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How to test beauty products yourself – Episode 121

How to investigate a cosmetic productdetective-152085_960_720


I’m going to give you a headline that I saw on a beauty blog and then you tell me what you would expect to read about in the article with that headline.

“The Gloss investigates: does radiant foundation primer really make a difference?”

When I saw this I was intrigued because I wanted to see how another beauty blog went about investigating whether a product really works or not. This is something we do all the time but you don’t really see it a lot from other beauty blogs. So I read the article and essentially what it said was this:

The author had read about a certain foundation primer that was supposed to make your skin more radiant and she wanted to know if it really worked. So she applied the make up primer (which happened this happen to be a Laura Mercer Radiance Foundation Primer. Next she applied the rest of her regular make up and then she took a selfie. Then, and I presume this was on a different day based on the way the article was written, she applied the same make up while wearing the same clothes and took another selfie at the same time of day in front of the same background to try and make things as consistent as possible. After this test she concluded that she liked the product but if there was a difference with and without it , it was slight.

Ya got all that?

I looked at the pictures I couldn’t tell any difference at all except that the exposure was different or at least the white balance was different between the two pictures and when she had her hair down in the other she had her hair up what you think might of had the made the camera expose a little bit differently.

So this is fine but taking a single picture of one application of make up really isn’t much of an investigation. Now I’m not bringing this up just to bust on the Gloss. I think this is important to talk about for two reasons. First of all it’s kind of a heads up to our readers just because you see the headline like this doesn’t mean that’s really what you’re going to get.

Secondly and this is for the editors at the gloss or anyone else investigating beauty products, if you really do want to do an investigation and be a bit more thorough about it here are some tips on how you might have gone about this same exercise. The intent is not necessarily to make this a peer review level type of study but just to give them a couple of fairly easy to execute tips that would have made the test much stronger.

Blind the study

First of all she could have blinded the study. In this case she showed the first picture with the primer in the second picture without the primer and said can you guys tell a difference. You’ve biased the results right there because people know which is which. What she could’ve done is just shown the two pictures without identifying them and then asked which one do you think has the primer?

Control for photo variations

Of course that still leaves the problems of the photos themselves being intrinsically different. It’s very difficult to exactly duplicate lighting and exposure conditions. One solve for that would have been to do a half face test that would have controlled for the conditions of the photograph itself. In other words put the primer on half her face, leave it off the other half, take a picture, see if you can tell which is which.

The half face approach also takes some other variables out of the equation like if your skin is more flushed one day versus another because you washed or used another product, or the weather was different or whatever.

Gather multiple data points

If you want to make the investigation better still you could do this half face test on a number of different individuals so you’re taking your own skin type out of the equation by testing on multiple faces.

Remove application bias

And to go even one step further you could have had the same person apply make up on both sides of the faces to remove handedness as a variable. Let’s say you apply the primer on the right side when you’re right-handed your right hand may not apply to the left side of your face exactly in the same way, if that makes sense. Having a second person apply the products removes that variable.

So if you’re sincerely interested in finding out whether a product works or not these are some things you can do to be a bit more rigorous in your evaluation.

EOS lawsuit update


Remember a couple shows ago we talked about the Wen hair care brand who was facing a class action lawsuit because people claimed the product was making their hair fall out?

Well, it looks like this class-action lawsuit filing may be a trend in the beauty industry because there is another popular brand facing a class action lawsuit. This time it is against the new lip balm brand EOS. According to news reports the lawsuit was filed by people claiming that the product caused sever lip damage and breakouts.

Here in the US EOS lip balm is getting a flood of advertising and endorsements by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus. It has also been a hit with the kids with over 1.3 million followers on Instagram. EOS which stands for Evolution of Smooth has been around since 2009 but they are just starting to take off. And the complaints were starting to pile up before the lawsuit.

However, unlike the Wen brand, the EOS brand did what it could to quickly settle the lawsuit. According to the company, the fact that they settled the case demonstrates that their products are safe. They say the products are “hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, and made with the highest quality ingredients…”

The attorney who brought the lawsuit now says that “EOS has demonstrated through data that their lip balms are hypoallergenic…”

Beyond some undisclosed monetary award the company has also agreed to clarify it’s product labeling to help consumers determine if the balms are safe for them. I wonder how they are doing the?

It seems weird to me that the case was settled so quickly and amicably. It makes you wonder what was going on with these formulas. I mean, I don’t think the people were lying right?

I think what happened is that when companies make claims that their products are “hypoallergenic” consumers mistakenly believe that they won’t have a reaction. When they do, then they complain. It’s surprising that the consumers went to a lawsuit right away. I wonder if the company didn’t respond in a satisfactory way at first.

We were discussing this on my cosmetic science forum and looking at the ingredient list it is not surprising that some people had a reaction. Included in the formula is Limonene, Linalool, and peppermint oil. All of these are known allergens. It’s strange they would claim “hypoallergenic” and yet include known allergens in their products.

Oh well, looks like this was just a bump in the road for them. And for you consumers out there, just because a product claims “hypoallergenic” doesn’t mean you won’t have an allergic reaction to it.

Control your smart phone with your hair


New Scientist has an interesting article about “Hairware” do you know what this is? It’s a “switch” that allows you to control an app on your smart phone just by stroking your hair. Imagine by brushing your bangs off your forehead you could tell your phone to take a picture. Or…running your fingers through your hair a certain way could trigger a call to 911. It’s kind of cool.

Here’s how it works: Your hair can naturally store static electricity – that’s what causes fly aways. Katia Vega at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro figured out how to put this static electricity to good use. She designed a hair extension that contains metal-ized fibers and a hair clip that contains a sensor and bluetooth connection. When you manipulate your hair a certain way it changes the electrical conductivity which is picked up by the sensor and relayed via bluetooth to your phone which then interprets the signal as an action for an app.

It’s very James Bond like. And it’s not her first invention – in 2013 she came up with conductive eye make-up that can launch a drone just by blinking.  She sees this kind of technology as a safety feature for women who could secretly broadcast an emergency message when they feel threatened. Or it could be helpful to the intelligence community. Spies would be all over this stuff. And I haven’t figured it out yet but there must be some application for the porn industry. BTW, she’s working on a version for men that would be triggered by stroking their beard.

Of course, if you’re using a good conditioner that gets rid of static flyways I think it would deactivate the signal but I guess that’s a problem that some enterprising cosmetic chemist could try to solve. Maybe you should work with her on custom hair care products to work with Hairware.

New app lipstick color


Here’s another beauty app that is worth talking about. It seems like a big part of innovation in the beauty industry are new apps. Anyway, this app claims to allow you to create your own lipstick color.

The app is called Flawless Makeup and it is a color matching app that lets you take a picture of a color from a magazine or on your skin and tells you what brands would have a match.

Is sweat activated perfume a beauty breakthrough?


Let me read you a headline from one of my favorite cosmetic science websites, Cosmetics Design:

“Scientists develop first ever perfume that makes you smell better the more you sweat”

According to the article, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a unique new perfume delivery system which makes you smell nicer when you sweat. It does this because “more of its aroma will be released when it comes in contact with moisture.”

What a great idea! Can you imagine if you put this fragrance in an anti-perspirant? The more your body heats up the more you sweat the more fragrance is released. An anti-perspirant that actually works better the more you sweat would revolutionize the industry, right?

It would but it already exists.

Listen to this commercial for Degree APD from 1993: Play commercial  Degree claims that “your body heat turns it on.” Of course, as your body temperature rises you sweat more…the moisture from the sweat triggers the release of more fragrance which makes you smell better..

So as far back as 1993 we products claiming to make you smell better when you sweat.

BTW, these claims are not just advertising fluff you really can make products like antiperspirants and deodorants work better by using delayed release fragrance technology.

I was just amused that either the person writing the article or whoever at press release for Queens University was naive enough to think that this really is the “first ever” perfume technology that is moisture activated.

There are dozens if not hundreds of patents already on file about ways to delay the release of fragrance some of them rely on moisture, others rely on pressure release or a change in pH. But this is a VERY well researched area.

Maybe this technology from Queens University is a new twist on it perhaps they figured out some way to improve upon it but by no stretch of the imagination can you say they’ve developed the first ever product in the space.

The reason I bring this up is partly because the headline amused me but mostly because it’s important for our listeners to realize that if you are interested in fragrance that releases over time, especially in an anti-perspirant, there are products on the market that really can deliver this benefit that maybe you haven’t thought to try. So there’s an APD tip for you.

Is seltzer water bad for your teeth?


You know I’m a huge fan of soda pop and I used to drink a ton of the full sugary stuff. But then I switched to the no calorie option because I figured it was better. I hated diet sodas but after you drink them for a few months, you get used to them. Now, the full sugar ones are way too sweet for me.

Anyway, I did that for a few years but then switched to seltzer water because I figured it might be even more healthy. I mean, it was just water and carbon dioxide. Not that I think there is anything wrong with diet sodas, I just thought I’d switch to something even closer to water.

I think a lot of people are making this choice but it turns out, that seltzer option might not be the best idea for my teeth. According to a story in The Atlantic, seltzer water contains carbonic acid which can gradually wear away your tooth enamel. That makes your teeth weaker, more prone to staining, and even more temperature sensitive.

The dentist they interviewed says it’s even worse when you’re drinking a sparkling water that is flavored. He says that it is worse than even orange juice for your teeth and oj is considered very erosive to teeth.

So the recommendation is to reduce the amount of seltzer you are drinking to protect your teeth. It’s better to have just plain old water. Oh yeah, they also mention that you know when people put a dash of lemon juice in water? That is even worse for your teeth so don’t do that too often either.

These dentists are such kill joys.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • msexceptiontotherule February 26, 2016, 1:25 am

    Back in law school we of course did have many a discussion about class action lawsuits, and I know the lure of big money is more than enough for some lawyers to take the risk of putting their name on the filing documents. “Maverick/Cocky” types typically don’t hit their full stride until well into their lawyer careers, but they can spot a fledgling who is fundamentally one of their own and will mentor such individuals. The smarter ones have honed their ability to identify quickly and without wasting much if any of their firm’s resources, the lawsuits that will result in huge settlements – whether before or after trial. No matter how big the settlement, the clients in a class action don’t seem to realize how little they’re going to get after all the legal fees and then splitting what’s left amongst the other parties who comprised the class. Of course if they’d hired a lawyer separately to file on their behalf, most would have to hope the one they found willing to work on a contingency basis was halfway decent; those with enough money to pay a retainer would hope that the one they hired wouldn’t let a major corporation with a team of expensive cutthroat lawyers financially bleed them out until they gave up, and all of the clients would face the possibility of owing attorney fees while getting no settlement. But yeah, the class action approach looks like a thing within the beauty product world. Consumers who have honestly been harmed by a product deserve to be compensated relative to the damage caused, this doesn’t necessarily prevent people who feel entitled to get something because they *could* have been harmed as users of a product from joining up as a member of the class (this can happen when a company mass mails everyone who bought X within date Y and date Z and if they send a form back then they have agreed that they will accept whatever settlement is worked out thus receiving $XX in exchange for giving up any right to sue later on the same grounds) and hopefully the fraudulent and frivolous attempts are almost always stopped from proceeding thanks to various efforts to reform the laws regarding such. We’ll likely see many other major companies or even the same ones for different products facing these kinds of lawsuits (Personal injury and Prescription drug-related lawsuits are examples of previous areas where the numbers have followed the same trajectory and spike) until industry presses for changes in law to further limit their liability and government requires them to provide better labeling or cease using certain ingredients (sometimes both) in exchange for those law changes.

    I went into family law because I feel like I’m helping people get through some of the worst moments of their life and do my best to get them onto the path of returning to being “whole” again. My pro bono work is with victims of DV and personally meaningful.

  • Das March 18, 2016, 8:26 pm

    I heard a rumor that the EOS lip balm problem was because they did not put any preservatives in the ingredients. This led to products that were contaminated more quickly and presumably caused ‘a reaction’. No idea if that’s true.
    Secondly, I do recall the strong phenol smell from the one EOS balm that I bought several years ago. It certainly put me off, as I recalled chem class days. Why would I want that on my lips?

    • Das March 19, 2016, 12:19 am

      I should’ve been more specific. It’s the ‘medicated’ EOS balm that smells strongly of phenol.

    • Randy Schueller March 19, 2016, 7:50 am

      Das: An unpreserved product that became contaminated with bacteria or mold may be more likely to make a person sick or to produce a skin infection but it seems unlikely to produce the types of symptoms that we’ve read about.

  • Anamika July 1, 2016, 3:40 pm

    Great article Randy Schueller, truly appreciate your work. Agree with you, did not see any difference other than lighting effect. In BTW, I wanted to try to Lip Color App but link is broken. Just thought to let you know!

  • pinoy channel April 2, 2018, 2:09 am

    I’m in that phase right now. I’m just living through it

  • Bepanah colors tv April 15, 2018, 5:12 am

    Great article Randy Schueller, truly appreciate your work.

  • jackmart May 1, 2018, 11:49 am

    I believe you have remarked some very interesting points , thanks for the post.