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Tame Cream Rinse – vintage cosmetic video

This commercial is noteworthy for several reasons. There’s the inanely catchy “Defrizz the Frizzies with Tame” jingle. And there’s the before and after demo which barely shows any reduction in frizz at all. Then there are the deliriously happy models who, despite their frizzy hair, seem more than content to pet puppies and toss their hats in the hair.

The beauty science bit is that, even back in ’70s, Tame used “cationic conditioners” to defrizz hair. Cationics are positively charged so they stick to the damaged spots of hair which have a negative charge. Along with silicones, these are some of the most powerful conditioning agents are are still in use today.


Does oily skin really overproduce sebum when dehydrated?

Al4galm asks…I have read many blogs, articles, etc that claim that oily skin produces more oil when is dehydrated. Is it true?
None of them reference studies.

The Beauty Brains respond: 

None of them referenced studies???  I’m tempted to report the bastards to the United Federation of Beauty Bloggers! Seriously though, if you do find a beauty blog that documents its sources of information you should bookmark it and sleep with it under your pillow! But back to your question…

The science of sebum

The answer lies in how sebum production is regulated – in other words what turns the sebum glands on and off. It’s not the presence or absence of moisture that triggers the production of oil, it’s the presence of sebum on the surface of skin. According to a study published in the Archiv für dermatologische Forschung, researchers stripped oil off skin and then measured how long it took the skin to re-oil itself. Their data indicates that the presence of oil on the skin’s surface sends a signal to the sebaceous glands to turn off. This signal is caused by either the pressure of the oil in the follicle or by the creation of a chemical signal that travels back down through the skin.

So it looks like it’s the amount of oil on the skin and not the degree of dehydration that determines how much oil the glands produce.


Is Sea Buckthorn oil good for skin?

Kashish’s question…My sister is using some products from Seabuck Essence and she is getting very good results. I wanted to ask that is anyone else also trying this product and shall i use it? She told me that its made up of Seabuck Thorn, a herb which is very good for human body.

The Beauty Brains respond:

Sea Buckthorn is used by a few brands including Sibu Beauty (who’s website includes more information that Seabuck Essense’s). But is it really good for skin?

What is Sea Buckthorn?

You can read all about Sibu Beauty’s Sea Buckthorn Nourishing Facial Cream here. Sea Buckthorn (technically known as Hippophaë rhamnoides) is a berry grown in the Himalayas and the website points out that it’s known for being rich in a number of bioactive compounds including the following:

  • Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, K, & P
  • Omega 3, 6, 7 & 9
  • 42 Lipids
  • Organic Acids
  • Amino Acids
  • Folic Acid
  • Tocopherols
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Terpenes
  • Tannins
  • 20 Mineral Elements

But the key question is, is there any research showing what this stuff does for skin?

Sea Buckthorn science

Sibu’s website brags about the “130 modern scientific studies that have found that this berry promotes health.” And it’s true that there are many studies showing this berry has health benefits when ingested. Here are a few examples courtesy of PubMed:

  • A placebo-controlled, parallel study showed that eating 5 grams of sea buckthorn every day for 5 months increased certain skin lipids in patients with atopic dermatitis. (The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry )
  • Oral intake of sea buckthorn fruit prevented UV radiation-induced skin aging in hairless mice  (Int J Mol Med.)

There are enough studies like this to indicate that chowing down on this stuff might not be a bad idea. But what does it do when applied to skin?

The skinny on sea buckthorn

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research done on the effects of this super fruit on skin. We could only find a few relevant studies:

  • Topical application of a concentrated form of Sea Buckthorn (1% of the flavone) did show improvement in wound healing. (Mol Cell Biochem.)
  • The seed oil also apparently has light absorption properties and has promise as a UV skin protectant. (J Agric Food Chem. )
  • And finally, we read that it can help boost collagen production (Journal of applied cosmetology ) We’re a bit skeptical about this one because was no control vehicle included in the study so it’s impossible to tell if the effect is from the oil or just from other ingredients in the cream.

Still, over all, there’s enough evidence here to suggest that this ingredient is promising.

So is the product a miracle or not?

Even if topical Sea Buckthorn oil is good for skin does that mean Sebu’s Nourishing Facial Cream works? The company doesn’t present ANY research on their own product to prove efficacy so all we can do is look at the ingredients which are listed below. As you can see, Sea Buckthorn oil is the second ingredient which probably means the cream contains at least a couple of percent of the oil. Theoretically that’s enough to provide a benefit. Beyond that we can’t really say. And it’ll cost you about $20 for 1 ounce to try this “miracle” for yourself.

Sebu Beauty Sea Buckthorn facial cream ingredients

Water, Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable), Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate, Polyglyceryl-10 Pentastearate, Behenyl Alcohol, Sodium Steroyl Lactylate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Shea Butter, Sea Buckthorn Fruit Oil, Orange Essential Oil, Lemon Essential Oil, Aloe Barbadensis leaf juice powder, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Xanthan Gum, Panthenol, Sodium Phytate

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Sea Buckthorn seed oil does contain a number of components that may benefit the skin. A few legitimate scientific studies indicate the oil may improve would healing, protect against UV radiation, and increase collagen production. And based on the ingredient list the Sebu Beauty product may contain enough of the oil to be effective.

Three “mays” do not make a miracle but there’s enough here that might make this product worth a try if you have an extra $20 to spend.


In this week’s episode Perry and I talk about the Think Dirty app that claims to help you identity dangerous ingredients in your cosmetics. Plus another game of Beauty Science or Bullsh*t!

Click below to play Episode 38 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Beauty Science or Bull Sh*t – a special bacteria-based episode

Another special themed version – this time it’s about bacteria. Guess which of the following 3 beauty science headlines are fake? (2 are real, one is made up.)

  1. Your nasal bacteria may predict if you’ll get a skin infection.
  2. Rural bacteria can help improve city dwellers’ health
  3. Bacteria unique to house pets have been found as a contaminant in cosmetics

 Beauty Science News

Would you wash yourself with bacteria?
You rinse your skin with water and then apply a live bacteria mist to keep your body clean. Theoretically the good bacteria colonize your skin and prevent the bad bacteria from growing. The chairman of the company that makes this products only uses soap once or twice a month.

The “Think Dirty” App shows which products have toxic chemicals
This “Think Dirty app uses data from scientific studies conducted by non-profit organizations and government agencies to fill in some of the blanks from the labels of cosmetic products.

This article is a bit one-sided, to say the least. If you really pay attention to the scientific literature you’ll see that cosmetic ingredients such as these are not likely to cause you much harm. You’re WAY more likely to get cancer from drinking alcohol, smoking, or just hanging out in the sun.

Here are a couple of quick rebuttals for those of you who are interested in a balanced discussion:

In all these cases the dose makes the poison. At high levels (as in some hair straighteners) formaldehyde is dangerous but when released at very low levels from preservatives it is not an issue.

The amount of lead in lipstick is VERY small, not much of it is ingested, the amount that is ingested is not absorbed well by your body, and the amount that is absorbed is processed and excreted. Your body can get rid of far more lead than you consume from lipstick. (Instead you should worry about lead paint or contaminated soil instead.)

The evidence seems clear that certain (but not all) phthalates pose a health hazard. But does that hazard mean there’s a risk involved in using phthalates in cosmetics? (Remember that the risk is a function of the hazard AND the degree of exposure.) Both the FDA in the US and the SCCP in EU agree that there’s no clear data that the use of these ingredients in cosmetics pose a measurable hazard to consumers. The FDA is continuing to monitor the situation while the EU has taken a more conservative approach and decided to limit the use of some phthalates to only trace levels. From a regulatory perspective, the EU now has three categories for phthalates:
▪ Accepted phthalates: This one is considered safe for use in cosmetics: DEP
▪ Banned phthalates: These are banned from being added to cosmetics but are allowable as “trace contaminants” up to 100 ppm: DEHP, DBP and BBP.
▪ Unregulated phthalates: These have not been regulated in EU but given their low usage (at least in perfumes) there is no quantifiable risk to consumers: DMP, DIBP, DCHP, DINP and DIDP.

The most comprehensive study was published in 2011 which determined that Methylparaben and Ethylparaben were safe when used at approved levels (0.4% individually & 0.8% combined). Since these are the two most commonly used parabens cosmetic chemists still have good formulation options. They took some more time to look at butylparaben and propylparaben. And the latest SCCS opinion…these are safe when used at the suggested concentrations of 0.19% or less.

Yes, these surfactants can be drying to skin – but so is soap! And the manufactures of these ingredients have limited the trace levels 1,4-Dioxane so there is no need for concern.

The point is that toxicology of cosmetic ingredients is a VERY complicated subject, even for industry veterans like us. To think that all that information can be distilled down to a simple app is naive and unproductive.

Olfactory exposure to men stresses out lab animals
Are lab animals really stressed out by the scent of “gonadally intact” men? What does this mean for all the scientific research done on rats and mice?

Crazy about caffeinated shaving cream
I spotted an annoying new product from The Pacific Shaving Company. It’s caffeinated shaving cream! Here’s what they say about it: “Actually, when it comes to caffeine, the women are ahead of the men. Caffeine is already a “go-to” ingredient in everything from eye creams and anti-aging lotions to concealers and moisturizers. It just hasn’t found its way into the shaving world – until now!

And the reason this is so important to include in skin care is that “It can penetrate skin and absorb into your blood: Start your morning with a kick!”

The real kicker is that if you look at the kinetics of percutaneous caffeine absorption you’ll see that there’s no way this could work.

The diffusion rate for caffeine through human skin is 2.2 x 10-6 grams per centimeter squared of skin, per hour.

So the area of your face that gets shaved is about 100 square centimeters?

That means your skin could absorb up to about 0.2 mg caffeine/hour

Do you know how many mg of caffeine are in a cup of coffee? 100-200.

So for your skin to absorb enough caffeine to “kick start” your morning you’d have to leave this shaving cream on your face for about 1000 hours. That’s assuming it’s even dosed appropriately.

Unpleasant odors makes you more conservative
Here’s a study that says exposure to a disgusting odor makes you more politically conservative (on subjects like sex and gay marriage.)

Scientists develop way of making UV protection visible
Even though we don’t understand this very well we like this idea of a device that can predict how much sunscreen you need based on the amount of UV radiation that you’re exposed to.

More feminine looking women are more likely to win political office
Perry’s on a political roll today and he thinks that wearing cosmetics can help you win elections.


LIL buy it now button

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

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

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.

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Understanding cosmetic ingredient names

I must confess. One of my favorite things about being a chemist is getting to say long words and knowing what they mean. I loved learning the IUPAC system for naming chemicals.

That’s why I found ingredient lists on shampoos & conditioners baffling. I didn’t know what most of the chemicals were. They were similar to IUPAC terms, but not quite. It turns out that the cosmetic industry doesn’t use the IUPAC naming system. Instead, they follow their own system as laid out in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) dictionary. This volume is produced by the main cosmetic industry trade group called the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC, formerly the CTFA but we’ll save that for another time).

List of Ingredients

The first thing to know about cosmetic ingredients is the ingredient list. In the United States, every personal care and cosmetic product is supposed to have their ingredients listed. In the business, we called it the LOI (list of ingredients). Any ingredient above 1% is required to be listed in order of concentration (by weight). At 1% or below, the ingredients can be listed in any order. Typically, preservatives and dyes are listed at the end. In a future post, we’ll show how this labeling requirement can help you formulate new products.

Any ingredient above 1% is required to be listed in order of concentration (by weight).

To be proper, companies are supposed to follow the naming conventions as laid out in the INCI.

Cosmetic Ingredient Naming Conventions

While many chemical names in the INCI seem arbitrary, there are some standard rules. The following will help you make heads or tails out of the ingredients on most LOIs. We can’t list all the conventions here, but we’ll point out the major ones and give examples.

Common Names

When they first came up with the INCI (originally called the CTFA Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary) in 1973, many cosmetic ingredients already had names. These common names were incorporated into the dictionary even though they didn’t follow any specific naming rules. Therefore, we use Glycerin instead of the more accurate Glycerol and Menthol instead of (1R, 2S, 5R)-2-isopropyl-5-methylcyclohexanol. Common names are also used for various natural ingredients like Lanolin and Beeswax.

Stem Names

Probably the most important thing to learn about naming cosmetic ingredients is to memorize this list of hydrocarbon stem names. It’s a bit different than the IUPAC.

So, if you have a 16-carbon alcohol, you call it Cetyl Alcohol instead of Hexadecanol. For an 18-carbon acid, you would use Stearic Acid instead of Ocatdecanoic acid.


You’ll run into names like Cocamidopropyl Betaine that don’t match any of the stem names. This is because the raw material uses coconut oil as a starting raw material. In these cases, you use an abbreviation of that starting material. Other ones you might see include Palm Kernel oil, Soybean oil and Sunflower oil. In a future post, we’ll show the fatty acid distribution of these materials.


The INCI tries to follow established conventions from other systems. For example, when you want to name an ether, you take the stem names from both fatty acids and add the term ether. Thus, a molecule made with a 14-carbon and 16-carbon chains connected by an oxygen would be called Cetyl Myristyl Ether. An ester of the same molecules would be Cetyl Myristate.

Nitrogen Containing

Hydrocarbons that contain nitrogen are amides and have the phrase included in their name. Therefore, Lauramide is used to describe a 12-Carbon molecule (Lauryl) that has a NH2 group on its end. If the Nitrogen has other hydrocarbons attached, those are also named. So, Lauramide DEA would be that same 12-Carbon molecule attached to a Nitrogen which also has Ethyl groups attached to it. When these Nitrogen containing compounds are turned into salts, the suffix “-monium” is added. So, a 16-Carbon attached to a Nitrogen with three methyl groups is Cetrimonium Chloride.


A variety of conventions are used to name polymers. For Nitrogen containing polymers, the term “Polyquaternium” is used. There is also a number associated with the ingredient but it doesn’t refer to anything chemically. It just happens to be the order in which the material was registered.

Other polymers use common abbreviations. PEG is Polyethylene Glycol. PPG is Polypropylene Glycol, etc. Then a number is included to refer to the moles of ethoxylation in the polymer.


For silicone containing materials, terms like Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone and amodimethicone are used. Whenever you see some form of these words in a chemical name, you know there is some silicone in it.


Ten years ago, you used to see the abbreviation FD&C in front of many chemical colorants. Today, however, the INCI has adopted a simplified method for naming colors. They just list the color followed by a number (e.g. Yellow 5). This doesn’t tell you anything about the chemical composition but you can get the structure by looking it up in the INCI. An alternative naming system is the EU one in which each colorant is assigned a 5-digit chemical index (CI) number. Yellow 5 in the EU is called CI 19140.

Miscellaneous Rules

There are many other rules that you’ll have to learn over time. To give you a flavor here are a few more.

  1. Water is just called Water. (Not deionized or purified or anything else. Just water)
  2. Fragrance is called Fragrance no matter what compounds are used to make it. This is changing but for now, it’s correct.
  3. Botanicals use the Latin name of the plant or part plus the term Extract. So, if you use an ingredient taken from the leaf of a lemon, the ingredient is called Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Leaf Extract.


The naming of raw materials in cosmetics share some characteristics with the IUPAC system used in Organic Chemistry. However, there are many differences and for some things it is impossible to determine the chemical structure from just the name. For more information, your best bet is to go to your company’s library (or your city’s) and take a look at the latest version of the INCI.

Do you have any ingredient naming questions? Leave a comment below and let us know.


Watermelon and CoQ10 facial cream – look at the label

Watermelon & CoQ10 Facial Cream with Caffeine SPF 20 is certainly a mouthful and it’s one of the beauty best sellers on Amazon. Is it worth $38? Let’s look at the label.

To the skeptical eye of a cosmetic chemist, this product is a bit of mess (at least as it’s portrayed on Amazon.com) Let’s look at some of the more interesting claims for the product then we’ll see what we can learn from the ingredient list.


  • 100% Natural and Organic
  • Smooths fine lines and wrinkles
  • Protects skin from UVA and UVB
  • Contains watermelon which repairs DNA damage by 25%.
  • It is also undiluted with water.
  • Revolutionary patent pending formula
  • Based on pure aloe juices
  • Will help brighten and revive your skin.

Ingredients compared to claims

If you dissect the ingredient list (see below) you’ll notice several inconsistent statements that appear to be written to mislead the consumer.

  • Aloe gel, which is the first ingredient, primarily consists of water. So how can the product be “undiluted with water?”
  • The Aloe gel is “based on “alginate from seaweed and irish moss extract.” How is that “pure aloe juices?” That doesn’t even make sense!
  • There’s no active sunscreen listed despite the fact that the product claims to provide an SPF of 20.
  • The components of the “Antioxidant Preservative Complex TM” are not listed which is illegal according to US labeling laws.
  • There are no oil phase ingredients or emulsifiers listed which means this product can’t be a true moisturizing cream

Watermelon & CoQ10 Facial Cream ingredients

**Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Aloe Vera Gel (based on organic alginate from seaweed and Irish moss extract), (Revita10 Super Anti-Aging ComplexTM including: Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Seed Oil, CoQ10, Coffea arabica (Green Coffee) Oil, and Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Seed Extract and Simmondsia chinens (Jojoba) Proteins), Alpha Hydroxy Acids (derived from organic fruit-Lactic, Tartaric, and Citric), Vegetable Glycerin, Vitamin C, Organic Extracts of *Vaccinium myrtillus(Bilberry), *Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon), *Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane), Acer Saccharinum (Sugar Maple), *Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange), Essential Oils of *Mandarin Red, *Citrus Pectin, Antioxidant Complex PreservativeTM

The Beauty Brains bottom line

If you’re going to spend $38 for 1 ounce of product you should feel confident that the company is providing you with a quality product. Based on the inconsistencies between the claims and the ingredients we’d be very suspicious that this product provides any additional benefit that would justify its cost.

Please remember that you can support the Beauty Brains by purchasing ANYTHING on Amazon using the Beauty Brains Amazon.com link


Alboleen Warm Cream – vintage cosmetic video

Having worked with a number of advertising agencies over the years I can tell you that they SALIVATE over the possibility of a side by side demonstration. And if that demo can be done against a competitive product they’ll pretty much wet themselves right in the meeting. (This is not to suggest that all ad execs are incontinent.)

This Alboleen Warm Cream commercial is a great example of a “half face test” which conveys the product’s two main benefits: it melts into your skin and removes eye makeup better than regular cold cream.

How does it accomplish this melting magic? Alboleen is a petrolatum and mineral oil mixture and, unlike traditional cold creams, it doesn’t contain any fatty alcohols which give a creamy white texture. That formula is also an excellent solvent for greasy makeup.

Now if only it could remove the permanent marker in the middle of the model’s face.

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Happy Independence Day to all our American readers! To celebrate we’re reprinting one of our favorite posts about cosmetic science around the time of the American Revolution.

If you’re interested in learning what life was like in colonial America, you can find an excellent summary at Fortklock.com; the details of how women made their own makeup was particularly fascinating. Believe me, they didn’t have much to work with! Here’s a quick comparison of colonial chemistry to our modern day magic.

Lip color

Then: Mix beet juice with lard.

Now: Something in a nice pinkish-taupe like NARS Turkish Delight!


Then: Either pinch your cheeks or, for the cultured sophisticate, mix beet juice with talc or cornstarch. (Jeez, those colonials were really big on beets!)

Now: Unfortunately, natural minerals hadn’t been invented yet back in 1776 or else they could have worn Laura Mercier Mineral Cheek Powder.


Then: Moisten eyelashes with your fingers. (Mmmm, saliva-scented eyelashes! Jan Marini eat your heart out!)

Now: Today we have the incredible tubing technology of Blinc Kiss Me Mascara.

Anti-aging skin creams

Then: Rub bacon grease or fat on your face.

Now: Dab on a little ZIRH Protect Face Moisturizer. It even sounds like it’s from the Future – it’s ZIRH!

Lip Plumpers

Then: Bite your lip several times throughout the day.

Now: Never fear, Lip Fusion Micro-Injected Collagen Lip Plump is here! (I’ll stick to biting my lip, thank you kindly.)

The Beauty Brains bottom line

We have a lots to be thankful for this Independence Day: Government for the people by the people; freedom of religion, and science-spawned, store-bought cosmetics! Yay!

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Will waterproof sunscreen give you acne?

Tree asks…The sales assistant in a makeup store told me I shouldn’t be using waterproof sunscreen because it’s too heavy for me. The sunscreen contains zinc oxide. She recommended me another one that doesn’t contain parabens and is also lighter. I don’t care about parabens but is waterproof sunscreen something I should stay away from?

The Beauty Brains respond:

I see the logic behind this: if something is waterproof it must be so oily and heavy that it HAS to clog your pores, right? Not necessarily.

Whether or not a sunscreen will cause acne depends on the comedogenicity of the ingredients in the formula. Some ingredients are more likely to form comedones (the “plugs” that contribute to acne.) If the product contains these ingredients it may cause you to break out.

Unfortunately, even though you can look up comedogencity of some ingredients, it’s not an exact science and you can’t predict what a blend of ingredients will do. Your best bet (even though it still doesn’t guarantee anything) is to look for a sunscreen that has been tested and labeled as “non-comedogenic.”

The risk of a little acne is worth getting good protection from skin cancer!


Can I freeze my Skinceuticals Vitamin C serum?

Oconor asks…A lot of people, myself included, are taking a DIY route for this product, and I know refrigeration will slow the oxidation, but how will freezing affect a formulation like Skinceuticals C and E Ferulic and the LotionCrafter copycat kit?

The Beauty Brains respond: 

Freezing is never recommended for a cream or lotion because it can cause the emulsion to break. A good cosmetic formulator does some worse case freeze-thaw testing to make sure their products won’t fall apart if the temperature dips into the freezing range but you shouldn’t be deliberately exposing your product to freezing temperatures just to prevent oxidation.

If the product is a serum then its more of a solution of ingredients than an emulsion so it’s less likely to separate. However, freezing is still not a good idea because it messes with the solubility of the components.

Prolonging the shelf life of a product by storing it in the fridge is perfectly fine. The kinds of chemical reactions that cause product to go bad double in speed for every 10C increase in temperature. So, cooler is better.

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