Tree nut allergies and cosmetics – episode 183

On today’s episode we answer beauty questions about :

  • Should one be worried about tree nuts in cosmetic products?
  • What’s the difference between a toners and astringent?
  • How does one spot a bad dupe versus an affordable product that works?
  • Why do some nail polishes last longer on some people than others?

Show intro notes

Article: You are what you eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes

Is there really a problem with walnut facial exfoliators?

Do you need to exfoliate your head?

Beauty Science Questions

Should we be worried about tree nut allergens in cosmetic products?

Tree nuts are considered major food allergens. The actual nut or derivative from the nut, like an oil, may contain a protein or proteins that elicits an allergic reaction. In food, which is where a majority of the allergic reactions take place, it is a requirement through the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) that requires declaration of any tree nuts or possible contamination with tree nuts on the ingredient label, as well as any of the other major food allergens that exists. FALCPA does not cover cosmetic ingredients.

In short, cosmetic products don’t have labeling requirements for tree nuts in the US or EU that indicate a similar warning to food. In long, it’s not easy to prove scientifically that tree nuts are an issue topically as they how they are used in cosmetic products – and topically, meaning on the skin and not in for products intended for the oral mucosa.

Essentially, they couldn’t find sufficient evidence that applying peanut oil to skin was an issue consistently, so they couldn’t create a safety threshold.

There is no labeling requirement and I’m not aware that they have established guidelines for other tree nuts. In the US, this regulation does not exist.

All that being said, if you have any concerns about tree nuts in cosmetic products, even if they’re topical, I would consult your allergist and certain avoid products that come in contact with the oral mucosa or broken skin.

Question 2
Celeste says…Good morning, Perry and Valerie, Not sure whether you’ve answered this before, but what is the difference between a toner and an astringent? Is either one effective at what it claims?

Skin toners and astringents are terms often used interchangeably. However, many people consider that there are differences in the way they are formulated with toners using glycerin while astringents use alcohol. The reality is that there are plenty of astringents that use glycerin as well as alcohol. Witch hazel is another popular astringent ingredient. Most toners that I found were alcohol free.

Toners and astringents are frequently included as part of a three-step skin care regimen (cleanse, tone and moisturize). But let’s get to the more important question, do you really need either of these products? Let’s take a look at the ingredients used in toners to understand what they really do for your skin.

What does a toner do?
Toners usually claim one of two things – they can remove excess oil and dirt that your cleanser left behind or refresh and moisturize skin. Historically, toners use alcohol and/or witch hazel which can make your skin feel tight and firm and can feel refreshing. However, more recent versions of toners have moved away from this approach due to the drying effects of alcohol. Thus the split in terms Astringents and Toners. These types of toners are alcohol free and often use glycerin and panthenol (vitamins) to give skin the same kind of refreshed feeling while being more soothing to skin.

Do you need to use a toner?
I would say probably not but it is certainly a case of personal preference.. A decent cleanser should remove excess oil, dirt and makeup. And the truth is, you do not want to strip every last molecule of oil from your skin. Only grime, makeup and excess oil on the surface needs to be removed. The sebum (oil) that your skin produces naturally is actually good for your skin and is best left undisturbed. Toners, especially alcohol-based ones, tend to strip everything off, leaving the skin dry and irritated. As far as alcohol-free toners, they may feel good and leave a little moisture on your skin but they don’t really do much, particularly if you use a moisturizer anyway. The people that may benefit from using a toner are women with exceptionally oily skin (usually teens) or women with very dry skin. If your skin still feels sticky and oily after cleansing, a toner can help remove that excess grime. Women with very dry skin may find an alcohol-free toner to be soothing.

I have a question about nail polishes, and that it appears to be such differences for how long they last on different people. I get that there is a vast variety for how you apply the polish and your everyday wear and tear, but is there any difference in peoples nails that would effect how long nail polish lasts? Is there anything different with the nails of some people that makes nail polish not last as long? All the best, Jenny

The reality is that people’s nails are chemically very similar. I looked at a study called “Age and Sex Variation in Lipid Composition of Human Fingernail Plates” in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology and while there were some difference between people 10 years and younger and adults, there were no significant difference between people at different ages as adults. Now, these looked at the age groups as groups and there was some variability within the age groups, but the differences I don’t think are significant to impact how well nail polish will stick on someone’s fingers. This will be much more affected by the

Method of application, the type of nail polish used, whether you put a base coat, the speed at which the polish is dried, the quality of the nail polish (is it old?), and the exposure of the hands to different environments. Things like washing dishes, cleaning the house, exposure to alcohol, etc. can all impact how long nail polish will last. It’s these environmental conditions that matter much more for long lasting nail polish than any difference in people’s nails.

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