Are beauty programs for cancer patients dangerous? Episode 107

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Quick follow up on curly haircow_and_milk_by_paulh18-d2y9a51

Last time we talked about how to moisturize curly hair. That generated a ton of discussion on our website. I wanted to give you one quick update which is an article I stumbled across about using combing creams to moisturize curly hair. These are essentially a detangled mixed with a styling cream and if they’re properly formulated they’re really good at controlling frizz and defining curls. The funny thing is the article which was published in Glamor of September 2015, talks about combing creams as if they’re a brand new invention. Specifically they said there were discovered by the founder of Carol’s Daughter on a recent trip to Brazil. We worked on these for mass market brands about 4 years ago, and there were already other products on the market at that time. So even Glamor isn’t fully plugged into the hip world of beauty products – remember that the next time you criticize us! Link

Cow pee and other strange beauty ingredients

You know Randy we here at the Beauty Brains love stories of strange ingredients found in beauty products. Remember the story about amniotic fluid, sheep placenta, bird droppings and snail slime? Well, cosmetic marketers never seem to run out of strange things to add and here is a story to prove it. The latest craze coming out of India is using cow dung and cow urine in cosmetics. According to the story these ingredients have been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicines and they are now making their way into cosmetics.

Venkatesh Abdeo, the founder of beauty company Vishwa Hindu Parishad, claims that cow urine can help clear up skin blemishes. And it has the added benefit of developing a new stream of income for farmers across India. Also, researchers in Korea are conducting studies on various cow parts and extractions and they claim that an extract obtained from a cow’s placenta is able to re-grow hair and treat baldness. They say it’s a cheap equivalent to minoxidil. It sounds to me like they are milking these cow ingredients for all they are worth. Quite frankly, I’m un-moooved by their claims. There may be component ingredients you can get from cows that will help combat skin or hair problems, but I doubt that cow extracts are the best source for these ingredients. This whole thing sound a bit un-bull-levable.

It does make me ponder…what will be the next crazy ingredient used in cosmetics? Here are a few predictions.

1. Mammoth extract – an amazing antiaging ingredient taken from frozen wooly mammoths

2. Maggot mucous – using the secretions of maggots to moisturize hair

3. Squid ink – People are going to harvest the ink sprayed from squids as the latest new anti-gray hair ingredient.

The hairy truth about hair extensions


First of all, let me say point out that the source of this story is the website Refinery 29 and it’s long overdue.
Second, this is kind of a followup to a story we did back in episode 29. Remember we talked about busted that myth about hair extensions being sources from human corpses? We discussed both synthetic and real human hair extensions and talked about the “hair collecting” companies that make them? We warned our listeners about the quality…
Well, I guess more need to listen to that show because according to R29, Riqua Hailes, (Rica Ales) the owner of an LA salon chain Just Extensions recently was shocked to find that she had spend over $10,000 on hair extensions that were really only worth about $200. Riqua was so upset that she flew to China to visit the supplier which led to the making of a documentary “Just Extensions” which documents her travels to not only China but also Cambodia, India, Brazil and Peru.

The point of her trip was to figure out how hair used in extensions was sourced and processed. (Couldn’t she have just listened to our podcast?) What she found was “shocking.” I”ll quote the article:

“At a Chinese factory, Hailes watches in amazement as workers dump “fallen hair” — the strands and split ends that flutter off women’s heads every day — into buckets where they’re soaked in germ-killing acid. Later, they’re mixed with synthetic fibers to create extensions marketed as Brazilian or Indian hair. In Brazil, she discovers horse tails being sold as extensions.”

You can check out the documentary yourselves, we’ll put the link in the show notes but this is a grim reminder that unlike cosmetics, the international sourcing of hair extensions is NOT regulated so the buyer must beware! Caveat Emptor. 
You can view a clip of Just Extensions here.

Are you a victim of ‘scienceplotation’?


Are you a victim of sciencesploitation? That is the technique that marketers use to sell consumers on new products. Typically these are antiaging products.

According to a study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, the official publication of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), authors examined the portrayals of stem cell-based cosmetic and anti-aging products and treatments online and found that the majority of web pages portrayed stem cell-based products as ready for public use. Very few substantiated claims with scientific evidence, and even fewer mentioned any risks or limitations associated with stem cell science.

“Some claims were substantiated by clinical studies, celebrities, so-called beauty experts, and medical professionals with phrases like “the only crème with an actual study” and “this product has been rigorously tested for maximum efficacy,” without explaining the science behind the claims,” explains author and ASAPS member, Dr. Ivona Percec.

The public should be wary of this scienceploitation.

Here are some examples..

Stem cells
Superoxide dismutase (enzymes)
And most other natural sounding ingredients

Don’t be a victim of scienceploitation

Watch out for formaldehyde


I don’t know if you recall but in our book, It’s Okay to have Lead in your Lipstick we answered a question about the straightening product called the GK Hair Taming System. We were asked about Javelin, which they claim is “the ONLY protein compound which is scientifically proven to protect and restore hair back to its youthful state.” Unfortunately, these claims appear a bit exaggerated (surprise!) as there are MANY protein compounds used to treat hair. We also pointed out that the product appears to contain formaldehyde which is what really does the straightening.

Well, the FDA caught up to these guys and tested some products and found that it does indeed release formaldehyde when used according to the package instructions BUT the company doesn’t include the proper warning statements. And that makes the product a misbranded cosmetic that is subject to seizure, fines, etc. This of course falls under Section 301(a) of the FDC Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(a)]

The product contains methylene glycol which is a formaldehyde release agent. So formaldehyde doesn’t appear on the ingredient list but the product DOES have a warning that states “Warning: Product releases formaldehyde.” along with some general language about avoiding skin contact. but it’s interesting to note that warning statement is not good enough. the FDA says the company has failed to reveal the following information to their customers:
“the adverse effects that may result from the release of formaldehyde into the air during the heating process, which can have both short term and long term health effects (e.g., eye and throat irritation, headache, dizziness, burning sensations, breathing problems, nosebleeds, chest pain, skin irritation and certain cancers), particularly for those who are sensitive to formaldehyde. Long term exposure may potentially cause certain cancers.”
“that concurrent uses of these products in the same facility may increase the concentration of formaldehyde in the air, which could increase the risk of adverse effects.”
The FDA also noted that the company is treating this product as though it’s only for professional salon use although it’s sold on the internet for anyone to buy. That’s an interesting difference that a few years ago was probably less of a problem.
The bottom line is that the FDA says they have to change their labeling. Not much of a slap on the wrist.

The most common questions about beauty (according to Google)

I was reading Elle magazine and saw they reported on the fact that Google released a list of the most common beauty questions searched for around the world. Would you like to hear some of them? In France, the top question according to Google was – When does makeup expire? I think we’ve covered that question before. Basically, most personal care products are designed to last about a year. Color cosmetics that go around the eye should be tossed after about six months. It really depends on the product though. In Brazil the number one beauty question is How often should you shampoo hair? In Australia the top question was “Is it bad to sleep with wet hair?” In South Korea – Is foundation bad for acne? In India they want to know which vitamins are good for hair and skin. I guess that would be vitamin A for skin and vitamin B12 for hair.

Some day we should go through and publish our most frequently asked beauty questions here on the beauty brains. Oh wait, I think we already did that. You can read that in our latest book It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick…

Is the Look Good/Feel Better program giving you cancer?


Let me tell you the story of two programs to help women with cancer. First there’s the Look Good/Feel Better program ( it’s a public service program that helps cancer patients keep their self esteem by teaching them beauty techniques to counter act the side effects of cancer treatment. It’s a combined effort of the Personal Care Products Council, the American Cancer Society, and the Professional Beauty Association.

Second there’s “Breast Cancer Action” which is a consumer activist group who’s mission is to “address the root causes of the disease and produce broad public health benefits” “ and their core values include “Honesty, fearlessness and truth-telling about the breast cancer epidemic” and “Transparency and accountability for ourselves and others.” These both sound like beneficial programs.

Even though both programs are intended to benefit women, a conflict has arisen over the beauty products which Look Good/Feel Better provides to cancer patients. These products come from companies like Avon and Estee Lauder and, according to BCA, these companies sell products which are “notoriously full of toxic chemicals.” They’re specifically concerned about parabens, formaldehyde releasers, fragrance, and Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) aka Teflon.

The PCPC was quick to refute these allegations and point out that the methyl and propyl paraben have been given a clean bill of health. Same goes for formaldehyde releasers when used at approved levels. If the BCA is REALLY concerned about these ingredients perhaps they should turn their attention to the food industry – MP is commonly used as a food grade preservative but you don’t hear many complaints about that which seems strange since you’re directly ingesting it rather than just rubbing it on your skin.

Finally, BCA reiterates that the cosmetic industry is unregulated and says…”the Personal Care Products Council spends millions of dollars lobbying against cosmetic safety regulations to make sure it stays that way.” I don’t know how the PCPC spends it dollars on lobbying but I do know that they have publicly stated they are in favor of the new bill that’s been proposed the Personal Care Products Safety act. We’ve talked about this on the show before Episode 81 The latest legislation, for the most part, involves codifying things that the big beauty companies are already doing. The companies who are NOT already following these new best practices are the smaller companies and the DIY-ers.

It’s just disturbing to me that an organization like the BCA who is clearly well intentioned AND who pride themselves on “honesty and transparency” clearly have an anti-science bias and that bias could end up hurting women who are currently benefiting from the Look Good/Feel Better program.

iTunes reviews

DAC1 from Czech Republic says…
I like the down-to-earth advice on cosmetic products. Thank you guys.

Wellesley King-Cat says…
I’ve been listening from New Zealand and it has really changed how I shop for personal care items.

I’m also part owner of a Salon, it’s sometimes very hard to give customers honest advice. After listening to a couple of episodes on how conditioners work we’re ready to ditch our “organic” shampoo supplier as it’s making unsubstantiated claims. So thanks to Randy and Perry I’ve learned lots of new things, relevant to my personal and work life.