Is high end lipstick better than store brand lipstick? episode 214

Welcome to the Beauty Brains, a show where real cosmetic chemists answer your beauty product questions and give you an insider’s look at the cosmetic industry. This is Episode 214. I’m your host, Valerie George and with me today is the most famous cosmetic chemist who already works from home, Perry Romanowski.  Hello Perry!

We have a few interesting beauty questions to cover today, including:

  • Does UV protection really work in hair?
  • What do we think of MLM companies? Are the products better & safer?
  • How do the Lionesse and Sudden Change eye creams work?
  • What’s the difference between high end lipstick & drug store products?

Beauty News

Receptivity to BS  predicts use of essential oils

Here’s a bit of research that may come as no surprise to followers of this show.  According to a study published in the most recent PLOS journal, people who are more receptive to believe  meaningless statements are more likely to use essential oils.

The best way to arm yourself against marketers who would have you spend a lot of money on a product that probably won’t work is to remain skeptical. If someone is financially benefiting from you believing something that they are telling you, you should get verification from some other, more unbiased source. You’ll be happier and certainly save some money.

PSA – Don’t make your own hand sanitizer!


  1. Most of the online recipes are not accurate. Adding thing like aloe gel & essential oils have not been tested for effectiveness. They very well can reduce the germ killing ability of the product. the FDA is very strict about its formulations for hand sanitizers. 
  2. Most people aren’t good at measuring or don’t have the right equipment. When we formulate we use a scale & measure everything in grams (weight). If you use volume measurements like cups or tablespoons, you won’t get the right ratios of ingredients. If you don’t get the right ratios of ingredients, you are deviating from that very specific recipe the FDA has set.
  3. It’s dangerous – This can give you a false sense of security, using a product that doesn’t work when you think it does. You’ll do more harm than good.

Wash your hands!

Beauty Questions

Question 1 – Vanessa – Does UV protection really work in hair?

Suppliers will tell you it does. I’m skeptical. 

We can’t measure UV protection for hair like we measure UV protection for skin. 

  • Effect of UV on hair damage (tryptophan cascade). 
  • Effect on hair color (degradation of the chromophores that color the hair). 

Common ingredients that formulators use to provide UV protection on the hair, and why that likely doesn’t work (shampoo/conditioners)

Question 2 – Claire asks – Is there a difference between high-end vs drugstore lip beauty products, specifically lipsticks? If so, what is the main difference?

Formulas are pretty much the same. I looked at Maybelline lipstick which costs about $3 a tube versus the Tom Ford lipstick which costs $55 a tube. Both use the same basic ingredients, a wax base candelilla & microcrystalline wax. And they both used the same basic colors. In the US & EU colorants have to be approved before being put into cosmetics so everyone has access to the same raw materials. From a formula standpoint, there isn’t a quality difference between the expensive and less expensive products. 

This doesn’t mean that if you try one of the products it’s going to feel exactly the same as the other. How it performs and feels is a personal preference. What I am saying is that there is no reason they couldn’t be made to feel & work exactly the same. There are no special ingredients that the expensive formula uses that the inexpensive formula couldn’t use. And from a cost of goods standpoint, the ingredients are pretty much going to be the same cost. 

The biggest difference is the brand name and the packaging.

Question 3Laura from Instagram asking about Lionesse and Sudden Change’s eye serums and their “superglue” effect on the skin. Which ingredients are doing that?

Sudden Change Undereye-Firming Serum – Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Serum Albumin, SD Alcohol 40, Dimethicone Copolyol, Hyaluronic Acid, Dextran Sulfate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Quaternium-15, Methylparaben.

Lionesse Amber Eye Serum – Ingredients: Aqua, Propylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Sodium Hyaluronate, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Amber Powder, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Sodium PCA, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Ascorbic Acid, Sclerotium Gum, Sodium Polystyrene Sulfonate, Allantoin, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Triethanolamine, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.

Question 4  – Meredith – What do you think of MLM companies claiming to sell safer products. brands like Beautycounter. How do you respond to people who are trying to sell you MLM. What evidence can you provide for reasons not to buy?

No the products aren’t safer.

From a formulation standpoint these products aren’t better than what you can get in the store

They generally cost more & do not work better.

For many brands the MLM marketing model is little more than a pyramid scheme.

According to research done by the Federal Trade Commision, 99% of people who sell for MLMs lose money, so only 1% of people will turn a profit. For comparison, people who start their own business turn a profit about 39% of the time. Less than 50% but still 39 times better than if you sell through an MLM.

As you might imagine, I’m not a fan of the MLM model.

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