≡ Menu

Bugra asks…You say in your book some brands can have similar products and therefore check the ingredients first and buy the cheap one. However, although the ingredients are similar in both products, how about the amounts ? For instance, both products have the same ingredients. Let’s name the ingredient ” hyaluronic acid”. For example Product A has 1k of hyaluronic acid and Product B has 3k of hyaluronic acid. That makes Product B is more effective and expensive. How can we say two products are the same although we don’t know the amount of ingredients ?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Our suggested approach can only give you directional information about which products to try because reading the ingredient list only allows you to make a rough comparison of the relative amounts of ingredients between two products. It’s certainly possible that the ingredient list of two products could be identical but the products could contain different amounts of those ingredients. In some cases the product with the higher amount of a given ingredient could be superior. But just having “more” of an ingredient doesn’t automatically mean the product is better. Here are some examples where more is NOT better:

When MORE of an ingredient is bad

1. Over dose effects
In the case of products with retinol or alpha and beta hydroxy acids, TOO much of the active ingredient is a bad thing because it can burn/irritate the skin.

2. Poor aesthetics
Higher levels of occlusive agents (like petrolatum, mineral oil or even olive oil) may do a better job of locking moisture in skin but too much will leave your skin feeling so greasy you’ll never use the product again.

3. Law of diminishing returns
Some ingredients (like cationic hair conditioners) have an optimum use concentration. Once you reach that level adding more doesn’t increase the benefit because the substrate (hair or skin) will only absorb so much and the rest of the ingredient will just rinsed down the drain.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

While there are cases where “more is better” when it comes to active skin care ingredients that’s not always the case. Our suggestion of finding a cheaper product by comparing the ingredient lists is only a starting point. You’ll still have to try to the product to see if it provides the benefit you’re seeking.


Beauty Science News – March 2

Here are our top beauty science news stories of the week…


Heel Tastic Intensive Heel Therapy – Look at the label

Heel Tastic Intensive Heel Therapy is a beauty best seller on Amazon. Let’s look at the label. 

Heel Tastic is a wax-based moisturizer sold in a no-mess stick form. The product claims are fairly pedestrian:

Heel Tastic Claims

  • This balm repairs rough, dry skin quickly and easily.
  • It blends a unique combination of imported Indian neem and karanja oils, that have been prized for centuries for their restorative properties.
  • Its fragrant, easy-to-use formula is absorbed deep below the skin’s surface to aid the body’s natural healing process, turning even tough, cracked skin, baby-smooth and soft after only a few applications.
  • Anti-fungal & anti-bacteria oils

Although it dances around a potential drug claim (anti-fungal foot products are controlled under an Over the Counter Drug Monograph) it does appear to live up to basic expectations. The product contains 1% dimethicone which makes it a good skin protectant. In addition it contains coconut oil and a blend of waxes  (soybean, beeswax, carnuaba, and ozokerite) which help coat the skin.

Heal Tastic ingredients

Active ingredient: Dimethicone 1% skin protectant

Inactive Ingredients: Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil , Glycine Sojo (soybean) wax , Beeswax (Apis Mellifera) , Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax , Ozokerite , Proprietary Blend of Essential Oils , Azadirachta Melia (Neem) Seed Oil , Pongamia Glabra Seed Oil , Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seed Oil , Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) , Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter , Isopropyl Myristate , Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil , Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil , Persea Gratissima (Avocado Oil) Fruit Oil , Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Oil , Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) , Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed OiI , Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil , Tolnaftate , Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E) , Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A) , Phenoxyethanol , Caprylyl Glycol

If you want to buy Heel Tastic please use our link and help support the Beauty Brains. We really appreciate it!


Are you tampering with nature by moisturizing your skin?

MKN says…I am a sixty-five year old male who has been his wife’s hair colorist for most of the 42 years we have been married. I have slightly better taste in women’s fashion than she tho’ we almost always agree on her clothing purchases. She almost always solicits my advise on cosmetic purchases; and again we most always agree.  I drilled down to the plain English translation of a recent journal article about some kind of a tubular protein matrix that expands to absorb water and then—-unsurprisingly—–contracts to squeeze it out. (I assumed some such mechanism existed to maintain hydration homeostasis.) My question is: why would not this matrix squeeze out occlusives that kept the skin overly hydrated? So for how long do even the best occlusives—I use petrolatum on myself—-prevent evaporation of water? Of course, this begs the more fundamental question: why would anyone man or women in her or his right mind want to tamper with mammalian hydration homeostasis by preventing water evaporation? What are the unintended consequences of skin moisturizing? What body systems are being disrupted by retarding “natural” skin dehydration?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Interesting questions, MKN. Randy and I have put our heads together and come up with the following answers:

Q: Why would not this matrix squeeze out occlusives that kept the skin overly hydrated?

A: The protein matrix of which you speak is in the lower levels of the skin. The occlusives sit on the surface. So the matrix can’t “squeeze out” something that’s located layers of skin above.

Q: So for how long do even the best occlusives—I use petrolatum on myself—-prevent evaporation of water?

A: Since the occlusive provides a physical barrier it will continue to prevent evaporation as long as it’s in place. Of course in the real world the barrier is never left in a static state – it’s continually worn away by hand washing, rubbing against clothing, even movement of your body, etc. So over time the barrier will lose its integrity and moisture will begin to seep out of your skin at increased levels.

Q: why would anyone man or women in her or his right mind want to tamper with mammalian hydration homeostasis by preventing water evaporation? What are the unintended consequences of skin moisturizing? What body systems are being disrupted by retarding “natural” skin dehydration?

A: Moisturizing skin with occulsives doesn’t interfere with your skin’s natural need to “breathe” because the skin is never FULLY occluded. All you’re trying to do with a moisturizer is to prevent certain areas of skin from becoming rough and dry which can lead to cracking, bleeding and infection. Moisturizing in this fashion doesn’t cover ALL your body so you’re not preventing skin from performing its thermoregulation function which it does by sweating. Now, if you fully occluded every square centimeter of your body – THEN you’d have a problem.


Don’t be duped by deceptive drugstore doubles

You can save a ton of money buying the “house brands” instead of the more expensive brand name beauty products right? The answer is, it depends. You need to really look at the label to make sure the ingredients match. Just because the so-called “generic” brand has a similar name, similar claims and similar packaging doesn’t automatically mean it has the same ingredients.

For example, take a look at Studio 35 Beauty’s version of Olay’s Regenerist Micro Sculpting cream.


Compare names

Regenerist Micro Sculpting cream vs Regenerating Daily Micro-shaping Cream

Compare claims

“Lifts and sculpts for younger looking skin” vs “micro-remodels and lifts.”  The asterisk even instructs us to “compare to Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream.”

Compare price

The Olay product is about $29 for 1.7 ounces while the Studio 35 product is only $22 for 1.7 oz. (Actually it’s on sale you can get a second jar for 50% off). It looks like a pretty good deal until you compare the ingredients.

Compare ingredients

As you can see from the lists below, the first 10 ingredients are identical – with one very important exception. The third ingredient in the Olay product, Niacinamide, is completely missing from the Studio 35 Beauty product. And guess which ingredient the only proven anti-aging ingredient in the Olay formula. That’s right – niacinamide. Other than retinol, niacinimade is one of the best studied and most effective anti-aging ingredients. It’s capable of brightening the complexion, erasing wrinkles, reducing transepidermal water loss, improving elasticity, and fighting inflammation. Without that ingredient this product isn’t much more than a really good moisturizer.

So be careful out there! It’s easy to be duped by deceptive drugstore doubles.

Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream ingredients

Water, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Isopropyl Isostearate, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Nylon 12, Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Palmitoyl Pentapeptide 4, Carnosine (Amino-Peptide), Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (Green Tea), Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice (Aloe Vera), Elastin, Allantoin (Comfrey Root), Stearyl Alcohol, Polyethylene, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Behenyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Capric/Caprylic Stearic Triglyceride, Polyacrylamide, Dimethiconol, PEG 100 Stearate, Stearic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Cetearyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Citric Acid, C12 13 Pareth 3, Laureth 7, C13 14 Isoparaffin, Sodium Hydroxide, Ammonium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbic Acid (A Preservative), Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Benzoate, Mica, Tin Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Fragrance

Studio 35 Beauty Regenerating Daily Micro-shaping Cream

Water, Glycerin, Isohexadecane, Isopropyl Isostearate, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Nylon 12, Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dipeptide 2, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide 7, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Carnosine, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum Extract, Soluble Collagen, Hydrolyzed Elastin, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Lecithin, Yeast Extract, Allantoin, Stearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Plyethylene, Cetyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Behenyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polyacrylamide, Dimethiconol, PEG 100 Stearate, Stearic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Cetearyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Citric Acid, C12 13 Pareth 3, Laureth 7, C13 14 Isoparaffin, Sodium Hydroxide, Ammonium Polyacrylate, Steareth 20, Polysorbate 20, Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone, N Hydroxysuccinimide, Chrysin, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbic Acid, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Benzoate, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Fragrance


Beware of intellectual dishonesty

If someone only tells you half the truth, is that as bad as telling a lie?

What science says about SLS

I recently received a comment titled “What science says about sodium lauryl sulfate.” This person (I’ll just call her “R”) quoted a study published in the journal of the American College of Toxicology which raised concerns about the use of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its cousin Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. (ALS) Here’s part of what she posted in her comment:

In its final report on the safety of sodium lauryl sulfate, the Journal of the American College of Toxicology notes that this ingredient has a “degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties.” What’s more, the journal adds, “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration.” Interestingly, sodium lauryl sulfate “is used around the world in clinical studies as a skin irritant,” notes the journal.

R did not provide a link to the study in question but I did find it here. Unfortunately I don’t have access to the entire study but the link does include a detailed abstract.

From what I can tell, “R” quoted the article accurately and everything she said is true. But she omitted one VERY important piece of information from the conclusion of the study. Allow me to share that with you now:

Both Sodium and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate appear to be safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with skin, concentrations should not exceed 1%.

Now, I’m not a toxicologist but my interpretation of this statement is that it’s okay to use SLS and ALS in a shampoo or body wash where the use would be “ discontinuous, brief” and would be followed by “thorough rinsing.”

Misinformed or misguided?

So why did “R” neglect to mention this very important point? I can think of three possibilities:

1. She didn’t read the entire study and missed the conclusion.
This is certainly possible if she only read part of the study which was quoted out of context. Not everyone bothers to trace back the original source of such studies.

2. She believes the part of study which describes the potential dangers of SLS and NOT the part that says it’s okay to use SLS in the proper context.
Unless “R” is a toxicologist herself, I don’t see how she is qualified to pick and choose which parts of the study are accurate.

3. In an attempt to make her point, “R” only told us the part of the truth that served her purpose and deliberately omitted information that disagreed with her point.
If this is the case the “R” is being intellectually dishonest. I hope this isn’t so.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

My point is not to just rally support for SLS. I agree it’s one of the more harsh surfactants that formulators have to choose from. There are many ingredients which are more mild. But based on everything I’ve read in my 30 years in this industry, I agree with the study’s conclusion that SLS is not dangerous when used properly. (By the way, I’m open to changing my mind if new, legitimate, data comes to light indicating that SLS poses a health hazard from a rinse off product.) Rather, my point is that if you’re going to write something that you title ““What science says about SLS” you should make sure that you understand what the science really says. Otherwise you risk scaring other people with misinformation.

What do YOU think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.


For the first time ANYWHERE – we explain WHY you have to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside. Even better, we reveal two time saving sunscreen secrets.   All this and and a new edition of Beauty Science News!    We really should start charging for this stuff. 

Show notes

Beauty Science News: New anti aging antioxidant

Here’s a story that’s getting a lot of press – a new anti-aging anti-oxidant called Tiron.

News Headlines about Tiron: 

  • MedicalDaily.com: Antioxidant Tiron Is An Anti-Aging Skin Miracle
  • HuffPo: Antioxidant Tiron… ‘Protects Against Sun Damage And May Prevent Premature Ageing’
  • DailyMail: The molecule that holds key to younger looking skin
  • ScienceDaily: Fresh faced: Looking younger for longer

What is Tiron and does it live up to the hype?  Work done at Newcastel University, funded by Unilever, found that 4,5-Dihydroxy-1,3-benzenedisulfonic acid disodium salt monohydrate, was THE best at stopping UVA damage to mitochondria, which are the energy making parts of our cells.

Testing and results. They treated skin cells treated with a range of antioxidants and then exposed them to UVA radiation and measure the cells for DNA damage.

  • Tiron: 100% protection against mitochondrial DNA damage.
  • Resveratrol: 22% protection of both UVA and stress-induced damage.
  • Curcumin: 16% protection against oxidative stress and 8% against UVA.

So what does this mean? The researchers want to use this information to develop/identify other materials that are have safe to use on humans. Because “Tiron is not a naturally occurring compound and has not yet been tested for toxicity in humans although there have been a few studies on rats.“

The trouble with Tiron. Surprisingly, there was no mention of why the researchers wouldn’t do the toxicity testing on Tiron first of all. Second of all, what makes them think this product will do anything when applied topically to skin or when metabolized after ingestion. Looks like a good first step but it’s FAR from being the next anti-aging miracle.

Question of the week: Why do I have to wait 30 mins for sunscreen?

Shannon asks…I’ve read in many places that you have to put on sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Why is that? Why doesn’t the sunscreen start to work as soon as you put it on? Does something happen in that half an hour that makes it work differently?

(You can find Shannon at http://www.agirlsgottaspa.com)

Sunscreens have different forms but all must coat skin with a layer of UV absorber

Emulsions: individual particles suspended in oil/water mixture

Pros & cons: The most versatile and most aesthetically pleasing because of good application spreading properties and non-greasy feel. Also very efficacious because deliver a thicker layer which tends to be less transparent to light. Also, affordable because because water makes them cheaper. Have stability problems, active ingredient can settle out,  emulsions can become contaminated by micor-organisms due to presence of water.

Oils: Dissolved in a spreadable form

Pros & cons: Great spreadability and are also easy to formulate with. More stable than emulsions, fewer micro issues since no water.  Can be less effective because they deliver a thinner, more transparent layer. More expensive. Also, oils are solvents that can interfere with the UV absorption ability.

Sticks: Dissolved in a waxy form

Pros & cons: Excellent for touchup on nose or face. Have a wax base which it usually the most waterproof. Difficult to apply over large ares so not practical for use over the entire body. Wax base tends to give greasiest feel.

Powders: individual particles dispersed with other solids

Pros & cons: Good for two-in-products like makeup with sunscreen. A good way to provide a little SFP touch up. They don’t set up a uniform film so they are not as effective. Typically applied to all areas of the face so they’re not a good stand alone product.

Reason to wait #1: Sunscreens don’t form a film instantly

More precisely, time for film formation on skin varies with delivery form

  • Emulsions take the longest to form films because particles must coalesce but they are most effective.
  • Solutions are faster but a little less effective
  • Sticks and powders are fastest but provide the poorest coverage.

Reason to wait #2: Water proofing takes time

The ingredients used to make the product water resistant take time to dry and form a water proof film.  The sooner you go in the water after applying sunscreen, the more sunscreen will rinse away.

Two time saving sunscreen “hacks”

  • If you forget to apply sunscreen before going outside: use an oil based product
  • If you want “instant” protection before going in the water: use a stick

The bottom line

There is a sound, scientific reason for applying sunscreen 30 minutes before going out side. But by understanding the difference between product forms you can have the best chance at getting the coverage that you need.  And you can even know which forms are best to use when you forget to apply product in advance.


Study on the occlusivity of oil films Hisao Tsutsumi , Toshiaki Utsugi , Shizuo Hayashi 1979 JSCC.

Sunscreens: Development: Evaluation, and Regulatory Aspects.

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.


Is Gorilla Snot Gel a good styling product?

Chinawhite asks…Is the alcohol in Gorilla Snot Gel drying to the hair and what effects does the sorbitol have on the hair used in conjunction with the alcohol?

The Beauty Brains respond: 

I’ll be honest: the primary reason I’m answering this question is because it may be the only time in my life I will get to write the phrase ”Gorilla Snot Gel.”

Gorilla Snot Gel. Gorilla Snot Gel. Gorilla Snot Gel.

There! Now I feel better. The way I see it there are 2 or 3 problems with this type of hair styling product.

Alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems

Gels which are based on alcohol can be drying to both hair and skin. This doesn’t bother everyone but some people are more sensitive to this than others. That’s why you’ve seen in movement to alcohol free products over the last 10 years or so. (Plus, companies don’t like to handle alcohol if they don’t have to because it’s more expensive than water and requires special permits.)

Poor humidity resistance

The primary styling agent is this product is PVP (which is short for PolyVinlyPyrrolidone. PVP is used in stylers because its cheap and it gives a very hard crunchy hold. As long as there’s no moisture in the air. Because if there is the PVP will absorb it and become sticky. Some people love the PVP crunch but it’s certainly NOT a state of the art styling aid.

Sorbitol sucks

Sucks water that is. Sobitol is a polyol like glycerine which means it can bind water through hydrogen bonding. It’s probably added to this formula to help plasticize the PVP resin to prevent flaking. However, as noted above, PVP doesn’t do well when exposed to water and sorbitol is likely to only make things worse.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

If you’re looking for a strong hair styling product you’d be better of with a gel formulated with more modern styling polymers than Gorilla Snot Gel.

Gorilla Snot Gel ingredients

Water, PVP, Alcohol, PEG-150, Sorbitol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba Gum (Guar), Fragrance, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Yellow 10 (CI 47005), Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Green 8 (CI 59040)


Beauty Science News – Feb 23

Sunday is BS day (Beauty Science, that is.) Here are a few of our favorite news items. 



Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel – Look at the label

Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel is a beauty best seller on Amazon. Let’s look at the label. 


  • Extremely long wearing.
  • Layers directly over moisturized lips and cheeks to deliver a beautiful wash of sheer color.

This product should have no problem delivering “long wearing” color due to its relatively unique water free formula. It’s based on a host of water-proof ingredients that won’t easily smear or wear off including castor seed oil, some long chain hydrocarbons (Octyldodecanol, Hydrogenated Polydecene) and several waxes.

The colorants are a mix of naturally derived pigments (the iron oxides) and synthetic organic colorants (the reds, blues and yellow.)

Interestingly they’ve chosen to add caffeine to the formula which will do nothing.


Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Myristyl Lactate, Octyldodecanol, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Cetyl Palmitate, Beeswax, Bis – Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate – 2, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba)Wax, Microcrystalline Wax, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Tribehenin, Sorbitan Isostearate, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flow. Extraxt, Caffeine, Vanillin, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl, Tocopheryl Acetate, Propylparaben, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides CI 77491, CI 77499, Red 6 Lake, Red 7 Lake, Red 27 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake

If you order VINCENT LONGO Lip and Cheek Gel Stain using our link you’ll be helping to support the Beauty Brains. Thank you!