Are super foods good for your skin? Episode 137

Are super foods effective beauty ingredients?superfoods

Jana asks…What are your thoughts on super foods in skin care? Ingredients like acacia, coconut, grapeseed oil, berries, green tea, avocado, turmeric and resveratrol.

What the heck IS a super food? There is no scientific or medical definition. Typically you’ll see them described like this: “superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.”

Jana’s question comes at a good time because I was just asked this same thing by a reporter from R29. She asked about things like Kale, Spirulina, and Chia seeds.

First of all, this isn’t a surprising trend. Edible ingredients are a common source of inspiration for cosmetic products and it usually takes a few years for ingredient to “catch on” in the food industry before they become popular in personal care. We’ve seen this with things like Pomegranate, Açaí Berries, Kiwi, and Dragon Fruit. Why does this happen? First these things just SOUND like they’d be good for you. They’re very tempting.

Second, the food industry certainly has more stringent research requirements than cosmetics so there’s a lot of data on nutritional value. That kind of data does make for a good story which is one of the reasons you see so many food ingredients make their way into cosmetics.

What do we think about this trend? I think there are 3 reasons why super foods in beauty products are more marketing than science:

  1. The goodies in superfoods may be nutritious but they aren’t necessarily good for skin. Just because something is good for you when you eat it doesn’t mean it will do anything when you slather it on your skin. For example, kale is rich in iron which does nothing for skin.
  2. Even if the superfood does contain an ingredient that benefits skin that ingredient may not be effective when applied topically. There has to be a proposed mechanism for how the ingredient would work when applied to skin AND it has to penetrate skin to get to where it needs to work. Green tea is a good example. The active component EGCG is water soluble so it is not well suited for skin penetration.
  3. Even if the superfood contains a beneficial ingredient and that ingredient works when applied topically, t’s STILL unlikely to provide any benefit because there’s just not enough their. Most products contain an extract of the super food and they use that exact at very low levels. Vitamin C really works for example but it needs to be used at levels around 10 to 20%. Super foods contain very small amounts.

If you want the benefits of a goodie that’s in a superfood then why wouldnt you just use that ingredients like vitamin C?

Can I mix VO5 hairdressing with hair gel?

Scott says…I’ve read really great reviews about VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing and I’m curious to try it. I was wondering, will I be able to mix a dab of it with hair gel? I want to be able to add the products to my hair when it’s still wet and then leave it to air dry and set properly, before I brush it out.

VO5 hairdressing is a classic hair care product and one that we had the honor of working on for several years. It consists of a mix of oily materials like petrolatum, mineral oil, isopropyl myristate and some waxes. (Back in the day is used to contain lanolin too.) It’s good for giving hair shine and a little bit of hold. Hair gels, on the other hand, are typically water based. They include a thickening agent and some kind of hold or conditioning polymer.

Since the hairdressing is oil based and the gel is water based the two won’t mix very well. That means you won’t be able to pre-mix a bunch of it together. (Even if you could pre-mix it, that’s not a good idea because the preservative system could be compromised.) If you just want to mix a little dab together in the palm of you hand, that’s less of a problem. It won’t hurt your hair but it may have kind of a funky consistency and it may not dry properly. But if you want to experiment, go for it!

Should I use soap or shower gel – part 2

Back in Episode 134 we answered a question from Lil’ Tabby who wanted to know whether it was better to wash with shower gel or soap. We pointed out that a good alternative could be syndet bars (which stands for synthetic detergent bars) which are very popular in the US.

But our British buddy Colin Sanders from Colin’s Beauty Pages has a bit of a rebuttal to our answer. Listen to the show to hear him explain in his own words but I’ll summarize his key points:

  1. Syndet bars are not very popular in Europe.
  2. European soaps are richer because they’re based on palm oil.
  3. Cleansers always involve a tradeoff between mildness, cleansing power, and foaming.

How does semi permanent eyebrow makeup work?

Yimmy from Thailand says…My question is about the semi-permanent makeup trend that is buzzing in Asia right now.  There’s an eyebrow tattoo gel which you apply thick gel layers on your brows for a night & peel them off in the morning & poof! You get eyebrows that last for a week. Are such products safe & how do they work? 

I looked at the Etude House product you asked about and I was surprised to see that it is in fact a very clever formulation. Instead of relying on standard eyebrow colorants (which would wash off) this product uses DHA the same active used in sunless tanners. Essentially you’re tanning (or more accurately, staining) the skin underneath your eye brows. No wonder it lasts for a week!

As long as you don’t get the product in your eyes it should be safe. We’ll have to wait and see if it catches on as a trend.

Ingredients: Water, Alcohol, Butylene glycol, POLYVINYL ALCOHOL, Dihydroxyacetone, PVP, 1,2-hexanediol, Yellow 6 (CI 15985), POLYSORBATE 80, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, RED 33 (CI 17200), Citric Acid, Blue 1 (CI 42090), Disodium EDTA, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Extract, Lilium Tigrinum Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract

Beauty Science News

Consumers sue bogus over anti-aging serum


Reviva Labs is in trouble over their “Stem Cell Booster Serum with Swiss Apple Stem Cells.” It turns out that they’ve been claiming that the product uses apple stem cells to prevent aging. Sounds like a nice natural alternative to all those nasty synthetic chemicals. There are just two problems with that, according to the article I read…”there is no scientific evidence that plant stem cells can be used on humans” and the product is a “hoax which is being sold illegally as a cosmetic instead of as an unapproved drug.” Details, details.

To make a long story short, they company is being sued for $5M in a class action law suit. It’s one thing when companies are sued for safety reasons but I love the idea of them being held accountable for misleading claims.

Old Spice deodorant irritates consumers


Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

Nikkypoo says..This podcast is such a great combination of entertaining and educational. There are so many harmful myths going around social media today and these guys do a great job at addressing these myths from a scientific perspective.

Bestinbreed says…Love you snarky guys! As a professional pet groomer I have learned so much about not only what I use on myself but what I use on dogs as well. Thanks guys!

Image credit: