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Do silicones really melt on your hair? Episode 131

Cosmetic Questions

Do silicones melt on your hair?bad_hair_day_by_ohsnapstephanie-d54vu6z

Kylie asks…I am attempting to remove years of black hair dye and came across Scott Cornwall and his product Decolour. He makes a claim that if it doesn’t work likely cause is hair plasticised due to using heat over 220 deg cel. Quote “If you use heated styling products such as hot irons you can seal this build up onto the hair, gluing down the cuticle layer, trapping in the silicone and making it difficult to remove. Is there scientific merit to this? Can silicone boil, coat the hair shaft and remain there plasticised for ever?

To answer this, I spoke with one of the most top experts in the chemistry of silicones used for hair care. This person has over 100 patents on the subject, expertise in development and scale up of silicones for personal care. dozens if not hundreds of publications on the subject. Long story short – this guy knows what he’s talking about. Here’s what he had to say…

The difficulty in answering your question is it is very vague. Silicones cover a variety of compounds smog of which can polymerize, like bath tub sealer, and if applied to the hair could cost the hair, but I assume your audience has the sense not to put bath tub caulk on the hair. The silicones one finds in the personal care do not work that way. They are liquids not solids and do not polymerize on hair. As far as boiling, if they at temperatures that hair processing would experience, they do not polymerize. I suspect the high temperatures of hair treatment exists for a very short period of time. In short the thesis is without any known support.

You might find it interesting to know that nail polishes do work this way. The cross linking catalyst can even be heat or UV light

Is it safe to hack your foundation with food coloring?

Sea horseshoes asks…As a lot of folks with a yellow undertone to their complexion know, it can be really had to find foundation that matches your skin colour. I found quite a number of blog posts and youtube videos suggesting that mixing foundation with a few drops of food colouring would be a good way to alter it. The proportion would be very small; food colouring is quite strong, after all. But I was wondering if this is a practice? It seems to me like it should be, since food colouring is obviously food grade, but are there other risks I’m overlooking, since it’s being applied topically instead of ingested?

It depends on which colorants you’re talking about. As we mentioned in a previous show, some ingredients are safe to eat but can irritate your skin (e.g., cinnamon, peppermint.) The safest thing to do is check to see if the food colorant that you want to use is also approved for use in cosmetics. You can do that by checking the FDA’s approved colorant list.

Also keep in mind that just because something is safe for skin doesn’t mean it can be used all over. For example, there are lots of colorants that are approved for skin but not for use around the eye.

Finally, as you mentioned, food coloring is so concentrated so you’d have to do this very carefully. I would think this would be VERY hard to reproduce. Also, if you add too much of a water based food color to an oil based foundation it could affect the stability of the product.

How does “Hair Print” hair color work?

Zenity asks…Do you know about this product called Hairprint? It is a mystery to me how it “restores one’s natural color” as they claim.

Hairprint IS an interesting product. It comes from a small California based company called The Nature of Hair, LLC. Here’s how they describe the technology:

“Hairprint is not a dye. Think of it as a Hair Healing System that just happens to reverse gray hair to its natural color” “Hairprint creates a process whereby the natural pigment in your hair called eumelanin is recreated in the hair shaft.”

Wow! That sounds pretty incredible – a natural way to restore hair color without dyes. The product itself is relatively simple: it contains Water, baking soda, mucuna pruriens (which is the scientific name for Velvet bean extract), sodium carbonate, carbomer, hydrogen peroxide, diatomaceous earth, manganese gluconate, and ferrous gluconate.

So what’s the deal? To find out, I once again checked with an expert in the field, – this time a cosmetic chemist who’s specialized in hair dye chemistry for over 30 years. Here’s what he had to say…

As you probably know, the type of pigment that gives hair and skin their color is called melanin. There’s a related complex called “dopamine-melanin” which is thought to be the pigment in brain tissue (gray matter.) Dopamine-melanin can be made by oxidizing L-DOPA which is a precursor to dopamine. Got all that?

It turns out that “Velvet Bean” has a high concentration of L-DOPA. It looks like the hydrogen peroxide in the formula may oxidize the velvet bean which MIGHT create the dopamine-melanin which might add some color to the hair.

The ferrous gluconate and manganese gluconate would also cause some color (similar to the lead acetate used in Grecian Formula That’s by reacting with sulphur in hair to create a pigment.)

The bottom line, according to our expert, is that “this is just another way of putting color back into the hair. It must work to a degree, but the price is crazy and I’m sure it doesn’t work as well other products.”

How do rinse off products work?

Harper asks…How do in-shower self-tanners and lotions work? How do they sink in so quickly and not wash off. For example, St. Tropez has a new gradual self-tanner that you apply to wet skin, wait 3 minutes, then wash off; Jergens has a wet skin moisturizer. Are these less effective than other methods and if so, why?

In shower self-tanning products work the same was as leave on products – by using DHA to react with skin protein to give the tan color. Rinse off products like this may contain a higher level of DHA to compensate for the amount that’s rinsed off but in both cases the DHA is in contact with skin long enough to react and form the tan. A leave on product can use a lower level that is in contact with the skin longer, rinse off products can use a higher level that is in contact with skin for a shorter time. In this way, rinse off products can be used a couple of times to achieve a “gradual tan.”

In shower moisturizers work by suspending a water insoluble moisturizing agent (Jergens uses mineral oil.) When the lotion is applied to wet skin the emulsion “breaks” and the mineral oil is deposited on the skin. BTW, if you read the directions, you’ll see that the Jergens product is applied to wet skin but it’s NOT rinsed off. Some in shower moisturizers (like Olay) use a similar system that deposits moisturizers on the skin during the rinsing process.

As a general rule, rinse off products are never as effective at delivering active ingredients as leave on products but I’ve never seen data for these specific products.

Beauty Science News of the Week

The Honest Company may not be so honest


Boy the class action law firms are really active this year in the beauty business. There was the J&J suit, the Wen suit, the EOS lawsuit and now, ironically, the Honest Company is being sued for not being honest.

Here’s what happened.

A few months ago there was a report published in the Wall Street Journal that suggested a claim made by the Honest company was false. The company was claiming that their liquid laundry detergent, dish soap, and other cleaners were “free of sodium lauryl sulfate.” In the Wall Street Journal article, they had independent labs test the Honest detergent and found high levels of SLS.

The Honest company insists that are not misleading consumers. In fact, they claim that they don’t use SLS, but rather Sodium Cocoyl Sulfate.

It makes some sense to explain the difference here. Both SLS and Sodium Cocoyl Sulfate are detergents. It’s a little complicated but the important parts to consider are the Lauryl and the Cocoyl. Lauryl refers to the part of the molecule that has 12 carbon atoms. So, most of SLS is a detergent that has that 12 carbon atoms. Cocoyl refers to a blend of hydrocarbons with different lengths. It comes from coconut oil. So it will have some 10 carbon detergents, 14 carbon detergents, 16, etc. It just so happens that it mostly contains detergents with 12 carbon atoms. You know, what we chemists refer to as Lauryl.

The Honest company argues that they don’t put any Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in their products. However, they put a blended detergent that contains about 50% sodium laurel sulfate. That’s how it can show up in the test.

This is a classic case of greenwashing. Essentially, they are using sodium laurel sulfate but they don’t want to put it on their label so they use the less refined sodium cocoyl sulfate. They claim SLS free even though it isn’t. I don’t know how their chemists let this one go through. Or their legal department for that matter.

We’ll see what happens with this lawsuit.

It’s good to see that companies like this are being called out for their BS.

The dangers of mineral oil in lip products


Our friend Colin Sanders recently published an article on this very subject. He reviewed a paper from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science which addressed the issue of long chain hydrocarbons in lip products.

Remember that Mineral oil is really just long chains of carbon atoms surrounded by hydrogen atoms. It’s used in lip products to provide slip and shine and overall it’s quite safe for use in cosmetics as long as it’s properly purified.

But here’s the issue for lip products: Our bodies aren’t equipped to break down mineral oil like they are other fats and oils. That means that most mineral oil will just pass through our body (in fact it’s been used as a laxative) but some will be retained. And research on rats has shown that high intakes of mineral hydrocarbons may have some harmful health effects.

Of course, this is where it gets tricky – there’s no indication that it’s harmful in humans but better to be safe than sorry so the scientific body in the EU that looks into this sort of thing has published a new recommendation that says “Cosmetics Europe recommends to use only those mineral hydrocarbons in oral and lip care products, for which an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) has been identified.” In other words, only use mineral hydrocarbons for which there is clear data that it’s okay to ingest a certain amount.

As Colin points out, this is probably much ado about nothing BUT the good news is that there are plenty of vegetable oil alternatives to mineral oil so it shouldn’t be a problem for you to find mineral oil free products if you choose.

The tricky part is that these same concerns apply to waxes that are used in lip products and those are potentially harder to replace. (Things like microcrystalline wax, ozokerite, ceresine, and paraffins.)

Follow the link to read his original article where he provides references to the specific studies.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Eileen May 3, 2016, 12:34 pm

    Lots of interesting things in this post. Before I begin commenting on some of them, though, I’d like to say that I’ve read Dr. Youn’s autobiographical book “In Stiches” (love the title seeing as he is a surgeon 🙂 ) and his story is one that is both laugh-out-loud funny and poignant in equal measure. His tale is not one of self-aggrandizement rather it is an endearing story about finding one’s true calling in the face of all the ups and downs that make up life. As soon as I finish here, I’m going to Amazon to purchase his new book and, yes, I’ll use your link 😉 For those of you have seen him on TV, he is just as warm, personable, and down to earth in his writing.

    Decolour. I googled a bit about it and Scott Cornwall and it sounds like his “plasticized” concept is an excuse (in advance no less) as to why this might not work all that well. If Cornwall doesn’t have confidence in his product, I don’t think that bodes well. I’d rather just bite the bullet and go to a good salon if I needed color removal and then correction. Of course, this opinion is coming from someone who doesn’t color her hair! LOL

    The action being taken against Honest Company doesn’t surprise me because several months ago a friend of mine was talking about all the “greenwashing” going on in the industry and cited HC’s disingenuous use of SCS as a cover up for SLS. With so many people talking about HC’s misleading advertising, I think it was just a matter of time until the company was sued. That Honest Company is not honest has become a media joke. Having a celebrity founder who has used her status to promote the company’s products means that this case will get lots of exposure–all negative. What an embarrassment to Jessica Alba!

    Hairprint sounds like a new spin on an old concept for coloring hair. It’s designed to appeal to those people who shy away from the idea of dying their hair but are OK with the idea of “restoring” their hair color. Sounds more natural, doesn’t it? But, ” The bottom line, though, is that you are coloring the hair no matter what you call the process—“A rose by any other name . . .” LOL I’m sure it will appeal to people (men in particular) who might be confronted with an anti hair dye bias.

    Mineral oil harmful if ingested? Oh, say it ain’t so! (As she rushes to read the ingredients in all her favorite lip balms!) I hope Colin is right and that this is, indeed, much ado about nothing. I’ve probably ingested tons of mineral oil and various waxes in my lifetime because I have chrinically dry lips.

    Thanks for the interesting post, Brains. Lots of good questions and even better answers 🙂

    • Eileen May 3, 2016, 12:37 pm

      Please excuse the typos–arthritic fingers aren’t working real well this a.m.

  • Hanna May 6, 2016, 3:30 am

    Re food colour in foundation: Was hoping you would mention the problem I have when working with food colour when making cake decorations: even when really diluted, that stuff really stains. If you put amounts of food colour in fondant and knead it with your hands, you end up with stained hands very quickly. And it usually takes a while and lots of scrubbing to get it off.

    If your issue is a yellow undertone, do you really want to risk giving it an even worse semi-long lasting stain?

    Much easier to look for foundation amongst Asian skincare brands. A lot of their foundations suit a lot of yellow toned skin better. Korean makeup is everywhere these days and there are a lot of sites with free shipping and who offer samples.

    • Randy Schueller May 6, 2016, 7:03 am

      Excellent point!

    • amy May 6, 2016, 4:08 pm

      I used to put yellow food coloring in my face lotion to create kind of an anti-redness “toner”. it only takes a few drops for several ounces of lotion. you’re just changing the tone, not trying to make it really yellow. that level of dilution is not going to stain your skin. also, it didn’t irritate either (and I have really sensitive skin). I say go for it!

      • Eileen May 7, 2016, 12:15 pm

        Hi Everyone,
        This has become an interesting conversation. All food coloring is not created equal. There is a huge difference in potency between the paste coloring used by serious pastry chefs–both professional and home–and that liquid coloring commonly sold in markets. Consequently, I imagine both the type and the amount of coloring used would determine whether or not you got any significant staining. Since all food coloring does stain to one degree or another, though, I think it would behoove anyone interested in trying that “hack” to proceed with caution. Perhaps I’m just not into being my own mix master, but as Hanna said, nowadays it is quite easy to find a wide selection of yellow based foundations.

        • Randy Schueller May 7, 2016, 12:28 pm

          I didn’t realize there was a “regular” and “professional strength” food coloring.

          • Eileen May 8, 2016, 9:04 pm

            Yes, the paste coloring is more concentrated and can easily create very vibrant, bright, or deep colors.

  • Nancy S. Gray May 31, 2016, 11:14 am

    Loved all the great info. So what I need is products for:
    Loss of body skin tone after surgery.
    Eczema on scalp and body.
    Pilliaris on arms.

  • Ari September 19, 2016, 10:26 am

    For a page redesign the first thing I would recommend it’s insert “read more” tag (since it looks like it’s wordpress blog).
    I recently found this podcast and listen every audition from the newest, and the amount of scrolling is tremendous – even if I’m not interested in the post at the moment.
    Here you have a video how to do it.

    Love your podcast.
    Keep up the good work!