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On today’s episode of The Beauty Brains we’re going to be answering your beauty questions about

  • The differences between salon and store bought deep conditioners
  • Whether curology is better than going to a dermatologist
  • And what are the pros and cons of using a bar soap form of shampoo and hair conditioner?

Beauty Science News

Here’s a story that was published in Elle about dangerous cosmetics.

You know it’s a truism in the media industry…if it bleeds it leads. Fear based news stories are preferred for news organization and stories about cosmetic products are included. Fear based news stories prey on our anxieties and in this online world, they lead to more clicks, social media shares, and advertising money. And they all follow the same formula, grab attention with a scary headline, then offer a solution to reduce that fear.

These types of fear mongering / sales articles are all over the Internet. They are not based on science and are really just hidden advertisements parading as some kind of news. Rather than talking to a toxicologist who would be expert in product / ingredient safety, they usually talk to a biased brand owner who benefits from keeping you scared of mainstream products. Why are no toxicologists contacted when writing articles like this? Because the stories would not be nearly as scary.

Michelle Pfiefer fragrance launch

Speaking of fear marketing, it seems Michelle Pfiefer is launching her own “clean fragrance” line in which she’s following the lead of companies like P&G, L’Oreal and Unilever by making the full ingredient list available online for anyone who wants to see it.

Well, I think this new wave of transparency is good. For a chemist it’s interesting to get more information about other people’s products. I’m just not sure how helpful it is for consumers to now know that Tetrahydro-methyl-methylpropyl)-pyran-4-ol is in your fragrance.

Natural Formulas Arrive At Clairol

Happi magazine is reporting that Clairol has launched a new Natural Instincts line of demi-permanent hair colors. The company says that it’s the most gentle at-home hair color product yet and it’s made from 80% naturally derived ingredients. The other 20% are supernaturally derived, I guess.

What Does Vegan Skin Care *Really* Mean? | Shape Magazine

And finally, if you want to know what Vegan Skin care really means, there’s an article in which I was quoted in Shape Magazine. To sum up the article basically while there can be animal derived ingredients in cosmetic products, mostly there aren’t. Companies got away from using animal derived ingredients back in the late 1990’s as a reaction to the mad-cow scare in the UK.

Certainly you still see animal ingredients like Lanolin, Beeswax, and Gelatin but for the most part, the vast majority of cosmetic products you can buy do not contain animal derived ingredients. They are derived either from plants or petroleum. Of course you might say that petroleum was really just dead dinosaurs so it’s still animal based…but that’s not right. It’s a myth that the dinosaurs turned into petroleum. There weren’t nearly enough dinos to do that. Petroleum actually comes from the decay of ancient phytoplankton that lived in the oceans. So technically, petroleum based ingredients are plant based too. Petroleum is plants!  Which makes them vegan. I wonder if that will catch on with consumers seeking vegan cosmetics.

Alright, on to some beauty questions and answers.

Beauty Question

Lily asks – My question today is, Are the deep conditioning treatments salons offer any different from your regular conditioner? A popular one in the recent year is keratin deep conditioning treatment, and I also heard of quinoa hair treatment.. people pay hundreds of dollars for them. I know you are paying for services and that fresh feeling you get coming out of a salon. But I’m curious if there is any difference in formulation between salons conditioning treatment and your regular ol conditioner ?

This is a great question and I’ll cut to the chase, yes deep conditioning treatments in salons are different from a regular conditioner. But I mean they are different in terms of how they are applied, how they are rinsed out and the whole process. They may even be different in terms of how they are formulated since the aesthetics of putting the product on the hair, rinsing it out, and the fragrances are not nearly as important for a salon treatment than for something you use at home.

But in terms of whether you’re getting some great benefit from these pricey treatments versus something you could just do at home…I’ve not seen any good evidence of that.  Consider that there are no special ingredients that go in a salon conditioning treatment that couldn’t also be put in your standard at-home product. I looked at the Clairol Professional Color Vibrancey Repair Packet and they have standard conditioner ingredients Amodimethicone, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Panthenol…you know, the same type of stuff you get in store brand conditioners.

Despite what you might read on the Internet there’s nothing about a quinoa hair treatment that is particularly impressive. Certainly not worth hundreds of dollars.  Keratin deep conditioning…those products also contain silicones, cationic conditioners, and all the other things found in standard conditioners. There really is no special technology that a salon puts on your hair when doing these special conditioning treatments.  

Now, I’m sure the whole experience will leave you with great feeling hair but I’ve tested enough of these conditioning treatments to know that your hair is not going to be left in a condition significantly better than the condition you can get by using a standard conditioner at home.  

Misty from Texas What are your thoughts on Curology? What do you think of these custom formulations?  Is this a good option instead of going to this instead of a dermatologist?

I hadn’t heard of Curology so I went over to their website to check them out. Indeed, they are all about customization and making customized formulas. Or at least, custom-ish formulas. They try to make things simple for you. You answer a few questions, snap a picture of your skin, send it to the website then they send you “your custom super bottle” of perfect skin care for you.  It sounds like magic.

But I’m skeptical of these types of things as you might have imagined. Especially the part where you are subscribing to a service. The main reason people market products as subscription is that it’s a guaranteed sale. They know that a large segment of their customer base will be too lazy or forgetful to cancel a subscription once it starts even if they don’t like the product. Marketing companies love to get people to subscribe to products. While subscriptions for things like Netflix or Car Insurance make sense, subscriptions to beauty products (especially acne treatments) don’t.  

They also don’t offer refunds.  hmmm. More troubling is the cancellation policy where they say that “if you do not receive a cancellation confirmation email, your account has not been cancelled.”  Seems a little dodgy to me. If someone wants to cancel they shouldn’t have to count on the company sending back an email to confirm you cancel. And then they don’t have a phone number?  What kind of business doesn’t have a phone number?

I digress.

The products are made in conjunction with a dermatologist which most likely means the dermatologist worked with a cosmetic chemist or contract manufacturer to get the products made. Anyway, I’m sure they are fine products.

I looked at their ingredient lists and wasn’t terribly impressed. The primary ingredients in their cleansers are Cocamidpropyl Hydroxysultaine and Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate. Then there are a couple of secondary surfactants too. This will be a perfectly functional, light cleansing product. I suspect it will have a hard time cleaning off a face that has a lot of makeup on it, but for an every day cleanser, I’m sure it will be fine.

The moisturizer isn’t anything special either in that it contains things you would expect like Dimethicone, and a couple other silicones and humectants like Glycerin and Sodium Hyaluronate. Again, a perfectly fine moisturizer.

But $60 for a 2 month supply?  

Then there is the super bottle. According to what I could find the formula contains three active ingredients which could be clindamycin, azelaic acid, tretinoin, niacinamide, and zinc pyrithione. These are all things that are found in anti-acne products.  Nothing groundbreaking here.

In my view the questionnaire is just a marketing gimmick. They ask you about skin sensitivity, aging, oil production and your breakout history. People are not very good at assessing their own skin so there are no obvious formulation changes you can make based on these answers. They could randomly give you one of the products and if it works, great. If it doesn’t work they can give you a different combination and keep iterating like that until you get something that works. Maybe their technology algorithm can do better than that but I doubt it.

Alright, so to your final question, is this a good option over going to a dermatologist? In my opinion, I don’t really think so. If you have acne, the first thing you should try is the over the counter stuff you can get at the store. These contain ingredients proven to work against acne for most people. But if you’ve tried that stuff and still have a problem, going to the dermatologist is a more reasonable option than a service like this one.  If you have severe acne or something that is complicated to treat, you need to be looked at by a dermatologist. Some people might like the at-home convenience of a service like curology but I’m skeptical that that is worth the cost.

Beth – What are the pros and cons from using a bar soap form of shampoo and hair conditioner?

First, what are these products and how are they different than standard shampoos and conditioners?

Basically, these formulas use many of the same ingredients as standard formulas but with a lot less water.  For a solid shampoo, typically a detergent is used diluted to about 15% of the formula. In these solid shampoos they can just skip the water and use a solid version of the detergent like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

For a solid conditioner, they substitute a solid like Coco butter or Shea butter for the water but then include conditioner ingredients like Behentrimonium Chloride. They also include some detergent surfactants so you can was the stuff out of your hair.  These are tricky formulas to make and they generally don’t include the best ingredients you can use in conditioners.

Pros –

  1. Reduce water waste in making the product. We haven’t thought much about water when creating formulas but in the future it could have significant impact on the environment.
  2. Reduce packaging waste – No plastic bottles means less waste.
  3. Reduce number of ingredients needed to make products – For solid products you can use a lower amount of preservatives, pH adjusters and some other ingredients. There is nothing necessarily wrong with those ingredients but reducing exposure to any kind of chemicals is probably helpful. At the very least this lessens the chances of you developing some kind of reaction to one of the compounds.
  4. Last longer – the marketers say that these bars will last longer and they might be right. Bar soap seems to last longer than body wash so these probably will last longer.
  5. Easier to travel with? I guess you don’t have to worry about the bottle opening up and getting all over your clothes

Cons –

  1. Light cleaning – they probably aren’t going to clean your hair as well
  2. Low foaming – they won’t feel like they are working because it’s harder to make foam. This may not be related to how well they are working but you probably won’t enjoy the experience as much.
  3. More damaging – Rubbing a solid on your hair directly could cause damage that you don’t get from a liquid product.   
  4. More tangling – The rubbing action might also make your hair more tangled.

In my view these products aren’t going to be as satisfying to use for people with longer hair. For someone with short hair they might be fine.  But on the plus side, they can probably work as bar soaps too.

Support the Beauty Brains

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

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on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

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And we have a Facebook page.

Support the Beauty Brains!

The Beauty Brains are now on Patreon! Help support us to continue to make episodes.

Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty


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

Is dust making you fat? Probably not.

Three hot new beauty trends from the UK – Vegan Beauty, Clean Beauty & Microbiome

Danish retailer bans fluorinated compounds in all cosmetics – And dentists around Denmark rejoice!

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 thebeautybrains@gmail.com  Of course, we prefer audio questions because that makes for a more interesting sounding show.

Beauty Brains wrapup

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

Social media accounts

on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

on Twitter, we’re thebeautybrains

And we have a Facebook page.

Support the Beauty Brains!

The Beauty Brains are now on Patreon! Help support us to continue to make episodes.

Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty


Welcome to episode 176!

Today is our all-fragrance question extravaganza!!  

On this episode we’re going to be answering your beauty questions about

  • What do the terms unscented and fragrance free mean?
  • Should you avoid fragrance in skin care products
  • What’s the difference between synthetic and natural fragrances?
  • And how do fragrances get chosen for products?

Beauty science news

Gillette partners with Terracycle to recycle razor blades

Is the FDA going to get more power to regulate cosmetics

Beauty Product questions

Sheila says – Can you talk about the terms unscented, fragrance free, and for sensitive skin?

What differentiates these products from other products that are not necessarily for sensitive skin, when most of the ingredients are the same?


Grace says – Do you agree with Paula’s Choice severe take on fragrances leading to irritation? And then she provides a few links to scientific papers that the brand uses to justify their advice.

Ya know this is an interesting question and one I think we’ve stumbled upon in the past.  I know that Paula has been against fragrance in skin care products for a long time. While she makes a reasonable argument for avoiding fragrances, I think she goes too far and the advice to avoid fragrance in skin care products is overly cautious.

So let’s go through what Paula’s position is on fragrances in skincare.

On the Paula’s Choice website she has a post which explains it titled “Why Fragrance-free Products are best for everyone

Fragrances are known to be sensitizing to all skin types so you should avoid them. Also, not all sensitizing reactions are noticeable so you might be damaging your skin without even knowing it. So, everyone should avoid fragrances in their skin products.

Now, I don’t exactly disagree with the first few statements, but I do disagree with the conclusion that everyone should avoid fragrances.  Let’s dive a little deeper into her specific argument.

The first claim she makes it that it is well known that fragrance is a common sensitizing ingredient for all skin types – This isn’t exactly correct.  You see “fragrance” is not a single ingredient. Fragrances are made up of dozens or even hundreds of ingredients. It is true that some of the ingredients in some fragrances are sensitizing to different skin types, but it is not correct to say all fragrances are sensitizing to all skin types. This isn’t exactly what is claimed but it is implied. There are plenty of fragrances made up of ingredients that will not be sensitizing or cause any reaction to the vast majority of people.

Another claim that is made is that fragrances impart scent through a volatile reaction and that it is this natural reaction that causes skin sensitizing reaction on skin. Again, this is not exactly correct. This may be pedantic, but volatility is not a chemical reaction. It is a physical process in which molecules of the fragrance evaporate off the surface and into the air just like when water evaporates. These molecules bind with receptors in your nose which causes the sensation of odor. In chemistry, when we use the term “reaction” it specifically means that molecules interact other molecules to form some new molecule. Nothing like that is going on here.   

The volatility of an ingredient has little to do with the skin sensitization of a material. What is responsible for skin sensitization reactions is your immune system. Fragrance materials (or any other ingredient you might be sensitive to) bind with receptors on immune system cells in your skin which ultimately can lead to a reaction like redness, swelling or inflammation. Now, if you do not happen to have a cell with a receptor that reacts to the fragrance ingredient, then no immune reaction will take place. The ingredient will evaporate off your skin, maybe get into your nose, you’ll smell it, then it goes off into the atmosphere, never to be heard from again.  You’ll be like the 95-98% of people who experience no problems when using skin products with fragrances in them.

Now that gets us to the next claim made.  They say that even if you don’t show signs of being aggravated by fragrance in products, there could be some silently occurring damage going on in the skin that you just don’t notice. They further claim that this will build up over time and cause worse problems in the long term. Well, this is just conjecture and no proof is given. While it may be true that there is some invisible damage being caused there is no proof offered that people who use fragrance have worse skin years later because of it. I doubt that it is true or at least that it is true in any measurable sense.

She does offer up the analogy to not wearing sunscreen but this is completely different. Sun exposure damages DNA of stem cells which causes future damage in new cells. There is nothing in the immune response to fragrances that is going to cause long lasting damage like UV exposure. An analogy is not proof.

If they wanted to prove this, they would need to compare two people with the same genetics using the same products but with one having a fragranced product and the other an unfragranced one and see who’s skin is better. Obviously, a study like this can’t be done. Maybe you could compare people who use fragrances versus people who don’t but there are genetic differences so even that wouldn’t be completely accurate. However, even doing a study like that wouldn’t tell you much.

So, it’s not like you will go wrong if you follow Paula’s advice to avoid fragrances in skin care. But if you’re one of the 95% + people who have no negative reactions to fragrances, then you’re not really helping yourself much. You’re just using products that smell worse while enjoying the experience of doing skin care less.

The position to be fragrance free is a unique one in the market and it carves out a niche for their products. But it smacks a little bit of fear marketing in my opinion.  If you like the experience of fragrances in your skin care products and don’t have any noticeable reaction, I say go ahead and use them. If you have problems, then go fragrance free.


DanaLynn asks – what is the difference between synthetic or natural fragrance?

Why would one be “safer” than the other?

-I personally think the the synthetic ones would be safer. Because you have a higher confidence of what the composition of the ingredient is. Natural ingredients can be made up of anything that happens to get incorporated into the plant while it’s growing. The production of synthetic ingredients are tightly controlled under specific conditions.  Also, natural ingredients are more likely to be contaminated with some microbe that could cause problems. All-in-all, synthetic is safer.


Katherine asks – How to choose fragrances for different cosmetic products?

Go through the process of how we pick a fragrance for a product.

1.  Marketing concept – create an avatar of potential customers

2.  Mall intercept testing

3.  Submissions from fragrance houses

4.  Fragrance screening

5.  Ultimately choosing the fragrance

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 thebeautybrains@gmail.com  Of course, we prefer audio questions because that makes for a more interesting sounding show.

Beauty Brains wrapup

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

Social media accounts

on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

on Twitter, we’re thebeautybrains

And we have a Facebook page.

Support the Beauty Brains!

The Beauty Brains are now on Patreon! Help support us to continue to make episodes.

Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty


We had a technical glitch this week & Perry is on vacation so enjoy a show from the archives…episode 101

Question of the week: How are cosmetics regulated outside of the US?3044867827_6e619a0f80

Jacs from the UK asked…”Can you add a overview on how cosmetics are regulated in the rest of the world other than America please?”

Our answer comes from UK-based cosmetic chemist Colin Sanders of Colin’s Beauty Pages.

Who makes the regulations in the EU?

The obvious first question for someone outside the EU is who actually makes the rules?
In fact it is a pretty good question for people inside it as well. The answer is that the regulations are drawn up by the European Commission, a body that many Europeans don’t know exists.

The commission itself is run by 28 commissioners who are delegates from each of the 28 member states and who are usually politicians with a successful career behind them. 
They have a staff of about 23,000 to do the actual work of drawing up legislation. The cosmetics regulations are just one of the many things the commission does, and it has been pumping them out regularly every 4 years since 1976. You can easily discover the latest version – it is online along with all other EU regulations so a bit of googling will find it.

The commission can also issue what are known as decisions, which are ad hoc rulings on specific points. These can and do override regulations in particular cases. A recent example is the change to the rules on methylisothiazolinone where a decision has tightened the restrictions on it. This means you can’t be absolutely sure the published text is up to date, which is one of the charming foibles of the way the regulations work.

What the European Commission doesn’t have is a specific department devoted to cosmetics. So the regulations are drawn up by general bureaucrats. They don’t know anything about cosmetics so they depend on advice. They got some of this from trade bodies and from interested parties. This means that the interests of the big producers are taken into account. Smaller producers? Not so much.

They also have advice from a body called the scientific committee for cosmetic safety or SCCS, which is composed largely of academics with an interest in medicine and general science.

The whole thing is pretty transparent, at least on paper. Decisions are well documented and published online for anyone to read. The opinions of the SCCS are full of detail. They quote the data they used and the reasoning they adopted. They also give the names and credentials of the people involved. So you know who they are, and they show their working. You do need to have a fair bit of background knowledge to be able to keep abreast of it all though. Neither bureaucrats nor scientists are well known for making their business easy to follow.

What are the main ways the regulations control things?

So what sort of regulations have these guys come up with between them? You don’t need to get any kind of registration of approval to launch a cosmetic, but you do need to register it on the Cosmetic Product Notification Portal. This is a simply enormous database of every cosmetic formulation on the market along with its pack copy. Registering a product on it is not tremendously difficult and is free to registrants, which inevitably means the cost of administering it comes from European taxpayers. Its stated purpose is to provide poisons centres with rapid information on the ingredients of cosmetic products in the event of some kind of medical incident. I’d love to know how often this database is referred to.

First of all, notice that you DON’T have to get approval to launch a cosmetic in the EU. That’s how it is in the US too. The registration requirement he mentioned is already voluntary in the US and the new bill would make it mandatory. And yes, the fees for this would be passed on to US tax payers.

This isn’t the only information the European Commission is collecting. There is also a requirement to notify them of any serious adverse effects on cosmetics. This is an idea that has been adopted from the pharmaceutical industry where it has been going on for a long time. This is potentially of great help in identifying problem products and problem ingredients. It has only been running since 2013 so it is a bit soon to judge how this is going to work out. But if my experience is anything to go by there aren’t going to be too many of them.

The EU has quite a long list of banned substances. This is the longest bit of the regulations and the one that almost nobody ever refers to. I have the rest of the regulations printed out in a folder on my shelf full of notes and comments. I add whatever I learn about what they mean and how they are interpreted and enforced, but I skipped the banned substance list. I don’t think there is anything on it that anybody would ever want to put into a cosmetic in the first place, so I don’t really see the point of it.

There is a list of controlled substances, which are things that you are only allowed to use up to a certain level or in particular kinds of product.
There are lists of permitted preservatives, colours and so on although there is nothing to stop you using things that are not on the list so long as they are safe.

But the most significant way that cosmetic product safety is addressed is through the requirement for safety assessments. When you think about it, there are two ways you can ensure safety. You can either lay down a set of rules that everyone needs to follow, or you can require that somebody who knows what they are doing approves products before they are released.
The EU uses a mixture of both. There are plenty of prescriptive rules, most of which are pretty conservative in their assessment of the risks particular ingredients pose. And you also need to get any formulation you launch signed off by a safety assessor. When safety assessments originally came out the rules about who should do them and how they should be written were pretty vague. They simply called for a suitably qualified person to assess the safety of the product. 
I quite liked this approach. It put the onus on the company to justify that their assessor was indeed suitably qualified.

Sadly the rules have become much more exiguous and now there is a specific format that safety assessments need to follow and some criteria for suitable qualifications for assessors. This actually makes the system a bit weaker, because anybody with a chemistry or a life sciences degree can easily meet the criteria with relatively little extra work and as long as they diligently follow the correct format laid down in the rules, they can be a safety assessor. That seems a lot easier than having to justify that you are suitably qualified to me. I’d rather have somebody who actually knows a bit about how cosmetics work personally.

How does it all work in practice?

Different European countries enforce the regulations in different ways. In the UK trading standards officers are responsible. But this is just one part of their remit to protect consumers, and their approach is generally pragmatic. They tend not to give cosmetics a huge amount of attention, probably for the very good reason that they don’t give consumers much in the way of trouble. There are other bits of legislation that they have in their toolkit which are relevant to cosmetics which they can use, so even when there is a problem they aren’t necessarily or even probably going to use specific cosmetic legislation to deal with it.

The cosmetic regulations are in fact rather unsuitable to their purposes. A good example are skin lighteners containing hydroquinone. Most people in the business are reasonably clear that article 14 of annex 3 of the EU regulations bans hydroquinone in any products except hair dyes and artificial nails, and in these you can’t use more than 0.3%. But if you look at it as it is written, it is open to the interpretation that it is limited in those products but you can use as much as you like in other products. So I wasn’t surprised to see a prosecution of a shop selling a skin lightening cream being carried out using a completely different law altogether.

This might sound like a criticism, but it really isn’t. One of the good things about the EU regulations is that they are written in language that is straight forward enough to provide guidance to anyone interested and you don’t need a lawyer to interpret them for you.
In Ireland the health department has been given the job of enforcing the cosmetic regulations, and they go about it in a rather more legalistic way presumably because their pharmaceutical training influences them to do so. If you are selling products in Ireland you need to be ready be interrogated by the someone who has read the regulations carefully if they get any complaints. Other European countries all have their own particular ways of enforcing the regulations.

Are cosmetics really dangerous or not?

So the big question is do the regulations actually do the job 
What are the risks that cosmetics pose to consumers? It happens that most cosmetic products are applied to the skin and the hair, which are not really vulnerable parts of the body. Unbroken skin is a pretty good barrier to most potential toxins. Even products that are used in or around the mouth like lip balm and toothpaste are used in tiny quantities. Cosmetics that did contain harmful ingredients are not going to do much harm. And there is not much incentive to use anything harmful anyway. You can make highly effective products using ingredients that are both cheap and safe. Why would you do anything different?

So the products from big, medium sized companies are likely to be both legal and completely safe. In fact given that they are all trying to build brands they are very concerned with their reputations and would probably not behave very differently if all the cosmetic regulations were withdrawn tomorrow.

There are also quite a lot of people who make cosmetics on a small scale and sell them at crafts and websites like Etsy. These people may not be quite so aware of the details of the regulations but they are motivated by a love of what they do and it is hard to imagine them doing anything harmful.

The only sector of the cosmetics business which is likely to pose any risk are products that are made on a small scale purely to make money. These tend to be distributed in ways that makes it hard for you to track back to them. Not very well known websites, direct mail and mail order adverts are typical. These people are not out to do any harm, but they can often be willing to cut corners. There was a lot of publicity recently about fake branded products. Contamination is the biggest problem, and fake products were found to contain things like rat droppings. Nobody is putting this kind of thing in their products deliberately, but they might well not follow elementary hygiene such as keeping batches covered overnight. This is exactly the kind of thing people out to make a quick buck are going to do as well. The cosmetic regulations give one option to the authorities when they are trying to stop this kind of thing going on – though there are other laws that might well be being broken at the same time.

Colin’s Conclusion

I think the conclusion I draw is that cosmetics you buy through regular distribution channels like shops, pharmacies and the big specialised online cosmetic websites are pretty much as safe as you can expect anything to be. The regulations are respected and followed by all the big suppliers and distributors. But the actual detail of what the regulations say is probably not as important as the motivations of the people who make the stuff.

iTunes reviews

I think it’s interesting to note that this question came to us in an iTunes review…those are really important to us. We took a blood oath to give a shout out to every single person who writes a review for us. We’ve had a LOT of reviews in the last few weeks (we’re over 125 reviews now!) so let’s read a couple more:

Hi-CD3 says…Most trustworthy source for beauty science. These guys know more about beauty products than nearly all of the instant fix studies and products advertised & endorsed on TV.

Amanda says…I’ve learned so much from listening to these 2 seasoned pros!! I’m continually grateful to these guys for providing informative, entertaining podcasts for free. And, she says, “I love Perry’s voice.”

Kenlynn from Canada says…Beauty science rules. These guys are informative, funny and really are the experts. As someone who makes their own cosmetics, it’s awesome to have an inspiring show like this to learn more about beauty myths and facts.

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This is episode 175 and on today’s episode we’re going to cover a news stories we found interesting in the cosmetics industry, and then we’ll answer your beauty questions about:

  • Are sunscreen sprays legal?
  • What is the level of SPF we should use on our face everyday?
  • Why hasn’t the FDA approved the new sunscreen filters available in Europe in Asia like Uvinul and Tinosorb? When can we expect these to be available in the US?
  • Is there A device for use at home that can show you if your spf is applied appropriately. I went to the derm and they had a blue light that showed sun damage beneath the skin surface. It was shocking! (Angela)

Beauty Science News

Does Coconut Oil Dry Out Your Hair?

Allure posted an article in 2017 to explore why some people feel the benefits of coconut oil on hair, while others are left with their hair feeling like straw. Coconut oil is still all the rage for skin and hair – many swear by it in their beauty ritual. But what is it doing on hair?

Coconut oil is actually confusing in the name, as when we think oil, we think a liquid that’s insoluble in water. Coconut oil is actually a liquid above room temperature and a solid below room temperature, yet it’s called an oil.

The temperature at which an oil, fat, or butter starts to solidify is called its titer point. You can identify this visually when it starts to cloud when it is melted and clear. Typically, oils have a titer of below 40.5°C, while fats have a titer above 40.5°C. An easy way to think of that is oils solidify when they are cold, and fats start to solidify when they are warm. Butters have a titer in between 20°C and 40.5°C. All of these formats are chemically composed of triglycerides, with their varying combinations contributing to their titer point.

If we look at different oils, apricot kernel oil as a titer of 0 – 6°C, or 32 – 42.8°F. That’s pretty chilly before it starts to cloud! Coconut Oil has a titer point of 22°C, or 71.6°C when it starts to solidify, and it solidifies quickly. The point is, when one applies apricot kernel oil to the hair, it will likely always stay in liquid oil form when applied to the hair. Conversely, coconut oil starts as a liquid after being rubbed together in our hands and melted, but shortly after being on the hair, the temperature drops before it solidifies into a film on the hair. This can happen quickly, and this is actually what I think contributes a lot to the dry feel of hair.

Coconut oil, in theory, should not leave the hair feeling dried out based on its triglyceride composition – 48% lauric, 18% myristic and 9% palmitic acids, with oleic acid and linoleic acid in smaller portions. These latter are readily used in hair care, so coconut oil itself shouldn’t feel drying. It’s likely the solidification and viscosity difference (looking like lard versus a liquid) that play into coconut oil sitting on the outside of the fiber, solidifying, and thus feeling like a dry, hard layer on the hair.

Spray Sunscreen update

FDA new sunscreen ruling

Before there is a final monograph companies just follow the tentative monographs and sprays weren’t included in this. But in 2018 the FDA issued a new policy that said companies could avoid enforcement of the rules against certain forms if they followed specific guidelines which included

  • 1. Only use a sunscreen actives listed in the monograph & at the approved percentages.
  • 2.  Don’t make disallowed claims like “sunblock”, “sweat proof” or “waterproof” or “all-day” protection.
  • 3. follow all the requirements for OTC drugs like having the right labels & dictions & the reporting of adverse events.

But the rule goes on to state specifically the type of form that will be allowed including oils, lotions, creams, gels…and Sprays.

Interestingly, some of the forms that the FDA still does not allow includes Shampoos, Body washes, Powders, Towelettes, and Wipes.

Now, for sprays the FDA does require manufacturers to have additional labeling. They require specific directions, and a warning which says “do not spray directly into face. Spray on hands then apply to face”

So, even the FDA is telling you that it’s a dumb idea to spray a sunscreen straight into your face. And of course, I’ll stop doing that.

Beauty Questions

Paola asks, “What is the level of SPF we should use for our face everyday?”

The FDA recommends a minimum of SPF 15, or SPF 30 if skin is fair. It’s also important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen. Any sunscreen that is not SPF 15 or broad spectrum has to carry a warning that says, “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.” Valerie personally wears a broad spectrum SPF 30 cream daily, but she has fair skin. Perry uses SPF 30 or 50.

Nicole asks…why hasn’t the FDA approved the new sunscreen filters available in Europe in Asia like Uvinul and Tinosorb? When can we expect these to be available in the US?

The EU has 27 approved sunscreens while the US has only 16.  And of those 16, only 8 are really used. And actually of those 8, only 2 can block UVA. Half of the ones approved in the EU but not in the US also block UVA so it would really open up formulation options for cosmetic chemist if they would get approved.

The reason they are not approved is because the FDA looks at sunscreens as drugs while in the EU sunscreens are considered cosmetics. Drug actives require a lot more safety and efficacy data than cosmetic ingredients.  

President Obama signed the Sunscreen Innovation Act, in November 2014 to help get these things approved more quickly. The law said the FDA was supposed to review applications for eight European sunscreen molecules: amiloxate, bemotrizinol, bisoctrizole, drometrizole trisiloxane, ecamsule, enzacamene, iscotrizinol, and octyl triazone.

Unfortunately, instead of approving the sunscreens, the FDA told the makers of the ingredients that the sunscreens weren’t approved without more testing, specifically for long term exposure to for children and pregnant women. That means for the companies who want to sell the ingredients more expensive and lengthy clinical testing. But the companies are just getting tired of it so it’s unlikely that we’ll see a new sunscreen approved any time soon.

Angela wants to know…Is there A device for use at home that can show you if your spf is applied appropriately. I went to the derm and they had a blue light that showed sun damage beneath the skin surface. It was shocking!

I looked into this and indeed there is a product available for doing just that. There’s a device called Sunscreenr that attaches to your phone and will show you a picture of yourself what you look like under UV light.  The idea is that the darker your skin looks, the more protected it will be.

More practical than this device I think are those colored sunscreens. For example, Coppertone has a Kids Colorblock Disappearing Green Sunblock Spray which goes on one color and goes invisible when it dries.

I looked into how this works and according to a patent granted in 2001 (patent 6290936B1) they use a water-soluble dye or a blend of water-soluble dyes whose color substantially disappears when the sunscreen emulsion dries after it is spread on the skin and/or is rubbed out. That just seems more practical to me.  

However, these types of sunscreens haven’t really had great market success so that shows you what I know about whether a technology will be successful or not.

Beauty Brains wrapup

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

Social media accounts

on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

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And we have a Facebook page.

Support the Beauty Brains!

The Beauty Brains are now on Patreon! Help support us to continue to make episodes.

Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty


Beauty questions covered on this episode include…

  • Why is the prescription azelaic acid so expensive?
  • Do cosmetic products expire?
  • Is petroleum in skin products like Aquaphor bad for you?
  • What’s the difference between moisturizers and hydrators

Beauty news

How will the microplastic ban affect cosmetic products?

I saw this story that the EU was proposing to ban microplastics in products like cosmetics, detergents and agricultural products.  The concern with microplastics is that they get into the environment clog up waterways and have a negative impact on wildlife.

They say about 36,000 tons of microplastics are released into the environment every year.  That sounds like a lot.

Then they go on to say that the ban would force the cosmetic industry to reformulate over 24,000 formulas. That sounded pretty high to me. They also said it would cost the sector more than 12 billion pounds a year in lost revenue.

The industry group, the CTPA says that there isn’t scientific evidence that microplastics from cosmetics are a source of marine pollution.

I personally don’t think you really get much benefit from these microbes. It’s more of a gimmick. I don’t think they provide exfoliation for example. And I’ve looked.

Beauty Game

Which is the fake Goop product?

Vampire Repellent
Organic Cotton Toothbrush – This is the fake
Coffee Enema
Camel Milk home delivery service


Pee Vee asks, “Why the heck is prescription azelaic acid so expensive?  This ingredient has been around for a long time! It is not a patented ingredient, as far as I know.”

Do cosmetic products expire?

Scott says…I was wondering if you could help clarify some information regarding shelf life please.

To give you a bit of context:

For the past 17 years I’ve been using a lip balm called: Nivea Hydro Care Caring Lip Balm.

Here comes the bad news: Last year Nivea reformulated their entire range of lip balms which they call the “new melt-in formula”

The new formula is terrible. It smells revolting, it has a very sticky texture and no moisturising properties whatsoever.  The old formula is perfect for me, it goes on smoothly, it’s mildly scented and feels very rich and moisturising.

My query relates to the shelf life.  On Nivea’s website they state that “unopened products have a shelf life of at least 30 months from the date of manufacture unless they carry a specific expiry or use by date”.

I have enough lip balms in my stash to last me until December 2020 (assuming I use one per month) but I have no idea when they were manufactured.

Is it strictly true that they will go stale after the 30 months unopened?

We’ve gotten questions like this a few times but I don’t think we’ve covered it on the podcast. Beauty product consumers often want to know how long a product will last. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer but here are some guidelines to determining the expiration date of a cosmetic formula.

Before we talk about the expiration date, it makes sense to first define what is meant by “expiring.”  When it comes to cosmetics, there are various things that indicate a product has expired.

First, does it still work?  A good indication of whether a product has expired is if it still works. If a product stops providing the benefit for which you use it, then it is expired. If the lip balm doesn’t make your lips feel good, then the product has expired and you shouldn’t use it.

Next, does it have acceptable aesthetic properties?  Perhaps the most important indication of whether a product has expired is whether it continues to be aesthetically pleasing to use. Over time, there can be chemical reactions going on in your product which can result in color changes, odor changes, pH drift, viscosity changes, texture changes and more. While these products might technically continue to work, they aren’t as pleasing to use as they were when you first bought them, so the manufacturer would consider them “expired.”

How are expiration dates determined?

Manufacturers define the expiration date as a point in time when the product doesn’t meet specifications. These are just standard tests run on products when they are first made.  By defining an expiration point as the time when the product no longer meets specifications, you can then run a test to determine an approximate expiration date. The industry standard way of doing this is called stability testing.

Stability testing – Stability testing involves an experiment in which you take samples of your product and put them at different environmental conditions for a set period of time. The conditions vary in temperature and light levels and are meant to simulate what happens to the product during its life cycle from shipping, to store shelves, to consumer’s bathrooms.

At select intervals you evaluate your samples for various physical, chemical and performance characteristics to see how they have changed. If the changes are minimal according to your company standards, then the product is still good.  When characteristics of the product go outside of the specified ranges, then your product can be said to have “expired.”

Manufacturers and consumers likely have different expectations for how long a product should last. For most products, the industry standard is that it should be stable for at least one year. This means you shouldn’t expect to see any changes for characteristics outside the specification range after one year of testing. Of course, if the product isn’t selling fast enough the manufacturer would like this date extended but they also strive to have all inventory sold before one year.

Consumers are a bit different in that they want to have products that will last for as long as they have it. They don’t really want to buy a product that will “go bad” in a short amount of time. Actually, I don’t think they want products that will go bad for however long they have the product. This can be a really long time. In fact, I’ve got a men’s hair styling product that is at least 10 years old. I still use it on occasion because it smells fine and still works. This is why I make a terrible target consumer for hair products.

It’s interesting to note that in the US there is no specific requirement to put an expiration date on cosmetics. It is a law however, that the manufacturer has to run tests to determine the shelf life to demonstrate the product is safe to use.  In the EU there are more stringent requirements for product expiration dates. If a product has an expected shelf life of longer that 30 months you must do testing to demonstrate how long the product will last after opening. If the product has a shorter than 30 month shelf life, you must put a “best before” date on the package.

So, back to your question. While the manufacturer has put the 30 month expiration date on it if the lip balm still tastes right and works for you, it’s unlikely there will be any problems with using it. Of course, if you do have a problem you probably won’t have any recourse since you’ll be using the product in a way not recommended by the manufacturer.

Jodi asks, “Is Petroleum in skin products like Aquaphor bad for you? What’s snow white Petroleum?”

Dina asks – What is the difference between hydration and moisture/hydrating and moisturizing? How do moisturizers work? And how are they different from hydrators?

You know, we got this question and I thought it was a bit strange. It’s hard for a formulator to keep up with all these marketing terms. Cosmetic marketers have a tough time differentiating their products so they come up with different ways to talk about the same things.  Anyway, the terms moisturizing and hydration are really marketing terms which means the companies can define them pretty much however they want. They all mean the same thing and refer to increasing the amount of water present in either hair or skin. In investigating what’s on the market I noticed that some marketers use these terms to differentiate between Humectants (which are ingredients that attract water) and Occlusive agents (which are materials that block water from escaping thereby increasing the amount in the skin). But these are not scientific terms.

Moisturizers as some people define them, are oil based ingredients including occlusive agents like Petrolatum or Mineral oil and emollients like esters and plant oils. They work by creating a film on the surface of skin which prevents water from escaping. They also make the skin feel smoother and less dry.  Hydrators are ingredients called humectants like Glycerin or Hyaluronic Acid that absorb water from the atmosphere (or your skin) and hold it in place on your skin.

You’ll see hydrators and moisturizers advertised in all kinds of different products. Things like balms, seriums, oils, creams and even gels. The form of product doesn’t matter too much since it does not really affect the performance of the product much. Although creams and balms can be made to be a bit more intensive because you can include more occlusive materials. But the for product performance it is the ingredients that matter. The form just affects the experience of applying the ingredients.

For really dry skin occlusive agents are the best (something with Petrolatum works the best). But if someone want to avoid petrolatum, shea butter or Canola oil or Soybean oil can work.  In reality, petrolatum is the best however. If you use a humectant (hydrator) you should see immediate improvement in skin. If you use a moisturizer (occlusive) it will take an hour to improve skin. That’s why you should use a product that incorporates both.

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 thebeautybrains@gmail.com  We prefer audio questions because it sounds better on the podcast.

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

Speaking of beauty questions, if you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

Social media accounts

on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

on Twitter, we’re thebeautybrains

And we have a Facebook page.

Support the Beauty Brains!

The Beauty Brains are now on Patreon! Help support us to continue to make episodes.

Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty


Hello and welcome to the Beauty Brains, a show where real scientists answer your beauty questions and give you an insider’s look at the beauty product industry.

Beauty questions answered on this show

  • Do silicones dry out your skin?
  • Why do white hairs on my head turn reddish at the ends?
  • What ingredients should look for in sunscreen while exercising?

Beauty Science News

Royal Society of Chemistry has a challenge for you!

Here’s how you can win £1million! The Royal Society of Chemistry has an ongoing program where they will award £1million to the first company that can produce a chemical free product. They started the program back in 2010 but unsurprisingly, no company has won the award thus far.

3D facemasks are introduced by Neutrogena

Well, it looks like Neutrogena is trying to cash in on both by launching a customized 3D facial mask that fits perfectly on your face.

Do women spend $15,000 on beauty products in a lifetime?

Doing a little math and if you spend $50 a month on beauty products, that’s $600 a year which over 40 years is $24,000. So, $15,000…I don’t know that doesn’t seem too outrageous. It actually seems a bit low to me. And if you compare it to other things we spend our money on (cab rides for instance) it seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Donna wants to know why her white hair, only in the front, is turning reddish on the ends, and is there anything besides a chelating shampoo the Brains can recommend?

Gray hair appears gray because it lacks the pigment used to naturally color hair, melanin. Melanin is produced deep in the hair follicle by melanocytes. As we age, for various mechanisms, the melanocytes stop producing melanin, so the hair becomes gray, or white. For some people, it’s not uncommon for their gray hair to continue to shift color.

In order to combat metal buildup in the hair, one can use a chelating shampoo that is specifically designed to sequester metal ions in the hair fiber and remove them. Most shampoos contain chelating agents, but not for metal removal from hair. That’s to sequester metals in the actual formulation. You’ll need to specifically look for one for metal removal.

Silicone in cosmetics

Thaïs asks, do silicones in cosmetics dry your skin? And also, please explain the difference between silica and silicones. Thanks!

Thanks for the question Thai. Let’s start with the second part first. What is the difference between silica and silicones. Silicones are compounds derived from the element Silicon which is the 14th on the periodic table of elements.

Instead most of the silicones you find in cosmetics are based on silicon-oxygen-silicon- (-Si-O-Si-) bonds. In nature, silicon exists in a mineral called quartz. In fact, quartz and silica are the same thing. Just Silcon bonded to Oxygen. Silica is the major component of sand. It’s a solid used for it’s abrasiveness (so for exfoliating), for its light-diffusing properties and for its ability to absorb oil.

Silicones are made from silica and can take on many forms from solid to liquid to gas. Through a variety of chemical reactions we can make things like Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone and all the other silicones use in cosmetics.

Silicones are used for a variety of reasons including

  • Spreadability
  • Feel
  • Shine
  • Occlusion
  • Slip

Ok, so that’s why they are used. But do they dry the skin? No, there is no evidence that they are drying. In fact, I looked through the research report done in the CIR and there was no significant report of a topical silicone from a cosmetic causing dermal irritation or dryness. In fact, silicones like Dimethicone are occlusive agents which would be expected to increase moisturization.

Sunscreen on your face tips

Juels asks – What ingredients should look for in sunscreen while exercising?

Stick to the Zinc Oxide / Titanium Dioxide sunscreens. The ones with the hydrocarbon sunscreens like avobenzone or oxybenzone can cause stinging if they get in the eyes or even irritate sensitive skin.

One problem with these mineral sunscreen actives is that they can be visible. It’s not like you’ll look like a mime when using them but it can give a slight ghostly hue. There are nanoparticle sized zinc products that are invisible and these are perfectly fine to use if you want to avoid the ghostly look.

I’d stay away from something that has a lot of herbal extracts and things in it. Although these ingredients are supposed to be natural, they are packed with dozens of naturally occurring chemicals any one of which can cause skin irritation and reactions. Go for a minimalist strategy here and look for products with fewer ingredients.

Look for something that is fragrance free. Fragrance ingredients can cause skin irritation and stinging.

I also like sunscreens that have a film forming polymer in there that helps hold the product in place. Look for something with the word Crosspolymer or copolymer in there such as an ingredient like Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer.

Of course I also recommend wearing a visor and sunglasses if you are going to run outside in the sun.

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

Speaking of beauty questions, if you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

Social media accounts

on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

on Twitter, we’re thebeautybrains

And we have a Facebook page.

Support the Beauty Brains!

The Beauty Brains are now on Patreon! Help support us to continue to make episodes.

Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty


On today’s episode we’re going to be answering your beauty questions about

  • Does a product’s price indicate anything about quality?
  • Does Glycerin and Aloe Vera really moisturize?
  • What does Salicylic acid do in products?
  • And how legit are beauty product / ingredient trends?

Beauty Science News

Unilever goes further with transparency

The Big Companies are finally hopping on the transparency trend and have pledged to list a breakdown of the ingredients in their fragrances for all to see. While they started in early 2017, Unilever has now completed their project to list the ingredients in their fragrance with a concentration of 0.01% or more. This initiative goes further than is required by cosmetic regulators. They say they did it to help inspire trust in consumers.

But if you’re curious you can check out the fragrance ingredients in Unilever products by going to http://www.smartlabel.org/ in the US & Canada or https://www.unilever.co.uk/brands/whats-in-our-products/  for people in the EU.  

71% of Consumers are Buying Beauty on their Commute

A new study done in the UK has found that 71% of consumers are purchasing beauty products on their commute. Of course, this was done in a metropolitan area, like London, where public transportation is the main method of how people get to work. The study found that the average weekly expenditure of the commuters doing the online shopping was between £89 and £153. This contributes about 22.8 billion Pounds per year to the economy, which is 14% of the overall online shopping economy in the UK.


Questions – Product costs

Veronica asks, is there a way to determine the quality of a product when looking at the price?

This is a great question and one that I’m sure trips up a lot of consumers. I think it’s ingrained in our brains at an early age that more expensive things are better than less expensive things.  And cosmetic marketers, and marketing people in general, definitely take advantage of this phenomena. If someone can get you to pay more money for a product, that’s a good reason for them to charge more.

3 major things that affect how much a product costs.

  • Raw material & production costs
  • Distribution costs
  • Brand positioning

Question – Glycerin and Aloe vera in moisturizers

Many face mists have Glycerine or Aloe Vera in. Do these ingredients actually moisturise/hydrate or dry the skin. I have tried both and each time my skin feels drier.

Yes, glycerin does. Aloe may provide a little moisturizing but not much. Certainly less than Glycerin.

In general, Aloe vera contains about 75 potentially active constituents including vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids. The sugars and amino acids may have some moisturizing effects but it’s difficult to separate out just what is having the effect.  I will point out that in a 1999 review article British Journal of General Practice, the authors concluded in regards to aloe, “Even though there are some promising results, clinical effectiveness of oral or topical aloe vera is not sufficiently defined at present.” Basically, as far as its use as a medical treatment, it has not been proven.

Question – Tell us about salicylic acid

Please tell us something more about salicylic acid in beauty products. Could it be used in concentrations more then 2%,

Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble active known as a beta hydroxy acid. It has different functions in cosmetics, such as exfoliation, treatment for acne, and wart removal. However, there are concentration limits depending what the salicylic acid is being used for. In instances where salicylic acid is being used to treat acne or remove warts, it would be considered an active drug in the United States.

Question – What about beauty trends?

Lauren is a listen who is glad the show is back, and has proclaimed, YAY, SCIENCE in her note to us. We’re glad you’re listening, Lauren, and thanks for asking one of today’s questions: “I’d love to know how legit trends are. For example, everyone’s doing those mask thingies. Are they even good for your skin? Is there something better you can do instead? Or are korean beauty products the new hotness? Is acai the killer ingredient that will make you younger?! Stuff like that. Because man I never know.”

You’ve got to understand that not much really changes from a technology standpoint when it comes to cosmetics.  The things you use today are pretty much the same types of products people were using 20 and 30 years ago. I once did a comparison of the Pantene shampoo ingredient list of 2018 versus one in 1998.  They were pretty much the same ingredients. Not much changes.

But in the beauty industry, you always need something new. It’s a lot like the fashion industry. And so you get these trends…

In my view, the science of cosmetic products is not changing much and the technology and products are not changing much either. The thing that is changing a lot is the marketing stories that go along with them. And it is the marketing stories that create the trends. Or maybe it is the other way around, the trends create the marketing stories.

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

Speaking of beauty questions, if you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

Social media accounts

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And we have a Facebook page.

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Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty


On today’s episode we’re going to be answering your beauty questions about

  • Do jade rollers work or are they just hype?
  • Is micellar water good enough for cleaning off makeup?
  • Will supplements give you better looking skin?
  • Is this hot, expensive hair line worth the money?
  • And are the ingredients in cosmetics safe?

Chit Chat

Beauty App mentioned on the show – YouCam Makeup

Beauty Science News

Cosmetic animal testing banned deemed pointless

I was alerted to this interesting story which suggests that the animal testing banned in the EU is actually pointless because it is routinely gotten around.

This actually occurred to me when I first heard of the ban and now the folks at Cruelty Free International have chimed in. This is the group behind the Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free certification.


Are people boycotting Gillette?

Here’s the controversial commercial.

Correction:  Does Petroleum Jelly cause acne? Those concerns turn out not to be based on science.

Remember a couple episodes when we talked about Petroleum Jelly? I think it was episode 169. Well, I was contacted by a listener and he asked me why I cautioned people about petroleum jelly and acne.  He suggested I was giving advice that wasn’t accurate any more. So I looked into it a bit further.

It turns out this might not actually be a problem. According to a study done back in 1996 to answer the question once and for all Does Petroleum Jelly cause acne, Dr Albert Kligman (who also happens to be the guy who originally suggested petroleum jelly might cause acne) found that in fact petrolatum does not cause acne or make it worse. The advice to avoid it for facial products is not supported by science.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to avoid facial products containing petroleum jelly even if you have acne prone skin.

Question 1: (audio question)

Can you please explain how a jade roller or other rollers for on the fees are used are they hype do they really help does it matter if it’s Jade or some other stone?

Jade rollers have reportedly been around for a long time, like hundreds of years. The technology comes out of China and ancient traditions so it’s development isn’t steeped in science.

These rollers are part of a more general group called crystal facial rollers. In addition to jade, other types of crystals used include rose quartz, amethyst, and tourmaline.  Basically these crystal rollers look a bit like tiny paint rollers with the roller part made out of a polished, rounded crystal.

To use them you just roll it around your face. It’s supposed to give you a facial massage which will supposedly relax your facial muscles? This then presumably would loosen things up and make your wrinkles look better or help prevent you from getting them.

Let’s consider some of the claims made about these rollers.  I searched for any scientific evidence to support the claims and here’s what we found.

1. Improved skin tone & elasticity – There’s no evidence that massage with anything will improve skin tone. It may have an effect on elasticity.

2. Natural collage boost – There is no evidence that massage boost collagen production.

3. Reduction of puffiness and wrinkles – Some dermatologists believe that massage can help move fluid around in your face which could reduce puffiness.

4. Increase circulation and promote lymphatic drainage – If done vigorously enough this could also help with lymphatic drainage. But you don’t want to do it too hard because that could lead to rupturing pimples that might increase inflammation.

5. Toxin elimination – That’s just silly talk. A crystal is not going to draw toxins out through your skin.

6. Tightening pores – There’s no evidence massage (or anything else) will tighten your pores.

I would also add that while there is minimal evidence related to facial massage being beneficial to skin, there is even less evidence that using something like a jade crystal will have any additional benefit.

The claims made about different crystals amounts to just belief in magic. This is outside the realm of science but as far as proof goes, magic is not real & neither is the effects of these crystals on you “energy” whatever that is.

The bottom line is that if you like the feel of a facial massage, you might enjoy using a jade roller like this. But there is nothing magic about the composition of the roller. I’m sure you could get the same benefit out of a plastic roller that is shaped and painted to look like jade.

Question 2: (audio question continued)

My second question is about micellar water how is that used as a cleaning agent or to remove make up is it enough to just use that alone or again is it hype or is it something that really works?

What is micellar water

Micellar water is a marketing term made up so product marketers can sell you a different version of a facial cleanser. From a formulation standpoint, essentially you take the ingredients found in a standard mild cleanser and dilute them down.

The term “micelle” refers to structure of the detergents (also known as surfactants) in the formula. Surfactants are a special type of molecule in that they have a water compatible portion and an oil compatible portion. Because of this surfactant molecules have this property where they arrange themselves in spherical structures on a microscopic level. These spheres are known as micelles.

When you use a the product the micelles break open, surround oil soluble dirt, which can then be rinsed or wiped away.

But you know what, this is exactly the same way that facial cleanser work!!

The reality is that micellar waters are just diluted cleansers. There are some slight differences in that some products use a positively charged surfactant (called a cationic surfactant) instead of the more common nonionic surfactants found in general facial cleansers.

Question 3:

Jesse want to know – What are your thoughts on the efficacy of taking vitamins and supplements internally for skin health?

1.  There is almost no good evidence to show that a person with a standard diet will get any benefit from taking supplements to improve their skin. There are lots of single studies to show some evidence but these have not been replicated and are generally not well designed. Basically, if you’re malnourished it could help skin but for regular people, no.

e.g. https://sci-hub.tw/https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/26659939

2.  The only thing for which there might be some effect is Collagen supplements. I don’t find the evidence compelling since it hasn’t been independently duplicated, but there is at least a double blinded placebo controlled study.  e.g (https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.nature.com/articles/1602438)  

3.  There is no evidence whether pills or powders or liquid supplements will make a difference. I would suggest for consumers who find the use of supplements compelling to experiment with the form that works for them best. Pills are preferred by some but liquids by others. It will not make much difference as far as absorption and effect on skin.

Question 4:

Anne from Vancouver says – Glad to you guys are back! Happy new year! I would your opinions on the https://briogeohair.com/ Hair line. Here’s an example product – the Scalp Revival Charcoal and Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo.

As for whether or not the products are worth the price, it really depends on what you’re willing to spend. Products that avoid the use of silicones and are sulfate-free typically cost more per pound because ingredient companies leverage the market trend and charge more for the ingredients. Additionally, natural ingredients, like esthers, oils or extracts, are more expensive because they rely on Mother Nature for the harvest, and additionally need to be processed, so they tend to be more expensive as well, over silicones that are used in hair care to make the hair feel good. It’s not always necessarily the case because there are some high-performance silicones that do really cool things on the hair that can be pricey.

Question 5:

Finally, Camie asks – are the ingredients that listed in the cosmetics safe to use and what might be the side effects?

There is an easy answer to this one.  Yes, ingredients listed in cosmetics are safe to use. In fact, in the US and around the world it is illegal to sell unsafe products, it’s as simple as that.

 The CIR is the Cosmetic Ingredient Review board

Cosmetics are safe to use so it’s not something I’d worry about. But if you are afraid of cosmetics, don’t use them. You don’t have to use cosmetics to live a happy, healthy life. However, for a lot of people cosmetics make them feel better about themselves and feel happy.

Sign off:

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

Speaking of beauty questions, if you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

We prefer audio questions because it sounds better on the podcast.

Also, follow us on our various social media accounts:

on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

on Twitter, we’re thebeautybrains

And we have a Facebook page.

The Beauty Brains are now on Patreon! Help support us to continue to make episodes.


On today’s episode of the Beauty Brains we cover beauty questions about

  • Shampoo and what it does to hair color
  • Whether collagen works in skin care products
  • The Curly Girl method of treating hair

Beauty Science News

Is there asbestos in J&J baby powder? 

Reuters says that J&J was selling product with asbestos in it. J&J says they weren’t. Science can’t answer that question but it can answer the question of whether you should be afraid baby powder is causing cancer. It isn’t.

Unilever Sues Target

Unilever, the parent company of the spa skincare brand Dermalogica, has filed a lawsuit against the major retailer Target in the United States, alleging that they are not authorized to sell their product but they are obtaining it and selling it anyway. Even worse, the complaint states that Target is removing the holograms and quality control tags that let the consumer know the product is authentic.

Do you think Unilever is justified in filing this lawsuit? – Tweet it to us @thebeautybrains

Beauty Questions answered

Question 1:

Lily says – Love the podcast, I am so glad you are back. Keep up the good work!

I would love to know the chemistry of shampoo on colored hair.

  • Why does washing hair strip off the color on colored hair?
  • What ingredient(s) make the color safe shampoo effective ?
  • Does purple/blue shampoo keep your blonde highlights blonde?
  • How exactly does it work and will it work if it’s old highlights ?
  1. Washing removes color from colored hair because it opens the cuticle, swells the hair and allows the color to leach out.  Explain how hair color works.
  2. Color safe shampoos don’t really have an ingredient to make them less stripping, they have less detergent so they will nominally remove less color. But the reality is that they don’t work too well. If you tested products side by side, you wouldn’t see much difference in stripping of color.
  3. Blue/purple color is meant to reduce brassiness
  4. Essentially a small amount of the violet or blue dye is absorbed into the hair and that offsets any brassiness color.

Question 2:

Duilia asks –  Does collagen really work in topical skin products?

Collagen does a lot of things in the body but for skin, in addition to being the scaffolding, it promotes elasticity, flexibility, it protects the lower layers of skin and the body. It’s produced by the body in many forms but for skin it comes in these tiny fibers that are meshed together to form the skin structure. It’s an important protein

Now that brings us to the main question, why is collagen put in skin products and does it really work?

There are really two reasons cosmetic makers put collagen in skin products. The main reason is because collagen is an appealing ingredient to consumers which helps differentiate the product from all the other moisturizers out there and convinces people to buy it.

The logic behind using collagen in formulas goes something like this.

Skin is made of collagen
As we age, our skin produces less collagen
The lack of collagen is one of the things that leads to sagging skin and wrinkles
So adding collagen back to skin will refresh the skin and make it look young again

It’s worth pointing out too that the type of collagen used in skin products is called hydrolyzed collagen which is collagen protein broken down into a more simplified structure. It’s nothing like the collagen is found in skin.

But we don’t want to be too dismissive. So, let’s dip into our toolbox to take a more detailed look at collagen in topical treatments. Whenever we try to decide whether any anti-aging ingredient works for the skin it makes sense to ask the three “Kligman questions” that we ask. Kligman was a famous research dermatologist who did a lot of pioneering work in the field specifically related to cosmetics.

The first question is Based on the chemistry of the ingredient, is there any scientific mechanism that could explain why it would work?  Well, we’ve already talked about that and while the way it’s done in cosmetics is dubious, there is some scientific theory upon which collagen could improve the skin. If bits of the collagen protein could get down to the collagen scaffold and then get incorporated into it, that might provide a benefit.

So the second question is “Does it penetrate to the part of the skin where it needs to be in order to work?”  If hydrolyzed collagen was to work it would have to be able to penetrate into the dermis which is where the majority of skin collagen is. Unfortunately, the molecule is too big to penetrate so for the most part it does not. Instead it stays in the stratum corneum and may provide some moisturization but that’s about it.

And then the third question is “Are there peer reviewed, double blind, placebo controlled studies demonstrating the ingredient really works when applied to real people?”  None that I could find.

So, the bottom line on topical collagen is that even though it has been used in moisturizers for years as an antiaging ingredient, there is little scientific evidence that would support using it for such purposes.

No Duilia, topical collagen doesn’t really do much in skin beyond providing a little bit of moisturization.

Question 3: (Audio question)

CG method says stay away from…

We could do a whole show on this method but we’ll try to tackle some of the specific claims.

First, there is the claim that sulfates shampoos are too harsh and you should use sulfate free products or conditioners only.

Next, there is the claim you should avoid silicones or non-water soluble silicones. There is also the claim you should avoid parabens and fragrance.

Finally, there are claims about how you should style your hair. Don’t use heat, don’t comb hair, and don’t use a towel.

So, let’s start with the first claim. Are sulfate shampoo too harsh and are sulfate free products better? Not really but it depends.

Then there is the second part of the question. Protein sensitivity.  According to Jasmin, the CG method says too much protein makes hair dry brittle and too much hydration makes hair soft and limp. – This is a misunderstanding of how protein treatments affect hair.

Finally, to the question of whether these ingredients be used as an indicator to find the right products for your hair?


Curly Girl method:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDofglvTFx8

Curly Girl method 2 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6V6a_yQk-o

Next Time…

We’ll look at the question whether the ingredients used in cosmetics are safe to use and what might be the side effects?

Sign off:

Thanks for listening. Hey if you get a chance can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review. That will help other people find the show and ensure we have a full docket of beauty questions to answer.  

Speaking of beauty questions, if you want to ask a question click this link

or record one on your phone and send it to thebeautybrains@gmail.com

We prefer audio questions because it sounds better on the podcast.

Also, follow us on our various social media accounts:

on Instagram we’re at thebeautybrains2018

on Twitter, we’re thebeautybrains

And we have a Facebook page.