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What is Cupuacu?

Clara asks…What can you tell us about Cupuacu and the best place to buy it?

The Beauty Brains respond4879170540_f4baa12052

Cupuacu is a tropical fruit (or is it a nut?) that is similar to the cacao nut (or is it fruit?) According to those in the know, Cupauacu smells like a cross between chocolate and pineapple and tastes like pear mixed with banana. The pulp is rich in fatty materials (similar to cocoa butter) that make it an excellent moisturizer. In addition, research has shown that the seeds contain no less than nine known antioxidants (warning this list of chemical names may make your head spin just a little bit):

“(+)-catechin, (-)-epicatechin, isoscutellarein 8-O-beta-d-glucuronide, hypolaetin 8-O-beta-d-glucuronide, quercetin 3-O-beta-d-glucuronide, quercetin 3-O-beta-d-glucuronide 6′ ‘-methyl ester, quercetin, kaempferol, and isoscutellarein 8-O-beta-d-glucuronide 6′ ‘-methyl ester.”

Unfortunately it’s difficult to access the effect of antioxidants on skin so it’s unclear whether or not all these phyto-chemicals really provide an additional benefit. Still, this stuff smells great and it’s a great moisturizer so there seems little downside in trying it. (Assuming of course that there are no ethical sourcing issues – you know how sensitive our rainforests are!)

Where to buy?

Believe it or not, carries cupuacu butter. Use this link to buy Cupuacu (and support the Beauty Brains in the process.)

Image credit:

J Nat Prod. 2003 Nov;66(11):1501-4. New bioactive polyphenols from Theobroma grandiflorum (“cupuaçu”). Yang H, Protiva P, Cui B, Ma C, Baggett S, Hequet V, Mori S, Weinstein IB, Kennelly EJ.


How to tell if your makeup primer is worth it. Episode 71

This week Randy and I explain how to test your makeup primer to see if it’s worth the money.

Improbable products

You know this game – I look for beauty products that are just too ridiculous to be true, then I make up one that’s even more ridiculous and challenge Perry to guess which one is fake. Can you spot the phony?

The HeMan nail brush
If you’re too macho for those dainty plastic brushes that women used to scrub their fingernails then you’ll love this new brush made from an actual galvanized box nail with bristles attached to one side.

The iBrush
There’s nothing worse than wanting to snap a selfie and finding out your hair is a mess. this will never happen to you with the iBrush. This new iPhone case has a built-in hairbrush so you can tame that mane before you snap that pic.

The Vegan Loofa brush
No self-respecting member of PETA would be caught dead showering with a regular loofah because it’s made from the body of a dead sponge. But now the vegan loofah brush uses a combination of alfalfa seeds, pine resin, and natural plant fibers to create an all vegan body scrubber.

Listen to the show for the answer!

Question of the week: Do foundation primers work?

Jill asks…I’m interested in finding out a couple of things about foundation primers. These are typically used with mineral powder foundations. The “Primer” products boast that they are formulated to reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines and wrinkles creating the perfect base for foundation application. They also claim to extend the wear of your foundation for a flawless look all day long which is the feature I’m most interested in. Recently I saw a suggestion posted on the internet (of course) that the anti-chafing powder gel product marketed by Monistat has the same ingredient that makes the primers effective. I would like to know if there is any merit to the claims of the primers and if the suggested substitute would have the same effect. I think they extend the wear of my foundation, but it’s hard to tell since I have fair skin and don’t apply foundation heavily. I’d like to hear what you guys can tell me about how the ingredients work with skin and if the products can possibly do what they claim or is it my imagination and I’m wasting my money.

How makeup primers work

Foundation primers, which are also called makeup primers, literally prime the surface of your skin the way you’d prepare a piece of furniture before you’d paint it. These products work two ways:

First, they provide an even “canvas” for the application of make up. They smooth over minor surface imperfections like fine lines, wrinkles and pores. These are the uneven spots that can trap the types of powders typically used in make up. By “spackling” over these minor imperfections the primer can create a more even surface for make up application.

Second, primers can make your skin more hydrophopic. This is important because the ingredients in foundations and color cosmetics are almost all water insoluble. Some parts of your skin may be oily but others are not (Think of the “T zone” where the oil glands are typically more active.) By using a primer that is very hydrophobic you can help make up adhere to skin more evenly.
Even though all make up primers function in this same basic way there are differences between how the formulas function. So let’s look at the three different types of makeup primers.

Types of makeup primers

Prime only
The most basic type of primer is one that just primes your face. We’ve given this the clever name of “Prime Only.” It’s kind of obvious but all it does is smooth the face and give you a surface that make up will adhere better too. Most of these are combinations of a volatile silicone with a heavier silicone because that evaporates leaving a smooth finish. Some are based on silicone and water emulsions which will leave your skin with a little different feel.

These may or may not contain mattifying ingredients, powders that help reduce shine. You’ll typically see powders in the formulas that are mixtures of water and silicone – my guess is it’s easier to disperse those in a mixed media system rather than in straight silicones. You’ll need to be careful because, depending on how these are formulated, the powders may tend to accumulate in the fine lines and wrinkles and actually look worse.

Here are some examples of Prime Only primers from least expensive to most expensive

Wet and wild CoverAll Face Primer, CoverAll Face Primer
First, at a little less than $6 per oz is Wet and Wilds’ Coverall Face Primer. It’s a water and silicone mixture.

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Isododecane, Ethylene/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Butylene Glycol, Decyl Glucoside, Polysilicone-11, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Alumina, Hexylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid

Rimmel Stay Matte Primer
Then we have Rimmel’s Stay Matte Primer which is also based on water and silicone but it includes talc to reduce shine. It costs about $7 per ounce.

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Talc, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Aluminum Starch

Ulta brand Primer
Ulta’s basic primer, which is one of the products Jill mentioned in her email, is almost pure silicone so it’s not surprising it’s a little more expensive at about $12.50 per oz. (Remember, water almost always makes a product cheaper.)

Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Tocopherol, Silica, Magnesium Silicate, Calcium Pantothenate, Ascorbic Acid, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Powder.

IMAN Cosmetics Under Cover Agent Oil Control Primer
Next there’s Iman ’s Under Cover Agent Oil Control Primer. You know, these primer formulas are not all that complicated. All the products we researched had between 6 and 15 ingredients. So this Iman product wins the prize for “ingredient bloat” because it contains almost 30 different ingredients. Maybe that’s why it costs $16 per ounce. But about half of them are botanical extracts that won’t do anything.

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Divinyl Dimethicone/Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Ingredients less than 1.0%, Glycerin, DMDM Hydantoin, Phytic Acid, Polysorbate 60, Squalane, Xanthan Gum, Cinnamomium Zeylanicum Bark Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (Licorice), Poterium Officinale Root Extract, Rumex Occidentalis Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract (Ginger), Fragrance, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract (Sugar Maple), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract (Orange), Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract (Lemon), Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract (Sugar Cane), Vaccinium Myrtillus Extract (Bilberry), Achillea Millefolium (Yarrow) Extract (Yarrow), Alchemilla Vulgaris (Lady’s Mantle) Extract, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Flower Extract (Mallow), Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract (Peppermint), Primula Veris Extract, Veronica Officianalis Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (Matricaria), Cucumis Sativa Fruit Extract (Cucumber), Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Powder, Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate

Bare Minerals Primer
And lastly, let me mention another product that Jill asked about: Bare Minerals Primer. this one is almost all silicone and it sells for $24/oz. Of course, the two main ingredients are identical to the Ulta Primer which is only about a third of the cost…so I think it’s obvious which one to buy between these two. but as they say let the buyer beware.

Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Safflower (Carthamus Tinctorius) Seed Oil, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Grape (Vitis Vinifera) Seed Oil, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract.

Prime plus color correct
The second type of make up primer not only primes the skin but it also provides some color correction. That can happen two ways. First the primer may contain some of the same pigments that you would find in a foundation which are typically iron oxides. This kind of primer provides an extra layer of color that evens out your skin tone in addition to evening out the skin texture.

The other type of color correction product fights redness. These anti-redness primers contain a green tinted pigment which cancels out the redness of your skin. This works because red and greenish yellow’s are opposite on the color wheel so they tend to cancel each other out. That means you start with more of a neutral skin color so theoretically your make up will look better. This is particularly helpful if you have rosacea or some other skin condition that causes redness. Here are a couple of examples…

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind
There’s Maybelline Instant Age Rewind at about $10 per oz. It’s silicone based but doesn’t contain a volatile silicone so I’d be worried this one might feel a little heavier. It contains several colorants to help adjust your skin tone.
Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Stearyl Heptanoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica Silylate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, May Contain (+/-): Red 30, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)

NYX Studio Perfect Photo-Loving Primer, Green
Next we have NYX Studio Perfect Photo-Loving Primer which, in addition to iron oxides, contains a green tint to counter act redness. It’s approximately $12 per oz.

Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Cyclohexasiloxane, Dimethicone, Silica, Phenoxyethanol, May Contain (+/-): Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Chromium Oxide Greens (CI 77288), Manganese Violet (CI 77742), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 7749

Ulta Flawless Primer
Then there’s another Ulta product: their Flawless Primer. Unlike their basic primer this one contains pigments so it’s not surprising that it’s more expensive: about $18 per oz.

Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Crosspolymer, Cyclohexasiloxane, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Talc, Phenoxyethanol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Methicone, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polysorbate 80, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) See Oil, Citral, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Leaf/ Stem Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Allantoin, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Bioflavondoids, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Orchis Mascula Flower Extract May Contain: Titanium Dioxide CL 77891, Iron Oxides CL 77492, Chromium Oxide Greens CL 77288.

L’Oreal Paris Anti-Redness Primer
And finally we have L’Oreal Paris Anti-Redness Primer which is a water and silicone mixture. It contains a talc and starches which can make a product feel draggy but that may be offset by the inclusion of Nylon particles which act as little ball bearings to make the product feel more slippery. It sells for $19 per oz.

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Isodecane, Alcohol Denatured, Polyglyceryl 4 Isostearate, Cetyl/PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Hexyl Laurate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Aluminum Starch, OctenylSuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Magnesium Sulfate, Diphenyl Dimethicone, Cellulose Gum, Tristearin, Acrylates Crosspolymer, Methylparaben, Nylon 12, Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Acetylated Glycol Stearate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Dimethicone, May Contain (+/-): (CI 77891), Mica, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492), Chromium Oxide Green (CI 77288)

Prime plus color correct plus anti-aging
Lastly there are primers that contain antiaging ingredients. These may include antiaging ingredients in addition, or instead of, the color correction ingredients. The most common of these antiaging ingredients is some sort of sun protection factor. As we’ve said before you don’t want to rely on any type of make up as the sole source of your sun protection but if you’re layering products a little extra sunscreen in the primer can hold only help. However, keep in mind that sunscreens are expensive ingredients and this will almost always make the primer more costly.

There are other antiaging ingredients that can be added to primers but there is little evidence that these are going to be effective one delivered in this way. You’ll see peptides used for example. Some primers may even include retinoids or niacinamide. These all can be effective antiaging ingredients but they are typically not going to be used at the same concentration as would be found in a dedicated antiaging product. So you’re probably wasting your money on these.

CoverGirl Simply Ageless primer
Covergirls’ Simply Ageless Primer does contain a UV absorber but it might be a lower amount since the product is not classified as a true sunscreen. It also contains Niacinamide, which we know from previous show is a good antiaging ingredient, as well as a peptide. It sells for about $15 per oz.

Cyclopentasiloxane, Water, Glycerin, Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Diethylhexyl Carbonate Niacinamide, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Acetyl Glucosamine, PEG/PPG 18/18 Dimethicone, Dimethicone, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Aluminum Hydroxide, Benzyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Allantoin (Comfrey Root), Methicone, PEG 10 Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Ethylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Propylparaben, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide 4, PEG 100 Stearate

Physicians Formula Correcting Primer 3-in-1 Corrector + Primer + Sun Protection
Physcian’s Formula has a 3 in 1 product that IS a true sunscreen. In fact, this formula looks more like a facial sunscreen than it does a primer. In addition to the the SPF agents (Tio2 and Zinc oxide) it also contains mineral oil, water, silicones and hydrocarbons. This is also a color correcting product and it sells for $22 per oz.

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (2.9%), Zinc Oxide (3%)
Inactive Ingredients: Mineral Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Isododecane, Capric/Caprylic Triglyceride, C30 45 Alkyl Dimethylsilyl Propylsilsequioxane, Dimethicone, PEG 10 Dimethicone, Silica, Magnesium Silicate, Paraffin, Glycerin, Aluminum Dimyristate, Caprylyl Glycol, Castor Oil Phosphate, Dimethicone/Polyglycerin 3 Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Ethylhexl Glycerin, Glyceryl Isostearate, Hexylene Glycol, Malachite Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Propylene Carbonate, Rhodochrosite Extract, Smithsonite Extract, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Sorbic Acid, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Water, May Contain (+/-):, Iron Oxide, Mica

Dermalogica Age Smart SkinPerfect Primer SPF 30
And finally there’s Dermalogica’s Age Smart SPF 30 primer which is silicone based with zinc oxide and TiO2. Also includes pigments and several peptides. Interestingly it’s formulated without artificial fragrance or color yet they use natural extracts that contain known allergens and irritants. A surprising choice for a product that sells for over $60 per oz.

Cyclopentasiloxane, Zinc Oxide, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Titanium Dioxide, Diispropyl Adipate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Vinyl Dimethicone Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Silica, Lauryl PEG 9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl 3 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Arginine/Lysine Polypeptide, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Palmitoyl Dipeptide 5 Diaminobutyloyl Hydroxythreonine, Palmitoyl Dipeptide 5 Diaminohydroxybutyrate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Silanetriol, Hydrolyzed Pearl, Lavandula Spica Flower Oil (Lavender), Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Sodium PCA, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Stearic Acid, Aluminum Hydroxide, PEG/PPG 18/18 Dimethicone, PEG PPG 20 15 Dimethicone, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyglycerin, Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol, Tin Oxide, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499, CI 77891

Can you use Monistat anti-chafing gel as primer?

Jill asked specifically about Monistat’s “Chafing Relief Powder-Gel Skin Protectant” product. If you look at the ingredients you’ll see they are almost identical to a couple of the “Prime Only” products we just discussed. It’s based on cyclopentasiloxane and a dimethicone copolymer. AND, it only costs about $4.0 per ounce which is less than many other similar products. Therefore, if you’re looking for basic priming this is actually a good option! There’s nothing in the formula that would stop you from using it on your skin. Also, since and since it’s an over the counter drug as a skin protectant it must have a higher level of dimethicone so you might find that it even works better on your skin. It’s certainly worth a try.

1.2% dimethicone Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolyer, Silica, Tocpheryl Acetate, Trisiloxane.

How to tell if your primer really works.

I thought it was interesting that Jill wondered if she was just imagining that she was getting any benefit from her makeup primer. This makes total sense since she’s relying on her memory to compare how well her make up lasted one day when she use primer to another day when she didn’t use primer or perhaps to a third day when she used a different brand of primer. And maybe she didn’t wear the same brand of make up every day so maybe that caused a difference. Or maybe there was some external factors that influenced how long her make up lasted like it was raining that day or she pulled a sweater on and off her head that removes some make up.

It’s very difficult for you to track all the variables that can affect how your cosmetics will work – partly because you’re relying on memory and partly because there are other factors that work that can confound the results. But being the helpful cosmetic chemists that we are we’re going to give you a little tip on how you could do a much better job of evaluating your makeup primer.

Draw an imaginary line down the middle of your face and on one side apply the make up primer of your choice and on the other side either apply a different brand of primer that you want to test or don’t apply any primer at all. Then apply the exact same make up in the exact same way to both sides of your face. At the end of the day you can either look in the mirror and judge for yourself or if you want to have a little fun with it ask your friends and loved ones to rate which side looks better.

You can’t just do this test once because any single data point can be a fluke. You need to do it a couple of times and you need to switch which side of your face is the test side in which is the control side. That’s because you may have some inherent bias in the way you apply the primer or the make up. If you’re right-handed your right side may always come out a little better than your left side. If you switch up those sides you’ll average that variable out.

So, Jill, if you do this test it will certainly settle the question of whether or not you are just imagining the benefits from your makeup primer. You may not need a primer at all or you may find that there is a certain brand of primer that works better for you. If that’s the case it may be worth spending a little more money on. Either way you should find this a helpful experiment.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Make up primers work by smoothing over imperfections in your skin and by helping color cosmetics stick better.
In addition to priming your skin some primers also offer some color correction or even some minor antiaging benefits.
If you just want basing basic priming benefits and you want to save a few dollars you can certainly use a product like the mono stay at anti-chafing powder gel. If you need other features like anti-redness or mattifying then you’re better off with a conventional primer. Finally if you’re not sure that you’re getting your money’s worth out of any primer that users using do your own half face test.

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.


What SPF sunscreen should I use?

Nicole needs to know…Is there a really big difference between using SPF 15 and SPF 30 facial moisturizer? If so, why? I was told to wear 30 in order to prevent rosacea flare ups.

The Beauty Brains replysun-32198_1280

Skin exposure to UV rays is almost never good for the skin. It causes sun burn, wrinkles, dryness, and as you’ve implied, rosacea flare ups. This is why the most important thing you can do for your skin is to wear a sunscreen or stay out of the sun. But what kind of sunscreen should you use?


Before answering this, we should first tell you what the SPF number means. SPF stands for sun protection factor and it essentially is a rating of how much UV light will be blocked. In general, a higher SPF number offers more protection from UV exposure than a lower number. How effective it is depends on many factors but the number one factor is your skin type. SPF 15 means that if you would normally burn after being in the sun for 20 minutes, you will be able to stay in the sun for 15 times as long or 5 hours. But it is important to note that the SPF scale is not a linear one. An SPF 2 will block 50% of the UV light while an SPF 15 will block 92% of all the UV light that reaches your skin and an SPF 34 blocks 97% of the UV light.

SPF effectiveness

Although skin type is the number one factor is determining the effectiveness of a sunscreen, it is not the only factor. The intensity of the sun and the amount that you apply is also important. It’s this second factor that is most relevant to your question.

SPF 15, 30 or more

For cosmetic chemists, creating a great sunscreen is a balance between making a product that is effective and making one that feels good on the skin. If it were just a matter of effectiveness, everyone would create SPF 50 products or higher. But the problem with creating a higher SPF product is that for each number you go up, you increase the greasy, nasty feel on your skin. An SPF 15 feels much better than an SPF 30. And an SPF 100 is, well, gross.

Of course, the point of a sunscreen is to protect you from UV damage so you need to use an SPF sunblock with a high enough number to give you good protection.

SPF experts

Experts at the FDA have suggested that an sPF 15 is the minium that you should be using to protect your skin from UV damage. In testing these sunscreens have been shown to provide adequate protection when combined with limiting your time in the sun, wearing sun protective clothes. And an SPF 15 also can be made so it doesn’t feel excessively greasy.

SPF 15 is not enough

While the experts say SPF 15 scores high enough in testing to give protection, that is only true if you are applying the right amount. In testing, scientists use 2 mg/cm2 of skin. So, do people apply this much?

In a word…no. It is well known that people typically apply much less than the amount tested by sunscreen manufacturers.

Think about how much you use. If you were applying 2 mg/cm2 of sunscreen, your skin should feel greasy, slippery, and some of the sunscreen will be running off your skin. For an average sized person, you would need to apply about 30 mL of sunscreen per application. One bottle wouldn’t even be enough for a week at the beach.

1/3 effective

So, while technically an SPF 15 will work (and it’s certainly better than nothing), it requires much more than you apply now. A good rule of thumb is that your sunscreen will be 1/3 as effective as the number based on the way people typically apply the product. That means an SPF 15 will protect you like a lab tested SPF 5. An SPF 30 will give SPF 10 protection in real life application.

Therefore, unless you going to glop on a lot more SPF sunblock than you are using now, you should stick with an SPF 30 or higher. This will give you the best chance at preventing sunburns and UV induced rosacea flare ups.

For more information on sunscreen effectiveness see the following resources
1. Melanoma foundation facts about sunscreens.
2. FDA Sunscreen guide
3. National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence Skin cancer prevention report
4. Dr. Steven Wang – Sunscreen Guide

If you need to purchase sunscreen, please shop using this link and you’ll be supporting the Beauty Brains.



Are keratin hair straightening products safe?

Moxie must know…Brazilian Blowouts were found to release formaldehyde. Are the Keratin-based hair-straightening products that I see stylists in salons doing that much safer on hair/environment?

The Beauty Brains respondbesil_13_by_vertebra_p-d4zc1i3
The safety concerns regarding high levels formaldehyde in hair straightening prdoducts has been well documented and inhaling large quantities of formaledhyde gas is a legitimate health concern. (See this reference.) Some of the Brazilian Blowout type products contained as much as 10% formaldehyde which far exceeds the safe limits. (Remember, the dose makes the poison!)

The Keratin straightening products you refer to use an entirely different chemistry and guess what – they don’t really use keratin to straighten hair! Read our previous post on how temporary hair straighteners work.) These products do physically disrupt the structure of hair so there is some of degree of damage. (Much less than relaxing but more than simply combing and brushing.) However, these products do NOT raise the same health/environmental concerns as products with high levels of formaldehyde.


Can Pantene reverse the damage of 100 blow drys? Episode 70

Listen to this week’s show to learn how shampoo can fix blow dry damage. Plus, more Beauty Science News!

Claim to Fame: Can Pantene reverse the damage of 100 blow drys?HairDryer

This is a new feature 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 Pantene Nourishing Shampoo. Here’s the claim:

“Erases the damage of 
100 blow drys 
for silky hair*

Of course there’s always an asterisk: 

“*Shampooo and conditioner system vs non-conditioning shampoo.”

What does the claim mean?

Erasing damage from blow drying is a big deal because blow drying after washing can cause all kinds of problems: cracked and uplifted cuticles, increased split ends, loss of tensile strength, dullness, rough feeling hair, loss or rearrangment of hair lipids that help keep it healthy, and so on. Are they saying this product erases ALL of these kinds of damage?

No. Because at the core of this claim is the statement that it “erases damage…for silky hair.” So you could argue that they’ve defined damage very narrowly: damage is really the absence of silkiness and if you make the hair silky it’s no longer damaged – at least that’s one possible interpretation.

How could they support the claim?

You can say pretty much whatever you want in a cosmetic claim as long as you have data that you believe adequately supports your assertion. If you’re just making the claim on your packaging or on your website, then that’s all you have to do. But, if you’re running an ad through some media outlet, they may ask to see your support data before allowing your ad to air. So, you have to convince the TV station or whoever it is that your approach is sound. If they agree with your assessment, they’ll air the ad. If they disagree you’ll have to either generate more data or you’ll have to change the ad.

Once your ad is “out in the wild” there are a couple of things that can happen. No one may ever question anything you said in which case you’re scott free. OR, you can be challenged either by a consumer, another company, a regulatory body or an NGO (Non Governmental Organization). If that happens you have to go through a fairly rigorous review of your data to ensure it supports the claim to their satisfaction or the satisfaction of whoever is adjucating the complaint. 
So how might they support this specific claim?

Here’s the kind of support that I would GUESS they have:
1. Take two sets of tresses – one set is the “test set” and the other is the “control” set. Wash and blow dry both sets 100 times using some standard procedure. (Note: They may also be comparing the test and control to a third set of tresses that is kept in “virgin” condition.)

2. The control set is treated with a non-conditioning shampoo, the “test set” is treated with Panetene Nourishing shampoo and Pantene Nourishing Conditioner.

3. Run a “silkiness” test on both sets. This test could be an instrumental test to measure the force required to detangle and comb hair, it could be a consumer perception test where you let people feel the tresses and give their subjective rating of silkiness.

Results: As long as the test and control sets (and perhaps the “virgin” set) are rated about equally “silky” the claim is supported. Because of the way the claim is worded they don’t have to prove that their product erases ALL the kinds of damage that blow drying can cause.

Should you buy the product based on this claim?

Pantene is a reasonably priced product with a good reputation so you don’t have much to lose if you think this claim is compelling and you want to buy this product. But if this were a very expensive salon brand, should this claim make you buy it? Probably not because they don’t compare it to anything (besides non-conditioning shampoo.) If this product cost $100 per bottle and they established that it works better than anything else on the market, then MAYBE the claim would be a good reason to spend your hard earned money. But even then, based on the way the claim is worded, all you really know is that the product makes your hair more silky. It doesn’t have to erase any other kind of damage in order to live up to that claim. I have a hard time believing this claim is very meaningful.

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Beauty Science News

Makeup is not the key to attractiveness
People apply color cosmetics hoping to improve the way they look. But according to this research published in the The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, most people don’t know what they are doing and are applying too much. 
In the study 44 women participated as models. They were first photographed with their hair back wearing no makeup or facial jewelry. They were then given a tray of popular color cosmetics and told to apply makeup such that they were going out somewhere fancy for the night. After this, their pictures were taken again. A range of photos were created using the “no make-up” and “with make-up” as the high and low points of the scale. 22 male and 22 female participants were then stationed at a computer and asked to optimize the attractiveness of the given faces.
Researcher found that both men and women preferred the look of women with less makeup than applied. Women liked the appearance of slightly more makeup than men.
While this is an interesting study, I don’t think looking at pictures is a good way to evaluate the attractiveness of someone. How many people do you know who look great in real life but don’t take good pictures? I think most people are more attractive in real life.
 Anyway, what this research suggests is that people who put on a lot of makeup can probably put on less. It also shows that some makeup definitely helps everyone look better and that is something of which we cosmetic chemists can be proud.

Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything?
Celebrities have been spokes-people for beauty products since the early days of the industry. But more recently celebrities have started spreading their own beauty and health advice – some of which is rather bizarre. Now there’s a new book that has taken a skeptical look at some of the bunk that is being spread by these celebrities.  I love the title the book which is “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?”

The author, Tim Caulfield, is an attorney for Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta in Canada. Tim says that beauty is a science free zone. It certainly is when it comes to all the dreck that’s put out by celebrities and by many beauty bloggers by the way.  The book looks at different celebrity beauty claims and then hunts for scientific evidence to support those claims. Tim comes to some of the same conclusions that we’ve been preaching here on the Beauty Brains: That “detoxification” is bunk, cleanses are not that likely to provide much benefit other than cleansing your skin, and that expensive beauty regimens are mostly quackery. My two favorite quotes from the book are: “Beauty advice is a science-free zone.” and “Anecdotes and personal testimonials – no matter how compelling …are not good science.” 
Caulfield says that rather than believe all this crap you should cleanse your self of pseudoscientific babble, and detoxify your system with scientific evidence. So is Gwyneth Paltrow really wrong about everything? When it comes to the science of health and beauty, the answer, according to Caulfield, is yes.

Don’t be tricked by automatic beauty box subscriptions

Unscramble your way to better skin and hair
Here’s an interesting story about protein. Hair in skin are both made primarily of proteins so I’m always looking out for breakthroughs in technology that allow us to manipulate protein and some researchers in California and Australia have done something amazing. They have figured out how to uncook a boiled egg. Think about that – when you boil an egg it denatures the proteins so they coagulate and get all tangled up and the egg completely changes its consistency. Now they can untangle those proteins and return the egg to its original state in just minutes.

So if we can reverse something like the boiling of an egg why couldn’t we reverse some of the structural changes that are made to hair in skin either through the aging process or through external damage? For example could you cross-link or uncross-link double bonds in hair to change it curly or straight? Or maybe we could learn how to change the way to collagen bundles together in skin to prevent or cure wrinkles. These things seem rather far off now but who would’ve thought you could unboiled an egg? God, I love science!

Dietary supplements are less regulated than cosmetics!

Perry goes off on a food supplement rant. My favorite quote from the article “if this data is accurate, then it is an unbelievably devastating indictment of the industry.”

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Does pressed powder makeup always contain synthetic ingredients?

Mary asks…Is is possible to make pressed makeup without using any synthetics?

The Beauty Brains respond

Rather than re-opened the debate on natural vs synthetic, I’ll try to address your question as it applies specifically to powdered makeup.

Loose powder needs fewer ingredients

One can certainly make the case that certain brands of so-called mineral makeup are among the most “natural” of cosmetic products. For example, Mineral Hygenics only contains a few powders which are all derived from crushed rocks (more or less.) This kind of product is relatively easy to formulate using only mineral (ie “natural”) ingredients because it’s just a simple blend of powders.

Pressed powder is more complex

Pressed powders, on the other hand, are much more complex. In order for the powders to stay compressed they need some kind of binding oil. And for those oils to mix with the powders they may require a surfactant to lower the surface tension. And the pressed powders have to spread easily across your skin so they may require emollients to provide slip. And these surfactants and binders and emollients may require antioxidants to prevent rancidity. And, since pressed powders have a surface that comes in contact with fingers and makeup brushes, they are more likely to require preservatives than loose powders. And…well you get the idea.

The more ingredients that a formula requires, the more difficult it becomes to source ingredients that everyone will agree are “natural.” And although natural alternatives may be available, they may not work as well as the nasty old “synthetic” chemicals. This is particluarly true of preservatives and of many surfactants.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

It’s not impossible to formulate a pressed powder without ”synthetics” but the requirements of the formula make it much more difficult.

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Do YOU know of a pressed powder that made of only natural ingredients? Leave a comment and share your natural knowledge with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.


The deadly danger of Valentines day

Valentines Day may be more dangerous than you realize – especially if you kiss someone who’s eaten a food you’re allergic to! reports that food allergies send over 30,000 people to the emergency room each year and a significant number of those cases are caused by loose lips.Kiss_(1873)

Careless kissing

Dr. Suzanne Teuber of the University of California, conducted a study of 379 patients with food allergies and found that as many as 5% had an allergic reaction after kissing someone who eaten a food which they were allergic to. The risk is even greater on February 14th because more kissing occurs on Valentines Day than any other day of the year. (Ok, I just made that last part up but you have to admit, it’s sounds like a plausible statistic.) Seriously though, if you have severe food allergies you really do need to be careful about accidental cross-contact. Here’s what you should watch out for:

Top 8 food allergies

  1. Peanuts
  2. Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc.)
  3. Fish
  4. Shellfish
  5. Eggs
  6. Milk
  7. Soy
  8. Wheat

And while we’re listing Valentines Day dangers, let’s not forget that some people are allergic to flowers too. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty sure that chocolate causes cavities. And you might get hit by a bus on the way to a romantic dinner. And…aw, forget it. I’m staying home by myself and locking the doors. Be careful out there!

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3 reasons apple cider vinegar may be good for hair

HySpin says…I have started incorporated Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) rinses in my hair care practices with great results. My hair is very, very kinky and I find if I do the apple cider vinegar rinse as the final cleaning step of washing my hair I find my hair feels smoother, reflects light more (shinier) and it is easier to detangle. But what is the apple cider vinegar really doing to my hair?
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The Beauty Brains respond

In actual lab testing we’ve haven’t been able to demonstrate much of an effect from vinegar. But since vinegar is an acid, in theory, there are three things that the low pH could be doing for your hair.

Three Ways That Apple Cider Vinegar May Help Hair

1. Tightening the cuticle.
If your hair is damaged and the cuticles are upraised, an acid rinse could be helping them to lay flatter and therefore improving shine and detangle-ability.

2. Boosting conditioner efficacy
Conditioners based on quaternary ammonium compounds work better at a lower pH because the stick to hair better. Maybe the vinegar is helping to “lock” your conditioner onto the hair.

3. Removing shampoo residue
If shampoo isn’t rinsed completely it can leave a dulling residue on hair. Vinegar may be helping to remove buildup and letting the natural hair shine through.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Again, these are only theories. We have no prove that ACV is really good for your hair. The general scientific consensus is that conditioner will do a much better job than any kind of vinegar rinse.

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Are bar cleansers bad for skin? Episode 69

Do bar cleansers really clog your pores? Tune in to this week’s show to learn the truth about soaps and other bar cleansers. 

Valentines day and beauty science

It turns out that for every major Valentine’s Day meme there’s a connection to beauty science. I thought it would be fun to talk about a couple of those today.

The color of love
Red is the color of love. It’s the color of valentines hearts, of lingerie, and of red lipstick. But you might be surprised to find that some of those sexy red lipstick colorants come from crushed bugs.

Chocolate and acne
You know candy is a popular Valentine’s Day gift but you really shouldn’t give chocolate to your loved one because it could make her face break out. Right? wrong! Well, right, sort of. 
This controversy has been raging back-and-forth for decades. Chocolate was originally thought to contribute to acne but initial studies indicated that there is no direct correlation. Then, in 2008, a group of Australian researchers put it to the test again. They had a group of panelists eat a sugary, starchy diet while the control group ate healthy. At the end of 8 weeks they had dermatologists examined the faces of the panelists (on blinded basis) and they found of those on the crappy diet had more acne breakouts. But even this study has not definitively put the question to rest. For one thing the diet wasn’t based on chocolate alone.

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Question of the week: are bar cleansers bad for skin?Soap_in_blue_dish

Mary Ellen says…I’ve heard bar cleansers are not good for our skin because the waxy ingredients that make the soap a bar cause plugged pores. Is this true?

Regular soap

When you’re talking about “regular” bars of soap I think the classic example that comes to mind is the old Ivory soap. Remember their advertising slogan: “So pure that it floats?” Of course the reason it floated had nothing to do with its purity. It was one of those accidental discoveries – somebondy left the mixer on too long and the soap became aerated so the air bubbles make it float. But it made for a memorable commercial.

There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of similar soap products since then but all true soaps have one defining characteristic in common: they are made by neutralizing a fatty acid with an alkali material. That’s what “soap” means. By the way, when the first laws regulating cosmetics were created back in the 1930s, the soapmakers managed to have soap excluded from law which is why you won’t see a list of ingredients on a true soap bar. If the ingredients were to be listed you’d see things like sodium cocoate or sodium tallowate.

Lye soap

One of the earliest forms of soap is lye soap. No it’s not called lye soap because the advertisers make dishonest claims about it, lye actually refers to the “alkali” material that’s used to neutralize the fatty acids.

According to legend, lye soap was discovered in ancient times when animal fat from cooked meat spilled into ashes from fire. When rainwater washed the mixture away they noticed that it created lather and they eventually figured out it could be used for cleaning. So the animal fats provided the fatty acids and the alkali was pot ash specifically potassium hydroxide. (Originally lye referred to potassium hydroxide which was made by soaking plant ashes which are rich in potassium carbonate in water to make but overtime has also come to include sodium hydroxide.)

Castile soap

Another type of soap is Castile soap. Remember how we said soaps are made with some sort of oily, fatty acid? Well Castile soap is made with one specific type of fatty acid which comes from olive oil. Originally this was produced in the Castile region of Spain, hence the name Castile soap.

Glycerin soap

I’m sure you’ve heard of glycerin soap. That’s a type of soap bar that’s clear because it’s made with glycerin, right? Wrong! All soap bars are made with glycerin because it’s part of the natural manufacturing process. When when the oils are reacted they split apart and release glycerin. In fact all glycerin used to be produced by soapmaking before we developed industrial processes of making it.

What most people refer to as glycerin soap is really just a gelled transparent soap bar. The reason it’s transparent is that it’s heated with sugar and alcohol which prevents the soap molecules from crystalizing so the bar stays clear. Take that, you disingenous glycerin soap bar manufacturers!

Synthetic Detergent bars (aka Syndet bars)

Enough about true soap bars not let’s talk about synthetic detergent bars. The difference is that instead of saponified fatty acids as the primary cleansing and foaming agents, these bars rely on synthetic detergents.

These are known as “cleansing bars” or “beauty bars” because by law they can’t be called soap. That’s part of the 1938 FD&C act that we talked about. But why would you want to use a synthetic detergent?

Because soap has a couple of serious drawbacks. First, if you have hard water the soap can react with the minerals in the water and form and in soluble residue. This used to be called bathtub ring and it was really a big problem. Not only could it mess up your bath tub but it could leave a film on your hair and skin that was really hard to rinse away. Most of our audience is probably too young to remember that because detergents have been in use for so long now. The second issue with soaps is that they have a high pH and are harsh on skin. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

So as industrial chemical chemistry progressed in the 1940s synthetic detergents were developed and incorporated into cleansing bars. While there are many of these detergents in use, probably the most popular and best in terms of mildness and lathering is sodium cocyl isethionate. While detergents such as this are the primary active ingredient in modern cleansing bars they’re typically blended with true soaps like we’ve already discussed.

By the way, since these are not soaps they ARE subject to cosmetic labeling requirements. Therefore you will see a conventional ingredient list on the back of the package. See the show notes for an example ingredient list for a cleansing bar:

Sodium cocoyl isethionate, stearic acid, sodium tallowate, water, sodium isethionate, coconut acid, sodium stearate, sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate, sodium cocoate, fragrance, sodiumchloride, titanium dioxide, trisodium EDTA, trisodium etidronate, BHT

Next let’s talk about how these different types of cleansing bar affect your skin.

Soap bars are harsher than detergent bars

There seems to be little question that true soap bars are more harsh than the synthetic detergent bars. That’s due to their pH as well as the nature of soap molecules. Multiple studies have proven that repeated use of soap bars can damage the skin by drying out the stratum corneum. It’s believed that soap damages the skin’s natural moisture barrier by binding to and denaturing of proteins in the stratum corneum. (Some detergents do this as well.)

For example, one test evaluated three types of cleansers. The first was a synthetic detergent bar using SCI, the second was a high glycerin TEA soap. And the third was a traditional soap based on the sodium salts of coconut oil and tallow. The degree of irritation and the amount of surfactant binding is consistently less with the SCI. Bars is based on true soaps are more binding and more irritating depending on exactly how they are blended.

But, setting the irritation issue aside for the moment how would we answer Mary Ellen’s questions about cleansing bars causing acne breakouts?

Do waxy ingredients plug your pores?

There’s a popular misconception that waxy ingredients clog pores. At face value this sounds reasonable – waxy ingredients get inside the little holes in your skin, the pore becomes plugged up and you develop acne. But that’s not what happens at all. Ingredients that contribute to acne trigger a condition called “retention hyperkeratosis” which means that dead skin cells become stuck inside the hair follicle. Excess sebum is a contributing factor to this condition. But this effect can occur with solid ingredients as well as liquid ingredients. So the “waxiness” of an ingredient really has nothing to do with how likely it is to cause acne. Regardless, once the follicle becomes plugged it turns into what is called a black head. The technical term for black head is a comedone which is where the term “comedogenic” comes from. Finally, if a certain type of baceria are present the plugged folicle can become infected and turn into a white head. And before you know it you have a pus filled pizza face. So how do we know which ingredients will cause this problem?

How to tell if your cleansing bar ingredients will cause breakouts

Unfortunately we don’t know for sure. There is a test called the Rabbit Ear Assay which is used to predict whether or not an ingredient will cause acne but there’s a lot of controversy over the accuracy of this method so at best consider this a rule of thumb test to rule out the worst offenders.

Also, not every single cleansing bar ingredient in the world has been put through this test so the effect of a lot of them are unknown.

And, to make things worse, combinations of ingredients can act differently than single ingredients so you really need to test a finished formula rather than just look at the comedogenicity rating of its individual ingredients.

So, the best we can do is point out a few ingredients that are known to be the worst offenders. If you want to know if a specific combination of ingredients has been put through this test the only way to know for sure is if the manufacturer has done the test and labels their product as non-comedogenic. But even then that’s no guarantee.

Ingredients to avoid

I don’t think any of the actual cleansing agents in either real soap bars or detergent bars show up on the list of acne causing ingredients. At least none of the published lists that I can find.

However, some of the other ingredients used in soaps in detergent bars are known to have a comedogenic potential.

The oils that are used to make soap may be comedogenic. For example: wheat germ oil is rated 5 which is highly comedogenic. Sesame oil is a 4 and olive oil is a 2 (which is moderately low.) That means I would expect Castile soap may be less likely to cause breakouts than some other oil based soaps.

Vegetable butters
Vegetable butters are are added as “super fatting” agents. That means there to counteract soaps drying effect on skin. Cocao butter and coconut butter are both rated “4” which is “fairly high” in comedogenicity.

These are the ingredients that are added to keep the cleansing bar from dissolving in the shower. They are typically fatty acids like stearic acid or fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol as well as some waxes. Some of these do have comedogenic potential.

Other ingredients
Things misc. ingredients like certain red dyes, even fragrances have been shown to cause acne.
So the best we can suggest is to stay away from the few ingredients we have flagged here.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

First to be aware that what most people call “soap bars” are really synthetic detergent bars.

Second, true soap, while it is more natural, is harsher on skin. That’s partly because of the high pH and partly because of the way soap interacts with skins proteins.

Third, because of the ingredients that are added to super fat soap that you can be more likely to cause acne than detergent bars. check the show notes for some of the specific ingredients that we talked about.

And finally you can look for cleansing bars that are designed to be used on acne prone skin. At best this means the manufacturer has tested them for comedogenic city but even that does not guarantee it won’t cause breakouts for any given individual.

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      • 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.

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Angel19i asks… I have 4a type Afro-Caribbean hair and would like the flexibility of straightening it every once in a while. But just blow drying & flat ironing only last a few days before my hair poofs up & according to your post on Keratin Straightening products other methods rearrange the bonds in your hair & aren’t that safe. And the Bumble and Bumble Concen-Straight doesn’t have any of the ingredients listed on the post so what I want to know is it safe for a temporary way to straighten my hair and will my hair return to normal after the treatment wears off?

The Beauty Brains respond

Considering all the new straightening products that were launched in the last few years, this is a great question. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at our post on Keratin straighteners for more background on the various hair straightening technologies on the market.

What does B&B say about Concen-Straight?

According to B&B, this single use straightener is used with heat tools to “smooth hair for manageability and frizz reduction for up to 30 shampoos.” They also claims that it is “Formaldehyde free. Cysteine free. Lye free.” This means it uses chemistry that is different than Brazilian straighteners, Garnier’s Blow Dry Perfector Kit, or hydroxide relaxers. However, it is based on a technology that functions similarly. Let’s take a look at the ingredients and see:

Concen-straight Ingredients

Water, Sodium Metabisulfite, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Dimethicone, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Sulfate, Fragrance (Parfum), PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Pearl Powder, Sapphire Powder, Malachite, Tourmaline, Transglutaminase, Polylysine, Methyl Trimethicone, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Caprylyl Glycol, Maltodextrin, Tetrasodium Iminodisuccinate, Dimethiconol, Dipropylene Glycol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Eugenol, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, BHT, Linalool, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Benzyl Alcohol.

You’ll notice that the first ingredient (after water) is sodium metabisulfite. This means this product is based on similar technology used in bisulfite perms from the 1970s.

How do bisulfite perms work?

Perms are designed to add curl to hair so the product is applied to hair that is wrapped around curling rods. These perms contain sodium bisulfite which reduces, or breaks, the sulfur-sulfur bonds in hair. These sulfur bonds are like little bridges that lock protein strands together and make hair keeps its shape. When these bridges are broken, the hair relaxes hair and disrupts its natural shape. In the second step a neutralizer solution is applied to oxidize the bonds. This oxidation reaction re-forms the sulfur-sulfur bridges and locks the curls in place. After removing the rods the curls will retain their shape until the hair grows out.

Concen-straight (ya gotta love that clever name!) is essentially half of this perming process. But this time the product is applied as hair is straightened: the metabisulfite breaks the bonds so hair is relaxed, but nothing is added to neutralize and reform the sulfur bridges. The result is straighter hair, but the effect is not truly permanent because over time (about 30 shampoos worth per the product instructions) the bonds will auto-oxidize and the hair will more or less return to its original shape.