Welcome to episode 177!
It’s a solo episode of the Beauty Brains.
On this episode we’re going to be answering your beauty questions about
- Thinning hair and the research going on in that area
- Whether cupping is an effective facial treatment
- Which sunscreen ingredients block UVA
- Why mandelic acid is used in deodorants.
Beauty science news
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Are attractive women less trustworthy? Research says maybe, The Beauty Brains don’t agree.
Beauty Product questions
In your recent podcast you mentioned that only two sunscreen ingredients approved in the U.S. block UVA rays. What are the names of the two that block UVA?
That’s easy enough. The two approved in the US that block UVA are Avobenzone and Zinc Oxide. Titanium Dioxide will block a small portion of UVA rays, and so does Octocrylene, but for broad spectrum, blocking-all-the-UVA, you need to use either Avobenzone or Zinc Oxide. L’Oreal also has Mexoryl but they are the only ones who can use it. In the EU there are like 6 more UVA blockers that formulators can use.
Here’s an audio question – Does hyaluronic acid just evaporate off your face?
But let’s take a look at the ingredients. Drunk Elephant Bee Hydra Instensive Hydration serum – It’s got water, of course, but next is Coconut Alkanes – these are just emollients which are technically oils. Then there is Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil – so, they have some oils. I’m not sure why you said they didn’t.
But you’re right there isn’t anything here that would qualify as an occlusive agent per say. Then there are a bunch of fruit extracts…those aren’t doing much. Ah, there are a lot of humectants Pentylene glycol, Glycerin, Sodium PCA, Panthenol maybe, and of course Sodium Hyaluronate.
So, you’re worried this will just evaporate off. Well, that’s not true. While the formula does have water & cyclomethicone which will evaporate off rather quickly ingredients like Glycerin and Hyaluronic acid, they are not going to evaporate off any time soon. They will stay on the surface of skin and absorb water from the atmosphere or maybe from your skin and…you know..keep providing moisturizing benefits. They’re not going to evaporate off. And you don’t need to put any oils on top of it to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The formula also has film forming polymers like Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer & Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer which will make it stay on your skin even more. It will prevent easily rubbing it off.
So, no, you don’t have put on oils on top of this product. Now, I’m not sure you’re getting a great deal spending $52 for 50 mL of this product when you can get less expensive options that probably work just as well for you, but I’m sure this is a fine product.
Erin asks – As a biologist and chemist, who’s not as young as I used to be, I’ve found your podcast really interesting when it comes to anti-aging cosmetics and their claims. Recently, you did a podcast where you talked about thinning hair. I am very familiar with common knowledge that all products claiming to increase hair growth are bogus, with the exception of Rogaine which is questionable.
Because of my own personal experience, I am wondering if this is a problem with research that is just not well designed to test for ingredients encouraging increased hair growth?
Then she goes on to explain how thinning hair is a problem in her family, and how she tried a product from Monat which work well initially, then didn’t work as well after a while, and then it seems like it’s working again.
And so she wants to know Do you know of anyone doing really good testing on promoting hair growth? I think it’s a shame if this area is not being adequately researched.
First, you’re right Rogaine is the only proven thing for hair growth. And that doesn’t work for everyone.
Next, on the subject of your experience. As a scientist I’m sure you’re aware of anecdotal evidence and how unreliable it is. It’s really easy to fool ourselves. Especially when we want something to work. You know the scientists & researchers out there in the cosmetic industry, we want to make discoveries. We want to make products that really work and that people want to use. Not only is it satisfying intellectually but it’s also monetarily good too. So, there is a lot of research out there going on with hair thinning. It’s just not something that has been easy to find stuff that works. The things we’ve found are by accident usually. And a product like this would be a drug. So, pharmaceutical companies are spending money researching this. There’s a lot of research money going in to finding solutions to hair loss. As you can imagine, this would be a huge market if someone found something that actually worked. I can tell you, the solution is not going to come from a Multilevel marketing company. It’s probably not even going to come from P&G or L’Oreal or one of those companies who focus on making consumer products. J&J might discover something as they are a pharmaceutical company, but most beauty companies are not set up to develop these types of products.
Unfortunately, those companies also don’t tend to publish their research. And they certainly don’t publish research that shows no benefits. So, it’s hard to know what has been studied. The only thing we can know is that this is a huge opportunity, pharmaceutical companies would be the ones who have to make these products (they are drugs) and it’s most likely that they just haven’t found anything that really works.
I feel your pain. I’ve just hit 18,256 days of living and I’m getting a little thinning on the top too. I wish I had better news for you but hair growth products…they mostly don’t work. And when evaluating whether something works it’s really important to not fool yourself. As famous physicist Richard Feynman said “The first principle (of science) is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. Just remember that whenever you are evaluating any beauty product.
Olga says…I saw recently a lot of videos on YouTube on face cupping. Is it proving a rejuvenating facial massage? Is it safe to do it at home?
Thanks for the question. I watched a few facial cupping videos and I have to say, I’m less than impressed. The procedure didn’t seem to be doing much of anything. However, watching youtube videos is not really a scientific examination so I did a little more searching. Facial cupping was no doubt inspired by the general practice of so called Cupping Therapy that is popular with the alternative medicine crowd. I’ll say up front, there is little evidence that cupping therapy has any real benefits. In a review of scientific studies of cupping therapy published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, the authors concluded that “this overview of systematic reviews suggests that cupping may be effective for reducing pain. The evidence is insufficient for other indications. Therefore, considerable uncertainty remains about the therapeutic value of cupping.”
It was a treatment developed before science and subsequent investigation of it has shown no skin benefits. Now, there are plenty of people who will disagree with that but I’m persuaded by evidence, not stories from people who have paid money to get the procedure done or by fake doctors who get paid to do these procedures.
Anyway, back to facial cupping. So, there is no evidence that facial cupping will rejuvenate your skin. And it certainly won’t have any long lasting effects either. Any fluid movement you might do while sucking on the skin of your face will drain back to where it started rather quickly.
As far as safety goes, yes it’s mostly safe to do at home. The biggest downside is that you can suck too hard on your skin and cause bruising. I don’t think a bruised face is what people are going for with this.
The bottom line is that facial cupping has no proven benefits and if you do it too hard you can bruise your skin. It’s pseudoscience, not proven and I don’t recommend it. I’ll provide a link to the review of research studies in the show notes.
Andrea asks…Why is mandelic acid the first ingredient in Lume deodorant?
Lume is touted as a natural deodorant but this seems a little dicey. I mean, it’s true Mandelic Acid was originally discovered as a component of almonds, but the stuff used in production of products is made through synthetic chemical reactions. But there pretty much aren’t any truly natural cosmetics.
I tried to find an ingredient list from the bottle, but all I found was what they had on their website & a picture of one bottle. And indeed the second ingredient, at least on the squeeze tube product is Mandelic Acid.
First, it’s helpful to know that mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, like Glycolic acid but just a bit bigger as far as molecules go. As far as acid strength goes, it’s a stronger acid than glycolic acid. It’s been used for years in medicine as a urinary antiseptic because it’s thought to be an antibacterial. It’s being studied by some as a potential anti-aging ingredient.
It’s the antibacterial effect that is most likely why mandelic acid is in their product. Underarm odor is caused by bacteria that feast off the sweat you produce. Putting an antibacterial ingredient there will kill the bacteria and theoretically reduce the odor. This is how deodorants work. In traditional deodorants, the ingredient Triclosan is used. It is also an antibacterial. The other thing that deodorants have are fragrances to offset your natural odor. Now, if you wash your armpits, then put this on, theoretically the bacteria wont have time to cause odor so you could have an unscented version which they have but they also have a scented version. I’m guessing the scented version sells better.
I’ll point out they also make some fearmongering claims as they say they are free from “Aluminum, Silicone, Phthalates, Sulfates, Parabens, Gluten, Corn, Soy, Talc, Coconut Oil, Baking Soda” The reality is deodorants don’t use Aluminium. Aluminium salts are found in antiperspirants that stop you from sweating. This product and all deodorants will not have an impact on whether you sweat or not.
Deodorants also don’t normally contain phthalates, sulfates, parabens, gluten, corn, soy, or coconut oil. Some might have talc but that’s not normally found. Silicones are used but there are perfectly fine substitutes. And baking soda, well that’s not something you should put under your arms anyway.
So, there you have it. Lume uses Mandelic Acid as it’s antibacterial component and that’s why it’s in there. Of course at $14 a stick, it’s certainly not going to be a better value than the Speed Stick that I use. But if you like Lume and the brand story, it might work for you.
Next time…we answer more of your beauty questions.
If you want to ask a question about beauty products you can click the link in the show notes or record one on your phone and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org Of course, we prefer audio questions because that makes for a more interesting sounding show.
Beauty Brains wrapup
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