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