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Which kind of titanium dioxide is safer in sunscreens?

Kate G says…Now how are we able to tell which kind of titanium dioxide is used in our favourite cosmetics? (This question is in response to an article we posted on Facebook about the new research on the safety of titanium dioxide.)

The Beauty Brains respond:

First a quick bit off background and then we’ll explain what this new research means.

As many of you may be aware titanium dioxide (TiO2) is very good at reflecting UV rays so it’s often used in sunblocks. Traditionally it has been considered to be a very safe ingredient because it is chemically inert and does not penetrate skin. But in the last few years there has been some research to indicate that this chemical may be reactive in the presence of UV light and can actually generate free radicals which can damage the skin.

New research reveals a safer form

But now a new study shows that the “rutile” form of TiO2 may be less reactive than the “anastase” form. Therefore, products made with with the rutile version are less likely to form free radicals. It sounds like this version of TiO2 would be the obvious choice to use in sunscreens, right?

However, upon closer reading you’ll find that the difference between the two forms is that the rutile version washes off more easily and therefore is not left on the skin to react with UV rays. Since the point of a sunscreen is to stay on the skin where it can provide protection, it doesn’t seem to make sense to recommend a sunscreen active that is only safer when it is washed away. Sunscreen actives should be waterproof so they last longer at the beach, when you sweat, etc. Gaining an advantage in safety at the expense of efficacy doesn’t seem like a good tradeoff in this case.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

For now we wouldn’t worry about which version of TiO2 your sunscreen contains. The risk of potential of free radical damage from titanium dioxide seems small compared to the risk associated with of photo-aging or even getting skin cancer.


Does Poo Pourri really prevent bathroom odors?

Lexi says…I typically skip over YouTube commercials but I saw one yesterday that mesmerized me – some British chick talking about a product called “Poo Pourri” that covers up bathroom odors. The commercial looks like a total joke but apparently it’s a real product. Is this any better than a regular air freshener? Enlighten us oh Beauty Brains!

The Beauty Brains respond

Update: After I wrote this post, Poo Pourri contacted me and offered to send free samples for us to try. We’ve been using them at the Beauty Brains headquarters and have been pleasantly surprised at how well the products work. While we haven’t done any scientific testing, these products certainly do appear to get the job done!

We have to admit this entire advertising campaign does have the feel of an elaborate put on. (Check out the video for yourself…) However, if their website is to be believed, this is indeed a legitimate product.

What is Poo Pourri?

The product is a non-aerosol mixture of essential fragrance oils which is sprayed into the toilet bowl prior to the dirty deed. (As opposed to traditional scented products which are sprayed in the air afterwords.) Their tagline is “spritz the bowl before you go and no one else will ever know.” According to their website the product’s essential oils cover the water in the toilet bowl with a fragrant film. When your “astronauts splashdown” (that’s from the commercial – we couldn’t make this stuff up) the film traps their odors below the water level.

Could this stuff really work?

We opted out of any elaborate consumer testing on this one and instead will comment on some of the theoretical aspects of how fragrances work. This product certainly uses a clever approach. Applying a film on the water to seal in orders in theory could help reduce some of the scent problem. And since the fragrance oils have a higher coefficient of diffusion then the “bad odors” they should lift up and fill the room helping to mask those smells that do escape.

While this approach should work with just about any liquid fragrance product we presume that Poo Pourri has optimized their oil-to-fragrance ratio to get the right balance of the toilet bowl coverage and fragrance “bloom.” It’s unlikely that a traditional air freshener would have enough oil and while you could use your favorite perfume (which contains up to 20% oil) it will be a very expensive alternative. (You’d be better off by diluting perfume with another oil.)

The Beauty Brains bottom-line

There is enough fragrance science at work here to suggest that Poo Pourri may provide a unique benefit in the bathroom air freshening category. If anyone is brave enough to give it a try leave a comment and let us know what you stink…uh, think.


Are those expensive “sonic” face brushes really better than just washing your face by hand? Tune in and find out.  

Click below to play Episode 52 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Question of the week

Phillip from Germany asks…Is “sonic cleansing” the best way to clean your skin? Will these brushes harm your skin like the sharp particles in a scrub?

What is sonic cleansing?

Let’s start by explaining what “sonic cleansing” is. The term originally comes from the fact that the bristles on the head of the cleansing brush oscillate at a precision-tuned sonic frequency (which happens to be 127 Hz, if you’re keeping score at home). The first “sonic” skin care device was the Clarisonic brush which was created by the key inventor of the Soni-care toothbrush which used oscillating bristles to clean teeth.

The basic idea is that the rapid movement of the brush bristles gently deep cleans skin by removing makeup residue, clearing pores, and lightly exfoliating skin. In addition, some products claim that they increase the absorption of skin care ingredients.

You need to understand, however, that not all “sonic” cleansers are really sonic and that there’s not a lot of evidence that these expensive devices are much better than a simple wash cloth.

Oscillating nylon brushes

There are three basic types of sonic cleaners. We’ll describe each type and give a few examples.

The most common ones consist of a nylon brush that is driven by a battery operated motor. The biggest difference between these is whether the brush oscillates or rotates. There are also non-brush type cleansers. But let’s start with the oscillating brush.

This type uses a combination of moveable and stationary nylon bristles which are 10mm in length. The bristles move back and forth at a rate greater than 300 motions per second. This movement generates enough force to deep clean skin without damaging it. The true sonic cleansers are the ones that oscillate.

Clarisonic is the “mother of all sonic cleansers.” It’s the most expensive brand but they offer the widest range of products. They vary by speed and power and by which products and accessories they come with.

Their face cleansing collection starts with the Mia for $99, the Mia 2 for $149, the Plus for $225 and a Pro model that’s apparently only for sale to dermatologists and aestheticians. The main claim for the product line is that it “Cleanses 6x better than hands alone.”

They also have a special version designed to work with their skin brightening cream. It claims to provide “10x reduction of hyper pigmentation vs manual treatment.” But of course it’s sold with a product that works against hyper pigmentation so it’s not just the brush the provides the benefit.
They also offer the Pedi Sonic which is designed for your feet. It has a smoothing disk like a buffing stone which is designed to work on tough calloused skin.

Lastly there’s the Opal for $185. Instead of a simple cleanser this is a “sonic infusion” device that’s designed to improve the penetration of anti-aging ingredients.

Clinique Sonic System
Phillip mentioned the Clinique sonic system which, at $135, is slightly less expensive than the some of the Clarisonic line. It features an oscillating brush with a dual angled head and its claim to fame is its gentleness. See their website for a video showing it’s gentle enough to use on a flower.

Nutra Sonic Cleansing brush
And, finally, if you want true oscillation at a bargain then look for the Nutra Sonic brush which retails for about $100. Now let’s look at the rotating brushes.

Rotating nylon brushes

The rotating brush also uses 10mm nylon bristles but these move in a circular motion rather than back and forth. These products tend to be much cheaper and people have raised concerns whether they work as well.

Spa Sonic
As we explained the “sonic” name comes from the oscillation frequency. Of course that only applies to the oscillating brushes, not rotating brushes like this one. This is one of the pricier rotating brushes at $50 but their website claims it’s been tested and is comparable to the Clarisonic.

Proactive Deep Cleansing Brush
At $30, the Proactive Deep Cleansing brush is an affordable alternative although there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the claims it makes.

Ulta Dual Action Cleansing system
Similarly, there’s the Ulta version for $25

Olay Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System
This one costs anywhere between $20 to $50 depending on which products you purchase with the brush.

Conair Facial Scrub Brush
Our final example of rotating brushes is the Conair Facial Scrub Brush which has the dubious distinction of allowing you to rotate the brush clockwise or counterclockwise. I don’t know WHAT difference that would make – it’s not like your skin can tell the difference. You can pick this up for only $15.

Non-brush cleansers

There are also “Non-brush” cleansers. These are less common – instead of a nylon brush they channel pulsations through soft silicone filaments or some sort of non woven pad. So even though the technology is different these are probably more similar to the oscillating brushes.

The pricey Luna, at $199, uses transdermal sonic pulsations to refresh the look and feel of your skin. Because it uses silicone touch-points it’s supposedly more hygienic than standard brush bristles. It claims to give you “Deeper, gentler cleansing for a healthy-looking glow” and to “Improve the absorption of your favorite skincare products.”

Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser
And finally there’s the Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser.  The motor vibrates a disposable non woven pad and it retails for less than $15.

Are sonic cleansers effective and safe?

All these products can help clean your skin and they’re kind of fun to use but there are two key questions:

1.) Are they sufficiently more effective than “regular” face washing to justify their price?

2.) Can all this oscillation and rotation actually damage your skin?

To answer those questions we looked for evidence that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of these products. Unfortunately, there’s no independent scientific review that compares all these products on all these attributes. However, we were able to find some evidence, including some peer reviewed articles, which should help guide your decision whether or not to purchase one of these devices.

Evidence for cleansing efficacy

First, there’s some evidence from the manufacturers (which always has to be looked at skeptically since the data are self-serving.) But here’s the proof that Clarisonic puts forth:

They conducted a half-face study in which they applied makeup spiked with a fluorescing agent. Half of the face was washed manually and half was washed with the device.  There are pictures on their website taken under blacklight which causes the makeup to glow and you can clearly see that almost all makeup is gone on one Clarisonic side. Apparently this is the study which support the “Cleanses 6x better than hands alone” claim.

They also conducted a study shows that use of the product reduces pore size in “hard to reach places” but it didn’t compare the Clarisonic to anything. Therefore, this study is not a compelling reason to buy the product.


P&G has done one of the most comprehensive studies on facial cleansing brushes. They measured 5 parameters comparing brush cleansing to manual cleansing and in some of those parameters they directly compared rotating and oscillating brush heads (remember, they make an inexpensive rotating brush product.)

P&G did a study comparing rotating and oscillating brush heads and found “Rotating and Oscillating implement had parity cleansing results regardless of cleanser.” The brushes with cleanser did a better job than manual cleansing alone.

4 of these measurements where related to cleansing efficacy:

Make-Up Removal
Objective: Evaluate cleansing efficacy of the cleansing implements compared to manual cleansing

Results showed rotating and oscillating brushes cleaned better than hands alone. No significant difference between the brushes.

Stratum Corneum Exfoliation
Objective: Measure stratum corneum exfoliation of the cleansing implements via DHA exfoliation over four treatments.

Results showed both brushes exfoliated better than manual cleansing. No difference between brushes.

Stratum Corneum Hydration
Objective: Evaluate effects of cleansing to skin hydration when a topical moisturizer is applied after use. This test just compared their brush to manual cleansing. Clarisonic was NOT tested. Why? Maybe they knew they couldn’t achieve parity and didn’t want to have negative data on file.

Results showed the rotating brush provided better hydration than the cleanser alone, assuming a moisturizer was applied immediately after cleansing. Again, there was no comparison to Clarisonic. The report states that “The lead hypothesis for increased hydration following use of the cleansing implement is that penetration of hydrating ingredients is enhanced via exfoliation.”

Cleansing Effects on Facial Bacteria Population
Objective: Evaluate effects of a facial cleansing implement to facial bacterial populations, tested on women with acne. Again, Clarisonic was not tested.

Results showed use of the rotating brush decreased bacterial population. Although no direct anti-acne claims are made the presumption is that if it removes more bacteria you’ll get less zits.

Other manufacturers:

Other companies don’t provide much information. Clinique shows a video to prove their brush is safe enough to use on a flower petal but there’s no hard data. And Nutra sonic makes same claims as Clarisonic but don’t present data of their own so my GUESS is that they’re assuming equivalency but didn’t do any of their own testing. Or maybe ALL these companies have their own data and have just chosen not to share it. There’s no way to tell. But the good news is that there are a few independent studies that provide additional information.

Independent scientific studies:
We found two studies by cosmetic science rock star and friend of the Brains, Dr. Zoe Daelos. In her study titled “An Efficacy Assessment of a Novel Skin-Cleansing Device in Seborrheic Dermatitis” she notes that plain old soap and washcloth may be fine for people with normal skin but people with skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis (and others) may require specialized cleansing to deal with their symptoms. That’s because regular cleansing may lead to facial scaling and because manual washing doesn’t clean as well around unusual skin structures. So this indicates there sonic cleansers DO provide a special benefit for some people.

In her second study, “Re-examining methods of facial cleansing” she compared the following: a lipid-free cleanser, a foaming syndet-based face wash, an abrasive polyethylene beaded scrub, a face cloth, and the sonic skincare brush. So this is the most direct comparison we’ve seen. Her results showed that the sonic skincare brush removed the most makeup from the skin, followed by the wash cloth, then the scrub, the syndet-based face wash, and then the lipid-free cleanser. She concluded that the bristles on the sonic skincare brush were able to “traverse the dermatolglyphics, facial pores and facial scars more adeptly than any other cleansing method.” Draelos also commented on 10 individuals who had various dermatologic conditions, including acne vulgaris, pseudofolliculitis barbae and seborrheic dermatitis, and found that the sonic skincare brush provided “excellent cleansing on the uneven skin surface caused by these conditions.”

So it looks like a sonic cleanser can be “better” than just using a washcloth but there’s still no answer to how much better and if that difference is big enough to justify spending $100 to $200.

Evidence for gentleness

Again, let’s look at the information provided by the manufacturers as well as the scientific literature.

What companies say
The P&G study was the only one to address this directly. One portion of their study evaluated “effects of a rotating brush on stratum corneum barrier function.” This could be considered a measure of mildness because the more intact the skin barrier is, the better it will seal in moisture. If the brush was creating little tears and fissures then more moisture would leak out.

Results showed moisture loss was not increased as a result of using the rotating brush vs a cleanser alone. They said they would expect that the oscillating type would have similar results but again they didn’t test against Clarisonic. They also said that “Low irritation scores from a consumer study with the rotating implement provides supporting evidence” but they did now show this data.

What the scientific literature says
There are two data points in the independent studies that we found which indicate these sonic cleansers are gentle. The first is from “Clinical-Efficacy-of-a-Novel-Sonic-Infusion-System-for-Periorbital-Rhytides” which states the device tested generates “a force powerful enough to unclog pores, but low enough to minimize strain to the skin.” Be aware, though, that this study was done on the non-brush type cleansers (like the Luna and the Opal.)

And finally, Michael Gold, another dermatologist has written that the sonic brushes “enhance cleansing of the surface while being gentle enough for at least twice daily use without compromising the skin barrier.”

So based on the little data we could find there doesn’t APPEAR to be any cause for concern about these products damaging your skin.

The Beauty Brains bottom line:

So what does all this mean? If you have “normal” skin and you wash your face diligently with a washcloth, you may not see much additional benefit from any of these devices. BUT, if you have skin conditions like those that Dr. Draelos mentioned, you may be able to more effectively and more gently clean your skin using a sonic cleanser.

Then again, you may just like the aesthetic experience of a pampering face scrub. That alone can drive greater compliance – if you like using the device the chances are that you’ll wash your face longer and more thoroughly. In fact, some of the brushes even have a built in timer that tell you how long to wash each part of your face.

If that’s the case, then do your research to make sure you get a brush that doesn’t feel too hard or too soft for your skin and that it doesn’t splash soap and water all over the place (as some of these products do.) And of course, decide how much you want to spend.

The Clarisonic is the gold standard (because they pioneered the technology and have done their own testing) but their top of the line product is very costly. Perhaps a good compromise would be to start with their $99 model and see how you like it. It’s up to you, or up to Phillip in this case, and hopefully he’ll write back to us from Germany and let us know what he decides to do!






Draelos ZD. Re-examining methods of facial cleansing. Vol 18, No 2; Cos Dermatol. 2005: 173-175.

Draelos ZD. An Efficacy Assessment of a Novel Skin-Cleansing Device in Seborrheic Dermatitis


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

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.


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.


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


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.


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?)


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.