Would you use spray on nail polish? Episode 109

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Would you use spray on nail polish?spray-315164_640

A company called Nails, Inc has launched the first spray on nail polish. The line is called “The Paint Can” and it just launched in the UK (coming soon to the U.S.). It’s not on the company’s US website yet but according to an article published by The Gloss….

“The revolutionary nail polish is different than anything you have used before. It promises pigment that cannot be replicated in a regular nail polish and a faster drying time. Plus, it claims that you can paint your nails in seconds.”

We can’t test this yet because it’s not available here in the US but here’s what we think about it based their claims and on our understanding of the science of nail polish formulations.

The key claim is obviously the time savings. They say it allows you to paint your nails in seconds. It almost sounds like a miracle but there’s no mention of any trade offs in polish appearance or durability.

But there’s simply no way this type of product (which we are told is water-based) will provide the same degree of hardness and chip resistance as a conventional polish. That’s because the types of polymers that are required to form a very hard nail finish require solvents. A water-based product requires some degree of compromise when it comes to how hard the nail finish will be. Apparently that’s why they tell you you have to use a topcoat with this product.

Which brings me to my next point – how much time will product really save you First you have some preparation to do which involves laying down old towels or whatever on the surface that you’re going to spray on. Then there’s the spray part – actually that is very quick since it takes only about 20 seconds. (By the way if you’re really spraying 20 seconds worth of product out of such a small can I wouldn’t expect to get very many uses which means it’s likely to be more expensive than a conventional polish.)

Then you have to clean up the overspray. At the very least you have to carefully wash your hands and presumably you have to clean the towels you just sprayed on or whatever else the spray came in contact with. Finally you have to apply a topcoat.

Also doesn’t it seem strange that the color options are so few? Colorants or one of the most regulated ingredients in all of cosmetics. It strikes me as odd that this product’s claims to use colors “that cannot be replicated in a regular nail polish.” If they’re using FDA approved colorants how can they be unique to this product?

Finally, do we have a good reason to believe that this company has done inhalation testing on this formulation? When considering the safety of any formulation you have to consider the routes of entry. In other words if it’s on your skin is it likely to penetrate skin if it’s on your lips is it likely to be accidentally swallowed. In the case of an aerosol product like this then you have to ask about inhalation. Inhalation testing is some of the most expensive and complicated safety testing that you can do. To some extent it’s also still dependent on animal testing. If this were coming from one of the larger companies I would have a high degree of confidence that it was properly tested. I don’t know this company very well so it’s hard to make that assessment but it is a question that should be asked.

So what’s the bottom line here? This overall this feels like a gimmick to me. It may be a fun to use product just because of its different motive application but it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going to capture the market. I predict we may see a brief popularity of this sort of delivery form but it will not last in the long run because it doesn’t really provide that much of a consumer benefit.

The Internet makes people think they know more than they do.


You know I love the Internet and on balance I think it helps society more than it harms. However, here is some new research that suggests the Internet can give a person the illusion of knowledge which makes people think they are smarter than they really are. I know I have a couple of siblings who suffer from this.

According to researchers who are investigating how the Internet affects our thinking, they found that just having access to the information on the Internet gives you the illusion that you know it and therefore an overconfidence in your own knowledge.

This is how people with no background in toxicology can “know” that synthetic ingredients like parabens, formaldehyde donors, phthalates, and all the other vilified ingredients in cosmetics are dangerous. It’s always amazed me that people with no scientific background are so completely sure of themselves about the impact of quote toxic un-quote ingredients.

Well this study might shed more light on what I call the University of Google effect. In research published by Matt Fisher of Yale University, they asked people to provide answers to fact-based questions. For example “Why are there time zones?” Half the participants were instructed to look up the answers on the Internet before answering and the other were told not to look up the answer. Then they were asked how confidently they could explain the answers to a second set of questions, like How is Vinegar made?

It turns out people who had used the internet to search for the answers to the first set of questions felt more confident about their ability to answer the second set of questions than the people who didn’t look up the answers. There was something about the act of looking answers up on the Internet that made people feel smarter about all other topics than they otherwise would.

There was another article the suggests a cure to this problem. In this research they found that if someone gave an answer and you said you were going to actually look it up, people’s confidence in their answers went down. So if you have the ability to check the accuracy of someone’s knowledge, they have much less confidence in it.

So, the next time you hear someone say that some ingredient is a miracle cure or another ingredient in a cosmetic will cause cancer, just pull out your phone and look it up on the Internet.

And if you’re looking for answers about beauty products, there are few other places to go than to The Beauty Brains. Of course, we probably suffer form the same overconfidence in other areas of knowledge but we really do have the experience and knowledge when it comes to beauty products.

Another split and breakthrough?

We’ve talked before about split end mending products and how most of them don’t do anything more than split and prevention. That’s because any good conditioner that smooths the hair and reduces friction will help prevent split ends from forming.

We’ve been aware of just one technology that actually works. It’s something we developed for the Tresemme line, although it is found in a few other hair care products. This is the PolyElectrolyte Complex or PEC. It works by getting into the split and then shrinking it shut. The material sticks around through multiple washings and it also provides an unusual slick feel which some people really love. What’s most amazing about it is that it can do this from a rinse out product. Up until now this is the only ingredient that we have seen proven to work this way but it appears there’s a new kid in town.

One of the premier hair care ingredient companies in the world, Croda, has developed a complex that they call Crodabond CSA. That’s their brand name for a mixture of Hydrogenated Castor Oil and Sebacic Acid Copolymer.

According to Croda, this material sticks to lifted cuticles and cements them down. I’m not exactly sure what the mode of action really is because just cementing the cuticle won’t seal a split end. You have to get inside the fragmented remains of the cortex and weld that back together. But Croda does know a LOT about this area because we’ve seen other research they’ve done. Apparently CSA also has a high refractive index which means it improve the shine of hair. Best of all it also works from a rinse out product.

Croda efficacy tested the complex in ways that were similar to ones we’ve used. You take hair tresses and artificially generate split ends by flogging them. You count the splits under a microscope, treat the tresses with the product and a control, then recount the splits. Then, you wash the tresses and repeat the count to see how many split ends stay glued shut and how many popped open again. In addition they used consumer testing which established that the difference was not only technically valid but was consumer perceivable. Seems like a valid approach because they combined lab and consumer data.

Now here or things to watch out for: All this testing was done by the supplier under what I assume was optimal conditions. We don’t know how this ingredient will perform in any given formula when used properly (right concentration, optimized for delivery.)

These kind of ingredients tend to be touchy to formulate with because they require a carefully balanced system to deposit appropriately. Some companies who don’t do their homework simply throw the ingredient in a stock formula and then assume it will work. The bigger companies have more R&D dollars so they will take the time to optimize the formula and then test it to confirm it works.

Right now, since this is fairly new, I’ve only seen a few product that use this ingredient and none of them are from large R&D departments. Instead they’re from salon brands:

  • Alterna Bamboo Smooth Anti-Frizz Conditioner
  • ALTERNA BAMBOO Color Hold & Vibrant Color Conditioner
  • Sexy Hair Concepts Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Milk Daily Conditioner

So is this “new kid in town” really a beauty breakthrough? That remains to be seen but if split ends are really a problem for you and you want to try something that is backed by some science then it looks like products with Hydrogenated Castor oil/Sebacic acid copolymer maybe worth a try.

Can acupuncture reduce pimples?


We here on the Beauty Brains like to keep an eye out for alternative treatments because you never know what interesting new technology might work. For example the fragrance that repels insects.

But there are a lot of people out there who make up fake products and try to separate you from your money without actually helping your problem. Here is one such technology.

I read this article with the headline “can acupuncture reduce pimples?” I scoffed of course but then was appalled to read that it was written by a medical doctor who’s conclusion was that “yes” it can.

According to this doctor “acne is caused by intense Lung Heat or Stomach Heat, Damp–Heat with Blood Stasis, and Qi (vital energy) Stagnation. Thus, Acupoint stimulation for acne relieves Heat toxicity, eliminate Dampness, regulate the Qi and Blood, and enhance immunologic function. It might balance androgen levels to inhibit excess oil secretion of the sebaceous gland.”

And this doctor goes on to say that 12 weeks of acupuncture treatments helps reduce acne.

This story really bothers me.

First, it’s been studied thoroughly and the conclusion is that acupuncture has no effect beyond being a placebo. Some people might disagree and point to studies showing it helps reduce pain in certain circumstances but this evidence is weak, improperly controlled, and not compelling. And you know why it’s not compelling? Because acupuncture is not real. Qi and energies and all that is not real.

And it certainly not going to help stop your acne. If you want to stop acne use a treatment that has been proven to work. Salicylic acid, or Benzoyl Peroxide or Tetracycline. Don’t be fooled into wasting money on things that do-not-work!

It’s so frustrating! And this guy is a doctor. That just makes it worse. Alright, let’s move on. I think I made my point.

Do you love your fave fragrance because of the bottle shape?


I read an interesting article about the impact of the shape of a perfume bottle on your olfactory perception of how much you like the way it smells. The basic idea is that an exotic looking package that connotes high-quality can subconsciously influence people to assume the fragrance smells better. It’s not all that surprising when you think about it because we’ve seen similar studies – for example, you can put the cheap wine in a bottle from expensive brand and people will think it taste better.

Here are some examples of unusual perfume bottles:

  • Mark Jacobs Decadence looks like either a little black purse or a lunchbox.
  • Victor and Rolf Spice Bomb literally looks like a hand grenade which is one of the reasons you don’t see flight attendants wearing it very often.
  • Thierry Mugler’s Alien looks like one of the Infinity Gems from the Avengers movies.
  • Donna Karan’s Cashmere Mist looks a little like some kind of sex toy.

But my point is…there’s more innovation in fragrance packaging than almost any other area of cosmetics. Why is that? Really it comes down to two reasons.

First, perfume has to be packaged in the glass. That’s because the fragrance oils are so aggressive they will soften most types of plastic. Not only does that potentially make the fragrance smell funny but it can actually weaken a plastic bottle. Glass is much more inert so it’s almost exclusively used for fragrance. And glass, unlike plastic, is rigid enough to support a greater variety of unusual shapes. So it makes sense that there are more design options.

Second, and this is probably even a bigger driver packaging innovation, the profit margins on fragrance are huge compared to other products. It’s not unusual for a bottle of perfume to cost 75 or $100. The cost of the raw materials are not that great so that allows more money to be spent on packaging marketing and advertising.

Also unlike other cosmetic products there really are no claims that can be used to sell the product. So an unusual bottle can be used to attract people’s attention rather than flashy claims.

Victoria’s Secret fragrance repels bugs


According to research published in the October issue of the Journal of Insect Science, the fragrance called Victoria Secret Bombshell showed a modest mosquito repellency effect. Unfortunately, other things that have been traditionally touted as alternatives to DEET had little to no effect.

Let me digress. In the insect repellency world there are a limited number of things that have been proven to work. The main tool for formulators is N,N Diethyl-meta-toluamide or DEET. Now, DEET works and this research demonstrates that it does. But many people have safety concerns about the side effect of DEET and this has created a market for “natural” DEET-free insect repellents. I know growing up my mom would give us the Avon Skin-so-Soft product and burn citronella candles. I thought that skin-so-soft smelled awful and it didn’t seem to work.

In this study, researchers looked at a variety of products to see how well they repelled mosquitos. Here’s what they found.

DEET worked. It provided protection for 240 min or more.
And it was dose dependent. More DEET, better protection.

The Cutter product with oil of lemon eucalyptus which has a high concentration of p-methane-3-8-diol also worked. This would be a good alternative for people afraid of DEET.

Other products like Avon Skin-so-soft bath oil and skin-so-soft with bug guard had practically no effect. Neither did the EcoSmart organic insect repellent which is made up of different oils like rosemary oil, lemongrass oil, and cinnamon oil. The Cutter natural repellent made with geraniol and soybean oil didn’t work either. And the mosquito skin patch was useless too.

But the Victoria Secret Bombshell fragrance showed good protection for 120 min. In fact it was as good as DEET products over that time period. So maybe there is something in that fragrance that could be used as an alternative.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for a product to keep mosquitos away, pick something with DEET but if you want to smell nice, then the Victoria Secret Bombshell fragrance might be the way to go.

Will 3-D printed hair change the world?


In Episode 104 we played a game of Improbable Products with frozen hair, pixelated hair and 3d printed hair extensions. It turns out printed hair is real!

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania figured out how to do exactly that. Here’s a quote from the webpage that summarizes their research:

“We introduce a technique for furbricating 3D printed hair, fibers and bristles, by exploiting the stringing phenomena inherent in fused deposition modeling 3D printers.”

Apparently they were inspired by using a glue gun. You know how you get the little thin wispy filament of glue after you touch the end of the gun to what ever you’re applying glue to? They modified a 3-D printer to mimic that effect. The effect is a bit crude right now but they demonstrate that they can print little hair tresses in different colors. Another cool thing is that they can actually print that here is part of a larger object. For example they could print a toy horse with a tail.

There’s a video on their website that shows all this along with a couple other examples that include the troll, a wizard, and inexplicably a finger with hair on it. How did THAT become the poster child for this technology? It makes no sense.

The hair can be put in the braided although I’m not sure if it can be curled.
Imagine how cool it would be to scan a lock of your own hair and then instantly print hair extensions in the exact colors to match.

iTunes Reviews

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