promoting the product through Public Relations

  • Staging “show and tell” events
  • Desk side interviews with beauty editors

Assisting with consumer complaints and litigation

  • Investigate cause of consumer complaints
  • Assist council with any resulting litigation

Working with attorneys on intellectual property issues

Applying for new patents and lawsuits related to existing patents
LIL buy it now button

Buy your copy of It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

  • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
  • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
  • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
  • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.

Quiz answers:

  1. FDA must approve cosmetics before they go to market. F
  2. Using mascara the wrong way can cause blindness. T
  3. Tattoos used to be permanent but now lasers are an easy, reliable way to erase them. F
  4. Cruelty free or not tested on animals means that no animal testing was done on the product and its ingredients. F
  5. There are non-animal tests that can replace all animal testing of cosmetics. F
  6. If a product is labeled as all natural or organic it is probably hypo allergenic. F
  7. Even if a product is labeled hypo allergenic it may contain substances that can cause allergic reactions for some people. T
  8. Choosing products with the claim dermatologist tested is a way to avoid an allergic reaction or other skin irritation. F
  9. Lots of lipsticks on the market contain dangerous amounts of lead. F
  10. About 60 to 70% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. F
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What is Clarins Beauty Flash Balm?

Madeira must know…What is Clarins Beauty Flash Balm? Is it a primer? A moisturizer? What does it do? (If anything).

The Beauty Brains respond:

According to Clarins this product “instantly moisturizes, brightens, and tightens facial contours so skin looks rested and relaxed.” It also “prepares skin for perfect makeup application.” We suppose you could call this a “moisturizing primer.”

Flash in the pan

A quick look at the ingredients (see below) reveals that the product is water-based and contains the following key ingredients:

  • Hygroscopic agents (propylene glycol and glycerin) which will help bind moisture to skin. However if the climate is very dry these kinds of ingredients can actually pull water out of the skin.
  • Octyldodecanol – a hydrocarbon-based emollients that will help make skin feels smoother.
  • Starch which is a film former. That means as it dries on your skin it will make it feel tighter. This can have a temporary effect on reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

It’s also important to note what this product does NOT contain. There are no highly occlusive moisturizing agents to seal moisture in the skin, such as petrolatum or dimethicone. There are no skin resurfacing agents that would truly make this product “brightening” such as a retinoid or an alpha hydroxy acid.

The Beauty Brains bottom-line

This product should do pretty much what it claims as long as you don’t get your hopes too high. It will certainly provide some degree of moisturization (although there are much better moisturizers on the market); it will also smooth skin and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The starchy film combined with the octyldodecanol should provide a good base for make up. Just remember that it won’t provide any sustained benefits to your skin – once you wash it off the benefits will disappear.

Beauty Flash Balm Ingredients

Aqua/Water/Eau, Propylene Glycol, Octyldodecanol, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Glycerin, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Stearate, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Bisabolol, Sodium Hydroxide, Parfum/Fragrance, Butylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Citrate, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Algae Extract, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Coumarin, Benzyl Salicylate, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Geraniol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Eugenol, Limonene, Isoeugenol, Ci 15985/Yellow 6E.

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Is it okay to melt coconut oil in a microwave oven?

Lindsay Girl asks…I have used extra virgin coconut oil in my hair as a deep conditioning treatment once a week for several years now. I melt the oil in the microwave. This morning I was reading in an article on the naturallycurly.com website that the author of the article “heard” that you shouldn’t warm coconut oil in the microwave because that will “alter the bonds” in the oil. What say the Brains? Can I safely put the coconut oil in the microwave to melt it? Or is there a better way?

The Beauty Brains respond:

When LG raised this question in our Forum we said “no problem.” But after further consideration we realized that there is some risk involved with heating coconut oil in a microwave oven.

The danger of microwaving coconut oil

Coconut oil penetrates hair because of its size and the configuration of its carbon chain. Unless you’re heating it above the point where it will decompose, microwaving it should cause no problems. In other words, “melting” it is just fine. BUT you need to be very careful when using this approach. Here’s why:

Microwave ovens work by exciting the bonds between atoms, causing them to vibrate. The motion of the molecules vibrating and bouncing around generates heat. Different substances will absorb microwave radiation differently depending on a property called the “dielectrical constant”. Water molecules have a high dielectical constant; they are very mobile and will bounce around a lot. Oil molecules are larger and more fixed. Their dielectrical constant is smaller so and they will take longer to heat up. HOWEVER, the specific heat capacity of oil is less than water which means that oil will hold about twice as much heat as water will. And that means that it’s easy to over heat oil to the point where it could burn you. (f you really want to geek out on dielectrical constants and specific heat capacity check out this thread about microwave absorption by oil in the Physics Forum.)

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Melting coconut oil in the microwave is unlikely to hurt the oil but you could accidentally over heat it and give yourself a nasty burn. To be safe you might want to melt the oil in a bowl of hot water instead.

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