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Quicky beauty science questions Episode 78

This week we try something different: instead of taking one question and giving  it a very in depth answer, we a answer several questions very shallowly. Listen to the show and let us know what you think of this approach.

Are hair masks better than regular conditioners?question-63916_640-2

Alexandra asks…Is there a real difference between hair masks and regular conditioners. Or are masks just overpriced. Can you apply either in advance of shampoo and in case of oily or short hair? 

Of course it depends on which specific products you’re looking at, but in many cases “masks” and deep conditioners are not much different than regular rinse out products. (We’ve formulated such products.)

What is a “mask” in the context of hair anyway? Skin masks contain clay which dry on the skin to form a tight film. Hair masks don’t do that. It’s really just a marketing gimmick.

Do thickeners stop active ingredients from penetrating?

Erin asks…I’ve looked everywhere for information on the occlusive ratings for waxes and can’t seem to find any information. Do thickeners, such as glyceryl stearate SE, beeswax, cera bellina, etc. still allow penetration of goodies such as vitamin e, panthenol, and vitamins? Obviously, the percentage of wax would be a factor, but are some less occlusive than others? You’d think there would be some sort or rating guide out there somewhere.

Occlusivity typically means an ingredient will form a water proof layer on the skin that will keep moisture from evaporating. That doesn’t necessarily mean an occlusive ingredient will prevent other ingredients from getting into the skin. (Assuming of course that the ingredient in question will even penetrate skin.)

Since many, if not most, anti-aging creams that contain legitimate actives (like retinol and niacinamide) do contain waxes and thickeners like the ones you mentioned, I don’t see any reason to believe those ingredients are causing a problem.

If you’re allergic to latex are you allergic to shea butter?

Tindingo asks…What is in shea butter which can be irritated as latex? (I have read if you have latex-allergy than you must be allergic to shea butter.)

I found the answer from a paper published by the ALAA (The American Latex Allergy Association.) I had no idea there was such an association! They say…”The relationship between these materials remains unclear. There are currently no published studies that confirm the presence or absence of cross-reactive allergens in shea butter and natural rubber latex (NRL), but, they go on to say…

“even thought shea trees are not related genetically to rubber trees, a latex-type substance has been identified in some shea butters.”

So it’s not proven but there is some potential for concern.

Are oil infusions any better?

Duffy asked…Do oil infusions work differently then normal oils? I’ve come across herbalists which claim that oils have more beneficial properties when infused with herbs, e.g. calendula flower. Obviously I’m extremely skeptical, but I wonder if there’s any truth to this?

Well, I guess it depends on if the herb contains any oil soluble components that provide skin benefits. For example, rosemary, sage, and oregano do have some antibacterial properties. So IF an oil infusion contained sufficient amounts of these active ingredients it’s possible the infusion would be a better bactericide than the oil itself. For the most part, however, I’m very skeptical of such a claim.

Can I use retinol and niacinamide together?

Chris asks…is it okay to use retinol in evening and niacinamide in morning. Is there anything to look out for in terms of brand? 

Retinol product can be irritating and can make your skin more susceptible to UV damage so they should be used at night. Niacinamide can also cause some redness but does not matter in terms of UV exposure so using Niacinamide products in the morning is fine. By separating them you also reduce the chance of compounding the irritation.

Should I avoid oils on my hair?

Gabis asks…I’ve been meaning to start a Low-poo routine and one of the rules is to avoid products that contain mineral oil or other petroleum products. Aside from the famous petrolatum, mineral oil, parafinum liquid and vaseline, are there other common petroleum sub-products that are used in cosmetics? Mainly hair care products.

I guess that depends on what you mean by “sub-products”.  Crude oil is used to produce a wide range of cosmetic ingredients such as surfactants, emollients, emulsifiers, preservatives and pretty much any other class of ingredient you could need in a hair care formula.

But many of these same ingredients can also be derived from a plant source.  Take an ingredient like Cetyl Alcohol for example.  This is one found in nearly every hair conditioner. Cetyl Alcohol can be made by chemically modifying Palm Oil.  But it can also be made by chemically modifying a petroleum distillate.  When you pick up that bottle of conditioner you have no way of knowing what was the original source of your Cetyl Alcohol. Both ingredients will work exactly the same way so it doesn’t really matter.

The advice to avoid petroleum based products if you’re going Low-poo is not bad advice but it is incomplete.  What you really want to do is avoid long chain oils that will coat your hair and attract dirt & more oil.  That means staying away from Petrolatum & Mineral Oil is a good idea.  But you should also stay away from other long chain oils like Olive Oil, Sunflower seed Oil, Jojoba oil and pretty much any other natural oil.  These things will build up in your hair and cause it to be more dirty.

Does make up really have an expiration date?

CandyPuff asks…Does make up really have an expiration date?  I only wear make up occasionally and I am not thrilled at the prospect of throwing away a lipstick only used a few times because it is a year old.

The answer depends on the type of product. Here are three things to look for:

1. Does it still work? Some active ingredients can lose efficacy over time. (Probably not an issue with lipstick.)

2. Is it still aesthetically pleasing? In other words, does it look and smell ok. Fragrance and color fade over time and some oils can pick up a rancid flavor. This IS likely to happen to lipstick.

3. Is it still free from microbial contamination? Over time a preservative system may fail which means a product could grow bacteria or fungi. (This is less likely to happen with a lipstick because it doesn’t contain water.)

You have to look at each product on a case by case basis. Some will last beyond their expiration date and there’s little danger in continuing to use them. Others may put you at risk if they’ve expired, like mascara.

Does yogurt really nourish pet hair?

Barbara asks…Here’s claim to tackle: The pet product “Bark to Basics Blueberry Greek Yogurt Shampoo” says it cleans, repairs and nourishes the skin and coat and that it feeds protein to hair follicles allowing water to penetrate deep in root. This is so misleading it’s driving me nuts! 

A pet shampoo with misleading claims? Now there’s a shocker… Water does “penetrate” so you could always rely on that as claims support. But yogurt does not really feed hair follicles. At best, claims about nourishing hair are really about conditioning.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aspsusa April 14, 2015, 3:21 am

    I think you arrived at the idea behind the low-poo petrolatum/vaseline question right at the end of that segment. I don’t _know_, but I think the idea is that if you wash less and with less effective cleansers, it is a good idea to stay away from stuff that is hard to rinse/wash off. Why anything mineral oil derived should necessarily fall into that category is probably just a misunderstanding (you know, silicones, mineral oil and sulfates BAD, anything with a botanical name GOOOOD).

    The idea behind the question is probably actually “if I very seldom use really effective detergents on my hair, which products or ingredients should I avoid?”. My experience is that you can only experiment, every hair is different, and water quality also plays a huge role in this.

    I wash my hair very infrequently and have been thinking of submitting a question about that; I’d be curious to know how formulators think about variables like frequency and hair length when tinkering with shampoos and conditioners.

  • Christopher April 15, 2015, 6:43 am

    Doesn’t matter what approach you guys use, I’ll still listen every Tuesday. 🙂

    • Randy Schueller April 15, 2015, 8:26 am

      Even if Perry decides to do an all karaoke episode???

      • Christopher April 16, 2015, 7:35 am

        Maybe I’ll skip that episode (and the ones featuring sound effects…)

  • Vivian April 20, 2015, 4:44 pm

    I liked this episode, but honestly, at this point, I’ll listen to anything you put up. I did miss the Beauty Science News. I laugh each time i hear your “news” music.

    • Randy Schueller April 21, 2015, 6:35 am

      Thanks Vivian but you’d better be careful. Perry is threatening to do an entire episode about joggling and NOBODY wants to hear that!

  • Charlotte G November 15, 2015, 10:35 am

    Do you know of any cosmetic science courses apart from degrees? As a beauty therapist I was frustrated by the lack of cosmetic science taught on my course.