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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the claim:

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


What does the claim mean?

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

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

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

How could they support this claim?

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

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

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

Should this claim persuade you to buy the product?

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

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Beauty Science News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, your cosmetics could be contaminating Antarctica.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Super Duper way to save money on nail polish

One of the core themes we talk about here on the Beauty Brains  is how to save money by finding less expensive versions of premium products. So when we were contacted by Lizzy, the inventor of the Super Duper nail polish app, you can imagine our how intrigued we were.

What is Super Duper?

The idea behind Lizzy’s app is simple. You enter your favorite premium nail polish product and the app will spit out a comparable nail polish color from a much cheaper brand.  Super Duper is smartly designed, it seems to work quite well, and best of all it’s free.

(Note: Smart phone beauty apps are not always that great. For example there’s the “Think Dirty” app that claims it can help spot products with dangerous ingredients. Unfortunately, as we talked about before, determining the safety of a cosmetic product is not nearly that simple!)

Kudos to Lizzy for putting “beauty before brands” and we wish her luck with future efforts to save consumers money. You can get Super Duper here.

Do you have any favorite beauty themed smart phone apps that you like? Leave a comment and share your favorites with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.


How can I tell the percentage of ingredients in cosmetics?

Rae really wants to know…Hi, in your blog you talked about the 1% line. I’m not a cosmetic chemist and I kind of always wondered how to guestimate where the 1% line is. So my question is, if you’re not a cosmetic chemist, what’s a good guide to know more or less the ratio of an ingredient to the whole product?

The Beauty Brains respond

This is a really tricky question because there is no single answer that covers all products. But we can give you a very rough, general rule of thumb to follow.

Ingredients in cosmeticsRainbow_of_food_natural_food_colors

The vast majority of cosmetic products are water based. These include emulsion products (oils mixed with water) like skin lotions and hair conditioners as well as surfactant products (detergents mixed with water) like body washes, shampoos and facial washes. In these product water, of course, will almost always be the first ingredient in the list. After that, the next 4 or 5 ingredients are usually the ones responsible for the primary functional properties of the product – in other words they are the cleansers that make it foam or the conditioners that make your hair and skin feel soft. The same principle applies to powder based products (like eyeshadow, foundation, and baby powder) as well as solvent based products (like water-free hairsprays and silicone shine sprays.) So the magic rule of thumb is the first 5 ingredients are the ones that matter the most. After the fifth ingredient everything else is probably below the 1% line. This is where a lot of “snake oil” ingredients hide.

The 1%

Now, before you start an “Occupy Cosmetics” movement to complain about the 1%, let me point out that this doesn’t mean that none of the ingredients below the 1% line matter. For example, certain active ingredients (like retinol for skin) are used at levels below 1%. Pigments are always used at very low levels yet they are critically important to color cosmetics. And preservatives are only used at a few tenths of percent, yet I wouldn’t want to buy a product without them! There are many exceptions to this “First Five” rule.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

This rule of thumb is about the best guideline we can give to help you guestimate the level of ingredients in cosmetics. But that’s just our humble opinion: If there are any other cosmetic scientists reading this post we’d love to hear if you have a different perspective. And if anyone has a question about a specific ingredient in a particular product, we’d be glad to help answer any questions. Just leave a comment on this post or start a thread our Forum.


Is collagen a good anti-aging ingredient? Episode 73

Do you wonder which anti-aging ingredients really work? Today we’re starting a new series where we review the evidence to find out. We begin with a look at collagen. 

Which anti-aging ingredients really work?

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

What is collagen?


The word collagen comes from two Greek terms: kolla meaning “glue” and gen meaning “producing.” That’s because glue was originally made by boiling horse skin. It makes sense that collagen has glue-like properties considering the role it plays in biology – it’s a type of connective tissue that helps other structures “stick” together. In skin, collagen is part of the matrix that keeps it firm and plump and most people know that when skin loses collagen you develop wrinkles. The beauty industry has done a pretty good job of educating consumers on that much but there’s a lot of misunderstanding of what collagen is as a cosmetic ingredient and what it can do for your skin. Let’s start with a brief explanation of the types of collagen and the different forms that it takes.

Types of collagen

Collagen is a protein (which means it’s made of long strings of amino acids) and it’s very rich in two amino acids in particular: proline and hydroxyproline. Its structure is rather complicated, to say the least, but here’s a quick breakdown: The amino acids link together to form long chains called peptides. Peptides form even longer chains called polypeptides. Three polypeptides wrap around each other to form a bundle that is called pro-collagen. Pro-collagen then turns into tropocollagen which is a single collagen fiber. A bunch of tropocollagen fibers bundle together to form fibrils. And a bunch of fibrils form a macro-fiber.

Depending on which amino acids are hooked together and how they form these sub structures you can generate 28 or 29 different types of collagen. Not all of these are relevant to a discussion of skin. For example Collagen XXII is present only at tissue junctions like those found in skeletal and heart muscle. We’ll just mention the 5 or 6 types that are important components of skin.

  • Collagen I: This is the common form of collagen in the human body and it’s the end product when tissue repair. It’s a very tough and strong version.
  • Collagen III: Is found in fast growing tissue especially in early stages of wound repair. It’s typically replaced later by Type I.
  • Collagen V and VI: Both are typically found alongside type I.
  • Collagen VII: Is crucial for skin integrity even though it’s present at very low amounts (about 0.001% of total collagens.) Collagen VII acts as an anchor between the layers of the dermal-epidermal junction.
  • Collagen XII: Is found with types I and III.

Just in case this isn’t confusing enough, in addition to the different TYPES of collagen, there are also different FORMS of each type of collagen.

Forms of collagen

Soluble collagen
Let’s start with soluble collagen. Remember the process by which collagen is formed? If you extract collagen early in that process when it’s not fully formed you get soluble collagen. This usually comes from younger animals. Soluble collagen is thought to penetrate skin better but we’ll get to that in a minute. This form is used in cosmetics but not as often as the third type we’ll get to that.

Then there’s native collagen. This is essentially the fully formed, mature version. It’s has a very high molecular weight and its a very large molecule.

Finally there’s hydrolyzed collagen which is type most commonly used in cosmetics. It’s formed by taking mature collagen and chemically chopping it up into tiny bits.

Collagen bonus fact: If you heat collagen you can cause its three tropocollagen strands to partially or completely separate. The resulting mixture of these randomized protein coils is what we call gelatin.

Is collagen good for your skin?

Next we’re going to talk about the different approaches to restoring collagen in your skin. Here are a couple of things to understand for this discussion.

First, we’re talking about collagen as an ingredient and not other agents that can boost collagen production. That’s for another day.

Second, keep in mind that the only place you can get collagen is from animals. There are marine sources so you can get it from fish but there are no vegetable sources or synthetic sources of true collagen. So if any of our listeners are into vegan-only products you may want to excuse yourself from the rest of the show.

Third, and most important, the effectiveness collagen totally depends on how you’re introducing it into your body: You can rub it on your skin from a lotion, you can swallow it as a dietary supplement, or you can have it injected directly into your skin. The benefits of these approaches are dramatically different and we’ll be reviewing the evidence for each using the Kligman questions as a framework.

As a reminder, the Kligman questions were established by famous cosmetic dermatologist Albert Kligman to establish the validity of any anti aging treatment. The questions are: is there a mechanism for how the ingredients works? Does it penetrate skin? Are there proper studies on real people which show it works? Let’s start by answering these three questions for topical collagen – collagen that’s applied from a cream or lotion.

Topical collagen

Kligman question 1 is there a mechanism?
Sort of. We know that if you can jam more collagen in the appropriate location with in the skin, the skin will appear plumper and more youthful. However here’s the problem: you can’t “jam” collagen deep into the skin just by applying it from a cream or lotion. That’s the essence of the second question. does it penetrate.

Kligman question 2: does it penetrate?
I found an article titled “Studies of the penetration of native collagen,collagen alpha chains,and collagen cyanogen bromide peptides through hairless mouse skin in vitro.” Surprisingly, this hasn’t been thoroughly studied. It appears that skin scientists just assume that collagen won’t penetrate because it’s so big. But in this 1988 study they did look at it and found that there is some penetration surprisingly. Not sure why, but there may have just been fragments of larger molecules that penetrated. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really mater because according to the researchers…

“Even if native collagen could penetrate to the dermis, it is inconceivable that the molecules could form fibers or integrate with existing collagen fibers because the precursors for fiber assembly are soluble procollagen molecules.”

So, all this means that there is no evidence that applying large collagen molecules actually penetrate to where they need to be to work.

We’ve seen this conclusion echoed by other beauty science bloggers such such as the Cosmetic Cop who says that…

“Collagen and elastin in skin-care products can serve as good water-binding agents, but they cannot fuse with your skin’s natural supply of these supportive elements. In most cases, the collagen molecule is too large to penetrate into the skin. But even when it is made small enough to be absorbed it cannot bind with the collagen existing in skin, and there isn’t a shred of research indicating otherwise.”

Kligman question 3: Are there studies that prove it works?
Considering the answer to the second question, it’s not surprising that we couldn’t find any studies which prove topical collagen really will have a lasting effect on wrinkles. It MAY however, have a temporary effect. That’s because collagen is a film former and it can help moisturize skin by reducing water loss or by binding moisture. But while it’s true that collagen can do this its not as effective as the other ingredients such as occlusives and humectants typically used for this purpose. This means it won’t hurt to have collagen in lotion but it also won’t help much. Despite this truth you still see a number of products that market themselves based on collagen.

Here are some examples:

  • St Ives Collagen Elastin Moisturizer
  • Omojo anti-age collagen serum
  • Daggett and Ramsdell collagen serum
  • PCA Skin collagen hydrator
  • Loreal Collagen moisture filler

Injectable collagen

Kligman question 1 is there a mechanism
Next let’s talk about injectable forms of collagen which are well studied. Injectable collagen products have traditionally been made by extracting dermal collagen from cow skin. (Zyderm and Zyplast are two of the most well known.) Since they are made of bovine proteins which can trigger an allergic response, you have to have a test injection a month prior to receiving treatments. There is a newer form called Cosmoderm which is made by purifying human collagen cells and this type doesn’t require the allergy test. Both types work by physically filling in the voids in skin.

Kligman question 2: does it penetrate?
They “penetrate” in the sense that they are injected directly into the dermis and therefore bypass the epidermis.

Kligman question 3: other studies that prove it works?
We know these injectables provide immediate results which last anywhere from three to six months, depending where they’re injected and the type of collagen that is used. After that time, the injected collagen is absorbed by the body and your face returns to its original appearance of the skin surface.

This is a proven method of restoring collagen but since it’s temporary and rather expensive (since it’s done by a dermatologist) this approach isn’t for everyone.

Ingestible collagen

Finally, for every collagen cream or lotion there are dozens of ingestible tablets and powders that claim to improve your skin. Considering how skeptical we are about dietary supplements, you can imagine how doubtful we are that there’s any thing to this. Surprisingly, there may be more to this than we expected.

Kligman question 1 Is there a mechanism?
We did find a couple of studies which appear to establish a mechanism by which ingested collagen could improve the collagen content of skin. One study was done in two parts: The first part was an in vivo test that proved that when you swallow collagen it breaks down into smaller fragments and those fragments, which by the way are di- or tripeptides, can be detected in the blood a few hours after ingestion.

The second part of the study was an in vitro test on human dermal fibroblast cells (the cells responsible for creating new collagen.) The results showed that these peptide fragments DO stimulate the fibroblast cells to proliferate (which means there are more cells producing collagen) and to increase hyaluronic acid synthesis.

The other study was also done in vitro and it showed that ingested hydrolyzed Type I collagen works by changing the balance between production and degradation of collagen. Apparently, digestion breaks the collagen into smaller pieces that can stimulate relevant cells in a way which DOESN’T occur when you rub the stuff on your skin (even if it DID penetrate.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25342893.

Kligman question 2: does it penetrate?
In this case penetration is achieved by digestion and we know this works because of the presence of collagen fragments in the blood. That leaves the third, and most crucial, question: are there any in vivo studies proving ingested collagen really benefits skin?

Kligman question 3: Are there studies that prove it works?
Again, we found a few studies that look promising. The first one was just a pilot study and it was an open label test which means that it was not blinded or placebo controlled. The researchers had 26 females take a 1 gram of a supplement containing hydrolyzed Type II collagen, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate daily for 6 weeks. They then measured improvement in several factors including the degree of skin dryness and scaling and the degree of lines and wrinkles. Results showed a statistically significant improvement in each of these. Of course this study is not very conclusive because of its small size, the study design (it was not blinded), and the fact that they mixed collagen with other ingredients so you can’t tell what’s really supplying the benefit. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22956862. The second study was a little more robust….

This was a larger study (about 200 people) and it evaluated the effect of daily consumption of a specific type of collagen supplement on facial wrinkles. But it was open label too. Not double blinded. or placebo controlled however. http://www.dovepress.com/daily-consumption-of-the-collagen-supplement-pure-gold-collagenreg-red-peer-reviewed-article-CIA

A third study we found on hydrolyzed collagen was double-blinded and placebo-controlled. It consisted of 69 women who were randomized to receive 2.5 g or 5.0 g of CH or placebo once daily for 8 weeks. The researchers measured changes to skin elasticity, skin moisture, transepidermal water loss and skin roughness. Their results showed a statistically significant increase in skin elasticity at both collagen dosages for the older women in the study. There were directional improvements but no other statistically significant results. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208

What does all this mean? I wouldn’t say these studies are conclusive but there are data here to indicate that ingested collagen MAY benefit your skin. So what’s the bottom line on collagen?

The Beauty Brains bottom line

  • Don’t waste your money on expensive collagen creams and lotions as there’s no mechanism and no evidence that they do anything more than moisturize your skin.
  • If you’ve got the money, the time and the tolerance to discomfort, you can have regular injections of collagen.
  • If you have the stomach for it (and the money) you can take a daily does of a collagen supplement but be aware that the evidence is mixed as to whether this really helps much or not.

Improbable Products

Here’s a superhero themed version of the game where Randy challenges me to guess which beauty product is real. I hope you score better than I do!

  1. Batman Aromatherapy Utility Belt
    Next year will see DC comics superman versus Batman movie and if Batman is going to take them Superman he will need to use every trick in the his utility belt. He might even use the new Aromatherapy Utility Belt that allows you to carry scented oils so they’re easily accessible during massage.
  2. Ant Man Hair Growth Cream
    The next big Marvel superhero movie is actually a very tiny one it’s about the crimefighter called Ant-man. He can shrink to the size of an ant and grow back to normal size. And if you want to grow hair you should use this Ant Egg Cream.
  3. Green Lantern wart remover
    In brightest day and blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. That’s the oath sworn by Green Lantern who fights bad guys with a ring that shoots solid energy constructs made with green light. But did you know that derms are now using a green light laser to kill the virus that causes warts?




Does peanut oil enlarge breasts?

Annette asks…I have heard that peanut oil can make breasts bigger as a result of cutaneous hypernutrition. The are people who says that the only effect is the oil moisturizes the area making it seem bigger. What is the real effect of peanut oil?

The Beauty Brains reply

I recently received a question about breast pimples and now this. It must be “Booby Brains” week.

Nutty theory96e68a5f6ee34c3c9723ef5b96e6088a

We can’t find ANY references to peanut oil working in the way that you described. The idea doesn’t even make sense from a basic skin biology perspective – we don’t know of any mechanism for a topically applied oil impacting the metabolic pathways that grow breast tissue. (Interestingly, we did find several studies that show topically applied oils can help reverse fatty acid deficiencies in the blood.) Even the moisturization theory doesn’t hold water (pun intended.) While moisturizing skin can “plump” it up by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles it’s not going to physically increase the size/mass of breast tissue.

Peanut prosethesis?

The only itty-bitty grain of truth in this entire notion is that peanut oil has been considered as a filling material for breast implants. According to WebPlastics “Alternative fillers such as soybean oil and peanut oil are not approved or, at the time of this writing, even in active patient trials in the United States. Soy implants were recently abandoned in European studies because they caused several problems.” So it’s possible that someone heard that peanut oil has been evaluated for use in breasts implants and incorrectly assumed it would have the same effect when applied topically.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Can peanut oil make your breasts bigger? Not according to any science that we can find.


Are there any natural hair color products?

Michelle asks…Do you know of any natural hair color product on the market yet (other than Henna) for people to use in place of the ones on the market with harsh chemicals? I’ve heard of a few salons that have options for consumers but they don’t allow us to purchase them and use on our own. It seems there is a trend right now in the beauty industry with natural ingredients and I’m wondering if you’ve heard of any coming up with hair color that regular consumers can buy and that actually work without too much complication.

The Beauty  Brains respondsmiling_rainbow_hair_by_eds77-d4gligr

Well Michelle, we’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that this is a very easy question to answer. The bad news is you’re not going to like the answer!

Chemical colorants

There are a number of natural materials that can stain hair. Henna, as you mentioned in your question, is one. Certain fruit and berries extracts also work well in this regard (especially if you’re looking for a nice strawberry red or blue berry blue.)

But if you’re looking for the shades that are traditionally associated with permanent hair color, there is no “natural” solution at this time. Part of the reason for this is that no staining material can lighten hair. The natural melanin pigment in dark hair must be destroyed in order to make hair lighter and this requires a fairly strong chemical reaction.

If you, or any of our readers, have seen haircare products that claim to be all natural please forward a link to our attention and we’ll review the ingredients for you.

Quote of the Day: ”When she saw her first strands of gray hair . . . she thought she’d dye.”

Image credit: http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2011/322/e/0/smiling_rainbow_hair_by_eds77-d4gligr.jpg

Have you ever seen any truly natural hair colors? Leave a comment so we can shed some additional light on the subject.


Do you rely on makeup to be more attractive?

In our podcast Episode 70 we discussed a research study which indicated makeup is not the key to attractiveness. One of our astute listeners, Nadia, pointed out that we neglected to mention other research which came to a much different conclusion. She graciously took the time to summarize these additional studies and, with her permission, I am reprinting her email below. Take it away Nadia…soofi_makeup_by_minelissa_robot-d4b9d49

A lot of blogs and the media, including The Beauty Brains were buzzing about a study in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology that implies women wear too much makeup based on misperceptions. However, it is only one paper right now. That matters because the replication rate in psychology is unknown, and a preliminary estimate is between 33 and 66%. Susannah Locke of Vox also questioned the conclusions and methodology of the QJEP article. The female models were told to do their makeup for a night out, but then photographed in daytime lighting.  It may be true that women would look better to most people if they wore less makeup, but replications and papers that address these limitations are needed to say for sure.


Broadly, several studies have examined how cosmetics affect female facial attractiveness. They demonstrate that women are judged more attractive, on average, when they are wearing cosmetics in photos. A French psychologist with a gift for designing naturalistic experiments has done some related work that shows these effects emerge in behavioral interaction as well. Gueguen and his associates found that female waitresses are tipped more by male customers when wearing makeup. In another study, he looked at how many males approached a female confederate in a bar when she was wearing cosmetics compared to not. She was approached more frequently when she was wearing cosmetics. The weight of the existing evidence is pretty conclusive: cosmetics enhance female facial attractiveness.


Cash, T. F., Dawson, K., Davis, P., Bowen, M., & Galumbeck, C. (1989). Effects of cosmetics use on the physical attractiveness and body image of American college women. The Journal of Social Psychology, 129(3), 349-355.

Etcoff, N. L., Stock, S., Haley, L. E., Vickery, S. A., & House, D. M. (2011). Cosmetics as a feature of the extended human phenotype: Modulation of the perception of biologically important facial signals. PloS one, 6(10), e25656.

Guéguen, N. (2008). Brief report: The effects of women‘s cosmetics on men‘s approach: An evaluation in a bar. North American Journal of Psychology, 10(1), 221-228.

Gueguen, Nicolas, and Celine Jacob. “Enhanced Female Attractiveness with Use of Cosmetics and Male Tipping Behavior in Restaurants.”Journal of Cosmetic Science 62.3 (2011): 283-90. Print.

Jacob, C., Guéguen, N., Boulbry, G., & Ardiccioni, R. (2010). Waitresses’ facial cosmetics and tipping: A field experiment. International journal of hospitality management, 29(1), 188-190.

Mulhern, R., Fieldman, G., Hussey, T., Lévêque, J. L., & Pineau, P. (2003). Do cosmetics enhance female Caucasian facial attractiveness? International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 25(4), 199-205.

Osborn, D. (1996). Beauty is as Beauty Does?: Makeup and Posture Effects on Physical Attractiveness Judgments. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 26(1), 31-51.

Image credit: http://fc03.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2011/272/d/b/soofi_makeup_by_minelissa_robot-d4b9d49.jpg

Are Lush products really self preserving? Episode 72

How can products like Lush’s Charity Pot be self preserving? Tune in to this week’s show to find out. Plus – more Beauty Science News!

Claim to fame: How are Lush products self preserving?

This is a popular 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. A listener named Fernanda asked us to review Lush’s self preserving claims for their skin lotions and she sent a link to this video.

What does the claim really mean?

The first step in the process is to make sure we understand exactly what is being claimed. Here’s the claim as it appears on the Lush website.

“Now in a self-preserving formula”

And if you watch the video that Fernanda mentioned you’ll see Helen Ambrosen form Lush talk about the product in more detail. She says the following:

“Lush formulas are balanced to be self preserving.”
“Self preserving means the product keeps its self clean.” 
“It means there are actually dynamics with in the formula that help this.”
“We have not added any materials to it which are perhaps not listed as preservatives to help this in anyway.”
“We rebalanced the formulas so micro organisms haven’t got a window into the product.”

So how could this claim be true? How can a product be self-preserving without preservatives? There are two ways this can work.

Low water activity can make a product self-preserving

First, Helen talked about this notion that their products are “rebalanced” so microorganisms can’t grow and that there are “dynamics” in the formulas that help with this. She’s most likely talking about a phenomena called Water Activity.

Micro organisms are just like people, they need two things to grow: food and water. A bottle of water doesn’t spoil because there’s no food source and a bottle of cooking oil doesn’t go bad because it doesn’t contain any water. Many, if not most cosmetics contain a high level of water and an abundant supply things microbes can feed off of like oily materials and starches. Hence the need for preservatives in most products.

But there is another scenario where a product can contain water but the water isn’t freely accessible to the microbes. This occurs when the water level is very low and/or the water is saturated with salts or other materials that make it inhospitable to microbes. The measurement of this “free water” is called Water Activity.

Fungi require a water activity of at least 0.7 and bacteria require above 0.9. So, if the water activity of these Lush products is below 0.6 or so, pretty much nothing will grow in them and they don’t need to add preservatives.

Our guess is that Lush has “rebalanced” the water activity of their formulas to make them self-preserving. By the way, this approach won’t work for every type of product. For example, sometimes a high concentration of water is needed to disperse other ingredients in a product and some emulsions may be destabilized by adding high levels of salt (which is one way to to lower the water activity.) But Lush could certainly be using this approach in these few products.

There’s also another approach Lush may be using to “self-preserve” their formulas…

Natural extracts may have antibacterial properties

The second way these products can be self preserving is by taking advantage of ingredients which happen to have some antimicrobial properties.

  • Tea tree oil
  • Lavender
  • Rose oil

These natural oils do work but they’re not as effective as true preservatives because they’re not as broad spectrum and they may take longer to take effect. Also, they can be overwhelmed if there is a “gross” contamination. If formula is made under very clean conditions they have a better chance of working. By the way, that’s one of the other factors mentioned in the Lush video: they improved their manufacturing processes which should help this kind of self preserving system.

And, since these ingredients are already in the formula for other reasons (perhaps just provide a fragrance) it’s technically okay for Lush to make the claim that there are no added preservatives.

The problem with self preserved systems

So, by formulating their products with a low water activity, by including materials that have some preservation properties, and my making their manufacturing process is clean and free from contamination as possible Lush can formulate self preserving products. But there’s another problem here which sort of gets glossed over.

How well will the products fair when they are exposed to real world conditions? For example what happens when this Charity Pot sits in your bathroom, is exposed to high humidity, and the water activity shifts upwards so the product is no longer protected? Will it spoil faster?

And what happens after you use the product two or three times, sticking your fingers in it and potentially contaminating the product with bugs that are on your skin? Will the preservation ability of the natural extracts be overwhelmed?

Hopefully Lush has done the appropriate challenge testing to make sure these products will stand up to those real life conditions but it’s certainly possible you may experience a shortened shelf life with this kind of product. Maybe that’s why they sell them in such small containers. We’re not faulting lush for taking this approach but you just need to realize that’s the trade-off when you buy these products that are self preserved.

Beauty Science News

Cotton ball calamity
We received a press release for a line of products by Dr. Mercola. The good doctor says that the products you use to clean your face should be as pure as the product itself. he says that cotton balls, swabs and other applicators can contain “contain traces of harmful residues from pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, dioxins, or other chemicals”

He says that cotton balls are often bleached with chlorine and you know what that means: ” there is a possibility of creating the toxic carcinogens, dioxin and disinfection-by-products (DBP’s) such as trihalomethane.” He goes on to explain that dioxin is the same chemical family as agent orange.

Therefore, if you’re using regular cotton balls you’re running the risk of…”Abnormal tissue growth in the abdomen and reproductive organs
. Abnormal cell growth throughout the body
Immune system suppression
 and hormonal and endocrine system disruption.”

The solution of course is to buy his special organic cotton balls which are guaranteed to be free of all these toxins. This is fear mongering at its worst. If we said it once we’ve said it many times the dose makes the poison. Even if there are trace amounts of harmful substances in regular cotton balls I defy Dr. mercola to produce a single credible study that shows using cotton balls causes any of the problems he alleges.

Without that kind of data this just seems like a shameless ploy to get you to spend more money on something that should be a very inexpensive commodity.

L’Oreal gets in trouble again

As a former cosmetic industry insider, I used to believe that the big companies pretty much followed the rules when it came to producing products and supporting their claims. In fact, I still encourage people to be much more skeptical of small companies who can be a lot more loosie goosie with the rules without consequence. If you’re small the government regulators don’t take notice.

But with this story about L’Oreal receiving another warning letter from the FDA, I might have to revise my advice, especially when it comes to product advertising. According to this report the FDA took exception to some of the claims L’Oreal is making about a couple of its skin pigmentation products. The letter to L’Oreal said they were making drug claims for their Rosalic AR Intense and the Mela-D Pigment Control products. It also told them they had better stop doing that.

This situation illustrates the challenge that companies have when they are producing anti-aging products. See, cosmetics are technically only allowed to affect the appearance of the body. So, it’s ok to say something like “this product will reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles” But L’Oreal’s product goes a little bit too far when they say “reduces visible redness and sensations of discomfort.” The part where they say ‘sensations of discomfort’ is what’s getting them in trouble. A cosmetic is only allowed to affect the appearance, not impact the sensation of discomfort.

For their other product Mela-D Pigment Control they claim it’s for “use to treat dark spots and discolorations.” I think the part where they tell people to use it to treat a specific condition is what’s getting them in trouble. If the FDA thinks you are making drug claims then they are going to send you a warning letter.

Anyway, L’Oreal isn’t the only one who has gotten warning letters like these for being a little too aggressive with their claims. Other companies like Avon and Estee Lauder also have recently gotten letters to indicate some of their products are encroaching the realm of drugs.

Remember if a cosmetic is claiming that it will cure or fix some problem like wrinkles or age spots it either doesn’t work as claimed or it is a misbranded drug. In the case of L’Oreal the FDA says the products are misbranded drugs. I don’t know how well (or if) they work.

There are a few things to take away from this story.

First, the FDA does regulate cosmetics. You hear this nonsense all the time that cosmetics are unregulated and it is just not true. If L’Oreal does not fix this problem identified by the FDA they face fines, product recalls and ultimately they could be shut down by the FDA.

Another thing to takeaway from this story is that even big companies try to mislead you with their product claims. So, stay skeptical. Just because L’Oreal says it doesn’t mean that it is true.

Finally, it’s pretty difficult to write claims that say a lot but don’t break the law. L’Oreal got in trouble for claiming their product ‘reduces visible redness and sensations of discomfort’. But the product probably does this. I mean any moisturizer could do this right? They probably thought what they were saying was perfectly fine. However, the person at the FDA who was reviewing their claims didn’t think so and L’Oreal is being forced to change. I guess that’s a good thing. Every so often the big guys need to be reminded that just because they have lots of money for advertising doesn’t mean they should be able to say anything they want.

The government protects us from stupid cosmetic claims. Sort of. 

The FDA recently cracked down 3 products from a company called Cell Vitals. One was a moisturizer that has “antibacterial” and “anti-cancer” properties. Another was a cleanser – a cleanser!- that claimed to strengthen capillaries. The third was a stem cell eye cream that was marketed as being able to activate collagen synthesis and repair UV damaged skin. The FDA told Cell Vitals these are drug claims and that they either had to stop making the claims or apply for a New Drug Application. (Which costs about $3 million to generate data…)

But here’s the problem with the system. That’s not even a slap on the wrist for the company.

If the company is smart they’ll make these claims in some form where they can be very easily and quickly changed, for example on their website. So you can be very wild West and say whatever you want when the FDA tells you to stop you just fire up your web browser and edit your website. It takes almost no time and money to change claims that you only make on the Internet.

If the company is not smart they will put that claim on packaging or in TV commercials. Those both can be very expensive to change.

Is there really a “pink tax” on women’s cosmetics?

Did you ever hear of the Pink Tax? I hadn’t heard of it but apparently this is a ‘hidden tax’ found in cosmetic products sold for women versus those sold for men.

Recently, a television station here in the US went price shopping for cosmetic products at mass market stores like Walgreens, Target and others in the Atlanta area. They apparently were shocked to find that personal care products marketed to women were more expensive than those marketed to men.

One example they give is women’s razors. The Target brand disposable razors (which just happen to be pink) cost $5.39 while the blue ones directed towards men were $4.99.

There were also discrepancies with deodorant products.

I don’t know if this represents some kind of unfair pink tax or is more a reflection of pricing products based on demand or popularity. It is not surprising to me that companies charge more for products that more people want to buy. The pricing of cosmetics and personal care products are not really related to how much they cost to make. If that were the case you wouldn’t have any shampoos that cost more than $4 a bottle.

Cosmetics are sold based on the brand image and the way they make people feel. Men just don’t care that much about their products. And according to consumer research, they don’t seem to place as much importance on how they look. I know some cosmetic companies are just happy to sell any products to men.

It doesn’t surprise me that there is a “pink tax” but there is a simple solution. Just buy the less expensive male products. Those blue and pink razor blades which have different pricing…just buy the cheaper blue ones. The color has nothing to do with how well they work. It seems to me that the pink tax is a self imposed tax. If people don’t want to pay it, there are options.

Girl dies from head lice treatment

There was a terrible story in the news this week about a 18 month old child who suffocated as a result of a head lice treatment. A popular DIY cure for head lice is to put mayo on in your hair then cover it with a plastic bag to suffocate the lice. Tragically, the baby was left unattended and the bag slipped down over her face and suffocated her. So parents, if you’re trying this PLEASE be careful.

Of course that raises the question whether or not this kind of treatment really works. It’s true that if you plug up the little breathing ports on the lice’s body you can actually suffocate them. The problem with this approach of course is that you have to really make sure you smother them in something. According to the journal Pediatrics
 a product called DSP lotion (which stands for Dry-On, Suffocation-Based Pediculicide) uses an emulsion consisting primarily of fatty alcohols to coat the little buggers. The lotion is applied wet and then blown dry with a hair dryer. The resulting film plugs the spiracles and the lice suffocate. In the published testing the treatment was 96% effective.

Mayo might work but it probably won’t be as effective because it doesn’t contains enough film forming agents. And, I presume to make it work properly you would also have to blow dry it on the hair to maximize the shrink wrapping effect.

When women are most fertile they look for more variety in cosmetics

Here’s a pretty ridiculous story. According to new quotes “research” from the University of Texas at San Antonio, women seek more options in partners and in product brands near their time of ovulation.

Now, it’s not surprising that women behave differently according to where they are in their cycle. This has evolutionary significance and on a subconscious level there could be some effects. But to make the leap from mate picking to brand loyalty seems like a huge leap.

So, I had to look up the study to see how they went about supporting this idea. Here is how they did the study.

First, they got a group of 300 women age 18-40 in which they knew to some degree of accuracy their fertility status. They excluded a bunch of people based on things like pregnancy, taking hormonal contraception or having cycles that were too long or too short. That already seems pretty dubious but it’s psychological research so I guess we’ll go with it. From their data they predicted the ovulation day of each participant. Again, this seems pretty sketchy but that’s the kind of thing that passes as science in this kind of work.

Anyway, they next asked participants to choose products from different categories including lipstick, high heels, yogurt and candy bars for a 15 day trip they would take. They were allowed to choose as many things as they wanted from each category. If someone picked a lot of things from a category the researchers thought that was an indication of their variety seeking behavior. Then they did a second activity where they tried to measure the participants variety-seeking mindset. This involves asking women to score agreement or disagreement with 8 statements. I won’t read them all but a couple examples. “I like a movie where there are a lot of explosions and car chases” or “It would be exciting to try some of the new hallucinogenic drugs”

With these pieces of data in hand researchers were able to analyze whether variety seeking behavior and mindset were correlated to where they were in their ovulation cycle. It turns out, statistically speaking there was a trend toward increased variety seeking at high fertility.

There were 3 other studies that they did testing other hypotheses but this all just made my brain hurt trying to read it. I don’t know what to make of it but I’m pretty skeptical that it means anything. They talk of statistical trends and I remember all those dumb trends we’d see in consumer research.

I also don’t know what impact this is supposed to have on brands. Are cosmetic brands supposed to say something like “hey you’re single and ovulating, why not try our new silky hair conditioner”?

This is just another reminder to me of how soft a science psychology and consumer research really is. Here’s a link to the full study.

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.


5 tips for coloring your hair

Kelly’s question…What is the best way to prepare hair for hair dye? Freshly washed, day old etc?

The Beauty Brains response

If you’re having your color done by a professional stylist, he or she should give you good direction on how to prepare your hair. But if you’re doing it yourself at home, or having a friend do it for you, here are some tips that should ensure a better coloring process.

Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts For Coloring Your HairWigs_and_hair_colour

1. Ban bleaching
Avoid chemical processes like bleaching and highlighting in the weeks prior to getting your hair colored. These treatments can damage your hair, making it more porous and potentially preventing it from retaining some of the dye molecules.

2. Skip the stylers
Try not to go up your hair with a lot of heavy styling agents in the day or two before styling. If you haven’t done a good job of cleaning them off your hair they may inhibit penetration of the hair dye. If you typically use heavy conditioners, like those containing dimethicone, you might want to forego that for a few days as well.

3. Do a deep cleansing
Just in case you do have residue on your hair it doesn’t hurt to do a good deep cleaning right before coloring. (Freshly washed hair helps ensure there’s nothing that will interfere with the hair dye deposition.)

4. Stay away from straighteners
Here’s a tip that even your stylist may not know: don’t use temporary straighteners before coloring because the chemistry involved in these products damages the protein bonds in hair. Just like bleaching and highlighting, these chemical straighteners can damage are hair to the point where the coloring treatment may not be as effective.

5. Watch the water
Lastly, you want to be careful what you do after you color your hair. Research has shown that washing is the main cause of hair dye loss. Therefore you want to be careful about how frequently you shampoo your hair after coloring. There are products on the market that contain technology that really helps protect wash out; for example, we have seen data showing Tresemme Color Revitalize shampoo and conditioner are effective, particularly on reddish-brown shades. (Tip: Don’t waste money on hair products that charge more because they contain expensive UV absorbers. Sunscreens do very little to preserve color.)

Image credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Wigs_and_hair_colour.jpg

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, Amazon.com carries cupuacu butter. Use this link to buy Cupuacu (and support the Beauty Brains in the process.)

Image credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4097/4879170540_f4baa12052.jpg

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.