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Bactine washing cream – vintage cosmetic video

When I was a kid Bactine spray was THE go to product for disinfecting minor cuts and scrapes on hands, arms and legs. The active ingredients are benzalkonium chloride (an antiseptic) and lidocaine (a topical anesthetic). I’m not sure why you’d need either of these ingredients in a face wash. (For dueling scars, I suppose.)

The most vexing question, however, is why this actress (which is generous use of the term considering the wooden delivery she gives to her lines) is writhing around in her chair. It must have something to do with freckles.


Richard asks…My wife sent me your article about Vaseline vs. Aquaphor, which addresses the concepts of occlusives, hydrators, and humectants.  Vaseline is supposedly only an occlusive and Aquaphor is supposedly all three.  If that is the case, how come each only lists Petrolatum as an active ingredient?

The Beauty Brains respond: 

Richard has stumbled on one of the three sure fire ways to have your question answered here on the blog. The first way is to enthusiastically praise us  in your question. (You know how starved I am for positive feedback.) The second way is to mention that you bought our book (It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick.) The third way is to be a dude (because we’re trying to increase our male readership!) And now on to his answer…

Skin protectant ingredients are drugs

Both products are marketed under the FDA’s Other the Counter monograph for skin protectants which means they are legally considered to be drugs. The monograph specifies which active ingredients may be used and how much of the active is required. Petrolatum is an approved active at concentrations above 30% and, since both products contain 30% or more of petrolatum, they both list it as an active.

Aquaphor does contain glycerine which is also an approved active. However, the minimum concentration for glycerine is 20%. Therefore it’s likely that Aquaphor contains less than this minimum amount and that’s why they don’t list it as an active.

If you’re confused about what the term “active ingredient” means, stay tuned. We’ll be answering THAT question in an upcoming episode of the Beauty Brains Show. In the meantime you can read more about the skin protectant monograph on the Code of Federal Regulations.


Looking for answers to your beauty questions?

As faithful followers of the Beauty Brains already know, our Forum is a great resource for answers to beauty questions. There are hundreds of members who are very savvy about all kinds of cosmetics.

A few people have had trouble navigating the Forum to ask their questions so I made a short instructional video. Check it out if you need help.

And if you haven’t already, sign up for our Forum now!


It’s time for another game of Beauty Science or Bullsh*t! Plus, we prattle on about six new beauty science news stories. 

Click below to play Episode 34 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Show notes

Beauty Science or Bullsh*t

This is the game where I give you 3 beauty science news headlines, 2 are true 1 is a made up. You have to pick the fake one.

1. Scientists can estimate the collagen levels in your skin just from a hand shake.
2. The first self healing nail polish could be created using a new regenerating plastic technology.
3. You should replace your toothbrush every three months because that’s how long it takes e. coli colonies to form

Beauty Science News

Microbead madness

A few months ago we talked about the plastic microbeads used in exfoliators not getting filtered out of sewage systems and ending up in the ocean. It looks like they’re not as easy to replace as we thought.


Is using coconut oil dangerous?

According to Refinery 29, coconut oil may contain a carcinogen. Actually, that’s not quite accurate…


The first skin care line inspired by mummies

Based on a new study on how peat bogs preserve corpses, a new product line is launching with this mummifying material.


Sunscreens failed the test

A test in the UK showed that 3 major sunscreens failed their independent testing. Should you be concerned your sunscreen isn’t good enough?


Don’t step on your carbon footprint

Colep launching an organic shaving cream that uses CO2. At a time when every body else in the world is talking about reducing co 2 emissions they decide that because it’s organic.


Peer reviewed papers use the term “chemical free”

Perry was shocked to find that 4,000 scientific papers mis-use the term “chemical-free.” This doesn’t bode well for


This show is a labor of love but Perry and I could really use your help. Here are two ways you can support the Beauty Brains:



Preservatives in cosmetics – explained!

Many people seem to think that preservatives are the scariest of all cosmetic ingredients. To  give you the scoop on why you need them and what they are, I’m sharing this article which was written as an introduction to cosmetic formulators.

Why you need cosmetic preservatives

There are two primary reasons you need preservatives.

1. To stop microbes from spoiling your products.
2. To stop microbes from causing disease.

The microbes that can infect your formulas primarily include bacteria, mold, and yeast. In small quantities they don’t represent much of a problem but when they multiply, look out. Bacteria like Pseudomonas can cause all kinds of health problems including skin and eye infections, toxic shock, strep throat, and even food poisoning. Yeast like Candida albicans can cause thrush. And many other bacteria can cause your products to smell awful, change color or otherwise break down. (This is what stability testing is for).

The following is a list of common preservatives used in cosmetic and personal care products.


Parabens are the most commonly used preservatives. They are derivatives of p-hydroxybenzoic acid and go by names like Methylparaben, Propylparaben, and Butylparaben. They are typically supplied as powders and can sometimes be difficult to incorporate into a system due to the water solubility limitations. They are effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria and fungi. They do have pH limitations and are not effective against all microbes so you usually will need an additional preservative.

Formaldehyde donors

Formaldehyde derivatives are the next most common preservative. These compounds interfere with membrane proteins which kills microbes. They are effective against bacteria, fungi, and mold. Bad press and real safety concerns have led cosmetic chemists to stop using formaldehyde. Instead ingredients that dissociate into formaldehyde when put in a water solution are used. These are compounds like DMDM Hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl Urea, and Gluteraldehyde. They are most often used in surfactant systems.

Phenol derivatives

Phenol derivatives have been used in cosmetics for many years and can be effective against a range of microbes. Unfortunately, they are not as effective as the previous ingredients so their use is limited. The most common examples is Phenoxyethanol.


Compounds that contain nitrogen and have a positive charge when placed in solution are called quaternary compounds (or quats). Many of them demonstrate an ability to kill microbes. This include ingredients like Benzalkonium Chlroide, Methene aommonium chloride, and Benzethonium chloride. Their cationic nature makes them less compatible with anionic surfactants which limits their application & use.


Ethanol is a great preservative but you need to use it in high levels and it faces significant environmental restrictions. Other compounds like benzyl alcohol, dichlorobenzyl alcohol, and even propylene glycol all have some anti-microbial effect. In lower levels, these compounds are less effective at preserving products.


Synthetic compounds like Methylchloro- Isothiazolinone and Methyl-Isothiazolinone are effective at incredibly low levels. They have been shown to work at a wide range of pHs and in many different formulas. There use has been stymied however, by at least one study that suggested it could cause skin sensitization.

Organic Acids & Others

Various other compounds are used as preservatives but all face some limitations not experienced to the same extent as the previous ingredients discussed. Some of the most important include Sodium Benzoate, Chloracetamide, Triclosan, and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate. Pyridine derivatives like Sodium pyrithione and zinc pyrithione are used to kill the bacteria that causes dandruff.

Why cosmetic preservatives are vilified

More than any other ingredient, preservatives are most often called out as the worst ingredients you can use in a formula. Even people who know nothing about chemistry have likely heard about the “evil” parabens and formaldehyde.

Preservatives are designed to kill cells. That’s why they are effective. Unfortunately, that’s also why they are potentially hazardous. They don’t easily discriminate between good human cells and bad microbial cells. But ultimately, the risk from using preservatives is significantly lower than that of using unpreserved cosmetics. There are safe levels of “toxic” chemicals. All chemicals can be deadly if you’re exposed to a high enough level. How many people die from water exposure (e.g. drowning)?

Remember, it’s the dose the matters!

To be sure, cosmetic science research is ongoing in the field of preservatives since many things previously deemed safe have been reclassified as hazardous. Suppliers who can come up with even safer preservatives will likely make a lot of money. Hopefully, they’ll do it soon but there do not appear to be any promising materials on the horizon.

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A no brainer way to support the Beauty Brains

Support the Beauty Brains while you shop!

If you like learning about cosmetic products so you can be a smarter shopper and save money, then please support us so we can continue to provide this free service to you.

The easiest way to support us doesn’t cost you a cent. All you have to do is shop online using our Amazon.com link. There’s no extra charge to you but we get a small commission from each sale no matter what you buy. It doesn’t even have to be anything beauty related! ANYTHING you buy really helps us out.

So click now or bookmark this link for later.

Support the Beauty Brains while you shop!

Thanks, Perry and I really appreciate it!


Baby Foot Pad – Look at the label

Baby Foot Pad is a best selling beauty product on Amazon but is it for babies or adults? Let’s look at the label to figure it out.

Apparently this product is an exfoliant foot peel that designed to give you feet as soft as a baby’s. (So it’s for adults.) Here’s how it works:

First you wash and dry your feet. Then, you place your feet inside plastic booties that are filled with an Alpha Hydroxy Acid mixture and seal them shut with double sided tape.  You leave them on your feet for two hours and when you take them off your feet are buttery soft. (It lends a whole new meaning to the phrase “booty call” doesn’t it? )

I have no idea is this product really works as promised (or if it’s even safe to leave an AHA mixture in contact with your skin for so long!

Baby Foot Pad ingredients

Water, Alcohol, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Arginine, Butylene Glycol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glucose, O-Cymen-5-Ol, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Nasturtium Officinale Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Saponaria Officinalis Leaf Extract, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Clematis Vitalba Leaf Extract, Spiraea Ulmaria Flower Extract, Equisetum Arvense Extract, Fucus Vesiculosus Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Salicylic Acid

Please support the Beauty Brains by purchasing Baby Foot or ANY other product on Amazon.com. We really appreciate it!


Where did my favorite pink nail polish go?

Wow, this commercial REALLY creeps me out.

If you watch it without the sound it looks just like the opening to one of those late ’60′s Jack the Ripper proto-slasher flicks. You know the ones…

Defenseless girl hangs out on the dimly lit water front.

The cloaked villain sneaks up on her from behind.

He grabs for her.

She spins around.

He twirls his mustache.

She breaks free and brandishes her pink talons, apparently startling him for a moment.

She smiles coyly and the chase beings anew.

This is supposed to sell nail polish? (Maybe for self defense?)

Believe it or not, there is a beauty science angle to this rant. It can be difficult to recreate these nail colors from the past (especially pink ones) because some red colors have been banned.

Cosmetic colorants are highly regulated

That’s right, I said banned. Many people have the impression that the cosmetics biz is the Wild West where anyone can put anything in any product. Actually that’s not true. Colorants, in particular, are highly regulated. On several occasions, when the research shows there’s is a problem, specific colorants have been prohibited from cosmetics. For some reason those red shades seem particularly pesky. And that means that you may have a favorite red or pink shade that’s no longer available.

For the anal retentive members of our audience, I present to you the list of red colorants banned from cosmetics:

In food, drug and cosmetics

FD&C Red #1 – Removed from list – 81.10(c), 81.30(b)(1)
FD&C Red #2 – Removed from list – 81.10(f), Feb. 13, 1976 – 81.30(j)
FD&C Red #3 – All lakes, all cosmetics, and external drugs removed from list – 81.10(u), Feb. 1, 1990 – 81.30(u). Use of FD&C Red #3, but not its lakes, in food and ingested drugs is allowed.
FD&C Red #4 – Food, ingested drugs, and ingested cosmetics removed from list. Use in externally applied drugs and cosmetics is allowed – 81.10(d), Sep. 23, 1976 – 81.30(c).

In drug and cosmetics only
D&C Red #5 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
D&C Red #8 – Removed from list Jan. 6, 1987 – 81.10(t), 81.30(s)(1); July 15, 1988 – 81.30(s)(3)
D&C Red #9 – Removed from list Jan. 6, 1987 – 81.10(t), 81.30(s)(1); July 15, 1988 – 81.30(s)(3)
D&C Red #10 – Removed from list Dec. 13, 1977 – 81.10(h), 81.30(k)
D&C Red #11 – Removed from list Dec. 13, 1977 – 81.10(h), 81.30(k)
D&C Red #12 – Removed from list Dec. 13, 1977 – 81.10(h), 81.30(k)
D&C Red #13 – Removed from list Dec. 13, 1977 – 81.10(h), 81.30(k)
D&C Red #14 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
D&C Red #18 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
D&C Red #19 – Removed from list Feb. 4, 1983 – 81.10(q)(1)
D&C Red #24 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
D&C Red #29 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
D&C Red #35 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
D&C Red #37 – Removed from list Feb 4, 1983 and June 6, 1986 – 81.10(q)
D&C Red #38 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)

In External drug and cosmetic only
Ext. D&C Red #11 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
Ext. D&C Red #13 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
Ext. D&C Red #14 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
Ext. D&C Red #15 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
Ext. D&C Red #1 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
Ext. D&C Red #2 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
Ext. D&C Red #3 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)
Ext. D&C Red #8 – Jul. 1, 1968 – 81.30(e)
Ext. D&C Red #10 – Sep. 4, 1966 – 81.30(d)

Reference: http://www.fda.gov/forindustry/coloradditives/coloradditiveinventories/ucm106626.htm


Is more expensive eye shadow really different?

Mamasim asks…Can the processes (methods) as opposed to ingredients, of producing a beauty product be different enough to justify the price differences in the same product type? A makeup artist I like commented in a tutorial that the reason she liked Dior eyeshadows is they have a wonderful texture. She said that when she asked a cosmetic chemist why they said it was because during its production the product was held at the ‘fat combining’ stage for slightly longer than is the norm… (???) I’m interested in knowing if high end companies use more involved methods and this is a reason why their products can be more expensive?

The Beauty Brains respond:

The only unusual “fat combining” process that I’m aware of is the way Perry eats a hamburger and french fries. He eats ALL the fries first THEN he eats the burger.  Isn’t it normal to intersperse bites of the burger with the fries so you can enjoy the flavor of both?  I mean you wouldn’t eat your entire bag of potato chips and THEN eat your ham sandwich, would you? Sheesh! But I digress…

Processing can impact product cost

While we stress the importance of looking at ingredients to understand the quality of a product, there are situations where the ingredients don’t tell the full story. Sometimes HOW the ingredients are put together can be tremendously important to the quality of the finished product. You don’t see this in simple mixtures, like shampoos, but you do see it on more complex products like pressed powders. Case in point: a recent article in Cosmetics & Toiletries revealed that the quality of a powder cosmetic products depends in part on how the powders are pulverized.

The powders used in cosmetics can form agglomerates, or clumps. These clumps prevent the powder from having a smooth application. To avoid these clumps powders are processed to break them into tiny particles. This is commonly done using a piece of equipment called a “Hammer Mill” which basically slams metal hammers against the powder’s surface to break the pieces apart. Most manufacturers used to this type of equipment.

However a more advanced process, known as “Jet Milling,” can break the particles into even smaller sizes and make them more spherical.

Not surprisingly Jet Mills cost more, and not as readily available, as Hammer Mills. That means if a company wants to make a higher quality powder they either have to invest in more expensive equipment or they have to use a contract manufacturer which owns this specialized grinder. In either case the use of jet milling to create a softer feeling product results in an increased price. Therefore it’s unlikely you’ll see this used in bargain products.

So the answer is yes, process can impact cost.


Does lemon juice lighten hair?

John asks…Do you remember the products that used Lemon Juice to lighten hair? If you do remember do you know how they work? I mean we know how to lighten hair with Peroxide at a pH of 11 or so, how does the Lemon Juice Work?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Of course we remember those products! The most popular of all was probably “Sun In” which is still on the market today. But the interesting thing about “Sun-In Lemon Fresh Hair Lightener” (as it’s formally called) is that the lemon juice is NOT what lightens your hair! Take a look at the ingredient list below and you’ll see hydrogen peroxide which, as you noted in your question, is well known for its bleaching ability. The product may be “lemony” but the peroxide is doing the real work.

Does lemon juice lighten hair?

Will lemon juice do anything by itself? According to one of the hair color chemists that we work with, the answer is “a little bit.” The citric acid found in lemon juice is a very weak oxidizer, so it works like peroxide but much weaker. Typically, people put lemon juice on their hair and then go out in the sun. It takes a lot of lemon juice and heat helps, and the the sun does a lot of the lightening. People want to believe that it is a safer, more natural alternative and, to some degree, it is. It’s really a matter of expectations andhow the results match those.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

If you want a subtle lightening effect and you don’t mind spending time in the sun, lemon juice can work as a natural hair lightening agent. But if you want to lift a lot of color you’ll need something more potent.

Sun-In Lemon Fresh Hair Lightener ingredients

Water, Hydrogen Peroxide, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Lemon Juice, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (Matricaria), Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract (linseed), Hydroxyethyl Cetyldimonium Phosphate, Dimethicone, PEG 7 Phosphate, Glycerin, Quaternium 80, Panthenol, Silk Amino Acid, Polysorbate 20, Fragrance, Benzoic Acid, Disodium EDTA