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How do color correcting conditioners work? Episode 88

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Listen to the podcast for this week’s question and answer session. Plus, another game of Improbable Products!

How do color correcting conditioners work?smiling_rainbow_hair_by_eds77-d4gligr

Audrey asks…How do color correcting conditioners work?

Color correcting conditioners work two ways: For darker hair they contain a red or brown dye that will provide a little staining effect. For blonde shades they contain a purple dye known as D&C Violet # 2. The purple dye cancels out some of the brassiness and supposedly brightens blond hair.

The problem with this approach is that it’s very difficult to deposit very much dye from a rinse out system. When we’ve evaluated these products we haven’t seen much of an effect but they do work to some extent.

Listen to the show to hear our complete response.

Are wine baths good for your skin?

Chemical & Engineering News asked about a player for the NBA (Amar’e Stoudemire) who recently posted a photo of himself soaking in a tub full of Spanish wine. They asked me if wine baths really work.

According to the company’s website,  “you will soak in a tub and enjoy the antioxidant benefits and relaxing experience of soaking in red wine. Does this really benefit your skin? There are a lot of unknowns here but I doubt it. 
How much wine is used in the bath? (Is the bath ALL wine or is the wine diluted with water?)
 What is the level of antioxidant material in the wine? (polyphenol content varies with the type of wine and how it was produced.) 
How “fresh” is the wine bath? Antioxidants are good at scavenging electrons from oxygen and other sources. The longer the wine bath is exposed to air, the fewer active antioxidants will be left.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say that they optimize the amount of antioxidants the bath by using ONLY wine in the bath tub, by choosing wines that are proven to be rich in antioxidants, and they replace the bath with fresh wine every 30 minutes. (after each bath.) Then is it good for your skin? I still doubt it.

Antioxidants benefit skin by stopping sun-induced damage. So for optimal protection you need antioxidants on your skin during sun exposure. These can be best delivered from a cream or lotion that puts the antioxidants in contact with your skin and keeps them there until they’re used up. Taking a dip in antioxidants which are then rinsed off your body is unlikely to have a sustained effect.

Is lanolin the best moisturizer?

Dana asks…My question is about Lanolin. I’ve read that, because it comes from an animal, it is molecularly closer to human skin and one of the best moisturizers. If this is true, does it make sense to use pure lanolin alone to moisturize at night? Other than the greasy pillow case factor, why should or shouldn’t I slap some on my face before bed?

Lanolin is a good moisturizer but it’s not as good as petrolatum. It’s also important to note that some people are allergic lanolin. Also, just because from an ingredient comes from an animal doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best ingredient to use. Collagen comes from animals. Squalene comes from shark liver oil. Hyaluronic acid used to come from rooster combs. That doesn’t mean these are the most effective ingredients. And to be honest, in today’s climate if THE most effective ingredient came from animals I’m not sure any company would market it.

The anti-sunscreen?

Hillary asks…I’m curious about sun care products that don’t contain SPF, like Institute Esthederm’s products. They claim to work by building resistance to the sun vs. working like traditional SPF’s. How would an SPF free product work to keep me from burning and would they work better than traditional sunscreens?

I’ve never heard of this brand but apparently it’s been around 30 years and it’s driven by the discoveries of a Dr Jean-Noel Thorel who has a number of patents on various cosmetic science technologies. I looked at a couple of their products and here’s what I found:

A deeper, quicker and long-lasting tan. Skin’s natural sun defenses are strengthened. Skin is better prepared and better protected.

  • Prepares skin for tanning by activating the pigmentation process
  • Protects skin cells without filters or screens
  • Optimizes cells’ energy environment

I couldn’t find any ingredient list so I can’t tell you what it contains. Their website refers to a patent: This product is…”formulated without filters or screens. It perfectly allows the skin to enjoy all the positive benefits of the sun yet protects it from the harmful sun effects. The patent contains heat shock proteins that protect the skin’s DNA and act as air conditioners for the cells.”

But, the product does contain this warning statement:

Caution: This product contains no screens or filters and should be used with your regular sunscreen in case of prolonged exposure or strong sunlight.

Here’s another product: Institut Esthederm Adaptasun Face Cream Sensitive Skin Extreme Sun

This one claims…

  • Protects skin from UVB and UVA rays
  • Activates the natural pigmentation process
  • Protects cell DNA
  • Prevents photo-aging…
  • “Sensitive skin is able to adapt more effectively to the sun and tans with more ease. Naturally protected, it tans more quickly while preventing sunburn.

Yet it contains zinc oxide and octyl methoxycinnamate both of which are proven sunscreens.

This brand makes me very nervous. Hey Dr. Thorel if you’re listening, please send me a link to your patent for this product or the results of some clinical trials, or something!

How much retinol does this cream have?

PMA asks….They say this IOPE cream has 2500 UI of retinol… what’s the % of retinol?

According to this site, 1 IU (international units) of retinol = 0.3 micrograms of retinol. Therefore, 2500 IUs = 750 micrograms or 0.750 grams of retinol.
 I assume this is the amount in one tube which has a net volume of 40 mls.

Assuming the specific gravity of the cream is about 1.0 (which is close enough) the percentage of retinol in the product is 0.00075 gr retinol/40 gr product = 0.00001875gr retinol/gr product =  0.001875% % retinol.

That seems WAY to low to be effective so I’m wondering if one of my assumptions is wrong. Maybe the product contains  2500 IU per ml?  But that would make the % too high. Or, maybe it’s per application? That might be about right. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything on their website that specifies this.

I wonder why they chose to express their active ingredient concentration in such a confusing way? Maybe the company is in the pharmaceutical sector? Or just to look smart?  Or maybe even to deliberately confuse the consumer?

Another retinol question…

Koko6944 in Forum says…
I found the company “InstaNatural” who make products with all the proven anti-aging ingredients like retinol, vitamin c, niacinamide etc with the highest concentrations i have ever seen (like 2,5 % retinol and 5% niacinamide) and the products are actually super cheap. Is this too good to be true? I didn´t even know that a retinol product this high in percentage is allowed to be sold over the counter.

I’d never heard of this company so I checked their website and found this:

“Our other retinol products use an encapsulated retinol. This means that the molecules are contained in a lipid covering that dissolves after absorption by the skin, allowing the retinol to penetrate the deeper layers of skin. It’s also gentler on the skin this way because it prevents the retinol from oxidizing, allowing us to use it in higher concentration. Retinol is this form has a higher pH than standard retinol.

2.5% retinol DOES seem high. Typically encapsulating retinol allows you to use a lower level which makes it less irritating and increases the chances that you’ll use it frequently. (So it works better.)

I noticed that they also sell a salicylic acid product a pH of 8 which is worthless because it’s no longer in the acid form and it won’t exfoliate. Besides, 8 is pretty high for your skin anyway! .

Improbable Products – The All Tampon Edition

Two of these tampon-themed products are real, one is made up. Can you spot the fake? Listen to the show for the answer.

  1. Personalized tampons printed with the name of your choice
  2. Glow in the dark tampons
  3. A video game in which you shoot tampons at your enemies

iTunes Reviews

You can really help us out by posting a short review on iTunes. Just like Browneyes77 who said…

They truly are brainy! This is not a typical beauty podcast. These guys have the education and experience to help consumers see through the marketing. They also happen to be witty…with a tinge of dry humor.

Image credit: http://img04.deviantart.net/309c/i/2011/322/e/0/smiling_rainbow_hair_by_eds77-d4gligr.jpg

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Deborah A Dassion June 23, 2015, 10:35 pm

    I would really like to speak to one of you… I have been an esthetician for 30 years and would love (if Possible) to communicate by phone or email…I have some questions that I would love your position on… I would pay for your time… my plan would be to email you may questions so your could overview them ..Thanks

  • Maria June 24, 2015, 4:54 am

    Doesn’t squalane nowadays come exclusively from plant sources, e.g. olive oil?

    Beautybay.com has ingredients for Institut Esthederm products. Here is the UVinCellium Bronzant.

    Aqua/Water/Eau*, Glycereth-26, Peg-11 Methyl Ether Dimethicone, Methylpropanediol, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Acetyl Tyrosine, Aspartic Acid, Creatine, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Mannitol, Sodium Dextran Sulfate, Imperata Cylindrica Root Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Potassium Sorbate, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Carnosine, Artemia Extract, Algae Extract, Disodium Adenosine Triphosphate, Dextran, Acetyl Hexapeptide-1, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Propylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Copper Gluconate, Tris (Tetramethylhydroxypiperidinol) Citrate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium Edta, Bht, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum), Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal. * Cellular Water (Aqua/Disodium Adenosine Triphosphate/Carnosine/Mineral Salts).

    • Randy Schueller June 24, 2015, 6:25 am

      Yes, but originally it was sourced from shark liver. We were just using it as an example. Thanks for the ingredient list!

  • Barbara Bird June 24, 2015, 10:28 am

    As a petgroomer of 40+ years, I can say from experience that color correcting shampoos can make a difference. Applying color in conditioners seems to make sense, although the lower pH of conditioners is contraindictative. The product needs to be formulated with generous pigment and left on for at least five minutes, longer if the hair is less porous. Porous hair “takes” color better. We use both whitener products and those for black at my salon and they help create outstanding color. Reds and golds are tricky to use because of tonal variations. Color correcting improves existing color.

  • Eileen June 24, 2015, 10:40 am

    I can’t speak to color correcting conditioners but I’ve used color correcting shampoos for years and have found them to be quite effective at neutralizing brassiness. In fact, I must be careful with my favorite Aveda Blue Malva shampoo and only use it every other time I shampoo otherwise my hair will begin taking on a decidedly blue cast I’d rather be known as the silver fox than that “little old lady from Pasadena” with blue rinsed hair! LOL Perhaps those of us with grey hair or chemically processed platinum blond hair have a better result with the correcting products because our hair is more porous and so it absorbs a bit of the dye even when the shampoo or conditioner is only left on a minute or so. In any event, I wouldn’t be without a blue shampoo to keep my hair looking like sterling instead brass.

    Occassionally, I’ll read a negative comment from someone who thought the so-called blue shampoos and conditioners would lighten their hair because they claim to “brighten” hair color. Of course, those people are disappointed when the products don’t lighten their hair or work well on anything other than grey or the palest of blond shades. When these shampoos say “brighten” they are referring to the effect caused by a silvery shine and not by actually lightening the hair color.

  • gingerbread June 24, 2015, 11:24 am

    There is definitely something stinky about this InstaNatural company. They use Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP) as a vitamin C and they claim 20% of Vit C on the label, but SAP is supposed to be used at level up to few %. And 3% water solution of SAP has pH ca. 9-10!

    As for alkaline salicylic acid solution, if I’m not mistaken, there is a free patent formulation with sodium bicarbonate, designed for people with sensitive skin, where those two react to form sodium salicylate which does have some benefits, but its mode of action is apparently unclear.

    • Randy Schueller June 24, 2015, 3:10 pm

      @Gingerbread: Thanks for the info on the sodium salicylate patent. Very interesting!

  • Nema June 24, 2015, 11:42 am

    I love lanolin but not exactly as a moisturizer. I find it is really good at softening hardened skin, like around fingernails or on feet. I sometimes use it straight, or mix it with petrolatum, mineral oil, or skin cream. First I warm up a dab of lanolin by rubbing it in the palm of my hand, then add the other ingredients a little at a time. Lanolin is sticky, so I usually use it at night with socks or gloves. But sometimes I use a tiny amount as a cuticle cream during the day. Beauty Brains, do you know how it softens skin?

    • Randy Schueller June 24, 2015, 3:11 pm

      @Nema: Lanolin a skin compatible lipid so it can plasticize skin (soften it) even though it’s not adding water.

  • Anastasiya June 24, 2015, 5:11 pm

    Hello! I have a question about how stable formulation is in the see through packaging? From what I’ve heard, antioxidants can degrade in a clear glass containers, due to UV exposure. I understand that glass does filter out UV rays, but lets through visible light. However, wavelength of UVA rays being closer to visible light can penetrate through the glass. Apparently, brown glass is better, because it filters both UVA and UVA rays. Is it true? What about plastic (both clear and tinted), does it filter out any UV radiation? What to choose? Which is better for the formula: clear glass, tinted glass or plastic? Or opaque materials is the way to go?
    Thank you!

    • Randy Schueller June 25, 2015, 6:45 am

      @Anastasiya: Opaque plastic packaging does a better job of protecting the formula. Glass is problematic because of its expense, weight, and tendency to shatter when dropped from wet, slippery hands in the bathroom.

  • Amber June 26, 2015, 12:20 pm

    Hi Beauty Brains! Now that it’s Summer here, I have a few questions on the topic of sunscreen that I’d love to hear your opinion on, please.

    1) If I’m applying a chemical sunscreen on my face, how long does it take for it to adhere to my skin? Do I need to wait for a given amount of minutes before applying my makeup to prevent rubbing off of or diluting the sunscreen, or can makeup be applied straight away?

    2) Where does moisturiser fit into the order of things – before sunscreen or after – does it even make much of a difference? Will moisturiser significantly prevent sunscreen from adhering to skin?

    3) Are high spf sunscreens that contain exfoliating AHAs such as lactic and glycolic acid, a good idea, or risky? What does the science say?

    4) I’ve read on a few blogs that we should wear sunscreen even when indoors, due to the UV coming through windows and even from our PC monitors. Is this UV enough to actually cause damage and warrant our use of sunscreen when we’re home from work?

    Many thanks, I eagerly await your instruction!

    • Randy Schueller June 26, 2015, 1:39 pm

      1. It takes about 15 minutes for a sunscreen to “soak in.”
      2. Put on sunscreen first.
      3. Sunscreens shouldn’t be mixed with AHAs.
      4. You don’t get enough UV damage indoors to worry about.

      • Amber June 27, 2015, 6:09 am

        Thanks for the quick reply, Randy. Is there a particular safety reason why Sunscreens should not contain AHAs? I know that AHAs are meant to make the skin more sensitive to the sun, but wouldn’t a high SPF formula kind of negate this risk?

        The one I’m thinking of in particular is made by Sunsense, who seem to be a fairly respected brand in the sunscreen field. It’s called ‘Sunsense Anti-ageing Face SPF 50+’, and contains lactic acid in the formula.

        Thanks in advance!

        • Randy Schueller June 27, 2015, 9:33 am

          My concern was that AHA’s increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun but actually, I did some more research and found this isn’t as serious a problem as I thought. The CIR (cosmetic ingredient review) board did find that AHA’s increase skin’s sensitivity to sun but only to a small extent. The product you asked about should be fine.

  • Gaba February 16, 2018, 12:44 am

    Hello! Since a long time, I’m a bit concerned about the ingredients in my sunscreen, called UMBRELLA GEL, by Midihealth. I wrote them asking about it but never got an answer. They are:

    Zinc Oxide, Octyl Methoxycinnamate, benzophenone-3, methyl benzylidene camphor, glycerin on the basis of aqueous gel moisturizer.

    The second ingredient, Octyl Methoxycinnamate, has score 6 on EWG Skin Deep Database and it’s linked to scientific papers that talk about this compound causing Biochemical or cellular level changes and Endocrine disruption. The other ingredient, methyl benzylidene camphor, which appears on the database as 4-METHYLBENZYLIDENE CAMPHOR (I think is the same) has score 7 and is said to be “A UV filter not approved as an active ingredient for sunscreen in the U.S., but listed as an inactive ingredient in some products.”

    Since I just read your book, “It’s Ok to have lead on your lipstick”, I’m a bit confused because you said that EWG Deep Skin is not totally right, to say the least. But, at the same time, I can see they linked their statements about Octyl Methoxycinnamate to purportedly scientific evidence. The same with the other ingredient I mentioned.

    Who should I believe in? Should I be worried about Octyl Methoxycinnamate or methyl benzylidene camphor? The first one is a chemical filter, right? Aren’t physical filters, like zinc oxide, much better and risk-free? Why do they add a chemical filter if the zinc oxide is already doing its work? What about the other one?

    I tried changing to a different brand, supposedly more “natural” (I know, I know this is a complicated word, you don’t have to explain..) and then I tried Badger Tinted Sunscreen – SPF30 Unscented Cream (top rated by the EWG for safety and efficacy), but I had breakouts and couldn’t keep using it. Since I have a sensitive kind of oily skin with rosacea, I really don’t know what to look for in a sunscreen.

    I would very much appreciate if you answer my doubt and help me sleep at night hehehehe Thank you!

    • Gabriela Milanezi February 21, 2018, 2:36 pm

      Hi Beauty Brains, sorry to bother again but I have written Midihealth asking about the percentage of the compounds (octyl methoxycinnamate and methyl benzylidene camphor) in their formula of Umbrella Gel (sunscreen), and they finally answered me after months of silence, and the only thing they said was like: “our sunscreen has the best protection and blah blah blah”, no evidence, no proper answer, they sounded like these girls in the advertisement trying to sell something but in practice they totally eluded the question I addressed them. I understand that any compound is not toxic by itself, as you repeat in your book, but I also understand that it’s a matter of the %, isn’t it? I went to their facebook page (@UmbrellaProtectores) and asked them the same question and they marked my comment as spam and didn’t answer my question that was sent through inbox. These sunblocks are only sold in Latin America, where the law enforcement is not strong at all. Do you think their attitude, the fact that they don’t answer my doubt properly may be interpreted as suspicious? Please, answer me. Best regards, Gabriela

      • Perry Romanowski April 3, 2018, 8:25 am

        I wouldn’t be suspicious but I’d also not buy products from them if that is their level of customer service. There are plenty of other brands out there.

    • Perry Romanowski April 3, 2018, 8:34 am

      The EWG site is worthless. It is not science based and the numbers are arbitrary. Just because they link to a study doesn’t mean they’ve interpreted it correctly. You have to read the study to understand that it doesn’t say what the EWG says it says. No, you don’t have to be worried about Octyl Methoxycinnamate or Methyl Benzylidene Camphor. No, there is no evidence that Zinc Oxide is much better and risk free. They add additional sunscreens to get a higher SPF without the white color that Zinc Oxide leaves.