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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

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

  • 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.


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!