Is scalp exfoliation helpful for hair? episode 226

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 226.
Hosts Perry Romanowski, and Valerie George

Is glycerin bad for curly hair?
Are encapsulated ingredients better?
Do scalp exfoliators help?
Can beauty companies hide allergens in their products?
What’s the difference between organic DHA and the non-organic kind?

Upcoming webinar on cosmetic formulating

Beauty Science News
Sunscreen ban lifted in Florida

Interesting. Here’s what happened – Hawaii banned certain sunscreens due to harming coral reefs. A couple places in Florida followed suit. The governor in Florida has overridden those bans.

Are the bans effective? They had banned oxybenzone or octinoxate containing sunscreens.

Heard on Instagram
Sun Armour – No grease! No mess! No toxic chemicals! Sun Armour strengthens your skin on the molecular level to better resist the sun’s rays. Just try it with no strings attached for thirty days!

Beauty Questions
Question 1
From twitter – Jasmine says – I’ve noticed that many curly hair products contain glycerin but I frequently see information online stating glycerin is bad for curly hair, especially in both dry or humid climates. That doesn’t leave a lot of in between. Is there any truth to this?

Rinse off products, the glycerin is just going to rinse down the drain.
Leave-in products, it can help draw moisture to the hair. This may be helpful for curly hair (reduce brittleness) Even in dry climates, glycerin will provide some improved hair fiber flexibility….

Question 2
Jen says – I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Susan Yara and her new skin care brand Naturium. I will spare you the details regarding her controversial launch, but I was wondering about something that she mentions about the products. She says the 22% vitamin c is “encapsulated” in gold making it more gentle on the skin. Later she talks about retinol being “encapsulated” but she doesn’t explain what it’s encapsulated in. Do you think “encapsulated” is more of a buzz word or is she using this correctly? She also talks about photostable retinol. Is that a thing? Thank you so much for your help. I never want to spread misinformation and it’s so wonderful to have you as a source! – Jen

Encapsulation technology has been around for decades. It is nothing new and nothing special. It’s a marketing gimmick in my opinion.
The basic premise is this…

1. Some ingredients are not compatible with other formulation ingredients (e.g. Vitamin C oxidizes in water)
2. If you encapsulate Vitamin C, you can protect it from water in the formula so it won’t break down. Or in the case of Naturium products, they go with the “protect the skin” claim.

Think of encapsulated particles as microscopic eggs. If you put the Vitamin C inside that egg, then plunge it in water, the water can’t get to the vitamin C to break down.

It makes logical sense, but just because something is logical doesn’t mean that it’s true in real life. Here are the real-world problems with encapsulated ingredients.

-If you make your encapsulated shell too hard, it doesn’t break when the consumer is using the product. In rinse-off products this means the product just washes down the drain. In leave-on products, this means the product eventually falls off the skin with dead skin cells. In this case it’s like putting a grain of sand on your skin. Eventually, it just falls off.

-If you make your encapsulated shell too soft, then the particles open up during the production process. You’re essentially left with no encapsulated material any more and it is pretty much the same as if you didn’t encapsulate the material.

The trick is to get a shell that is hard enough to survive the production process, but soft enough to open up when a consumer uses the product. In practice, this is impossible which is why “encapsulated” technology is just a marketing gimmick. It will have no measurable improvement on the performance of the product. If encapsulation worked, all big companies would use the technology. It’s telling that they don’t.

And as far as encapsulated retinol being more gentle, yes I could see that. They just make the shells so hard that none of it gets delivered to the skin ergo, it’s much more gentle.

No, photostable retinol is not really a thing. However, there are retinol derivatives that may be photostable (retinyl N-formyl aspartamate). Unfortunately, the photostable derivatives do not work as well as the retinol. More marketing.

Question 3 – (audio)
Mary – Do products that exfoliate the scalp actually provide any benefit? Physical or chemical exfoliators. Is it good or bad for the hair? Would these work for black hair textures? Is it worth trying?

I’m skeptical that people will notice any benefit from using a scalp exfoliator (your thoughts?)

Here’s the theory of why scalp exfoliating will help…

While it’s logical that it would help, just because something is logical doesn’t mean it’s true.

Question 5 –
Jessica says – Hi! I own a small airbrush tanning business. I buy solutions from a few different companies. Some have an organic source of DHA and some don’t. I guess my question is can I say the ingredients are all ok to be putting on the skin for an airbrush tan? I advertise “organic” tans but I know that not ALL the ingredients are organic or even need to be. Are there any warnings or studies that have been recently put out against spray tan solutions? Thank you so much.

Thanks for the questions. There is a little bit to unpack here and hopefully we can clear up some of the confusion.

First, let’s talk about what makes spray tans work. The main ingredient in spray tans is DHA (dihydroxyacetone) It. reacts with proteins on the outer layer of skin which causes them to get darker. This is a maillard reaction and is the same kind of reaction that causes bananas to get brown. Now, this is different from another compound, docosahexaenoic acid which is also referred to as DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil and is a popular ingredient in dietary supplements. And it is important to note, the ingredients are NOT the same. If you make a sunless tanner product with the dietary supplement DHA, it will not turn the skin a darker color. The only DHA that turns skin brown-ish, is Dihydroxyacetone.

Ok, let’s move on to what the term “organic” means. In the US, the term “organic” does not officially apply to cosmetics, at least as far as the FDA is concerned. However, the US Department of Agriculture created organic standards for food and then they made a provision that covered cosmetics. This seems a little out of their authority but the FDA deferred to them. So, if you want to say your cosmetic is certified organic, you have to adhere to the USDA organic standards. If you want that, it’s hard. You have to control the farming, get certified, and the ingredient cannot be synthetic. While there is a USDA certified organic version of Docosahexaenoic acid, there is NOT an organic version of Dihydroxyacetone. So, it is a myth that any of these spray tans are “organic,” at least as far as the USDA is concerned.

I’ve read that some manufacturers claim that their products are “Ecocert certified organic.” Well, Ecocert is a non-governmental organization that sets standards for natural raw materials. Their “organic” certification would not qualify in the US. Additionally, Ecocert certified organic DHA does not exist. So, companies who are claiming an organic sunless tanner are misleading you. I don’t recommend you make the claims either. You could get sued (lawyers have made a lot of money going after fake organic claims) and it isn’t true. It’s illegal to make false claims.

The ingredients in spray tans are safe. DHA has been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective ingredient when used externally. However, it is worth noting that technically spray tans are not a legal form for delivering DHA. While topical application has been proven safe, there is not enough data to conclude that internal ingestion of DHA is safe. This includes what you might breath in during a misting of the stuff.

The FDA posts three requirements for places that provide spray tan booths.

Are consumers protected from exposure in the entire area of the eyes, in addition to the eyes themselves?

Are consumers protected from exposure on the lips and all parts of the body covered by mucous membrane?

Are consumers protected from internal exposure caused by inhaling or ingesting the product?

If for any of these questions the answer is no, then the product is being illegally applied. But most places require eye protection (I imagine) so as long as you are doing that, you’re ok.

But no, there are no such thing as Organic Sunless Tanners. At least by the USDA definition.
You can read more about the FDA’s stance on sunless tanners here.

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