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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.


Welcome to the Beauty Brains podcast. In today’s episode we answer questions about Petrolatum and it’s use in skin care, whether eyebrow growth serums really work and dish on a couple cosmetic industry stories that we found interesting.

Beauty Science News

Hemp is now legal to grow in the US. What will this mean for beauty products and the hot new ingredient CBD?

P&G teams up with the EWG – Even big companies are now starting to jump on the certification bandwagon. They don’t even seem to care that their partner doesn’t value the science of toxicology when making declarations about product safety.

Also mentioned was this Bloomberg article about P&G working with EWG.

Beauty Questions answered

Does brow regrowth serum really work? Only drug products can actually regrow hair. Article discussed on the Zoe Report

Lulee asks – Is petroleum jelly bad for the skin? Everything in moderation but petrolatum gives some excellent benefits to skin.

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.

Thanks again for listening – Be Brainy about your Beauty


Beauty Science News

What makes a cosmetic chemist?

Here’s a story published in the Insider back in November talking about the Luxury skin-care brand Sunday Riley and whether their founder is actually a cosmetic chemist.

But what makes someone a cosmetic chemist?

Nearly all cosmetic chemists working in the mainstream cosmetic industry have a college degree in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Pharmaceutical or maybe Biology. Most people have Bachelor’s degrees but more and more people are getting Masters degrees from places like the University of Cincinnati.

Alright, so there is the education piece but then there is the experience piece. The truth is when you get a chemistry degree they teach you about chemistry in all fields. They don’t specifically train you in something like cosmetic chemistry. In fact, when I started in the field I didn’t know much about cosmetic science at all. Everything I learned was on-the-job training and research I did on my own.

To be a cosmetic chemist it takes more than just having a degree in chemistry or even a PHD is some subject. To be a cosmetic chemist you have to have worked as a cosmetic chemist. And there are even cosmetic chemists who haven’t done formulating. Formulating means that you put together recipes. There are cosmetic chemists who do basic research or claims testing that have little knowledge about creating cosmetic formulas.

And the truth is that formulating skin care products is different than hair care products which is different than color cosmetics. I have spent most of my time formulating hair care products and some of my time with skin care products. I haven’t spent much time at all making color cosmetics beyond a few lipstick and foundation formulas

Question 1: Heat Protectants for Hair

Sharon wonders about heat protectants for hair. Heat protectants are products that contain ingredients that protect the hair from heat styling. So, if you use hot tools like straightening irons, curling irons or blow dryers, you’ll want to protect your hair from the heat.

Heat is bad for the hair because it causes chemical changes in the fiber. It also causes water to evaporate from the hair – which is great when you are trying to dry the hair, but bad for the condition of your hair…

Question 2: I guess I could Google this, but… I sometimes leave nail polish on my toes for a long time. Is that bad?

Not really

Question 3: Dragongirlpatch wonders if Herbivore Botanicals products are properly preserved?

In looking at the ingredient list, it appears they do not use standard, effective preservative like parabens but instead use a combination of things including Sodium Anisate and Sodium Phytate. They also likely use a low pH (say below 5.0) and then do their best to produce the products in a clean environment. This type of formulation strategy is known as “hurdle technology” and a lot of natural brands are doing this. This allows them to make the claim that they are paraben free or preservative free. Other natural brand and formulas also use organic acids like Sorbic Acid or Benzoic acid or they use Phenoxyethanol. There are a number of alternative preservatives used by natural formulators.

Honestly, I have a hard time relating to this claim because when I hear “paraben free” or especially “preservative free” I think “unsafe” and “contaminated with dangerous microbes.” But clearly, I’m not their intended consumer.

So, yes the products are most likely preserved but you might want to use the products quickly because I wouldn’t expect them to last as long as standard beauty products.

While on their website I was struck by a few of the other claims that they made. In their marketing story they said

During our creative formulating process we knew we needed to innovate because we were trying to create something that didn’t exist and had never been created before: A lightweight, natural, truly synthetic-free moisturizing cream with a dewy finish that easily blends into skin leaving it perfectly moisturized.

In looking at their ingredient list they clearly have not lived up to this claim. They have Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Cetearyl Alcohol, and Cetyl Palmitate. These ingredients do not exist in nature. There is no cetearyl alcohol plant out there. You can create it from plant material but only using synthetic chemistry.

I’m sure they’re perfectly fine formulas although at $48 for 1.7 ounces of product, it certainly isn’t a bargain. You can find products that work just as well or better for much less money. But this company engages in what we call fear marketing touting the boogeyman of synthetics while propagating all the standard natural product propaganda. They’re products are not safer than the ones produced by the big guys. And based on the preservative systems they use, I’d worry they are less safe.

Question 4: Curious Pete asks – If you were only allowed to buy 1 product for shower, shampoo, shave , what would it be?

Mine would be shampoo. In fact, that’s pretty much what I use. I like a shampoo that gives a good creamy lather. Phique shampoo but something like Tresemme or Pantene is great too. In truth, I’m happy using something like VO5 or Suave because the foam is good & I like the fragrances.

Question 5: Janis says “My hair is thinning as I age. Is that inevitable?”

For a large portion of people, yes.
There was a study published in British Journal of Dermatology back in 2001 where they looked at the Hair density, hair diameter and the prevalence of female pattern hair loss. The researchers looked at a general population and also a group of women who specifically complained about hair loss. What they found was the for the general population older people had lower density of hairs, so there were less hairs on their head. To give you a sense of this, at 35 people have an average of 293 hairs per cm2 while at age 70 people had an average of 211 hairs per centimeter squared. That’s about a 27% hair thinning just from density. But there is also the problem of hair fibers thinning. At age 35 the hair fiber had the largest diameters at 83 micrometers while at age 70 the diameter was only about 68 micrometers.

So, it looks like aging naturally results in thinning hair. And as far as treatments go, Minoxidil is the only thing proven in humans to work topically. I was reading some research on mice that showed both Peppermint Oil and Lavender might work as well as minoxidil, but mice studies are often not repeatable in humans. With something like hair loss, I’d like to see substantial proof in humans before recommending people try some products.

Cosmetic marketers however, are more than happy to sell you hair treatments with peppermint and lavender with the promise that it works. I’m skeptical.

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 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.

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.

Thanks again for listening now, go make a difference!


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

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

  • should you wash your hair every day
  • whether dermatologist recommended products are better,
  • the difference between natural and synthetic hair colors
  • how home skin analyzing devices work & if they’re worth it

Beauty Science stories

Parabens continue to be safe

‘Sub-zero waste’ set to be next big global beauty trend in 2019

Follow us on Instagram


After a brief hiatus, the Beauty Brains podcast is back.

Covered on this episode:

Beauty Science stories:

Cruelty free products are free from cruelty.

What does it mean for consumers? Getting rid of animal testing means that products will not be much different than what you could ever make.

EWG on the Kardashian’s show

We got an email from the PR firm that does the work for the Environmental Working Group (the EWG). This is the group that seems to exist to propagate fear about cosmetics. Well, they sent me a notice crowing about how they were mentioned on the Keeping up with the Kardashian reality tv show. I think they wanted to get us to book the EWG expert on the show. Maybe we’ll do that some time.

The article goes on to parrot the other standard, misleading talking points of the EWG…the idea that cosmetic products are not safety tested…they are. The idea that products with a low EWG rating are more safe than ones with a higher rating…they aren’t. And the notion that new cosmetic regulatory legislation will make products more safe…it won’t.

So what can you do? I think you can assume products bought at stores and produced by big corporations are safe. The things you have to most worry about are products made by small companies who don’t do safety testing.


Beauty Questions:

Are human stem cells effective in anti-aging products?

Coincidentally, I just read a story about a new skin care product that incorporates both plant and human “stem cells.” This type of marketing is a bit annoying because it’s completely misleading. There aren’t stem cells in the product no matter what this company claims about their skin cream.

How do I know this? Well, all you have to do is know a little about the science of stem cells and it becomes clear. So let’s talk about stem cells.

Stem cells are living cells that are undifferentiated. They’re a bit like the cells that start every embryo when the sperm and egg cells fuse. They contain all the DNA information to make an entire human being (or plant or other animal depending on the species). When embryos start to grow, most of their cells differentiate into things like skin cells, brain cells, heart cells, and all the other different organs in your body. While nearly every cell in your body has the same DNA material, the DNA code is expressed differently so you end up getting the different organs. It’s like your DNA is one big recipe book and the organs are made by following different recipes in the same book. This is called cellular differentiation.

Stem cells do not differentiate in this way. They maintain their potential to become any type of organ. They also have an unlimited ability to divide and live. See most differentiated human cells can only divide about 50 generations before they die. They are subject to the Hayflick limit and have a built-in program that kills them off. Scientists theorize this prevents cancer.

But Stem cells, are not restricted as such. That’s why they are so promising for curing diseases or regrowing organs. Imagine if you could take some of your own skin stem cells and grow new patches of your own skin from them in a lab. You could use that skin to cover scars or other tissue damage. You could even get rid of wrinkles or signs of aging skin. It’s this potential that makes them a promising treatment for antiaging products.

It’s also a misunderstanding of this potential that has duped consumers and inspired marketers to put them into skin care formulations. So you might be wondering, if a stem cell could reverse aging, why wouldn’t you do it?

I’ll tell you why.

Because stem cells only work if they are living. And living stem cells are not being put into these skin creams. If they were, they would have to have a special growth medium and be kept at a specific temperature. They would need to be refreshed with food too. Stem cell containing creams are not created as such. At best you have a cream filled with dead stem cells that have no potential to do anything.

Plant stem cells

Plant stem cells in a skin cream is even more baffling to me. These are stem cells that come from plants and have the potential to grow stems, leaves, fruits, etc. Why would anyone think that a plant stem cell is going to be able to help improve the appearance or condition of your skin? It is nonsensical.

The reason companies put them in formulas however, is because they can claim the product has stem cells (which consumer like I guess) and the ingredients can be obtained inexpensively. Human stem cells would be pretty pricey and probably illegal. This isn’t a problem with apple stem cells. So marketers figure if people like stem cells in their products, it doesn’t matter what type of stem cells they are.

In this, they are right. But only because the type of stem cell in your cosmetic doesn’t matter. No type of stem cell added to your skin lotion will do much of anything!

Of course, I should add that stem cells are a promising technology for the future. And they may even be a great anti-aging treatment when the science catches up with the application. You will know when it is a real anti-aging treatment when the following things are true.

The stem cells are from humans (preferably yourself)

The stem cells are alive

The product is somehow delivered to your dermis (probably an injection)

The product is applied by a doctor

If stem cells really worked the way they are promised, this treatment would be beyond a cosmetic one and well into the drug category. It just might happen in the next 20 years but any cream that is advertised to be anti-aging because it contains stem cells now is about as effective as all the skin creams without stem cells.

Kelly asks : What hair dyes cover gray the best?

Kim asks  – Why do people think “All Natural” is better?

There certainly is a “natural” trend in the beauty industry. It has taken on many names such as Green Beauty, Organic beauty, Natural beauty, and the latest, Clean Beauty.

Essentially, these phrases are all meant to imply that this new type of cosmetic is somehow more safe for consumers. They also try to imply that the products are also somehow better for you and that they work better. This is all just misleading marketing.

But why do people think that natural is somehow better?

I think there are a few reasons.

First, there is a thing in philosophy called the appeal to nature. This is a type of argument that says something is good because it is ‘natural’, or something is bad because it is ‘unnatural’. Of course, it’s easy to demonstrate that this is false (just think of dangerous things like poison ivy, snake venom, or anthrax) But many people just accept this as fact.

So with people primed to believe claims, advertiser take advantage of this. You see it all the time with companies making Free From claims or 100% all natural claims. The worst is Chemical Free claims as if everything isn’t made out of chemicals. All these claims imply that something natural must be better for you. When people are constantly told by advertisers that natural is better than synthetic they start to believe it.

Add to this a complicit media who love to do stories about some natural wonder product that scientists didn’t create. I think there is something compelling about stories where some unexpected, overlooked person or ingredient is discovered to do something amazing. This is almost always some type of natural ingredient.

Another reason I think is because (at least in the United States) there is a tendency for people to not trust corporations. They see big corporations as the ones who are making synthetic products while the natural products are made by little companies. Mom and pop shops that only put out wholesome goodness. This is false of course. In fact, some of the biggest natural brands are made by big companies, but people don’t really know that. We’ll have to do a show sometime looking the big companies and the “independent brands” they produce.

There is also the notion that natural ingredients are somehow better for the environment and more sustainable. (some are, some aren’t) Or that natural ingredients are better for indigenous populations and farmers. Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not. And there are also people who buy into the natural trend who genuinely think that natural products are safer just because they are natural.

So those are a few of the reasons I think some people prefer natural products.

The reality is that in most cases natural is not better.

Natural products are not safer, natural products do not work better, and natural products are not always better for the environment. As with most things, these issues depend on many factors and the truth in any instance is complicated.

Shereen asks Does silicon damage curly hair?

Not really.

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We don’t have a transcript for today’s show yet but please enjoy the audio. Listen to the end of show when Perry and I announce that this will be our final podcast for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for stopping by!


Today, we bring you a special Beauty Brains episode featuring Sarah Bellum.  Randy is on vacation.

We answer a few question.

About beauty products on Amazon

cejxn19 asks – Hi Guys, I’ve heard some horror stories of people buying expired or knock off beauty products on amazon. Is there any good way to tell if a product is legit other than trial and error?

About the K-Beauty product craze

shar037 says – Hi! I am fascinated with the whole K Beauty craze. With ingredients like Snail Mucen (goo), bee venom, sheep placenta…my curiosity is peaked. Not to mention the fact that most K Beauty routines consists of at least 10 steps! Is there any validity to the use of ingredients like these? Are 10 steps better than 3?

About diluting shampoos

Dash says – I’ve read quite a few times now about people diluting their shampoo with water before using it. The ratio varies, but it’s roughly 1 part shampoo to 5 parts water. Does this seem like a good, hair-protective idea? Or would it simply not clean as well?

Beauty Science Story:




Is bee venom a good anti-aging ingredient?

Monika asks…Korean Bee Venom essence but it does seem to work. My question is the bee venom really magic or is there something else that removes the spots?

RS: Thanks Monika…this gives me the perfect excuse time to remind listeners to go back to Episode 105 and listen to the story about how Perry got stung in the eye by a bee. If nothing else, just go the webpage and check out the picture of his face. It’s horrific. I’m not kidding. But let’s put my personal revulsion aside and try to figure out why this product seemed to work on Monika’s acne.

PR: We found a study published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine titled “Effects of cosmetics containing purified honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) venom on acne vulgaris.” The researchers did testing in the lab and found that bee venom can kill p acne which is the bacteria that is a contributing cause of zits. Then they did a study on real people and found that a significant decrease in inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions. The P value was only 0.027 which is not very statistically sound but at least there’s a reasonable chance this really works on acne.

RS: BTW, the product also contains azelaic acid and willow bark extract which is a natural source of salicylic acid. Both of these acids are drugs that are proven help acne so they could be responsible for the improvement you saw. But this raised the larger question about the trend of using bee venom in beauty products, specifically in anti-aging products.

Anyway, is bee venom a good skin care ingredient?

PR: As always when looking at functionality of cosmetic ingredients we try to answer the 3 Kligman questions.

RS: Does it penetrate? Sure it does…when you get stung by a bee. But I couldn’t find any clear evidence that it penetrates when applied topically. There are studies on bee venom as wound healing agent but of course open wounds are NOT the same as healthy intact skin. So that doesn’t tell us much. We can infer it penetrates based on some of the efficacy studies we’ll discuss in a moment but it certainly is not a clear cut YES.

PR: Is there a mechanism to describe how bee venom could theoretically reduce wrinkles or improve the appearance of your skin in any way? Again, this is murky at best. Bee venom does have some anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and it’s been used for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and even cancer. But this has little to do with skin. Apparently it has some some antimicrobial properties which could make it beneficial for certain skin conditions. We did find a study done in vitro showing it can decrease the formation of a type II collagen (which is how it helps treat arthritis). Melittin is the majority chemical found in bee venom is SAID TO increase/boost collagen production. But we couldn’t find anything explaining how it could do this or how it could reduce their degradation which is what you’d expect in an anti-wrinkle product.

RS: Okay then, what about the third (and most important) Kligman question: Is there evidence that bee venom reduces wrinkles when applied to real people? Well, there’s some evidence but I wouldn’t call it very good. I thought we had hit the jackpot when we found the study “The beneficial effects of honeybee-venom serum on facial wrinkles in humans.” I mean how much more on point could you ask for, than that?

PR: Here’s what they did: First they got some bee venom. That in itself is not an insignificant task. Here’s how the facial study paper described it…”the bee-venom collector was placed on the hive, and the bees were given enough electric shocks to cause them to sting a glass plate, from which dried bee venom was later scraped off. The collected venom was diluted in cold sterile water and then centrifuged at 10,000 g for 5 minutes at 4°C. Purified bee venom was then freeze-dried and refrigerated at 4°C for later use. They took the bee venom and formulated it into a serum at 0.006%. There was no discussion of what else was in this serum. Which, by the way, is kind of important.

RS: Next they recruited 22 women ages 30 to 49 and asked them to apply this serum to their faces twice daily for 12 weeks. The researchers did a clinical evaluation before the test and at 4, 8 and 12 weeks. Here’s what they found: The average visual grade of all patients significantly improved with the bee-venom serum treatment: 6.64% at 8 weeks (P=0.002) and almost 12% at 12 weeks. (P=0.0003) I don’t even know what that means. They also directly measured wrinkles using a couple different techniques, one was total wrinkle count. Results showed that total wrinkles went from about 104 initially to about 100 after 12 weeks. Plus or minus 32. Huh? There were similarly confusing results for wrinkle depth and total wrinkle area.

PR: Even if these numbers showed a conclusive reduction in wrinkles the data would still be suspect because the study was done with out a proper control. The product is just tested against nothing so we don’t know if some other factor cause the change or if other ingredients in the serum moisturized skin and therefore provided a modest reduction in wrinkles. There’s just no way to know.

RS: So what’s the bottom line? There seems to be a CHANCE bee venom may be helpful in treating acne, but we have data showing how it compares to conventional treatment like sal acid or B.P. There seems to be even less evidence that bee venom has any reliable anti-aging properties. By the way, thanks you Paige DeGarmo for providing much of the research we used in answering this question.

Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence 

Snail Secretion Filtrate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Arbutin, Human Ogliopeptide-1, Bee Venom, Plantago Asiatica Extract, Laminana Digita Extract, Dios Pyros Kaki Leaf Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Ulmus Campestris (Elm) Extract, Bacilus Ferment, Azelaic Acid, Althaea Rosea Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Beta-Glucan, Betaine, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Cross Polymer, Adenosine, Panthenol, Allantoin, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Arginine



Is dandruff shampoo good for your face?

Vanessa asks…I just saw a video of someone saying she uses Nizoral dandruff shampoo as a face mask or face cleanser for clearing tiny bumps on her face. Would this really work?

RS: This is one of those practices that sounds like an urban myth..I was ready to call B.S. on this one. Until we did a little digging.

PR: First, a little background on Nizoral. The active ingredient in that formula that stops dandruff is an anti fungal agent called ketoconazole. It kills the fungus that causes dandruff. That’s unlike most dandruff shampoos, like Head and Shoulders, that use zinc pyrithione. Did Nizoral get an NDA?

RS: Second, let’s talk about face bumps. It’s like a fist bump but done with your face. What causes face bumps?

PR: Of course there is acne but that condition is caused by bacteria (among other factors) not related to fungus.

RS: There’s Milia which is a skin condition characterized by small white bumps. These are typically keratin-filled cysts that are harmless. Milia is extremely common in infants (but adults get it too) and it’s believed to be caused by oil producing glands in your skin that are not fully developed. But they have nothing to do with fungus.

RS: What about razor bumps? No, those are caused by ingrown hairs, not fungi.

PR: BUT…there is a condition called “Pityrosporum folliculitis” which is caused by a yeast that can colonize the hair follicles and cause itchy, acne like bumps.

RS: I believe it’s pronounced “Pity the forum you like to eat us”

RS: It’s not TYPICALLY found on your face…most commonly found in what is called “the cape distribution.” I had never heard that term but it refers to the upper chest and upper back. Which is wear a cape would contact your skin. The bumps are said to be pinhead sized and uniform.

PR: Everyone has this yeast but in some cases it can grow like crazy. Contributing factors including applying greasy ingredients, like coconut oil, to your skin and wearing tight clothing that doesn’t breath.

RS: Which is why all the best dressed superheroes only wear capes made from cotton.

PR: Why are we spending so much time discussing this condition? Because this particular kind of yeast can be killed by ketoconazole. And that brings us back to Nizoral. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, washing your face with Nizoral weekly can get rid of face bumps. The best practice is to apply it to your face and leave it on for about 10 minutes before rinsing it off. However, you should be aware that treatment with ketoconazole doesn’t always work.

RS: So the bottom line it that IF your face bumps are caused by “Pliny thesaurus, come and fight us” then washing your face with a dandruff shampoo containing ketoconazole MIGHT help. But if some other condition is the cause then you’re totally wasting your time. In that case, consult a dermatologist.

Reference: http://www.aocd.org/?page=PityrosporumFollicu

Is dry conditioner the next dry shampoo?

Melissa Mary asks…Have you seen some of the dry conditioner formulas lately? They seem to be sold in specialty beauty stores like Ulta and Sephora. I’m not sure if they’ve made their way to drugstores yet. Are they essentially just shine sprays? Would they work well with dry shampoo?

RS: Dry Shampoos have been popular for several years now. In fact, we worked on the first successful mass market dry shampoo, Tresemme Fresh Start.

PR: But we weren’t familiar with dry conditioners until now. Melissa Mary provided a link to a couple of example products. One is from Amika and it’s an alcohol based spray with some silicone and cationic type conditioning agents.

RS: The other is Drybar’s Detox Dry Conditioner I can’t figure it out. According to a Sephora website it’s a very light light aerosol spray that you apply to dry hair. But the ingredient list they provide must be wrong because it looks exactly like a conventional rinse out conditioner with fatty alcohol, silicones, and quats. It could even be a No Poo Spray (although that sounds like some sort of aerosol laxative.) Regardless, this kind of product couldn’t be sprayed in the way shown in the video. So I’m guessing the ingredient list is wrong.

PR: We can tell you, though, that these products appear to be more conditioning than a shine spray because shine sprays are pretty much just pure silicone. Typically Cyclomethicone is used because it evaporates and it’s paired with something like dimethicone which gives good shine.

RS: But I still don’t understand the point of these products. I don’t really see how these would work with a dry shampoo, though, because dry shampoos leave a powder in your hair. Would you really put another leave in product on after that? Or do you use them instead of a dry shampoo in which case you’re applying them to dirty hair which is just going to make it weighed down? It makes no sense! We’ll post the ingredients in the show notes.

Amika spray:
Butane, SD Alcohol 40-B, Propane, Diisopropyl Adipate, Peg-8 Dimethicone, Panthenol, Butylene glycol, Quaternium-91, Cetrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Extract, Water.

Drybar spray:
Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cyclopentasiloxane, Isododecane, Cyperus Esculentus Root Oil, Prunus Insititia Seed Oil, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed) Extract, Citrus Junos Peel Extract, Keratin, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3, Hydrogenated Coco-Glycerides, Rhodiola Rosea Root Extract, Cystine Bis-PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Jojoba Esters, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tocopherol, Trifolium Pratense (Clover) Flower Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Panthenol, Sodium Nitrate, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dextran, Caprylyl Glycol, Parfum (Fragrance), Stearamine Oxide, Methoxy PEG/PPG-7/3 Aminopropyl Dimethicone, Glycerin, Amodimethicone, Cetrimonium Chloride, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Silicone Quaternium-22, Isopropyl Alcohol, Quaternium-80, Dimethiconol, PPG-3 Myristyl Ether, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Octyldodecanol, Octocrylene, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Quaternium-95, BHT, Butylene Glycol, Propanediol, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Sodium Chloride, Dehydroacetic Acid, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide, Potassium Sorbate, Benzyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Disodium EDTA, Sucrose Laurate, Glyoxal, Benzoic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Methylisothiazolinone, Linalool.

http://m.sephora.com/product/P404912?icid2=skugrid http://m.sephora.com/product/P406254

Beauty Science News

Allure to stop saying anti-aging

Don’t condition your hair after a nuclear explosion

iTunes reviews

PR: Great podcast says “Fake noise from United States.” Perry and Randy help make me feel like an informed consumer who can make more informed choices. This Podcast has quickly become one of my favorites joining the ranks of Science VS, Skeptics Guide…, and This American Life.

RS: Ruweida from South Africa says…How do I profess my love for thee? Sexy nerdy scientists with an unbiased view on beauty products. Compulsory listening for any consumer. Love. Love. Love.

PR: Paul From France says…Goodbye marketing BS. Thank you Beauty Brains for providing an inside view on how marketing is constantly trying to screw you! And thank you for enlightening everyone on how cosmetic products really work.

RS: Alez from South Africa says…These two are my heroes. I’m a beauty writer, and I can’t tell you how many times the Beauty Brains have saved me from buying into and endorsing products on false premises. Just one request – Randy, please be nicer to Perry


Can you use diaper rash cream as sunscreen?

Mari asks…Today a customer came into the retail pharmacy where I work and demanded that we sell him zinc oxide diaper rash paste so he could use it as sunscreen. I tried to steer him in the direction of actual sunscreens with listed SPFs, but he was not to be dissuaded and ended up leaving with a tube of generic diaper rash cream (with no listed SPF) in hand. His rationale was that diaper rash paste has a higher percentage of zinc oxide than zinc oxide sunscreens. Although this is sometimes true, depending on the brand, my concern is that (a) the formulation of a diaper rash paste might not make it an effective sunscreen and (b) without a listed SPF, there’s no way to really know. What are your thoughts on this?

We’ve talked quite a bit about sunscreens on the showgram but believe this is the first time that diaper rash products have come up. So a little quick background discussion is in order.

We used to think that urine was the primary cause of diaper rash which makes sense since a baby (especially under 2 months) can urinate up to 20 times per day. But the hypothesis was that urine releases ammonia which raises the pH of skin which opens it up to damage. But it turns out urine is NOT the primary cause…it’s feces.

The pH of feces is acidic due to bile and studies have shown that diaper rash is more prominent where the feces contact the skin. This contact can lead to yeast and bacterial infection. So mark your calendars that today was the day that the whole urine-diaper rash myth was busted.

And that brings us back to diaper rash creams. In case you didn’t know, both sunscreens and diaper creams are Over the Counter drugs and are controlled by the FDA.

Sunscreens are 1 type of drug…they are sunscreens. But diaper rash creams are actually not 1…not 2…not 3 but actually 4 different types of drug products: External Analgesic, Topical Antifungal, Topical Antimicrobial, and Skin Protectant.

In addition to Zinc Oxide other approved diaper rash ingredients include mineral oil, petrolatum, cornstarch, allantoin, calamine, dimethicone, kaolin clay, and cod liver oil.

How does ZnO help with diaper rash? It works 3 ways: It helps water proof (or feces proof) skin, it’s a mild astringent which means it can cause the contraction of body tissues, and it has some antimicrobial properties. That’s what makes it suitable for use in the 4 drug product categories we just mentioned.

So Zinc Oxide is an approved drug ingredient that is used in both products. But does that mean you could use them interchangeably? Can you use diaper cream as a sunscreen as the demanding gentleman in Mari’s pharmacy intended to do.

And conversely, can you use sunscreen on diaper rash?

Let’s begin by answering a fundamental question: is the zinc oxide used in diaper creams the same as the zinc oxide used in sunscreens?

In classic Beauty Brains fashion, the answer is yes and no. Chemically, they’re identical. Both have to use USP grade [what does USP stand for] which means they have to meet certain purity requirements.

BTW did you know that, being a natural product, zinc oxide contains somewhere between 1 and 10 ppm of lead?

Physically, there are differences. Zinc oxide powders are sold with different particle sizes and the size of the particle impacts how well the zinc screens out UV rays. It’s even more complicated than that because it’s not just the size of the particles but these particles tend to stick together to form clumps or aggregates which affect how well the zinc scatters UV rays.

In addition to different particle sizes zinc oxide is commercially available in different varieties such as surface coated varieties as well as dispersions in different materials like natural oils and silicone fluids.

So sunscreens HAVE TO use a version of zinc oxide that’s designed to scatter UV rays…and sunscreens are tested to ensure that they do indeed do that. But diaper rash creams do NOT have to use one of those forms. They may or may not and there’s no way to know since diaper rash products are not tested for UV protection. So that’s issue #1.

Here’s issue #2: Even if a diaper rash cream uses the exact same grade as a sunscreen, the way the diaper rash cream is formulated can impact level of UV protection it provides.

Yeah, the medium in which the zinc is dispersed can determine the final opacity of the product. In other words, the oils, waxes, and other ingredients used in diaper creams can make the final formula more transparent in which case it won’t filter out as much UV radiation.

And then there’s issue #3: The way the product is processed makes a difference as well. For sunscreens, specific dispersion technology can be used to one way to make sure these particle agglomerates are broken up.

Diaper rash products wouldn’t necessarily require the same kind of dispersion technology.

What does all this mean? IF a diaper rash cream contains the right kind of ZnO, and IF it’s used at the correct concentration and IF it’s properly processed, and IF the final formula doesn’t contain any ingredients that can compromise the UV scattering properties of the ZnO, THEN you certainly could use a diaper cream as a sunscreen.

But the only way to know for sure is to conduct SPF testing and it’s doubtful any company will do that because even if it works they can’t use that data to promote the product? Why not? Because the drug monographs and don’t allow for any combined claims.

Even if I knew all those IFs where true I’m not sure I’d want to use diaper rash cream instead of sunscreen. Aesthetically it could be a trainwreck: a diaper cream’s PRIMARY purpose is to create a hydrophobic barrier so they use high amounts of things like petrolatum. A high ZnO/petrolatum cream is great for babies but not very pleasant when smearing all over your face or body.

Is there ANY reason why you’d want to do this? I’m guessing it’s motivated by cost: depending on the brand, diaper rash creams can be cheaper than sunscreens. For example, Desitin costs about $1.75/oz while a ZnO-only sunscreen like Badger costs about $4.70/oz.

So the Beauty Brains bottom line is amount of money you save is not worth the risk of compromised UV protection or the sacrifice of aesthetics.


Is facial massage good for winkles?

Mark asks…is facial massage good for wrinkles?

We’ve touched on this before. Way back in Episode 14 we answered a question about facial yoga being good for wrinkles. So go listen to that for a full recap. But the basic idea is that “plumping up” muscles by exercising them gets rid of wrinkles. Massage is essentially another way to stimulate facial muscles.

But as we pointed out at the time, muscle laxity is not the cause of wrinkles – rather it’s the collapse of structural elements like collagen and elastin. So if we’ve covered this before why are we answering it again? Because it gives us an excuse to discuss another aspect of this which is using electrical stimulation to get rid of wrinkles.

CNN recently reported electro-stim for skin and they quoted Jennifer Aniston who said that “”It’s like a little workout for your face.” And an aesthetician they interviewed said that the more times you have the procedure the more results you’ll see.

Sure, get a bunch of treatments – depending on where you have it done it costs between $200 and $600!

However, the consensus of the medical experts they talked to is that “there is no data demonstrating its effectiveness.” I did find a couple of papers on the subject. One study tested 6 women. Another evaluated 108 women and did show that the procedure resulted in SOME difference in facial muscle thickness.

But it required treatment for 20 min/day, 5 days/week for 12 weeks. That would cost you between $12000 and $36000. Who’s going to spend that kind of money for such a small benefit?

As always the important takeaway is that you think critically when you hear about treatments like this. Not everyone thinks like that. 

RS: When I posted this on Facebook, one commenter said “Clearly Mr. Knott needs to experience micro current himself because regardless of “data” it most certainly does produce results and it is so much more than a “feel good” skincare modality. It seems like he is trying to discredit skincare therapists.”

I replied: DM: It may be nice for Mr. Knott to experience the treatment but that doesn’t prove or disprove that it really works. That’s what “data” is for and in this case there doesn’t seem to be sufficient data to prove that this treatment really works. If you’re familiar with any evidence we’d love to see it and share it with our readers.

Does this plant extract boost collagen?

Ana asks…We love the beautybrains podcast here in Portugal and I finally have a question to ask. I read recently about a plant called bulbine frutescens that is kind of similar to aloe. In some studies it says the juice of the plant stimulates collagen production. Have you heard about it? Do you think it would be a good think to use on the skin for the anti aging properties?

Bulbine frutescens is similar to aloe in that their both used in the treatment of skin wounds and burns. We found a study showing that leaf gel extracts can increase collagen deposition in wounds on pig skin.

I won’t go into details on how the testing was done but unfortunately I CAN’T say that “no pigs were harmed during the course of this study.”

But even if there is some data, before you get too excited, consider 2 of the Kligman questions. Remember what those are?

Mechanism, penetration, and data it works on real people.

In this case they’re applying the BF leaf extract directly to a wound. So the extract doesn’t need to penetrate and the mechanism of wound healing is NOT the same as the production of normal collagen that keeps your skin looking smooth and healthy.

In fact, we couldn’t find anything to suggest this material has anti-aging properties when applied to healthy skin.

If it is similar to aloe it may have some moisturizing properties and it may be good for sunburn but don’t expect it to fix the kind of collagen loss we all experience as we age.


https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232319403_Bulbine_Natalensis_and_Bulbine_Frutescens_promote_cutaneous_wound_healing [accessed Jun 21, 2017].

Beauty Science News

J&J vs natural products


I want to give a quick mention of an article I saw on Global Cosmetic News about Johnson & Johnson speaking out on natural products. First of all I love the title: J&J calls parents bluff over natural baby products. Let me quote the article:
“While many parents want all-natural products for their baby, natural or organic isn’t always what’s safest for baby,” said David Mays, Senior Director of Global Scientific Engagement at Johnson & Johnson in an email sent to Forbes. “The debate over naturals and chemicals has been oversimplified where many consumers now believe that the more natural something is, the better and safer it is. It’s just not that simple and in fact that oversimplification is doing a great disservice to consumers.” I think important take away is this quote: ‘being natural is never more important than being safe.’

Artificial sun tan


iTunes reviews

  • Ouija says…Your “showgrams” are fun, educational, and a much needed public service. Put me down for a yes on the banter.
  • Tornadogirl1981 from Germany says…So useful! Should be on a list for everyone who spends money on skincare. In addition to substance, the form of delivery makes you laugh out loud so beware when listening to the Beauty Brains in public places.
  • Tavelbella says…Just when I thought I knew it all! Love sharing your factoids with my clueless friends.
  • Rose from Australia…Great to learn more about beauty products and how they work 🙂
  • Sashawhyismynamenotavailable says…Great podcast for the closeted cosmetics junkie (or junkie to be) — 5 stars
  • Togahairgurl…I absolutely love listening to these Cos-chesmonauts! I would love to be in your industry, so listening to your podcast is fascinating.

How can you find a cheaper natural lip balm?

Abby says…I have a question about Bite Beauty’s Agave Lip Mask. It claims its natural formula smoothes, nourishes and moisturizes lips with a bio active combination of organic agave nectar, jojoba oil, vanilla co2 extract, and triple the amount of the antioxidant trans-resveratrol found in red wine. It doesn’t mention anything about it containing lead so I’m wondering if it’s safe and effective to use on dry lips. I’m also wondering if you can tell me if there’s anything else on the market that might be similar to this because this is very expensive.

Bite Beauty, in case you’re not aware, is a Toronto based company that hand crafts lip products using “food-grade, or good-enough-to-eat ingredients.” Their credo is to prove that “there’s no sacrifice in quality for products sourced from nature.”

That sounds quite noble but of course it’s never as simple as that. Mainly because when it comes to cosmetics everyone has a different definition of what “sourced from nature” means. But let’s set that aside for the moment and focus on what this particular lip mask.

Most of the hype is around the ingredients Abby mentioned: the agave, the “CO2”vanilla, and the resveratrol but let’s use our “Rule of 5” to look at the PRIMARY ingredients in the product: lanolin, castor oil, agave, olive oil and beeswax.

Lanolin is the first ingredient and it’s perfectly reasonable for use in a product like this because it’s composed of waxy, cholesterol-like materials and other skin compatible lipids. That means it’s good for sealing moisture into skin and making skin softer and more pliable. The big negative of lanolin is that some percentage of the population is allergic to it. It also gets a lot of criticism because it’s an animal by product. You don’t have to kill the sheep – it just comes from the oil on the wool. But still, it’s animal derived which some people don’t like.

Castor oil is another good emollient. Do you know why it’s called “castor” oil? I always that original it was used to lubricate casters…those rollers used on the bottom of some kinds of furniture. But that’s not it all all. Castor oil was originally used as a replacement for the oil from the perineal glands of beavers. And the latin word for beaver is “castor.” Anyway, when properly mixed with other ingredients it can form a nice film on the lips which make it good for a “lip mask.”

Next is agave which is essentially cactus nectar. It doesn’t have ANY benefits to the skin that I’m aware of. (Maybe it can help bind a little more moisture but the other ingredients really have that covered.) It’s primary used as a sweetener so in this formula it just makes the product taste better. It does have the advantage of having a lower glycemic load which means it doesn’t have much impact on your blood sugar.

That might be a big deal dealing with a product like a sweetened soft drink because you’re consuming a lot of it. If you drink a can of soda with sugar it can mess with your blood sugar levels but a drink sweetened with agave isn’t as bad. Of course, that doesn’t matter very much when you’re talking about a lip balm because you apply such a small amount. Instead of 1 calorie you’re ingesting 0.5 calories. It doesn’t really matter.

Olive oil unsaponifiables, which are also known as hydrogenated olive oil, is the next ingredient. This is a solidified version of olive oil that has some skin moisturizing benefits and also contributes to the heavier feel of the product.

Beeswax rounds out the top 5 ingredients and it’s there simply to give the product a thicker consistency. This product is not in stick form it’s packaged in a small squeeze tube so it’s more fluid. Beeswax helps, to some extent, seal in moisture so it’s a good thickener for a product like this.

So these are the ingredients that provide the form and function of the product. The vanilla, which Abby also asked about, is just there as a flavoring agent. The fact that’s it’s CO2 vanilla just means that it was extracted from the vanilla bean using carbon dioxide and high pressure rather than a solvent like alcohol. Supposedly this means the aroma of the extract is closer to the aroma of the original vanilla bean but it doesn’t necessarily give the vanilla any super powers. It may just make it taste a little bit better.

And that brings us to the resveratrol which is often touted as a miracle anti-aging ingredient. This all started because of a few studies back in the early 2000’s which showed that if you give older mice high doses of resveratrol they are able to more successfully walk across a balance beam. Another study showed it made lazy mice look like they had exercised.

There haven’t been very many studies on the effect of resveratrol on skin. There was a 2005 study that indicated topically applied resveratrol can protect skin from UV damage but again this was an animal study. A couple of studies have been done on humans: a 2012 study showed that people who took the ingredient orally had better quality skin and a 2011 study showed that resveratrol gel improved acne. But overall, the scientific consensus is that the benefits of topically applied resveratrol are not well established.

The fact that this product contains “triple the amount of resveratrol found in red wine” isn’t that relevant because you’re applying such a small amount.

So at best you’re applying a very small amount of a compound that hasn’t really been proven to have much of an effect.

On the plus side it may help you walk better on a balance beam.

So back to Abby’s question about less expensive substitutes for this Bite Beauty product. If the agave is just there for sweetness, the vanilla for flavor and the resveratrol…well probably not much. So let’s say for the sake of argument you don’t need to worry about finding a product with those ingredients. What SHOULD you look for?

Since the majority of the product is lanolin I’d look for another lanolin based product. We can’t tell you how to find a product that will FEEL the same way but we can give you a couple of options that are close enough for you to maybe want to try and they’ll be a hell of a lot cheaper.

First there’s Koru Naturals lip balm. It contains just two ingredients: USP Grade Lanolin and Sunflower Seed Wax. It only costs $2.80 for a 0.15 ounce stick.

And then there’s Lanicare which contains Lanolin, Castor Seed Oil, Olive Oil Unsaponifiables and Beeswax. That’s also about $3.00 per stick. Both of these products are about a tenth of the cost of Bite Beauty so they certainly seem worth a try.

Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask Ingredient list:
Lanolin* (medical grade), Organic Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil**, Organic Agave Tequilana (blue agave) nectar**, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables*, Organic Cera Alba (Beeswax)**, Flavor, Vanillin, Siraitia Grosvenori (Monk Fruit)*, Vanilla Tahitensis (Vanilla) Fruit Extract*, Organic Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax*, Trans-Resveratrol*, Vitis Vinefera (Grape) oil*, Tocopherol acetate*, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract (And) Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract (and) Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*.

What’s the deal with K Beauty anti-aging alginate masks?

Kate in our Forum asks…. There is this new beauty trend going on in Japan and South Korea – Alginate Masks. They work by mixing alignate mask with water, then you need to apply it to the face, leave the mask in place for at least 15 minute, then remove by peeling it off in one piece. These masks claim to have lifting effect, reduce wrinkles and hyper pigmentation. Is this something new that can actually work on skin and penetrate it? Or is it another foolish trend created by marketers?

To answer Kate’s question let’s start by explaining what it means for a product to be a “mask.” In her original Forum post Kate asks about two ingredients that she saw popping up in a number of these K Beauty mask products: Calcium sulfate and Sodium alginate. Alginate is a material derived from seaweed and it’s a polysaccharide, sort of a long chain of sugary-starch material. When alginate is combined with a divalent atom like calcium, these long chains of starches are connected together in a process we call cross linking.

So when this cross-linked mixture dries, it forms a film. That’s the basic property of any mask – the ability to form a film on your face. That film serves two purposes. First, it provides a tightening feeling because it’s pulling on your skin. That may give the look and feel of lifting and may temporarily tighten some wrinkles. But these benefits only last until the mask is washed away. The second function of the film is to hold other ingredients, like anti-aging actives, onto your skin.

Remember, that for anti-aging ingredients to be effective a few conditions must be met. First, the ingredient must be efficacious, just because a company CLAIMS an ingredient will do something doesn’t mean it really works.

Second, you need to have that ingredient in the right form, delivered from the right kind of forumula (e.g, pH), third it has to be at the right concentration.

And lastly it has to have enough time to get to it needs to do. Some ingredients don’t need to penetrate into the deeper layers of the stratum corneum to work and they work fairly quickly. Others need to be on skin for a lot longer. And that brings us to the problem with masks.

There are three problems actually.
1. Masks are limited in the types of ingredients they can contain. Unlike a cream or lotion where you can easily combine oil and water soluble ingredients, masks tend to be made with more water soluble ingredients.

2. Masks are not the best delivery vehicle because the ingredients can be trapped in the film which prohibits them from fully contacting the skin .

3. And most important, unlike other product forms masks are only left on the skin a relatively short period of time which limits the kind of anti-aging effects it can have. Specifically Kate asked about reducing wrinkles and hyper pigmentation. Ingredients that are effective against these symptoms of aging need to be in contact with skin for a LONG time. Think hours, not minutes. Anti-aging ingredients work best when left in contact with skin. So whether it’s a cleanser or a toner or a mask, if the product isn’t left on the skin you KNOW it’s not going to work as well.

The bottom line is that masks are fun to use and provide a temporary benefit but they can’t be your main anti-aging weapon.

Is baby shampoo good for adults?

Alessandra asks…Is Johnson’s Baby shampoo a gentle sulfate-free option for fine-haired adults who don’t use many styling products (and an inexpensive alternative to fancy salon “low-poo” products)? Or is it as harsh as stylists say, because in order to make the product non-irritating to the eyes, its pH is really unsuitable to the hair?

First let’s talk about what’s in J&J baby shampoo. We’ll put the complete ingredient list in the show notes for your reference.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the ingredients look different than regular “adult” shampoos. Remember the ingredients most commonly used in adult shampoos are sodium or ammonium lauryl and laureth sulfate (SLS, SLES, etc). These are anionic surfactants meaning they tend to have a negative charge, they are high foaming, good degreasers, and unfortunately, can intereact with skin in such a way that causes irritation for some people.

Now, in typically for a baby shampoo, and certainly in the case of J&J the first ingredient after water is what we call a non-ionic surfactant. In this case it’s PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate. This type of detergent doesn’t foam as much so it doesn’t clean as well but it is milder because of the way it interacts with skin.

You’ll also see Cocamidopropyl Betaine which is a cleanser and foam booster used in both baby and adult shampoos. It can be made from coconut oil so even though it’s chemically processed you’ll see it featured in some natural products.

Next is PEG-150 Distearate. This is another non-ionic compound but this one doesn’t do much cleaning. Rather it’s used as an emulsifier to tie the system together and to add some thickening.

Finally, there’s sodium trideceth sulfate. How can this product be sulfate free if it contains a sulfate? “Sulfate free” really refers to free of SLS, etc. This surfactant is considered more of an non-ionic because of the mildness that the “trideceth” portion of the molecule provides.

So these 4 ingredients provide the backbone of the formula. Of course it contains preservatives, colorants, and fragrance as well. It also contains a touch of polyquarternium-10 which is a polymer that can provide a little bit of conditioning but it won’t give the same kind of feel of silicones or guar that you’ll find in adult conditioning shampoos.

One more thing…it contains sodium hydroxide which is a horrible chemical that can burn through your skin. Do you want to explain how that can be in a baby shampoo?

NaOH is very basic which means it has a high pH. But a very small amount can be used to adjust to the pH. When you adjust the pH the base reacts with the acid and is neutralized. In other words the sodium hydroxide is “used up” and isn’t even really in the product any more. So you don’t need to worry about it.

The pH of this product is about 7 which is close to the pH of tears which is one of the reasons it doesn’t hurt babies’ eyes.

But to answer Alessandra’s question, is this stuff too harsh as she said? I’ve even heard it said that I baby shampoo is harsh because it’s loaded with detergents to help get rid of cradle cap. That’s not true. You don’t need a lot of detergent for that more just mechanical washing. What you might need is a keralytic agent that would help speed up skin cells sloughing off but those are not used in regular baby shampoo.

So baby shampoo is NOT harsh but that doesn’t mean it’ll leave your hair feeling smooth. Some people think baby shampoo feels rough because of what it DOESN’T contain: there aren’t really any major moisturizers or silicones in it to coat the hair and counter balance all the surfactants.

The bottom line is that you may not like the way baby shampoo makes your hair feel but it’s not harsh and irritating.

Ingredients: Water, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Phenoxyethanol, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Polyquaternium-10, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Acrylates Copolymer, Yellow 6, Yellow 10.

Beauty Science News

Daily Consumption of a Fruit and Vegetable Smoothie Alters Facial Skin Color.


Remember that time I ate 3 pounds of carrots in one night in an attempt to turn my skin orange?

Well, it turns out that that experiment wasn’t so crazy after all.  In an article published in the journal PLOS One researchers found that daily consumption of fruit and vegetables produced a measurable skin color change. Here’s what they did. They took a group of 81 university students both male and female and measured their skin color using a chronometer. I should mention these were all from an Asian population.  They were able to get a LAB value for yellowness, redness & luminance.  Remember we used to do measurements like that.

Anyway, they gave half the group a fruit smoothie to drink daily and the control group got mineral water. Over the course of 6 weeks they did skin measurements to see what would happen.

It turns out there was a large increase in skin yellowness in the test group and a slight increase in skin redness after 4 weeks of testing.  This effect remained for even 2 weeks after they stopped the test.

So, if you have Asian skin and you are interested in changing the color, perhaps a daily fruit smoothie rich in carotenoids is the way to go. Ya know, I’ve always been skeptical of this “beauty from within” trend but this is at least some evidence that it could work.

Why is Homeland Security interested in cosmetic products?


Normally we say you shouldn’t believe all the hype about dangerous cosmetic ingredients. But it turns out that some cosmetic ingredients are so hazardous that Homeland security has gotten involved.

The danger is not from using cosmetic products, those are safe, but certain raw materials in high concentrations can be weaponized. For example, here are 3 common cosmetic ingredients that can be used in explosive devices: If there are any terrorists listening please cover your ears:

triethanolamine which is used as a pH control agent, hydrogen peroxide which is used in hair lighters and a bunch of other products, and powdered aluminum which is used in color cosmetics.

So, Homeland Security is working with cosmetic companies that have large stock piles of these ingredients to help them ensure the materials remain secure.

The only time I’ve seen cosmetic chemistry threaten homeland security was that time you were doing some testing in the lab and and you set a comb on fire. Remember that?

iTunes reviews

Abky25 says…5 stars. This podcast is a must for anyone who wants to be informed about the products they’re using. Since I started listening to this i’ve really reduced the amount of money I spend on skin products. I will say the podcast can get a bit boring after a while. Overall, these guys are easy to listen to and just so knowledgeable!!

Disparate Housewife from Ireland says…Beauty is an industry and this podcast holds them to standards while guiding listeners to be savvy consumers. I love that the hosts are intelligent and have a fun sense of humour.

Monika from Sweden says…You’ve saved me so much money and I love to listen to you on my morning commute.

Um, please says…I never write reviews but this podcast is just so awesome I had to share the love! These guys address all your cosmetic questions in a fun, quick, and educational way.