How can you find a cheaper natural lip balm? Episode 161

How can you find a cheaper natural lip balm?

Abby says…I have a question about Bite Beauty’s Agave Lip Mask. It claims its natural formula smoothes, nourishes and moisturizes lips with a bio active combination of organic agave nectar, jojoba oil, vanilla co2 extract, and triple the amount of the antioxidant trans-resveratrol found in red wine. It doesn’t mention anything about it containing lead so I’m wondering if it’s safe and effective to use on dry lips. I’m also wondering if you can tell me if there’s anything else on the market that might be similar to this because this is very expensive.

Bite Beauty, in case you’re not aware, is a Toronto based company that hand crafts lip products using “food-grade, or good-enough-to-eat ingredients.” Their credo is to prove that “there’s no sacrifice in quality for products sourced from nature.”

That sounds quite noble but of course it’s never as simple as that. Mainly because when it comes to cosmetics everyone has a different definition of what “sourced from nature” means. But let’s set that aside for the moment and focus on what this particular lip mask.

Most of the hype is around the ingredients Abby mentioned: the agave, the “CO2”vanilla, and the resveratrol but let’s use our “Rule of 5” to look at the PRIMARY ingredients in the product: lanolin, castor oil, agave, olive oil and beeswax.

Lanolin is the first ingredient and it’s perfectly reasonable for use in a product like this because it’s composed of waxy, cholesterol-like materials and other skin compatible lipids. That means it’s good for sealing moisture into skin and making skin softer and more pliable. The big negative of lanolin is that some percentage of the population is allergic to it. It also gets a lot of criticism because it’s an animal by product. You don’t have to kill the sheep – it just comes from the oil on the wool. But still, it’s animal derived which some people don’t like.

Castor oil is another good emollient. Do you know why it’s called “castor” oil? I always that original it was used to lubricate casters…those rollers used on the bottom of some kinds of furniture. But that’s not it all all. Castor oil was originally used as a replacement for the oil from the perineal glands of beavers. And the latin word for beaver is “castor.” Anyway, when properly mixed with other ingredients it can form a nice film on the lips which make it good for a “lip mask.”

Next is agave which is essentially cactus nectar. It doesn’t have ANY benefits to the skin that I’m aware of. (Maybe it can help bind a little more moisture but the other ingredients really have that covered.) It’s primary used as a sweetener so in this formula it just makes the product taste better. It does have the advantage of having a lower glycemic load which means it doesn’t have much impact on your blood sugar.

That might be a big deal dealing with a product like a sweetened soft drink because you’re consuming a lot of it. If you drink a can of soda with sugar it can mess with your blood sugar levels but a drink sweetened with agave isn’t as bad. Of course, that doesn’t matter very much when you’re talking about a lip balm because you apply such a small amount. Instead of 1 calorie you’re ingesting 0.5 calories. It doesn’t really matter.

Olive oil unsaponifiables, which are also known as hydrogenated olive oil, is the next ingredient. This is a solidified version of olive oil that has some skin moisturizing benefits and also contributes to the heavier feel of the product.

Beeswax rounds out the top 5 ingredients and it’s there simply to give the product a thicker consistency. This product is not in stick form it’s packaged in a small squeeze tube so it’s more fluid. Beeswax helps, to some extent, seal in moisture so it’s a good thickener for a product like this.

So these are the ingredients that provide the form and function of the product. The vanilla, which Abby also asked about, is just there as a flavoring agent. The fact that’s it’s CO2 vanilla just means that it was extracted from the vanilla bean using carbon dioxide and high pressure rather than a solvent like alcohol. Supposedly this means the aroma of the extract is closer to the aroma of the original vanilla bean but it doesn’t necessarily give the vanilla any super powers. It may just make it taste a little bit better.

And that brings us to the resveratrol which is often touted as a miracle anti-aging ingredient. This all started because of a few studies back in the early 2000’s which showed that if you give older mice high doses of resveratrol they are able to more successfully walk across a balance beam. Another study showed it made lazy mice look like they had exercised.

There haven’t been very many studies on the effect of resveratrol on skin. There was a 2005 study that indicated topically applied resveratrol can protect skin from UV damage but again this was an animal study. A couple of studies have been done on humans: a 2012 study showed that people who took the ingredient orally had better quality skin and a 2011 study showed that resveratrol gel improved acne. But overall, the scientific consensus is that the benefits of topically applied resveratrol are not well established.

The fact that this product contains “triple the amount of resveratrol found in red wine” isn’t that relevant because you’re applying such a small amount.

So at best you’re applying a very small amount of a compound that hasn’t really been proven to have much of an effect.

On the plus side it may help you walk better on a balance beam.

So back to Abby’s question about less expensive substitutes for this Bite Beauty product. If the agave is just there for sweetness, the vanilla for flavor and the resveratrol…well probably not much. So let’s say for the sake of argument you don’t need to worry about finding a product with those ingredients. What SHOULD you look for?

Since the majority of the product is lanolin I’d look for another lanolin based product. We can’t tell you how to find a product that will FEEL the same way but we can give you a couple of options that are close enough for you to maybe want to try and they’ll be a hell of a lot cheaper.

First there’s Koru Naturals lip balm. It contains just two ingredients: USP Grade Lanolin and Sunflower Seed Wax. It only costs $2.80 for a 0.15 ounce stick.

And then there’s Lanicare which contains Lanolin, Castor Seed Oil, Olive Oil Unsaponifiables and Beeswax. That’s also about $3.00 per stick. Both of these products are about a tenth of the cost of Bite Beauty so they certainly seem worth a try.

Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask Ingredient list:
Lanolin* (medical grade), Organic Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil**, Organic Agave Tequilana (blue agave) nectar**, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables*, Organic Cera Alba (Beeswax)**, Flavor, Vanillin, Siraitia Grosvenori (Monk Fruit)*, Vanilla Tahitensis (Vanilla) Fruit Extract*, Organic Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax*, Trans-Resveratrol*, Vitis Vinefera (Grape) oil*, Tocopherol acetate*, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract (And) Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract (and) Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*.

What’s the deal with K Beauty anti-aging alginate masks?

Kate in our Forum asks…. There is this new beauty trend going on in Japan and South Korea – Alginate Masks. They work by mixing alignate mask with water, then you need to apply it to the face, leave the mask in place for at least 15 minute, then remove by peeling it off in one piece. These masks claim to have lifting effect, reduce wrinkles and hyper pigmentation. Is this something new that can actually work on skin and penetrate it? Or is it another foolish trend created by marketers?

To answer Kate’s question let’s start by explaining what it means for a product to be a “mask.” In her original Forum post Kate asks about two ingredients that she saw popping up in a number of these K Beauty mask products: Calcium sulfate and Sodium alginate. Alginate is a material derived from seaweed and it’s a polysaccharide, sort of a long chain of sugary-starch material. When alginate is combined with a divalent atom like calcium, these long chains of starches are connected together in a process we call cross linking.

So when this cross-linked mixture dries, it forms a film. That’s the basic property of any mask – the ability to form a film on your face. That film serves two purposes. First, it provides a tightening feeling because it’s pulling on your skin. That may give the look and feel of lifting and may temporarily tighten some wrinkles. But these benefits only last until the mask is washed away. The second function of the film is to hold other ingredients, like anti-aging actives, onto your skin.

Remember, that for anti-aging ingredients to be effective a few conditions must be met. First, the ingredient must be efficacious, just because a company CLAIMS an ingredient will do something doesn’t mean it really works.

Second, you need to have that ingredient in the right form, delivered from the right kind of forumula (e.g, pH), third it has to be at the right concentration.

And lastly it has to have enough time to get to it needs to do. Some ingredients don’t need to penetrate into the deeper layers of the stratum corneum to work and they work fairly quickly. Others need to be on skin for a lot longer. And that brings us to the problem with masks.

There are three problems actually.
1. Masks are limited in the types of ingredients they can contain. Unlike a cream or lotion where you can easily combine oil and water soluble ingredients, masks tend to be made with more water soluble ingredients.

2. Masks are not the best delivery vehicle because the ingredients can be trapped in the film which prohibits them from fully contacting the skin .

3. And most important, unlike other product forms masks are only left on the skin a relatively short period of time which limits the kind of anti-aging effects it can have. Specifically Kate asked about reducing wrinkles and hyper pigmentation. Ingredients that are effective against these symptoms of aging need to be in contact with skin for a LONG time. Think hours, not minutes. Anti-aging ingredients work best when left in contact with skin. So whether it’s a cleanser or a toner or a mask, if the product isn’t left on the skin you KNOW it’s not going to work as well.

The bottom line is that masks are fun to use and provide a temporary benefit but they can’t be your main anti-aging weapon.

Is baby shampoo good for adults?

Alessandra asks…Is Johnson’s Baby shampoo a gentle sulfate-free option for fine-haired adults who don’t use many styling products (and an inexpensive alternative to fancy salon “low-poo” products)? Or is it as harsh as stylists say, because in order to make the product non-irritating to the eyes, its pH is really unsuitable to the hair?

First let’s talk about what’s in J&J baby shampoo. We’ll put the complete ingredient list in the show notes for your reference.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the ingredients look different than regular “adult” shampoos. Remember the ingredients most commonly used in adult shampoos are sodium or ammonium lauryl and laureth sulfate (SLS, SLES, etc). These are anionic surfactants meaning they tend to have a negative charge, they are high foaming, good degreasers, and unfortunately, can intereact with skin in such a way that causes irritation for some people.

Now, in typically for a baby shampoo, and certainly in the case of J&J the first ingredient after water is what we call a non-ionic surfactant. In this case it’s PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate. This type of detergent doesn’t foam as much so it doesn’t clean as well but it is milder because of the way it interacts with skin.

You’ll also see Cocamidopropyl Betaine which is a cleanser and foam booster used in both baby and adult shampoos. It can be made from coconut oil so even though it’s chemically processed you’ll see it featured in some natural products.

Next is PEG-150 Distearate. This is another non-ionic compound but this one doesn’t do much cleaning. Rather it’s used as an emulsifier to tie the system together and to add some thickening.

Finally, there’s sodium trideceth sulfate. How can this product be sulfate free if it contains a sulfate? “Sulfate free” really refers to free of SLS, etc. This surfactant is considered more of an non-ionic because of the mildness that the “trideceth” portion of the molecule provides.

So these 4 ingredients provide the backbone of the formula. Of course it contains preservatives, colorants, and fragrance as well. It also contains a touch of polyquarternium-10 which is a polymer that can provide a little bit of conditioning but it won’t give the same kind of feel of silicones or guar that you’ll find in adult conditioning shampoos.

One more thing…it contains sodium hydroxide which is a horrible chemical that can burn through your skin. Do you want to explain how that can be in a baby shampoo?

NaOH is very basic which means it has a high pH. But a very small amount can be used to adjust to the pH. When you adjust the pH the base reacts with the acid and is neutralized. In other words the sodium hydroxide is “used up” and isn’t even really in the product any more. So you don’t need to worry about it.

The pH of this product is about 7 which is close to the pH of tears which is one of the reasons it doesn’t hurt babies’ eyes.

But to answer Alessandra’s question, is this stuff too harsh as she said? I’ve even heard it said that I baby shampoo is harsh because it’s loaded with detergents to help get rid of cradle cap. That’s not true. You don’t need a lot of detergent for that more just mechanical washing. What you might need is a keralytic agent that would help speed up skin cells sloughing off but those are not used in regular baby shampoo.

So baby shampoo is NOT harsh but that doesn’t mean it’ll leave your hair feeling smooth. Some people think baby shampoo feels rough because of what it DOESN’T contain: there aren’t really any major moisturizers or silicones in it to coat the hair and counter balance all the surfactants.

The bottom line is that you may not like the way baby shampoo makes your hair feel but it’s not harsh and irritating.

Ingredients: Water, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Phenoxyethanol, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Polyquaternium-10, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Acrylates Copolymer, Yellow 6, Yellow 10.

Beauty Science News

Daily Consumption of a Fruit and Vegetable Smoothie Alters Facial Skin Color.

Remember that time I ate 3 pounds of carrots in one night in an attempt to turn my skin orange?

Well, it turns out that that experiment wasn’t so crazy after all.  In an article published in the journal PLOS One researchers found that daily consumption of fruit and vegetables produced a measurable skin color change. Here’s what they did. They took a group of 81 university students both male and female and measured their skin color using a chronometer. I should mention these were all from an Asian population.  They were able to get a LAB value for yellowness, redness & luminance.  Remember we used to do measurements like that.

Anyway, they gave half the group a fruit smoothie to drink daily and the control group got mineral water. Over the course of 6 weeks they did skin measurements to see what would happen.

It turns out there was a large increase in skin yellowness in the test group and a slight increase in skin redness after 4 weeks of testing.  This effect remained for even 2 weeks after they stopped the test.

So, if you have Asian skin and you are interested in changing the color, perhaps a daily fruit smoothie rich in carotenoids is the way to go. Ya know, I’ve always been skeptical of this “beauty from within” trend but this is at least some evidence that it could work.

Why is Homeland Security interested in cosmetic products?

Normally we say you shouldn’t believe all the hype about dangerous cosmetic ingredients. But it turns out that some cosmetic ingredients are so hazardous that Homeland security has gotten involved.

The danger is not from using cosmetic products, those are safe, but certain raw materials in high concentrations can be weaponized. For example, here are 3 common cosmetic ingredients that can be used in explosive devices: If there are any terrorists listening please cover your ears:

triethanolamine which is used as a pH control agent, hydrogen peroxide which is used in hair lighters and a bunch of other products, and powdered aluminum which is used in color cosmetics.

So, Homeland Security is working with cosmetic companies that have large stock piles of these ingredients to help them ensure the materials remain secure.

The only time I’ve seen cosmetic chemistry threaten homeland security was that time you were doing some testing in the lab and and you set a comb on fire. Remember that?

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