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Can you exfoliate your feet with Listerene and vinegar? Episode 116

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Randy was interviewed on a radio program called “American Made Beauty” which is run by Patty Schmucker, who’s been in the industry for over 35 years. She interviews different experts to give a behinds the scenes look at the beauty biz. And she wanted to hear all about the Beauty Brains! It was fun and here’s a link to the Beauty Brains on American Made Beauty where you can listen to the show for yourself.  We talked about…

  • What is Beauty Brains and why is our message important
  • Funniest product claims and wacky ingredients
  • Upcoming innovation for cosmetic chemistry
  • We even talked about the 3 Kligman questions which we use to determine if anti-aging ingredients really work

Do salon products use higher quality ingredients?7981947_873602b326

Becky asks…I was once told that there is difference in quality level in the ingredients used in salon brands vs grocery store brands. Is this true?

This question comes up a lot – I think the myth that salon brands use better quality ingredients was probably started by someone selling salon products. We used to just hear that “salon products use better ingredients” but people have gotten savvier about reading the back of the package, and now they realize that the ingredient lists for salon products look a lot like the ingredient lists for mass market brands.

So the myth has evolved to be essentially what Becky is saying…the ingredients may LOOK the same but the salon products actually use a higher quality version of the ingredient that happens to look the same on on the label. This isn’t true either.

How do we know that? Because we spend the last 20+ years buying hair care ingredients from the biggest suppliers in the beauty industry for both grocery store and salon brands. They do NOT have a different level of quality for salon ingredients. That’s not to say that all products are alike – you can use BETTER ingredients. But the notion that the ingredient list can look identical and the only difference lies in the “quality level” of the ingredient itself is simply not true.

If you think about it, even the ice cream example that Becky used doesn’t completely hold up. It’s true that “Vanilla extract” does have different quality levels depending on whether it’s made directly from vanilla beans or from vanilla flavoring. But the ingredient list for cheap ice milk would list “milk” whereas the list for expensive Haagan-Dazs ice cream would show “cream.” And of course, “eggs” would be the same across both products. So even in food products the ingredient lists could look different.

Can you exfoliate your feet with Listerene and vinegar?

Liz asks…DIY recipes on Pinterest say to mix equal parts Listerine, vinegar, and water, and use it as a foot soak. After 15 minutes, you can wipe your feet with a washcloth to remove calluses. The crazy part is it actually works! I tried it out without getting any irritation (and am really hoping it’s not bad for me!). I’d love to get your take on the DIY, including:
1. Why does the mixture help remove calluses, and which ingredients make this recipe work?
2. Why do you need both Listerine and vinegar? Would one remove calluses on it’s own, or does the combination do something special?
3. Are there potential negative side effects, or any reason not to try this out?

To be honest I’m surprised this works because the active ingredients are present at such low concentrations but here’s how it theoretically COULD work: 
Vinegar is made of diluted acetic acid (about 3 to 9%). Concentrated acetic acid is a known keralytic agent (in other words, it can loosen dead skin cells.) 
Listerine contains benzoic acid which, at high enough concentrations, is also a keralytic agent. However, it’s used in mouthwash at very low levels to help control pH. Listerine also contains alcohol which could help these ingredients penetrate skin.

So theoretically there’s a mechanism but again I’m surprised if it really provides much benefit.
Again why would you use a hack like this when proven products are available for reasonable cost that are optimized to work.

What does the “slash” mean in a cosmetic ingredient list?

Pilgrim asks…When an ingredient is listed with forward slashes, does that mean it was whichever ingredient was available for the manufacturer at the time? For example, “aqua/water/eau” is just H2O and not one choice of the three. But an ingredient what about “styrene/acrylates/ammonium methacrylate copolymer?” Would those be 3 different options and the manufacturer could use whichever version was available? Or, like H2O, is it just different name for the same compound? Or, if it is a slightly different ingredient, would it affect the end result product differently?

It’s confusing because the slash is used for different reasons. In the case of aqua/water/eau the slash means the ingredient name is aqua or water or eau. In the case of styrene/acrylates/ammonium methacrylate copolymer the slash means the copolymer is made from styrene and acrylates and ammonium methacrylate.

iTunes reviews

Samantha from scotland says…I’ve saved so much money and become so much more informed thanks to this podcast. The hosts are endearing, smart, and nerdy- a perfect combination!

Unitedstates35 says…Love your podcast and I look forward to every new episode that comes available. I must say that I have to fast forward a lot to get to hear you talk about the show’s title 😉 ( sorry… I do love your show but …) however once you get to the information and you get to talk about the title of the podcast, it’s amazing and informative. PS. Can you please talk about this trend of dry oils and facial oils in general.

Siouxzilla says…I’m so glad I found this podcast. I have worked in the beauty industry for several years and have always been curious about the inner workings of products. I am also cynical when it comes to product claims. Thank you for keeping it real! P. S. My question would be why is animal testing still being done in this day and age? Why doesn’t every company use in vitro testing?

Is it dangerous to use 20 year old makeup?

Margaux asks…Is it okay to use 20 year old makeup?

But here’s the deal – you’re not doing any “secret harm” to yourself by using old makeup. It’s not like years from now you’ll notice that you have more wrinkles or something because you used expired cosmetics.

BUT the problem is that you do use an old product that has a compromised preservative system, and that product has become contaminated with bacteria, then you could open yourself to infections of your skin, your eyes, or even your gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes that kind of contamination will be obvious because of appearance or odor but other times it’s not.

This depends on the product type – she mentioned lip gloss. That’s an issue. Mascara is certainly problematic for eye infections. Powdered products may be less of an issue.

Why do facial products come in such small bottles?

Anita Porpoise… I was curious if there was any chemical reason for why facial moisturizers come in small (small being anything < 6oz) bottles. My boyfriend wants to start using a facial moisturizer with an SPF, but believes that the small bottle with the high price is all marketing and profit driven. He’s seen reasonably priced facial lotions that get expensive when SPF is added. I realize that this might be more of a marketing question, but any insight you can offer would be helpful.

The answer is part science and part marketing. 
Some anti-aging ingredients (like UV absorbers, retinol, and niacinamide to name a few) are expensive. Selling lotions with these ingredients in small bottles helps keep the cost down.

On the other hand, there’s lots of money to be made in an industry where many people believe that “more expensive is better.” If a special anti-aging potion is sold in a small, yet expensive, bottle it MUST be great, right? (The answer is not necessarily.)

Tell your boyfriend he needs to…

Identify what benefits he’s looking for. (Just moisturizing? Moisturizing with SFP? Or is he trying to get rid of existing wrinkles.?)
  2. Look for ingredients that are proven to deliver those benefits.
  3. Shop for products from reputable companies which contain those ingredients until he finds one he likes and can afford.

How does John Frieda Go Blonder shampoo lighten hair?

Emma says..While shopping the hair care aisle I was intrigued by the new John Frieda Sheer Blonde Go Blonder line. The shampoo and conditioner bottles claim to make hair two shades lighter. At first I assumed that the shampoo and conditioner would be like a ‘bleach wash’ (a hairstylist technique of lightening hair by mixing powder bleach and developer with shampoo). But unlike other comparable products that gradually lighten hair (Sun In or L’Oreal Sunkiss Casting Jelly) the shampoo and conditioner contain neither ammonia nor hydrogen peroxide. How can John Frieda make such claims without including bleaching agents?

In her email, Emma gave us ingredient lists for all the products she asked about (see below.) She even went so far as to speculate what bleaching agents the product COULD be using to make it really effective. She noted that none of the products contained “standard” bleaching agents like peroxide based (hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate, sodium perborate), chlorine based (sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide), or reducing (sodium hydrosulfite). So she REALLY did her homework and she was genuinely puzzled how the product could claim to lighten hair. Let’s take a closer look at that claim, shall we? You’ll see that this is deceptively simple.

Here are the claims from the bottle and/or the website

Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Shampoo and Conditioner gradually lighten blonde hair for a year-round sun-kissed look while restoring moisture and healthy softness.
  • The formula, containing a natural Lightening Complex, gently reduces the color pigments in the hair
Ammonia and peroxide-free
  • The claim on the front of the shampoo bottle says “Now 2 shades lighter*”

The “*” points you to the back of the bottle where they inform you that you have to use the shampoo, conditioner and lightening spray to achieve those results. And guess what? The lightening spray contains HYDROGEN PEROXIDE. 
It seems more than a little shifty to put that claim on the shampoo bottle (which tells you that the shampoo is ammonia and peroxide free!) and then make you use a peroxide containing product to get the promised results. But that’s how it works!


Go Blonder Lightening Shampoo

Go Blonder Lightening Conditioner

Go Blonder Lightening Spray

Water, Hydrogen Peroxide, Polysorbate 20, Disodium Phosphate, Phosphoric Acid, Fragrance, VP, VA Copolymer, Polyquaternium-47, Polyquaternium-55, Propylene Glycol, Ext. Violet 2, Vitis Vinifera Juice Extract (Grape), Chamomilla Recuitita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract (Lemon), Helianthus Annuus Seed Extract (Sunflower), Glycerin, Alcohol, Vitis Vinifera Seed Extract (Grape), Tocopherol, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil

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  • Little Tabby January 19, 2016, 1:11 am

    Hi Beauty Brains – about the 20 year old makeup. Yes I admit to having used that in the past, the blushers and pressed powders were fine and I didn’t react to them and I kept the products and makeup brushes very clean. Twenty-five year old lipsticks however did cause allergic reactions. One powdered eye shadow(the hypoallergenic Innoxa brand) did give me a nasty allergic reaction – it was 29 years old. Despite this reaction being very unpleasant and painful, my Optometrist said it was not dangerous (the internet has sites that tell people that they will go blind if they don’t throw our their eye shadow after 6 months to 2 years). The only thing I did notice was that the eye shadow was getting packed down a bit – I gently used to clean it with a bread knife (no serrated edges). I now try not to have too many makeup products and try to use them all regularly, preferably within the suggested ‘use up times’ but it they appear OK (no strange smell, taste for lip products, product performance not compromised) then I use them a bit longer (but I keep a eye out for anything strange). Exception is lip gloss – which I notice starts going off at the 1 year mark. Nail polish is only kept for maximum of 5 years (I threw out all of my vintage nail polish from 22 or so years ago – the performance had suffered and it was difficult to keep the colour mixed properly). I don’t use mascara – too scared as I had used expired mascara as a teenager. Also, I store everything in dark drawers and try not to hoard. Hope this helps.

    • Randy Schueller January 19, 2016, 8:13 am

      I’m glad your makeup hoarding worked out for you! Not everyone is lucky enough to have products last that long.

      • Little Tabby January 23, 2016, 5:34 am

        Hi Randy, part of this hoarding was that I was an Avon rep as a teenager – like a kid in a candy store LOL. Thoroughly enjoyed this experience but nowadays I try to not hoard so much stuff and try to use it up before it expires.

    • KatyL January 24, 2016, 12:15 pm

      I have makeup going on the 20+ year mark. I’ve had no issues at all using blush or other powders. I’d probably be careful using anything around my eyes that had been open and was that old (mascara that old is probably dust!), or eye pencils. I do have lipstick that’s that even older, including the FIRST lipstick I ever got. If I had a thing about Barbie pink now, I could use it with no ill effects – at least not physical. Embarrassment, though, is another question!

      • Eileen January 25, 2016, 10:34 am

        LOL! No, we might not die of some terrible and exotic infection, but we’d surely die of embarrassment 😉 An excellent reason to consign old make up to the “fond memory” bin and move on to something new.

  • msexceptiontotherule January 19, 2016, 3:02 am

    I have what feels like a never-ending supply of mascara deluxe samples (my mom and aunt have designated me the person they offload whatever makeup they get as gifts with purchase that they have no use for, thus my mascara stockpile of great abundance). I haven’t had to buy a full sized tube of mascara in years, and I don’t worry about possible contamination because they’re all sealed with plastic except for whichever one I open to use. The worst I’ve encountered is slightly dried out mascara which I throw away rather than use; seeing as I have a ton I don’t fret over tossing one in the trash. I’d recommend putting together a vanity/makeup area that encourages people to figure out a detailed, well-organized order – a label maker is quite handy for this,

    • Randy Schueller January 19, 2016, 8:14 am

      I love your organizational skills!

      • msexceptiontotherule January 20, 2016, 5:09 am

        If organization is your thing, you should see the masterpiece that is my closet! 😉 I put the shelving system in myself, and it’s still up 10 years later with no signs of a future incident involving shelves dumping their contents before crashing down onto me or the floor.

        I have a lot of makeup, and know that without having it all organized for easy selection (category, date of purchase, and separate from the hair stuff like products and tools) I’ll forget I own certain things or not want to dig through, which ultimately winds up wasting money. I don’t have enough money to be wasting any of it.

  • Eileen January 19, 2016, 12:10 pm

    I’m always curious as to why anyone would want to wear makeup that is decades old. Makeup is subject to trends and new developments in formulation, color, finish, texture, level of pigmentation, etc. I can understand a hobbiest collecting vintage makeup, hanging onto something that has sentimental value (i.e. makeup you wore on your wedding day), and beauty bloggers keeping old products for reference and comparison swatches, but why would anyone else want to do that? Economics? An abundance of good to excellent makeup is available at all different price points from the super cheap to the ridiculously expensive. A favorite color? With such a huge variety of makeup brands, it is very easy to find dupes. I guess I just don’t get it.

    Personally, I toss mascara every 2-3 months (I had a terrible eye infection that was traced back to a contaminated mascara); cream and gel type products every year or sooner if they dry out, change color or smell off; lipstick and lipgloss every 6-12 months, and powder products every two years. I also always start with clean hands and clean brushes. I know plenty of women who hang onto makeup longer than I do, but my personal experience tells me that’s taking an unnecessary risk. The scar on my lower waterline that was a result of the eye infection I had is a constant reminder to be safe rather than sorry.

    Are two products, similar or perhaps identical in ingredients, worth a substantial price difference? As consumers we have certainly become more aware of ingredient lists, but many times we don’t really understand what we’re reading. Is an ingredient being used in the processing of another ingredient or is it being used as a stand alone? Which ingredients go by different names? Which ingredients can be successfully used together in a product? Which ingredients have no value at all? The list of questions just goes on and on and savvy marketers everywhere know this. They capitalize on the fact that, when it comes to cosmetic chemistry, the average consumer is pretty much in the dark. And, the fact that the percentage of the ingredients doesn’t have to be listed further adds to the confusion. Consequently, a lot of advertising hype comes into play in order to differentiate one product from another and justify the difference in cost.

    In many formulations, the amount of certain ingredients is standardized. There are, however, some variables that can legitimately influence the cost to the consumer. Let’s say a consumer is interested in purchasing a product containing niacinamide. One product might contain less than 1%; another product might contain 5%. Unfortunately, unless the percentage is listed, all the average consumer can do is look for its place on the ingredient list, hope to find it towards the top of the list, and then decide whether or not it is worth paying a bit extra for it. That’s a terribly simplistic example, but hopefully you get the idea. The average consumer has little to no background and/or interest (Sorry guys! 😉 ) in cosmetic chemistry and so the consumer often relies on marketing claims and product reviews–which may or may not be legit. It is what it is. That’s why we value blogs like The Beauty Brains. You guys sort us out and keep us on the straight and narrow! LOL

  • Jami January 20, 2016, 9:41 pm

    Too bad the vinegar/Listerine thing sounds too good to be true. I haven’t even found an actual callus removing cream that works for me. And I’ve tried a bunch. I even did it up like they do in the pedicurists – soaking, then applying, then putting my feet into plastic bags – longer amounts each time because the first few didn’t work. Got so frustrated I spent an hour in the bags. Not a single callus came off.

    I even tried something I saw on tv that they said some of the spas were doing – I soaked my feet in orange juice. Not store bought. We have orange trees in our backyard, so I soaked my feet in fresh squeezed. The citric acid did nothing.

    Same goes for rubbing lemon halves on my elbows to exfoliate the dead skin there. Didn’t do a darn bit of good.

    So store bought stuff doesn’t work. Homemade recipes don’t work. I don’t know what to do because I can’t afford to get pedicures all the time.

    • Dafna January 20, 2016, 11:18 pm

      Have you tried BHAs or AHAs to exfoliate? It would need to be a high concentration but you could get those at DIY skin care websites. My dad got a wart -which was basically a callus- removed with salicylic acid.

      • Frances January 21, 2016, 12:45 am

        You can buy excellent callus and dry skin removers using acids that work as a peel over a few days. I have used Holika Holika Baby Silky Foot, but there are a few brands that do them. It pays to get Korean products rather than Western as the few Western versions I’ve seen have a huge markup and less effective acid levels.

      • Jami January 28, 2016, 7:22 pm

        I wouldn’t know where to get the Korean stuff. I’ve tried pretty much everything I can get my hands on in the US.

        You know what used to work? Pretty Feet & Hands. But they must’ve changed the formula since the 1980s. Used to be you rub that stuff on and the skin started to roll off on it’s own. Not anymore.

        • Markus Kobi February 11, 2016, 1:23 pm

          Dr Scholls also makes this manual ‘rubbing’ exfoliant. I found it at Target a year ago and I didn’t really understand how it worked, but you can still find it online if you haven’t tried it. Have you gone to a beauty supply that sells to the public and tried a callus removal gel? I get one at Sally Beauty Supply that works amazing in just a few minutes. You still have to buff off calluses and dead skin with a pumice block, but if you wrapped your feet in plastic bags for an hour with this stuff- it would literally eat chemical holes in your feet! Unfortunately- I speak from experience…(and I couldn’t walk for a week!) so if you haven’t tried these gel products before- start sparingly and work on the roughest problem areas first until you get a feel for how they work. Also avoid temptation to apply them and take the buffing process into the shower. Once they are applied they are extremely slippery and it’s very dangerous to step into a wet shower before all of the product and callused skin has been removed completely.


    • Marie January 21, 2016, 7:43 am

      Those ‘Baby Feet’ booties (Amazon) are the best. Just follow the directions and all the dead skin comes off and after 10 days it’s like having baby feet.

    • Lynne January 21, 2016, 12:54 pm

      I don’t think there’s anything that really works. It’s just something you have to deal with. There’s not a cute for everything…

    • KatyL January 24, 2016, 12:19 pm

      You should try some of the korean foot exfoliators. You have to get the ones for the Korean market (I’ve tried knockoffs made for the American market, and they’re wimpy in comparison.) It’ll remove anything.

  • Michelle January 21, 2016, 2:01 pm

    I’ve used the Listerine/vinegar hack for years, and it works for me. It does soften the skin and make it easier to use a foot file. Also great for cleaning up cuticles as the dead skin rubs right off. However, I noticed that the foot bath recipes circulating now use equal parts of water, Listerine and vinegar. The old recipe I use just has equal parts Listerine (the original kind) and white vinegar and says to soak 15-20 minutes.

    I tried the Japanese Baby Feet booties at Amazon as well. They worked really well, but I hated all the peeling skin for days.

    • sheryl January 21, 2016, 7:39 pm

      I used baking soda – mixed into a paste with a little castor oil and lemon – and then just work the paste into those callused areas for about 3-5 minutes , rinse well, slather in moisture ( aquaphor ) and cover in socks before bed twice a week. It really helps my trouble spots, plus its inexpensive and I don’t worry about the dangers using something that I could easily over exfoliate with or chemically burn myself with , etc. Aquaphor is kind of a life saver- I know its petroleum based but I have not found any other product that helps restore dehydrated skin like this one. Good luck.

      • Eileen January 22, 2016, 12:06 pm

        Hi Sheryl,

        No need to apologize for petrolatum in Aquaphor. Petrolatum is a skin protectant and is absolutely nothing like the petroleum products you see at JiffyLube! I don’t know how these alarmist notions get started and why they survive as long as they do on the Internet. Perhaps someone used axel grease on their face and broke out! LOL

        Seriously, there are so many inaccuracies and outright falsehoods that are perpetuated on the Internet. For example, I once read a self-proclaimed skin care expert say that hyaluronic acid should be banned because it was toxic and used in automobiles. Say what?!? Hyaluronic acid is used in skincare for its moisturizing effect and also has many medical applications such as the treatment of burns, cataracts, and osteoarthritis! The “expert” obviously didn’t know the difference between HYALURONIC acid used in skincare and HYDRAULIC fluids used in machinery. Sheesh! What an “expert”!

        No, never apologize for the petrolatum in Aquaphor. It’s a great multi-purpose product that does so much so well.

  • Sonja Hopeful January 21, 2016, 9:26 pm

    I’ve finally gotten caught up on all your podcast episodes! It was great while it lasted but now I have to wait for the next one to come out, which is sad. I may need to start re-listening to them all.

  • Jill Hetherington April 16, 2017, 12:06 am

    How does the Lightening spray work differently compared to the Shower in treatment for lightening hair?

    • Randy Schueller April 16, 2017, 5:57 pm

      The leave in spray has peroxide. I don’t think the shower treatment does but I haven’t seen the ingredient list. If you can post the ingredient list I’d be happy to review it.

  • Jill Hetherington April 19, 2017, 9:02 pm

    Thank You! I appreciate it.