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Since it’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. we’re re-running our annual post about hairy turkey…

What does your hair have in common with turkey? They both contain a chemical called tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of the amino acids that make up the protein structure of hair. It is also easily degraded by UV radiation so when scientists measure sun damage to hair, they can measure how much tryptophan is lost.
Hairy turkey

Tryptophan is also the chemical that people claim is responsible for making you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner. Except that’s not really true. Snopes.com has an excellent debunking of the turkey-tryptophan myth. While it IS true that some forms of tryptophan can be a natural sedative, the kind in turkey (and many other meats as well) doesn’t make you drowsy. So, if you doze off after a big Thanksgiving meal, blame it on too much wine and mashed potatoes and not the tryptophan!


As always, Perry and I are VERY thankful for all our wonderful readers who make this blog possible. We love you all!!!


Why would you need a pubic hair transplant? Episode 58

This week Perry and I cover the latest beauty news science stories. (But first we geek out about comic books…)

Show notes

Cosmetic chemists and comic book super villains

Perry wrote an article on fictional cosmetics chemists which lead us to a discussion of the unlikely pairing of cosmetic chemists and comic book super villains.

Beauty Science News

Remedy or rip off?
Perry was quoted in an article on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website. He explained advertising phrases that you should watch out for. For example, “clinically proven” sounds like it means a product has a scientific stamp of approval, but there’s no industry standard for the term. Therefore, it can mean a wide range of things. There’s a wide range of what that actually means and any testing that was done may not cover all of the product’s claims. “Natural” is another buzzword to watch out for because it means so little ! Almost anything can be considered to have a natural origin and even ingredients that start from a natural source can still be synthetically altered. Click to the link to learn more about these weasely marketing terms.

Do you wash your hands after you pee?
More Americans (81% compared to 74% the previous year) say they frequently or occasionally see others leave a public restroom without washing their hands at all. What’s the proportion of people who admit they don’t wash hands after bathroom vs those who said they see others not doing it. Have you ever used a public washroom without washing your hands??

Pubic hair transplants
“Bush grafting” (which sounds like some kind of congressional investigation into Republican ethics) is popular in Korea where women are getting hair transplanted from their heads onto their lady parts. It’s cultural – for them pubic hair is a sign of sexual health and fertility. It’s interesting what’s driving this -not from pressure from husbands or boy friends. According to the article, ” 74% said they had gotten it done because of a sense of inferiority to the same sex.”  There’s another reason: a condition that causes you to lose your pubic hair called “pubic atrichosis.” it’s estimated that 10% of Korean women have it and that it causes psychological stress

If you want to check it out, the procedure starts at about $2,000, and the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery reports that demand has increased sharply, to the tune of 160% from 2010 to 2012.

Hang out in groups to make yourself more attractive
Have you heard of the “cheerleader effect?” When you have a group of people with varying physical features their appearance tends to average out. In effect, this makes people more attractive groups.  This does explain the low ratings I received when I posted my picture to “Hot or Not.”

Fake eyelashes can be dangerous
We spend a lot of time debunking scare stories dangerous beauty products but it’s important to remember that some cosmetics really CAN be dangerous. Case in point An article I found from a  New Orleans TV station talked about the dangers of fake eyelashes – or more specifically fake eye lash adhesive. Quite a few women have reactions to fake eyelashes that make their eyes, especially the lids, swollen and red and the reporter said the problem lies in the “process used by lash specialists at many malls and salons across the country.” One woman in particular went back to mall after this happened to her and asked to look at the adhesive they used on her eyelashes and found that it was hair glue – like for bonding weaves or extension. Now the ingredients in those products include latex which can cause serious allergic reactions and ammonium hydroxide which if present at high enough levels can be very irritating. In fact, the bottle clearly reads “Avoid contact with eyes.” This is a legitimate concern – if you’re having this done at a salon make sure you know what they’re putting on your eyes. Go someplace you trust.

12 scientifically proven ways to attract the opposite sex
It’s hard to believe this article actually invokes the name of “science.” It’s more a collection of behavioral quirks that may be attractive to the opposite sex. For example:

  • Men should wear a shirt with the letter T on it.
  • Women should speak in a high-pitched voice.
  • Men should be clean-shaven.
  • Women should “played dumb.”

Click the link to read the entire list for yourself and decide which one you want to try out the next time you’re on the prowl.

Hair weaves are even MORE dangerous
In Raleigh, NC a 32 year old woman was arrested and she managed to sneak a gun into the SHerrif’s office because it was hidden in an unusual place. Do you want to take guess? She had a small Derringer pistol hidden in her hair weave. This story made me thing of other weaponized beauty and grooming practices

  • Men could hide razor blades in their beards…
  • A pop up knife in a lipstick tube…
  • Mace in hairspray…

The future of beauty products
Drone controlling fake eyelashes and air piano playing electronic nails. The future of beauty science is here and it ain’t necessarily pretty. Follow the link to read them all (and if someone can explain to me how to “DJ a tub of water” I would really appreciate it.)

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.


How does self adjusting hairspray work?

Rozy really wants to know…How can the hold of Philip B. Roth Self Adjusting Hairspray be adjusted? How does this work?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Wow. I don’t mind products that use cleverly worded or intriguing claims to attract consumers attention. But this one is just plain ridiculous. How does the self adjusting product work? Here are the use directions straight from this website:

For soft hold mist once

Medium mist 2 or 3 times

Firm hold mist 3 or 4 times.

Seriously? You adjust the hold by adjusting the amount you use??? There has to be more to it than that, doesn’t there?

Nope. Looking at the ingredients we see this is a standard, water and alcohol based hairspray using ingredients that are available in many cheaper products. The two key ingredients that hold hair are the Butyl Ester of PVM/MA Copolymer and Octylacrylamide/Acrylates/Butylaminoethyl/Methacrylate Copolymer. These exact same chemicals are available in products like CVS’s aerosol Hair Shaping Spray which is approximately 9 times less expensive.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

At $22 for 5 ounces this is an outrageously over-priced product that doesn’t “self adjust” better than any other hairspray on the market.

Philip B. Roth Self Adjusting Hairspray Ingredients

SDA Alcohol 40B 190 Proof, Butyl Ester of PVM/MA Copolymer, Water (Deionized), Octylacrylamide/Acrylates/Butylaminoethyl/Methacrylate Copolymer, Fragrance (Natural), Lauramide DEA, AMP, Benzophenone 4, Dl Panthenol, Phytantriol.


Kacie asks…How about Neutrogena rapid wrinkle repair eye cream? What ingredients are supposed to be brightening my dark circles?

The Beauty Brains respond:

This product claims to do the following:

  • Fade the look of stubborn crow’s feet
  • Brighten and even under eye area
  • Smooth fine lines & texture
  • Reduce the look of dark circles

The “magic” ingredient here is retinol. As we’ve noted before, you need to be careful not to be fooled when deciding which retinol product is right for you because there are different types of retinoids and not all of them work the same. The best retinol containing products use a time-released form which ensures there’s enough of the ingredient delivered to your skin to help increase cell turn over without being irritating. This Neutrogena product contains a “sustained release” form of retinol which claims to do just that.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream Ingredients

Water, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Dimethicone, Glycerin, PPG 15 Stearyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Trisiloxane, Ceteareth 20, Isohexadecane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Ammonium Acrylyl Dimethyltaurate / VP Copolymer, C13 14 Isoparaffin, Polyethylene, Polyacrylamide, Chlorphenesin, PTFE, Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), BHT, Laureth 7, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Retinol, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hydroxide

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Be careful what you believe about ingredient lists

Design A Thought says…While I am a lover of these “chem free” products I love them because (I must stress some of them! you have to carefully look at the ingredients list!) they are using the ingredients grown from our good earth not cheaply mass produced in a lab so some company can reep the profits. I found that through some careful research, many of my products contained harmful chemicals which could be substituted with a natural one. But there goes profit, the cheaper the product the more of us hard up people with loads of bills are going to buy them. Not all of us have the knowledge to know what goes into our beauty products but it would be great to hit all of these companies on the head, I have noticed that the companies who, in detail, place their ingredients list openly, for example my old A’kin lavender shampoo give their customers the knowledge.

This type of ingredients list makes me feel happy because I know exactly whats in the bottle, some of these chemical names I cannot even begin to try to pronounce. In my personal opinion I believe that products should state what percentage of its ingredients are botanically sourced. This puts the power to the consumer. Botanically sourced! Thats it.

The Beauty Brains respond:

Here is the list of ingredients that Design A Thought referenced in her question:

A’kin Lavender Shampoo Ingredients

aqua (purified Australian water*) *BP 2007 standard
citric acid (botanical source)
cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine (from coconut)
disodium cocoamphodiacetate (from coconut)
glycerin (botanical source)
glyceryl laurate (botanical source)
lauryl glucoside (from coconut, palm & glucose)
sodium citrate (botanical source)
sodium cocoyl glutamate (from coconut & sugar cane)
sodium gluconate (from GMO free corn)
sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
sodium lauroyl sarcosinate (from palm)
sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (from palm)
sorbitol (from GMO free maize)
pelargonium graveolens (geranium) flower oil
rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil
elettaria cardamomum seed oil
lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil (certified organic)
citrus aurantium amara (bitter orange) leaf oil (petitgrain)
pogostemon cablin oil

You’ve been greenwashed!

The truth is that there is nothing natural about Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine. The only way you can produce it is to create it in a lab!

The same is true of the following:
glyceryl laurate
lauryl glucoside
sodium citrate
sodium cocoyl glutamate
sodium gluconate
sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
sodium lauroyl sarcosinate
sodium lauryl sulfoacetate

You are falling for what we call in the business “greenwashing”. Every one of these chemicals is synthetically produced in a lab. The starting materials are irrelevant. In fact, these are the same starting materials that the Big Corporations use, they just don’t put the parenthetical information on the label. Which, incidentally, in the United States is illegal.


Do hair growth inhibitors really work? Episode 57

Do those hair growth inhibitor products (the ones that say they let you shave less often) really work? This week Randy and I explain what to look for when shopping for a shave minimizing lotion.      

Show notes

Strange beauty science search terms

You’d be surprised at some of the search terms that lead people to our website. Randy reviews a few of the more amusing ones and we talk about where they might have come from…

  1. Rachael Ray panties
  2. Human hair clothing
  3. Mascara eating bugs
  4. Paris Hilton ptosis
  5. How to tell if a girls boobs are fake
  6. My head smells weird
  7. Yogurt as lube
  8. Why are women’s legs so attractive
  9. The very hairy best of hirsute
  10. Animal make-up
  11. Meat skin

Question of the week: Do hair growth inhibitors really work? 

Gail from Canada asks…How do hair growth inhibitors creams like Inhibitif work?

The biology of hair and hair growth

Before we talk about inhibiting hair growth we’ll give you some quick background about how hair grows. First there are two types of hair on our bodies:

  • Androgenic hair – the thicker, longer hair like you see on your scalp.
  • Vellus hair – the shorter, finer hair you find on your arms and legs.

Second, there are three phases of growth that each hair fiber goes through:

  • Anagen: This is the active or growth phase. Lasts from 2 to 6 years. The more time a hair stays in this phase, the longer it will grow.
  • Catagen: This is the transitional phase where the follicle renews itself. The hair becomes detached from the root but it continues to be pushed toward the surface. This phase lasts a few weeks.
  • Telogen: This is the resting phase where follicle is not producing any new hairs. The last hair to be produced by this follicle is pushed all the way out and will eventually fall out. This phase lasts up to a few months.
  • Exogen: This is a relatively new term that some sources are using to describe when the hair is actually shed.

Remember that you have hundreds of thousands of hairs on your body and at any given time some of those hairs are in each of these phases.

The chemistry of hair growth inhibition

The chemicals that affect hair growth typically fall into one of three classes “cytotoxic compounds that kill the hair cells as they grow, antiandrogens which screw with the hormones that control hair growth; and drugs that close potassium channels which stunts hair growth.

I know that Gail asked specifically about the Inhibitif product but we’ll approach this by discussing the different “so callled” active ingredients used to inhibit hair growth and then we’ll discuss products along the way. So here’s how this will work: we’ll explain what the ingredient is, how it works, we’ll review the evidence for it and then give some example products. And by the way there are a TON of these products on the market. Most from very small companies that fly under the radar, by the way. Which is a red flag: Don’t you think it was really safe and effective, you’d see products from the major, reptuable cosmetic companies? Why would manufacturers, expecially those who are in the hair removal business, like makers of Nair (which is made by Church and Dwight) just ignore this market? Probably because these ingredients don’t really work or their safety hasn’t been established! Yes, that’s sort of circumstantial evidence but my point is that these shave minimizing products are not such a sure thing.

So let’s talk about active ingredients roughly in order from least effective to most effective.

Non-active actives (Epilation or waxing)

What is it:
There are a number of products on the market that are really just depilatories disguised as hair growth inhibitors. They don’t contain any ingredients which have the potential to slow hair growth but you might not understand this from the way the products are advertised.

How does it work:
These products simply remove hair by dissolving it with a high pH caustic formula or they pull the hair out with waxes.

Is there evidence:
You have to read the claims on these products carefully because they may imply that they inhibit hair growth when they really don’t. They will certainly work as a depilatory if they contain ingredients like calcium hydroxide and calcium thioglycolate. These dissolve the hair below the surface of your skin so they do take a while to grow back but the rate of hair growth is NOT affected.

Products of this type include Enleve and Epil Stop.

Herbal extracts

What is it:
This is another type of non-active active or at least a non-specified active. There are a couple of products on the market that simply claim to slow hair growth with “herbal extracts.”

How does it work:
As you can imagine, such a vague description makes it impossible to determine a potential mechanism for how the product MIGHT work and the only evidence that’s available are the claims made by the company marketing the product. Again, for the most part, these are companies that are too small to trigger any action by the FDA or any other regulatory agency.

Is there evidence:
One example is the product “Kalo” by Nism which claims that it’s “organic extracts” and sulphur inhibitors “prevent hair from regenerating.” The company does provide a link to a claims support study, but as far as I can tell, the study was done on waxed skin with no control. We know that waxing alone can reduce hair growth so this study does NOT prove that Kalo does anything http://www.nisim.com/Kalo-Hair-Inhibitor-Clinical-Study-s/53.htm

Another example of the herbal extract approach is Jergens Naturally Smooth Shave Minimizing Moisturizer and it DOES identify which extract is uses: it’s Sanguisorba Officinalis Root Extract. Strangely enough, the only scientific paper I could find saying that this extract affects hair growth states that it reduces hair LOSS by increasing the amount of time the hair shaft spends in the anagen or active growth phase. (Wouldn’t that make you shave more often?) Now, Jergens is owned by Kao which is a big company so at first glance this might appear to be a legitimate shave minimizing product but since there’s no apparent evidence that it works and considering that it’s been taken off the market, I don’t really think so.  The bottom line here is that I would avoid any of these products that only tell you they work by “herbal extracts.”

Fruit enzymes (Papain)

What is it:
Although not all products disclose their ingredients online, it appears that several of them use a protein-cleaving enzyme called papain which is cystine protease. It comes from papaya and other fruits.

How does it work: 
Some enzymes of this type have been shown to cause apoptosis of follicular papillae. Essentially that means that they kill the cells before they can reproduce. If the ingredient kills off enough hair growth cells, you’ll have fewer hairs and the hairs that do grow out will most likely be thinner and less visible.

Is there evidence: 
Despite this theoretical mechanism, there doesn’t seem to be any clear scientific evidience that papain-based products inhibit hair growth. The closest support we could find was one study showing that Trypsin, a similar enzyme, has shown to reduce hair growth in mice that had been waxed.

And even if the enzyme really works, it’s difficult to deliver it properly because these enzymes are not very stable. There are a few patents related to stabilzing enzymes in hair removal products but basically you have to mix two systems together for it to work. If you’re buying a single bottle of an enzyme based product it’s unlikely that there’s enough enzyme present to have much effect.

There’s also the question of safety – although shave minimizing products are not recognized as a drug category, the FDA has taken action against other topical drug products that are based on papain. For topical wound healing products with papain there have been reports of not only allergic reactions but anaphactic shock, low blood pressure, and rapid heart rate which prompted the FDA to proclaim that all topical drug products containing papain require FDA approval. Of course since these hair growth products aren’t making the same kind of would healing claims, they aren’t technically affected by this action. Still, it does raise the question of whether or not these products are safe. (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/EnforcementActivitiesbyFDA/SelectedEnforcementActionsonUnapprovedDrugs/ucm119646.htm)

Of course all that doesn’t deter companies from selling enzyme based shave minimizing products – there a number of these on the market:

Ultra Hair Away
Derma Nude – which has this crazy scientific explanation: it suppresses hair regrowth 5 ways: “(1)Unwind keratin, (2) break keratin apart and separate it from the matrix (3) perforate the cystine, (4) work below the growth plate at the double sulfa helix bond. (5) prevent cystine to cystine bonding at the active phase of hair growth.”


What is it: 
Next up is dihydromyricetin which is a type of flavonoid compound derived from certain plant species such as the Katsura tree which is native to China and Japan. It’s used in traditional Chinese medicine and recently it’s been touted as a possible hangover cure.

How does it work: 
Supposedly, according to the companies that sell this stuff, Dihydromyricetin inhibits the IGF-1 receptors in hair follicles. (IGF stands for Insulin-like Growth Factor.) IGF-1 is thought to prevent death of cells in the follicle, which would keep hair growing longer. So, if you can inhibit IGF-1, you can theoretically prevent hair from growing.

Is there evidence: 
However, we couldn’t find any scientific evidence that dihydromyricetin really works this way. The technical literature that reviews of IGF-1 receptor inhibitors makes no mention of this compound so the lack of published evidence makes us very skeptical.

To make things worse, care must be taked when using compounds that really CAN inhibit IGF-1 because similar receptors regulate growth of other tissues as well. According to one source, there’s concern that such an inhibitor could mess with the insulin receptors which could cause serious health issues.

The best evidence we could find is a study by a company selling dihydromyricetin, called Telocapil, which shows 60% reduction in hair growth. http://www.inhibitif.com.au/media/Telocapil_brochure.pdf. The good news is that the study was done vs placebo. But it was a small test, only 15 people and I can’t tell from the description of the study if both test and control side had depilation. As we said before, even just waxing can slow hair growth. So, I can’t put a lot of faith into this…nonetheless there are a few products on the market using this technology.

Dermadoctor Gorilla Warfare Hair Minimizing facial moisturizer

Inhibitif not only uses dihydromyricetin but it also uses another ingredient which we’ll discuss next. Actually it’s a little confusing because there are 4 products in the line which all contain D but only the Advanced Hair-Free Serum contains both dihydromyricetin and lauryl iso-quino-linium bromide.

I found a VERY detailed review on a website called “Ingredients” which is written by “Louise” a pHD in biochemistry, she gives a good scientific analysis complete with references so you can check the facts yourself. http://www.ingredientsofstyle.com/2013/10/inhibitif-ingredient-analysis.html

Lauryl isoquinolinium bromide

What is it:
Chemically speaking this is a quaternary ammonium compound. This particular isoquinolinium derivative is known to be a disinfectant and it was previously used in over the counter acne products but since the FDA has restricted it’s use due to lack of safety data. By the way, in Japan, it’s allowed in products but only at a maximum concentration of 0.05% active level in finished goods. And if there’s a lack of safety data I’m not sure that it’s the best ingredient for hair removal anyway.

How does it work:
We couldn’t find a clear mechanism described anywhere in the technical literature. Based on the product sheet for one product and the understanding that isoquinoline can be cytotoxic, it appears that it kills hair follicles that are in the anagen phase. One patent described it’s action as “choking” the hair root.

Is there evidence:
Lipotek, one of the suppliers of Lauryl isoquinolinium bromide sells it in a blend which they call Decelerine. (In addition to the isoquinolinium it contains Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, Aloe and Allantoin. According to the study conducted by Lipotek, a 3% Decelerine gel used for 30 and 60 days and showed statistically significant reduction in hair growth of about 15% in density (hairs per sq cm) and 30% in length. 75% of the 20 panelists said it decreased beard regrowth. Here’s the link: http://www.dermoday.com/dosyalar/1234888016.pdf It contains 3.65% LIB. FYI, the amount tested in this study was 0.1% which is twice the allowed limit in Japan. So…we have a compound without a clear mechanism, with the only efficacy data is a small test conducted by the supplier, AND the FDA has apparently raised questions about its safety. This doesn’t sound like the ideal active ingredient either but it is found in several products.

Bluebeard’s Revenge
Nu Skin Dividends Aftershave balm


What is it:
Eflornithine hydrochloride is the only prescription drug that’s currently available to treat hirsutism. (Compared to everything else we’ve talked about it’s the only chemical that’s also effective against African Sleeping Sickness.)  It’s only approved for use on around the face and under the chin.

How does it work:
We mentioned there are 3 primary ways that hair growth inhibitors work – actually there’s a fourth: this drug irreversibly inhibits an enzyme that’s involved in controlling hair growth.

Is there evidence: 
Yes, it’s clinically proven. However, it’s only approved for use around the face and under the chin and you need to use it with another method like shaving. It’s only been studied for use on the face if you start using it over your entire body that’s a much larger surface area and a much higher dosage. Even then it doesn’t help everyone. 42% saw no improvement. About 55% saw improvement or marked improvement. 5% were “almost clear” of facial hair. And 8 weeks after you stop using it, hair growth is likely to return to the same level. And more bad news – one of its side effects is acne.  http://www.allergan.com/assets/pdf/vaniqa_pi.pdf


The Beauty Brains bottom line

So the bottom line for Gail is that these shave minimizing products are sketchy at best. There’s not a lot of evidence which these products work – and if they do work they may require you to wax your skin first. An even bigger issue is that are some serious questions about the safety of some of these active ingredients. That’s probably why there are no shave minimizing products from any major cosmetic company. Of course, there are some shifty companies out there who are more than willing to sell you an over-priced depilatory that’s disguised as a hair growth inhibitor. So, as with many other products which are borderline drugs, caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. Of course you can ask your doctor for a prescription for Vaniqa but that won’t help with your hairy legs.

LIL buy it now button

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

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

Click here for all the The Beauty Brains podcasts.


Can I become immune to eyeshadow primer?

Ally asks…I have recently noticed that my eye shadows are creasing like crazy, like 3.5 years ago before I started using primers. I used MAC paintpot in painterly for those 3.5 years and the last pot is probably 1.5 years old, but hasn’t dried up yet and is still very creamy consistency. I switched to the sample of Urban Decay Primer potion and that creased as well. I have very oily lids and eyeshadow creases after 3-4 hours. I’m not sure what to do. I tried not moisturising my eye area and not putting sunscreen to see if it makes a difference, but it was exact same creasing result. I should mention I powder my lids with a light dusting of chanel loose powder. I googled the phenomenon and found a post from a girl experiencing the exact same thing – she get immune to the primer after awhile. Any explanation and advice? The UDPP is also 1.5-2 years old most probably… don’t think it could be the age of the product, as the first paintpot I had lasted me over 2 years and never creased. 

The Beauty Brains respond

I saw your question on our Forum and I also read the post from the other girl experiencing this problem.  She’s using a Claudia Stevens product and said that “I have used that primer everyday for the last 5 or 6 months and about 2 weeks ago I noticed that it started to crease on me.”

What’s in eyeshadow primer?

Rather than thinking that you’re becoming “immune” to the product, my assumption is that something in the product is changing over time. Is there something that these products all have in common that could cause them to stop working over time? Looking at the ingredients (see below) you’ll notice that  the two most predominant ingredients are isododecane and cyclopentasiloxane both of which are designed to make the primer more spreadable. But they can also easily evaporate. That’s good because it means they won’t leave a heavy residue on your skin. But it also means that over time there will be less and less of these ingredients left in the product. It’s conceivable that as these two ingredients evaporate the other ingredients don’t spread across your skin as well. That could be what’s accounting for the “creasing” effect you’re seeing.

(To make matters worse some of these products are sold in tiny flat jars with widemouth openings. This creates a large amount of surface area that can speed up evaporation if the product is open too long or used very frequently. )

It’s easy enough to test this theory by buying a new sample of a product that’s no longer working for you and using them side by side. If the new product works and the older one doesn’t then it’s likely that evaporation is the problem.

What can you do about it?

If this proves to be the case what can you do about it? Well you could look for brands that don’t have cyclopentasiloxane as the first or second ingredient. Notice that the Mac product has dimethicone which does not evaporate. Of course that solution is not without potential trade-offs: you may find that the site dimethicone-based products don’t spread across your eyelids as easily and then you’ll have to make the decision about which is better: a product that keeps working longer but doesn’t spread as well or a product that tends to dry up more quickly but gives you a better feel while it does work. The only way to tell for sure is to try a few different products and find the right one for you.

Urban Decay ingredients:
Isododecane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Polyethylene, Trihydroxystearin, Triethylhexanoin, Isopropyl Lanolate, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Dimethicone, PEG-40 Stearate, Propylene Carbonate, Phenoxyethanol, Synthetic Beeswax, Propylparaben, Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben

MAC paint pot ingredients:
Isododecane, Dimethicone, Polyethylene, Hydrogenated polyisobutene, Quaternium-90 bentonite, Dimethicone silylate, Octyldodecanol, Silica, Trihydroxystearin, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lecithin, Carnauba Wax, Propylene carbonate, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Bismuth Oxychloride, Blue 1 Lake, Carmine, Chromium Hydroxide Green, Manganese Violet, Ultramarines, Yellow 5 Al Lake, triethoxycaprylylsilane. mica, chromium oxide greens, ferric ferroxyanide

Claudia Stevens Makeup Before The Makeup ingredients:

What do you think? Have you found a great eyeshadow primer that you would like to share with the rest of the Beauty Brains community? Leave a comment.


Can Just For Men hair dye take the color out of my skin?

AffectedForLife says…Watch out folks. Started using JFM last summer – once per month, and developed vitiligo. JFM co. is paying for dermatologist treatments etc, so they know there is a problem. Their box now warns about Vitilligo. I don’t believe it did back when I started using it last summer. I could be wrong about that, but clearly they know about a connection now.

The Beauty Brains respond

When I saw AFL’s comment I was immediately skeptical. I expected the reason they’re paying her doctor’s bills is that it was cheaper than going to court. So I searched the literature for a connection between this product and vitillgo but I didn’t really expect to find anything. Hoo boy was I wrong!

The hair dye – vitiligo connection

Until I checked it out I didn’t realize that JFM contains paraphenylenediamine (PPD) a chemical used in hair dyes that is known to cause sensitizing problems in some cases. In particular, PPD is known to cause skin depigmentation in some individuals. (The chemical affects the melanocytes which produce skin color.) Whether or not this is exactly the same condition as vitilligo I don’t know but the end result is the same: white patches on your skin that may or may not ever resume their natural color. As AFL pointed out, Just For Me includes the following warning statement on their package:

In rare cases, use of hair dye has been associated with skin depigmentation (skin lightening or loss of skin color), which may be temporary or permanent. If you notice any skin depigmentation or other allergic reaction such as discomfort or severe itching, discontinue use immediately.

Do not use this product at all if you have depigmentation problems such as white patches on your skin (a condition called vitiligo) or if you have a family history of skin depigmentation problems, as an allergic reaction may cause temporary or permanent loss of skin pigment.

Just For Men Hair Color Ingredients

Water, Coco Glucoside, Amino Methyl Propanol, Carbomer, Isopropyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Isopropyl Acetate, Trisodium EDTA, Erythorbic Acid, 2 Methyl 5 Hydroxyethylaminophenol, 1,2,4 Trihydroxybenzene, P Phenylenediamine, Sodium Sulfate, P Aminophenol, N,n Bis (2 Hydroxyethyl) P Phenylenediamine Sulfate, Sulfuric Acid, Cinnamidopropyl Trimethyl Ammonium Chloride

The Beauty Brains bottom line

While there is cause for concern you shouldn’t freak out about this. MANY people use this product (and other hair dyes that contain PPD) without any problem. But for those individuals who are susceptible to this condition, PPD can cause a real problem. Always do a patch test as recommended by the manufacturer and discontinue using the product if you have any issues.



Taylor JS, Maibach HJ, Fisher AA, Bergfeld WF. Contact leucoderma associated with the use of hair colors. Cutis 1993;52:273-80.



Can hair predict your health? Episode 56

From hairballs to hair jewelry, this is a special (almost) all hair episode of Beauty Science News. Also, you WON’T want to miss our NSFW feminine hygiene version of “Improbable Products.”  

Show notes

Improbable Products

Believe it or not, two of these products are real. That means one is fake – can you guess which one?

  1. Ta Ta Tanner: If you’ve ever wanted an all over tan but you’re afraid to sunbathe topless then you’ll love ta ta tanner – the first self tanning lotion designed especially for your breasts.
  2. The Revaginator:  This ionic lotion contracts the walls of your vagina to restore the feeling of youthful tightness. You’ll feel like a teen again!
  3. Swoob Lube: Soothe sweaty boobs with Swoob. This absorbent lotion dries to a powdery finish to stop under-boob sweat. Your girls will LOVE it.

Listen to the show for the answer!

Beauty Science News

The girl with that 9 pound hairball 

Trichophagia is a disorder where you compulsively eat hair – not just nibble on your split ends but actually chew and swallow it. It’s related to trichotillomania (or TTM) which is an impulse disorder that causes people to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, wherever. They literally can not stop tugging on their hair. If enough hair is pulled out over time, it stops growing back, this is called traction alopecia.

According to the Trichotillomania Learning Center this condition affects between 1 and 2% of all Americans. Other sources estimate that as much as 10% of the world’s population are affected by this condition to some degree. TTM usually strikes in the pre- or early adolescent years. Women are most often diagnosed with TTM but the research is not clear if this means there is a real gender bias, or if men are just less likely to report symptoms or are better at hiding them.

It’s a terrible compulsion and eating hair can be really dangerous – In Kyrgyzstan an 18 year old girl had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a 9 pound hair ball that was blocking her stomach.

Are lathery shampoos on their way out? 

We’ve blogged before about WEN and other “no poo” products. But do you think these conditioning cleansers mean the end of regular shampoos?  Purely Perfect thinks so and they want you to buy their $40 product.

The Hair museum

Did you know you can make jewelry made from hair? It can be as simple as a locket with lock of hair from a loved one or it can be a brooch that’s actually woven from hair strands . Apparently the practice dates to Victorian times and was originally a practice for mourning. I learned about this from Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence Mo. She has over 2000 pieces of hair jewelry on display including a brooch dating back to 1680. (It’s amazing how stable hair is.) The museum proprietor has figured out how to do this through reverse engineering and she teaches classes on how to do it yourself. Apparently they identified 36 different techniques used in hair jewelry but so far they’ve only been able to replicate 32 of them.

If you’re good looking tell your future boss

A recent study shows that acknowledging your good looks in an interview can help you get the job.

Your hair can predict a heart attack 

What do you think is the best indicator of heart health – your cholesterol level? Or maybe your body weight? Wrong – it’s your hair. A study at the University of Western Ontario shows that you can measure the body’s chronic stress levels by analyzing hair. Here’s how it works: when your body is stressed it releases a certain hormone called cortisol- the higher your levels of cortisol, the higher your risk for heart attack. Cortisol can be detected in blood and urine but only at the time of the stressing event. So blood and urine tests aren’t a very good indicator of cortisol levels over time.

But cortisol also is contained in the blood vessels that feed your hair follicles and some of the hormone ends up on your hair. So if your hair is about 6 inches long that means it’s about a year old so you can snip a little bit of it off, measure the cortisol levels at every inch or so and have a snapshot of your body’s stress level over time. This is important because it’s the chronic stress that kills you. So, in this study which is published in the journal Stress, they found that measuring hair is more accurate at predicting heart attacks than traditional methods like cholesterol or body weight.

Fruit will not give you whiter teeth

Have you heard that you can use strawberry seeds to whiten your teeth? A dental researcher at the University of Iowa studied the technique and found that it doesn’t really work!

Light makes you heavy

Researchers asked 113,000 women how much light enters their bedrooms at night. They then correlated the amount of light to their body mass index and found that the more night light they were exposed to the more over weight they were likely to be. This was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Could just be another one of those spurious correlations, like we talked about a few shows ago (you know, does the number of pirate attacks predict the stock market) OR does light (or lack of darkness) somehow trigger metabolic changes that affect weight?

Do science-y pictures make you believe a product works better?

Advertisements which feature graphs and charts are more likely to make you believe the product really works. Is this why so many cosmetics include  pictures of molecules?

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.


How can body wash contain as many moisturizers as skin cream?

Cee Cee says…I saw a bottle of Olay body wash that claims to contain as many moisturizers as a jar of Olay moisturizing cream. How is this possible?

The Beauty Brains responds

You have to hand it to those rascals in the cosmetic industry. They keep coming up with claims that sound compelling but aren’t really that meaningful.

First let’s be clear about this: it is helpful to have moisturizers in body wash. Procter & Gamble, the makers of Olay, have some very nice technology that can disperse oily conditioners in a rich foaming system. But the idea that it’s helpful to have a “jar full of Olay moisturizer’s” in body wash is a little bit silly. Here’s why:

How much moisturizer in skin cream?

The exact claim is “over a jar full of Olay moisturizers inside.” We take that mean that this bottle of body wash has (at least) as many moisturizers as a jar of Olay moisturizing cream. Looking the label of Olay’s original Active Hydrating Cream we see that the first moisturizing ingredient listed in the formula is petrolatum. Let’s assume for the same of discussion that this formula contains 5% petrolatum. (It’s probably somewhat less than that but we’ll use that number for a ball park calculation.) To find out the total amount of petrolatum in the Olay cream we just calculate 5% of 2 ounces to come up with 0.1 ounces.

How much moisturizer in body wash?

The Olay body wash is sold in a 23.6 ounce bottle. If you took the entire quantity of 0.1 ounces of petrolatum from the cream and put it in this bottle the formula would contain approximately 0.1/23.6 = 0.004% petrolatum. This is far too little to have any impact. The ironic point is that the the body wash probably has much more petrolatum than this anyway that since it’s the second ingredient in the formula! Olay could probably make a claim that says something like “this body wash contains 10x more moisturizers than a jar of of Olay.”

The Beauty Brains bottom line

This exercise isn’t meant to imply that this body wash doesn’t moisturize skin; we’re sure it does. We’re not even saying that the claim about the body wash containing more moisturizers than a jar of face cream is false; in fact it most certainly does contain more. We just think the comparison they’re using is a bit silly because it doesn’t mean anything.

But enough with our scientific skepticism…what do YOU think? Does this kind of claim mean anything to you? Would you buy this body wash because it contains more moisturizers than a jar of cream?