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Can Baby Foot really make your feet smoother? Episode 152

How does baby foot work?

Leslie asks…Can you please explain how Babyfoot works and if it is truly safe to use. I have used it and my feet did peel but I really don’t understand how it works. 149580816_a956e46245_b

In case our listeners aren’t familiar with this product, it’s a special type of exfoliator designed just for your feet. For $25 you get two “booties” lined with a gel product.

Here’s what the website says about it:

Our scientifically formulated product contains 17 types of natural extracts…
The principal ingredient …is fruit acid which…penetrates into the layers of dead skin cells and breaks down the desmosomes which hold the layers together.
…skin is undamaged but peels easily away from the fresh layer beneath. After peeling, your feet are reborn just like a baby’s foot.
Note: Baby Foot must only be used on the feet.

As you can see from the website they’re very proud of their 17 natural extracts. But, surprise, the natural extracts have very little to do with how the product actually functions.

Yea, this is a great product in the sense that will do exactly what it says it will. However it doesn’t work because of the reason they tell you. If you look at the first two or three ingredients you’ll see our old friends glycolic acid and lactic acid. These are both alphahydroxy acids which as most of you probably already know are very good at exfoliating.

AHA’s work by loosening the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together and as you strip away that upper layer of dead skin the remaining skin will be very soft and supple. These are sometimes called “Fruit acids” but fruit extracts are not the source of these fruit acids. Fruit acids only occur naturally at very low levels to make commercial quantities of lactic acid, for example, you have to use a large scale fermentation process.

That involves giant vats of sucrose and glucose mixed with lime or chalk. The mixture is fermented in a fermenter until crude calcium lactate is formed. The gypsum is stripped way which leaves crude lactic acid, that in turn is purified and concentrated into the material used in this product. I could go on but I’m already boring myself.

But just because this is based on common alphahydroxy acid’s don’t think you can use your normal exfoliating face lotion on your feet. This is a case where buying a special product probably is justified.

That’s because there are two bits of “magic” that make this product work. First, it’s designed only for your feet which tends to have a thicker layer of callused skin so they have formulated the product with higher levels of the alpha hydroxy acids. You could use your regular exfoliating facial on your face and use that on your feet and it may not work very well but it won’t hurt you. On the other hand if you use baby foot on your face it could leave you with a chemical burn.

The second bit of magic is the fact that it has an occlusive application method. That’s the little plastic sock that you wear after applying the product. This application method accomplishes two things it keeps the solution from evaporating so it stays more active against your skin and it prevents it from being rubbed off presumably while you walked around or put on regular socks or whatever.

So the higher concentration and the occlusive application really boost the efficacy and help this product deliver the softness of the baby’s foot. Great. It works. But she also asked if it’s safe.

The answer is “mostly yes.” Alphahydroxy acid’s are used in thousands of products with very little problem. However because this is a higher concentration if you were to have more sensitive skin it is conceivable that you could get a chemical burn on your foot from this. And apparently that indeed has happened to some people.

According to dermatologist Sandra Bendeck, who works with One Medical Group, (http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/baby-foot-safe/) , it’s a bit concerning that the company doesn’t disclose the level of fruit acids. AHAs are typically used at up to 10% but we don’t know HOW much are in this product. She also pointed out that some of the reviews for the product mention side effects like “bleeding, cellulitis, and having to go to the ER after using it.” She also says that diabetics, who can have issues with nerve endings in their feet, should not use it.

In addition, according to the Baby Foot website, the product should be avoided “during pregnancy, lactation, or menstruation because during this period the skin becomes more sensitive due to the disruption of normal hormone balance.”

Finally, the website also mentions that the product also contains salicylic acid which is classified as a category C drug by the FDA and that animal studies have linked salicylic acid and birth defects.

So the bottom line is that the product does use technology which is very effective although it’s rather expensive for what you get. The ingredients it’s based on are commonly used in the beauty industry but the concentration and application method MAY cause problems for some people.

Active ingredients: Water, Alcohol, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Arginine, Butylene Glycol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glucose, O-Cymen-5-Ol, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Nasturtium Officinale Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Saponaria Officinalis Leaf Extract, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Clematis Vitalba Leaf Extract, Spiraea Ulmaria Flower Extract, Equisetum Arvense Extract, Fucus Vesiculosus Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Salicylic Acid

How do makeup setting sprays work?

Roni says…I have a question about makeup setting sprays. I have tried doing half face test and the half with the setting spray wears longs, the makeup looks better at the end of they day. What is making the product do that? Why does it make it last longer?

The name “setting spray” seems a little inaccurate to me. It implies you’re doing something to the make up to “cure” it or anchor it to the skin. In reality what you’re doing is putting a thin film on top of the make up that helps it remain undisturbed.

That’s right. Let’s take a look at a couple of products starting with the one emailed us about: Wet N Wild Picture Perfect Setting Spray. (Not Wet And Wild.) The main ingredient is PVP which is a polymer that is a film former. PVP stands for…

Poly Vinyl Pyrrolidone. It’s used in in products like mousses and gels to form a film on hair that holds it in place. By the same principle PVP can form a film over your make up that prevents it from smearing or smudging as easily. The disadvantage to PVP is that it’s hygroscopic which means that it can absorb moisture from the air which can make it sticky.

In this particular product the PVP is dissolved in a mixture of water and alcohol, which of course will evaporate. The product also contains propylene glycol to plasticize the film and keep it from cracking.

So how do you use this stuff? The website instructs you to…”Hold the setting spray 8 inches away from your face and mist in a criss-cross pattern.”

And finally, what about the cost? This Wet N Wild product is relatively inexpensive at $5.00 for 1.5 ounces or about $3.30 per ounce.

Next let’s take a look at the Matt Finish Setting Spray from NYX COSMETICS.

This one is based on VP/VA copolymer. You can think of VP/VA copolymer as the next generation of PVP. It provides similar benefits but it is less likely to absorb moisture. That means in hair sprays it provides superior hold. I assume this property would make it better for setting makeup as well.

The instructions are to “Hold 8-10 inches from face, close eyes, and spray in downward motion 3 times to cover entire face.” So NOT criss cross but downward motion. Got it.

It sells for $8 for 2 oz or $4.00 an ounce so it’s slightly more expensive but it could very well be worth it.

Finally, let’s look at an example that uses different technology: URBAN DECAY COSMETICS All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray

It’s different it uses a hybrid approach. In addition to PVP for film forming it also contains a couple of fluorinated ethers and a couple of additional polymers. In theory, this kind of system could provide a much more durable, waterproof makeup shield.

The website describes it as a “groundbreaking, clinically tested formula… [that] features patented Temperature Control Technology…. actually lowers the temperature of your makeup to keep foundation, eyeshadow, blush and concealer in place – even in hot and humid or cold and windy conditions.

I don’t know about temperature control but it certainly could work better in high humidity.

I was kind of blown away because the website describes a 7-day clinical study the conducted on this product. They found that:
“78% of participants said All Nighter helped their makeup last for 16 hours.
Over 80% said their makeup not only looked better, it stayed on better (even in the T-zone) without settling into fine lines.
88% or more said All Nighter was the best product to help their makeup last.”

And just for the record, you’re instructed to “mist face 2-4 times, in an “X” and “T” formation.” Not criss cross. Not downward motion. Just x and T. Got it?

But here’s the catch: The product sells for $30 for 4 oz or about $7.50 per ounce. That’s more than twice as much as the Wet N Wild product. Is it twice as good?

If you’re really curious I would recommend getting a sample or a tester of the more expensive product at Sephora or someplace and doing your half face test again with the more expensive product versus the cheaper product and see if you see a difference.

Matt Finish Setting Spray from NYX COSMETICS Ingredients
Water / Aqua / Eau, Alcohol, VP / VA Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Niacinamide, Sodium Salicylate, Plantago Lanceolata Leaf Extract, Mahonia Aquifolium Flower / Leaf / Stem Extract, Phenoxyethanol.

Wet N Wild Ingredients
Water/Eau, Alcohol Denat., PVP, Propanediol, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Dimethicone PEG/PPG-12/4 Phosphate, Glycereth-5 Lactate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Poloxamer 127, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance/Parfum.

Urban Decay Ingredients
Aqua (Water/Eau), Alcohol Denat, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, PVP, Methyl Perfluorobutyl Ether, Methyl Perflouroisobutyl Ether, Dimethicone PEG-7 Phosphate, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Caprylyl Gylcol, Menthyl Methacrylate Cross Polymer, Poloxamer 407, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Cocamidopropyl PG Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Glycereth-5 Lactate, N,2,3-Trimethyl-2-Isopropyl Butamide, Ethylhexyl Isononanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Fragrance, Aloe Barbandensis Leaf Extract.

Do sunscreen pills work?

Silvia from Spain says I want to know if sun protection pills really work.

Personally, I think SPF pills are in the realm of quackery but according to the American Academy of Dermatologists there is SOME promising research in this area. https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/could-protecting-your-skin-from-the-sun-be-as-easy-as-popping-a-pill

Yeah, we found an article from 2014 which quotes a Dr. Lim from the AAD who says that there is SOME data showing that Polypodium leucotomos, an extract of a Central American fern plant, can increase the amount of time it takes for skin to become sunburned. That’s in pill form!

According to Dr. Lim…“We’re not completely sure how sunscreen pills work, but the main understanding is that Polypodium leucotomos acts as an antioxidant, so it protects the skin from oxidative damage caused by sun exposure,”

Wow, that sounds too good to be true. How much SPF protection does it provide?

It’s tough to compare directly because this ingredient is take orally not applied to skin but Dr. Lim says studies estimate it as having an SPF of about 3 to 5. That’s WAY less than Academy’s recommended SPF level of 30 or higher.

So if the best studied sunscreen pill ingredient MAYBE gives you an SPF of less than 5 it seems kind of pointless. THere’s no way that could replace using a sunscreen lotion. At best it might supplement the protection you get from your lotion but not by much. That’s assuming of course that the pill you buy even has the right ingredient at the right concentration.

iTunes reviews

JanellyL says…New favorite podcast 5 stars. They provide great insight on how products work and call out what products’ claims are bs. Plus they are never boring with their dry humor and sarcastic banter. Another plus is that if you ever have a question, they are so quick with responding to your email.

Slithy tove says…Beauty is a lot more than science 3 stars. It’s great to have a resource that encourages consumers to think more critically about the content of the products they buy, and this show has taught me a lot in that respect. But as a woman, sometimes it’s hard to listen to two men laugh about how ridiculous beauty marketing can be when most of it is unrelentingly targeted at women’s self esteem. For example, when they were discussing unlicensed “butt injections” – a horrifically dangerous practice that disproportionately affects lower income trans women who can’t afford to get the procedure done safely – and making callous puns about “the bottom line,” the insensitivity made me cringe. Or another direct quote: “If you want to give yourself the best chance of getting a good grade, just make yourself as attractive as possible” (this just after recognizing the same study found this bias didn’t apply to male students). I know you guys focus on science and you like to keep things light-hearted, but I often wish you’d recognize there’s way more to all of this than chemicals. Marketing hype and unfair biases about beauty come from cultural norms and contexts that can be seriously messed up. (Props to Randy for acknowledging this from time to time.) How about a dedicated regular feature about ridiculous products for men, to balance things out? Or letting your female intern speak on the show? That’s what I’d call being even more brainy about your beauty.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bard September 27, 2016, 3:17 pm

    What do you guys think of the ew brand that has been so talked about lately, Deciem and their skin care brands specifically Hylamide and NIOD? For example http://hylamide.com/products
    http://niod.com/?lang=en Even more specifically their cleansers like http://niod.com/product/low-viscosity-cleaning-ester-240ml and http://hylamide.com/product/core-high-efficiency-cleaner-120ml. Thanks for all your hard work.

    • Randy Schueller September 27, 2016, 3:38 pm
      • Bard September 27, 2016, 4:41 pm

        Thank you for the quick reply!
        What do you think about those cleansers though?

        • Randy Schueller September 28, 2016, 7:03 am

          Here are the ingredients for the first cleanser that you linked to:

          Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Isoamyl Laurate, Isoamyl Cocoate, Butyl Avocadate, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Propyl Gallate, Ethoxydiglycol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Farnesol, Linalool.

          It essentially works like other non-detergent systems, it uses the chemical principle of “like dissolves like” to remove makeup. It does make an interesting claim about butyl avocadate regulating sebum production. I have seen evidence from time to time that certain substances can do this but I haven’t looked at this one in particular.

          Anyway, the product is $45 for 8 ounces. That seems like a lot to spend on a product to clean your face unless they have more proof that it really provides a differentiated benefit.

  • Bard September 27, 2016, 8:21 pm

    Also what do you guys think of the Korean skin care trend of doing 10 steps?

    • Randy Schueller September 28, 2016, 7:07 am

      This question has come up a few times so I think we should talk about it on our podcast. Would you be interested in recording an audio version of your question that we could play on the show? All you have to do is record yourself on your smartphone and email to me at thebeautybrains@gmail.com.

      • Eileen September 29, 2016, 11:34 am

        That would make for an interesting pod cast. Although I love lotions and potions and adjust products to meet my skin’s current needs and condition, I’m pretty basic: AM cleanser, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen. PM cleanser, serum, moisturize, and about an hour after my regular stuff, prescription retinoid. During dry weather there is an essence I really like which substantially boosts moisture, but even taking that extra step, I’m only up to five. Ten seems mind-boggling. So, are there any benefits other than selling a lot of extra products? Do a podcast, pretty please 🙂

        • Randy Schueller September 29, 2016, 2:00 pm

          Just waiting for someone to send an audio question (hint hint.)

  • Paula September 30, 2016, 10:13 am

    Ick! Just reading about those makeup setting sprays skeeves me out. I want to scrub my face just thinking of it.

    • Randy Schueller September 30, 2016, 10:27 am

      Afterwords you’ll be sure to want to use a Facial Scrub Setting Spray.

  • Michelle September 30, 2016, 1:11 pm

    I completely agree with the itunes review by ‘Slithy tove’ but could never put my thoughts into words. It explains exactly why I stopped listening to the podcast and instead read the blog. I like learning about the science of beauty in my spare time, but only if I’m not reminded of the microagressions women and POC face in STEM fields. (I’m a PhD engineer in pharma btw.)

    What happened to that other brain that was on the podcast who was a woman?

    • Randy Schueller September 30, 2016, 4:25 pm

      Thanks for the comments Michelle. If you care to share more of your thoughts I’d appreciate hearing how we remind you of “microagressions” against women and people of color. We must be missing something because that’s certainly not our intention.

      The other brain is not available to participate in our podcast any more. Her choice, not ours. We’d certainly welcome input from other female cosmetic scientists if they’d care to participate in the program.

  • Shannon October 1, 2016, 7:51 am

    I’d like to try Babyfoot but $25 for one treatment does seem pretty expensive. I wonder if I can just buy the gel the booties are lined with by itself? I’d bet it would be a lot cheaper to just buy a bottle of that stuff and make my own “booties” out of saran wrap or something 🙂

    • Randy Schueller October 1, 2016, 11:27 am

      Interesting idea. My guess is that they don’t sell the concentrated AHA product by itself to prevent people from accidentally misusing it.

    • Coco October 4, 2016, 12:57 pm

      Just a note that baby foot is on amazon for $15 – http://amzn.to/2dcbETH

      I’ve used it twice and am officially obsessed.

  • Christopher October 5, 2016, 7:38 am

    I think also the pH of Baby Foot help make it effective. I haven’t tested but I assume it’s quite low to make the acids more potent.

  • Ray December 28, 2016, 11:08 pm

    That ROC wrinkle study probably included commute time as a variable because riding in a car exposes you to UVA radiation through the glass. Same would go for waiting for and riding on a bus or train. UVB rays are shorter than UVA rays, and are the main culprit behind sunburn. UVA rays, with their longer wavelength, that are responsible for the damage associated with photoaging. People generally don’t think to protect themselves from the sun while riding in vehicles and don’t experience sunburns from UVA rays that would let them know that damage is being done. The bottom line is that you need broad spectrum sunscreen every two hours, even in the car.



  • Romina January 5, 2017, 2:29 pm

    Dudes! where are you? missing your podcasts 🙁

    • Randy Schueller January 5, 2017, 2:35 pm

      Thanks Romina, we’re hoping to be back soon!