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Rank #17 in Fashion & Beauty category

Fashion & Beauty
Natural Sciences

The Beauty Brains

Updated about 9 hours ago

Rank #17 in Fashion & Beauty category

Fashion & Beauty
Natural Sciences
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Real scientists answer your beauty questions

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Real scientists answer your beauty questions

iTunes Ratings

517 Ratings
Average Ratings

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By weeniemobile - Nov 07 2019
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I listened to every available episode once I discovered this podcast in September through today. I wanted to hear all of the episodes before giving my review. I have a BS and an MS in chemical engineering, so I appreciate the science. I am a Patent Examiner in Metallurgy, so I appreciate the technology. I have been interested in beauty and makeup since I can remember, so I appreciate the consumer tips. And finally, I have had keratosis pilaris my entire life, so I appreciate hearing that I am not the only one who has heard of “chicken skin.” Keep up the good work, and I will be submitting an audio question. Keep on being brainy about beauty!

Well informed

By GriffinNash - Oct 11 2019
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As an esthetician working in the medical field this is a great resource to help educate me and better explain how safe skincare ingredients are, with the “green/natural” beauty complex trying to demonize everything.

iTunes Ratings

517 Ratings
Average Ratings

Love this

By weeniemobile - Nov 07 2019
Read more
I listened to every available episode once I discovered this podcast in September through today. I wanted to hear all of the episodes before giving my review. I have a BS and an MS in chemical engineering, so I appreciate the science. I am a Patent Examiner in Metallurgy, so I appreciate the technology. I have been interested in beauty and makeup since I can remember, so I appreciate the consumer tips. And finally, I have had keratosis pilaris my entire life, so I appreciate hearing that I am not the only one who has heard of “chicken skin.” Keep up the good work, and I will be submitting an audio question. Keep on being brainy about beauty!

Well informed

By GriffinNash - Oct 11 2019
Read more
As an esthetician working in the medical field this is a great resource to help educate me and better explain how safe skincare ingredients are, with the “green/natural” beauty complex trying to demonize everything.
Cover image of The Beauty Brains

The Beauty Brains

Updated about 9 hours ago

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Real scientists answer your beauty questions

Rank #1: Why isn’t everyone exfoliating with AHAs? Episode 159

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Why isn’t everyone exfoliating with AHAs?

Melissa says…I’ve been using an night cream with glycolic acid and I noticed that my skin is actually brighter, clearer, and softer. I’ve been using this product for years and I still love it but I worry that it may be too good to be true. Are there any risks associated with alpha hydroxy acid products? Why aren’t we are using them?

Thanks Melissa. Long time fans of the show will remember that I love getting questions about Alpha Hydroxy Acids because it gives me an excuse to retell the story of the marketing director for St. Ives didn’t quite get the acronym and would instead of calling them AHAs would call them “Ah-Ha’s.” That always amused me during meetings because it sounded like she was speaking with exclamation marks. “We need to launch a new AHA!”

Before we can answer Melissa’s questions, let’s quickly recap what AHAs are and how they work. Alpha Hydroxy Acids are a class of chemical that is used to loosen dead skin cells.They consist of long chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms with a carboxylic acid group at the end. When naming carbon chains we start by labeling the carbon next to the carboxylate which is known as the α carbon, the next carbon is the β carbon, and so forth. So in this case the carboxylate is on that first carbon so this is an ALPHA hydroxy acid. Salicylic acid has the group on the second carbon so it’s a BETA hydroxy acid.

They work by softening the “glue” that holds skin cells together so the dead ones fall off more easily. When this happens, the basal layer is triggered to produce fresh skin cells. This is also referred to as “increasing cell turnover.”

There are several types of AHAs. The two most common are Glycolic and Lactic. Glycolic acid is the smallest, it can be derived from sugar cane or produced synthetically. Lactic is also known as “milk acid” because it can be derived from soured dairy products, as well as fermented vegetables and fruit.

One less popular AHA is actually Perry’s favorite to pronounce: Tartaric Acid. Other runners up include citric and malic acid. There’s another that’s technically a PHA or polyhydroxy acid and that’s lactobionic acid. Interestingly, According to research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Lactobionic acid is not only more effective than glycolic acid at improving cell turn over but it’s also less irritating. An international team from London, Serbia and Slovenia tested both AHAs in a cream and a gel. 26 volunteers used the products twice a day for two weeks. The researchers found that Lactobionic acid scored better in both forms even though their data indicated the gel base worked a bit better than the cream form.

But Melissa asked if there are risks associated with AHAs. Yes, there are. Some people can’t tolerate their effects and they experience redness and irritation (especially if they have rosacea prone skin.) Using products too frequently or using products that have too high of a concentration can exacerbate this problem. A potentially bigger problem is that if you misuse AHAs they can increase the danger of UV exposure. This was determined by the European Commission on Scientific Affairs. This is problematic is you’re using them improperly or too often but for most people, AHAs are perfectly fine.

So if they work so good and they’re safe for most people, why isn’t everybody using them? Great question! First of all, everyone’s skin is different and not everyone responds to AHAs to the same degree. Some people (especially if they’re prone to conditions like rosacea) are likely to see redness and irritation to an extent that can over whelm the benefits. Other people may have dabbled with AHA products but perhaps they didn’t choose one with a high level of actives and were so disappointed in the results that they just gave up. But there are a lot of people like yourself who have picked a good product to which they respond to well. Good for you!!

The other factor, in my opinion, is that the beauty industry wants to sell more products (and more expensive products) by enticing you with the latest and greatest technology. We’re so bombarded with information on all these new product launches that sound so amazing, that sometimes it’s hard to focus on the basics that really work. Companies may think it’s harder to sell “old” technologies like AHAs when they can hype the latest and greatest algae extract or whatever.

ALS vs. SLS vs. SLES vs. ALES

Long time fan Alessandra asks…Which is more harsh SLS vs ALS vs SLES vs ALES?

First, let’s decode that alphabet soup: Most people know that SLS is sodium lauryl sulfate. They may not know that ALS is Ammonium lauryl sulfate. When you see an “E” added to the name that means it’s Sodium or Ammonium “LAURETH” sulfate.

Yes, the “eth” stands for ethoxylation which essentially means that you’re extending the molecule by inserting some oxygen atoms. Why would we do this? Because the ethoxylation process makes the detergent milder (and a little less powerful as a cleanser.) Essentially that’s because it’s more water soluble. So that means that sodium lauryl and ammonium lauryl are harsher than sodium laureth and ammonium laureth? Got it?

Now what about the sodium vs ammonium versions? There’s really not much difference. It’s the lauryl sulfate part of the molecule that’s the issue not the counter ion.

Alessandra pointed out that several brands like Organix and Leonor Greyl, advertise their shampoos as SLES-free but they have ammonium lauryl sulfate as the first ingredient. Now you know how misleading that is!

Are silkworm cocoons good for skin?

Becky says…I’ve read a few articles about the collagen-promoting qualities of silkworm cocoons – apparently rubbing them on your face improves the texture of your skin, improves signs of UV damage and all those other impossibly amazing things. It sounds like another crazy gimmick but I noticed in this article they back it up with some pretty convincing words from a dermatologist. 

Becky’s right, the dermatologist quoted in the article says some very convincing things. For the most part the woman rubbed her face with cocoons every day for about a month and at the end of that time her skin looked better. Of course this can’t be considered scientific evidence because the test involved one person and there was no control.

But there ARE some studies showing sericin (silk protein) may have anti-aging properties under certain conditions. For example, one study showed that silk sericin can “stimulate collagen type I synthesis, suppress the regulation of nitrite, which nitrite may induces oxidative stress.” This test was done by applying pure sericin directly to cultures of cells in the lab which does NOT prove that rubbing cocoons are your face will do anything.

I’m still skeptical, however, because rubbing a cocoon on your face is not a very efficient way of delivering sericin to the skin and the amount of the protein that can be delivered that way seems like it would be very low. Stick with the anti-aging products that are proven to help.

Should you worry about counterfeit hairspray?

Redheaded 4 Trouble says… I’ve seen this picture floating around Facebook. It shows a hairspray can with the label torn off to reveal a different brand underneath. The caption says: “This is why you do NOT buy product from TJ MAXX, ROSS or MARSHALS!!! Only buy from your stylists, that’s it.” I’m thinking this is probably just something salons are spreading so people will buy these products from them at a higher price. What do you think?

This isn’t nearly as sinister as it appears and it is NOT proof that TJ Maxx is selling counterfeit hairspray. My guess is that the company had too many cans decorated of the blue product so rather than destroy them and lose the value, they decided to have them relabeled and then used them for another product.

Yeah, If it were TJ Maxx or any other third party labeling over one product with the label from another then the ingredient list would be wrong (as well as other information) which would be illegal.

How would this even work? They buy a cheaper, inferior product and then relabel it? But the product underneath is Egyptian vs Chi – prove that this is the same brand. Why wouldn’t they buy Suave hairspray and relabel it? IT MAKES NO SENSE!

After I wrote this, I found a Snopes article that gives the same answer:

Beauty Science News

Lifestyle matters more than genetics for looking young

New makeup trend


We’re routinely criticized for not being in touch with the latest beauty trends – but not today! Here’s a story from Refinery29 about the newest, most exciting thing in cosmetics: ear makeup. Apparently some trendy Instagrammers are posting pictures where they have applied a dab of glitter or a spot of color to their ear lobes. Violette is one of the most popular.

It’s interesting because this isn’t an area of the body that’s been used for cosmetics much but apparently now it’s quite the rage. Right now these women are just repurposing other make up and applying to their ears but it’s only a matter of time before some savvy cosmetic manufacturer catches on and starts to create make up specifically designed for the ears.

I predict we’ll see MAC launch a line of Ear Shadow and Ear Gloss to light up your lobes! Now, this creates a new problem: which is makeup residue on ear jewelry. Inevitably your earrings will get gunked up so you’ll need a special product to to clean makeup from earrings. Well, I’ve created that product and I call it – wait for it…”Earring Aid.” Get it?

iTunes reviews – it’s an All International edition of iTunes reviews!

Twiddly dee from Canada says…As an Esthetician I can appreciate all the science behind products. Keep up the great work!

Hrwlondon from UK says…Both informative and soothing listening. Lots of interesting facts and anecdotes. Would like a top ten greatest ingredients show soon!

MeginMunich from Germany….Excellent Beauty Advice! I really appreciate the scientific basis behind these beauty tips. Most of the information available these days is distributed by marketing teams and can be totally confusing.

Livdane from Latvia says…Funny, evidence based and informative. I used to think that I was an informed and skeptical consumer. Now in hindsight I can appreciate the Dunning-Kruger effect on me at its best. The podcast revealed me the whole new world of the cosmetic chemistry in the amazingly geeky and entertaining way Randy and Perry delivers it. Now I can make the claim: “listening to The Beauty Brains minimizes the perceived feeling and appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Mar 21 2017



Rank #2: Clean beauty, oil cleansing and more – episode 194

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On this episode of the Beauty Brains we answer a number of beauty product questions and talk about big companies and the brands they own.

Beauty Questions On today’s episode we answer your questions about  

  • Is oil cleansing better for your skin?
  • How should you treat seborrheic dermatitis?
  • What do you think of the Active Beauty products?

Special guest brain, Sarah Bellum!

*Sorry about the sound quality. We had a different setup for this episode.

Beauty News

Allure starts it’s own clean beauty certification

Beauty Questions

Question 1 – Katherine says Hi, I just wanted to get your opinion on this product (Glossier Body Hero Daily Oil Wash). They have an Instagram post which doesn’t make any sense to me from a scientific perspective, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Question 2 – Stephanie says – I’m not a chemist and I need some direction on properly incorporating liquid tinctures into my rice water. I have low porosity curly hair but my scalp suffers from chronic seborrheic dermatitis.

I’ve been using rice water for several months. I love the results and I would like to safely incorporate onion, garlic, cayenne and ginger tinctures into my rice water regimen.

My question is, what number of drops of the tinctures would be safe as well as effective to add to the rice water? Any guidance that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Question 3 – Luke says – Hey there beauty brains, I came across this new ‘next generation’ skin care product called face gym. I’m kind of sick of brands creating new products and boasting so wildly about the benefits without any research or evidence to back it up. They use terms like ‘scientifically formulated’, ‘medical grade’, ‘stem cells’, ‘detox’… really grinds my gears hearing all this marketing talk. Can you shed some light on whether or not there is any truth to these claims with new and innovative products?

Follow the Brains

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

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link or record one on your phone and send it to

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

Sep 20 2019



Rank #3: Are beauty products from Amazon the real thing? Episode 164

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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:

Sep 29 2017



Rank #4: Your hair care questions answered – episode 180

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Welcome to the Beauty Brains show. On today’s episode we’re going to be answering your hair care beauty questions!

  • Hair products that claim to restore natural color in gray hair
  • Ouidad curl conditioner
  • Products that claim to thicken hair
  • How do you avoid hair damage?
  • How do you know what ingredients actually do something?
  • What are the best natural ingredients for hair products?

Beauty Questions

Bexaida asks – I have found this product that is restoring my hair color back to the shade I had in my youth, i used it for a few days and the silver and white turned darker and darker brown and my red undertones appeared as well . I use it less and less until all I need is once a week It is said to remove the Oxygen that builds up in our scalp as we age What do you know about this product?

The product you’re referring to is called Hairprint. This uses a standard technology in which a metal is oxidized to create color. It can provide some gray coverage but it does not work in the manner which is described by their marketing.

I was hoping you might take a look at the ingredients of the Ouidad Curl Immersion Triple Treat Deep Conditioner (see below). I had never tried a Ouidad product before due to price but finally caved after reading rave reviews about it. The problem is I really don’t like it and unfortunately can’t return it. I’m finding it doesn’t have much slip for detangling while it’s in my hair and when I rinse it out, it just doesn’t feel very conditioned. What is it about this product that would cause that? Also, is there anything that can be added to improve it? I’ve heard to add things like honey, oil, or glycerin. Thanks, Misty

This is the problem with following online reviews. First, you don’t know if they are real or the people were paid by the company to write the reviews. And second just because a product works well for one person doesn’t mean it will be great for another. I like using hot water for shaving my face but it’s probably not a great suggestion for most people. Beauty product effectiveness is largely related to your personal preference and experience.

So, you say that Ouidad leaves your hair without slip and it doesn’t feel conditioned. In looking at the ingredients they sure have a lot of ingredients!  There are a number of things in there meant for conditioning hair. Cationic surfactants like Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetrimonium chloride, and Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine. Those should give slip but then there are also a bunch of things which can interfere with that like the shea butter, lanolin, the oils, even the glycerin. And they have silicones in there but Cyclopentasiloxane which tends to evaporate and the others are in there at low levels. Based on the ingredient list it is not surprising you’re not feeling conditioning.

If you want conditioning as you describe look for something with Dimethicone high up in the ingredient list and something that doesn’t have as many ingredients to interfere with the working of all the conditioning ingredients.

You also wanted to know if there was a way to improve it. Adding honey or glycerin will not improve things. I think that would make it perform worse. I’m not sure there is anything you can do but you might try using a leave-on conditioner after. That could at least improve your detangling effect.

Curl Immersion Triple Treat Deep Conditioner Ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape)Seed Oil, Propanediol, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Lanolin, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil,Cyclopentasiloxane, Behentrimonium Chloride, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Polyquaternium-37, Cetyl Esters, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Amodimethicone, Bis-Hydroxy/Methoxy Amodimethicone, C10-40 Isoalkylamidopropylethyldimonium Ethosulfate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cetrimonium Chloride, Cetrimonium Methosulfate, Citric Acid, Dipropylene Glycol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Palmitoyl Myristyl Serinate, Panthenol, Peg-8, Peg-8/SDMI Copolymer, Propylene Glycol Dibenzoate, Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate, Quaternium-91, Sodium Polyacrylate, Trideceth-12, Trideceth-6, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance (parfum)

Sheila Marie – My question has to do with a hair product called Nioxin. Can you please explain the science behind this product? And can you explain what it means when the hair product says that it “thickens” hair? Thanks for taking the time to read this email.

Nioxin prides themselves on creating products that thicken hair. They have some products in their line that contain Minoxidil so these are the basis for hair regrowth claims. Their other products “support” hair growth and work in standard product ways to make volumizing products like having a high level of surfactant and focusing on scalp cleansing. The reality is this is a marketing position and the product is unlikely to measurably improve hair thickness better than other products claimed to do the same.

Tina says – I have Caucasian hair that seems to break off excessively and is almost always frizzy. The natural texture seems to be wavy and straight in different places. I don’t know what kind of shampoo and conditioner I should be using.

Use a moisturizing shampoo and always use a conditioner afterwards if you are having problem with frizz and breakage. You might even consider using a leave-in conditioner.

Hi Beauty Brains,

I’ve really loved all your episodes on hair care recently, and listening to them helped me put my finger on what the core question is that I hope you’ll answer, which is “what are the best methods/products/etc to avoid damage to hair?” I like to grow out my hair quite long, so that means avoiding damage as much as possible so I can keep all the length I get. So how, in your opinion, do I do that? This is where all my other major questions spring from. Does harsh shampoo really cause damage? What conditioning ingredients really help? What deep treatments help? Where’s the balance between moisturizing your hair and getting hydral fatigue? On that note, what about the air drying vs. hair dryer debate?

There’s a lot of conflicting info out there on the internet on these topics. If you guys can put together a top ten tips to minimize damage or similar I would really love to hear it!Thanks Elizabeth

Tips for minimizing hair damage.

  1. Minimize washing. Getting hair wet swells the fiber and causes damage
  2. Don’t color your hair
  3. Don’t use a curling iron or flat iron
  4. Always use a conditioner – preferably something with silicones
  5. Minimize combing and brushing
  6. Minimize the use of things in your hair like scrunchies
  7. Don’t get a perm or relax hair
  8. Protect hair from the sun if you’re out a long time

My name is Sophia. I’m obsessed with not damaging my hair because I literally put hundreds of dollars into it. My friends tell me that hair dye is fine but I’m not so sure. As a cosmetic chemist you would know, just how much damage does hair dye cause? And even if I only do it once, what effects would that have and how would I recover from it? Thanks!

Well, we just talked about hair damage and coloring your hair is one of the most damaging things you can do. The only thing more damaging is relaxing hair which actually breaks protein bonds in the hair fiber.

If you only do it once, you can recover from it. The new hair that grows out won’t have any of the same damage problems. Of course, it can take a long time to grow back. Hair grows about half an inch a month.

Question: We often see companies marketing a product with a certain ingredient and stating this ingredient provides you with this benefit like for example a hair cream with Shea Butter and coconut oil marketed as heat protecting cream, or a Cinnamon hair mask marketing that Cinnamon helps with hair growth. With so much miss information out in the internet where can we as consumers find if these ingredients actually provides what there stating?  (Jeanie)

There is no single source – although the Beauty Brains is a good place

First assume that things don’t work. Most things won’t.

Journal of Society of Cosmetic Chemists

Google Scholar

Cosmetic Chemists on Twitter

Next time

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

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

or record one on your phone and send it to

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

Apr 23 2019



Rank #5: Natural ingredients for hair and skin – what works? episode 187

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On this episode of the Beauty Brains we cover a variety of topics for both hair and skin. On this show…

  • How does Hard water affect hair?
  • Should you be Patting or smearing on skincare products?
  • What natural ingredients that are good for hair?

Plus, we look at the Jacklyn Hill lipstick controversy and whether 0% aluminum natural deodorants are really a thing.

Crappy claims –  (Maybe need a title for this segment but the idea is to call out bad and misleading marketing claims)  Dove launches a 0% aluminum deodorant. Deodorants have never contained aluminum!

Kitchen Cosmetics

Will lemon juice lighten up darkened armpits?

No, but I can see how this lemon juice myth got started. There is a small amount of Vitamin C in lemon juice which some people believe will lighten skin. And there is citric acid in it which some people think might help exfoliate. But it’s unlikely to be of much help and it can also cause problems. Lemon juice can react with the sun to cause a rash.  Having a rash under your armpits is no fun.

Beauty Questions

Question 1 – Water Hardness

Question 2 – What natural hair ingredients are effective?

Question 3 – Should you pat or smear your skin care products?

There isn’t a lot of evidence that patting is better for application than smearing. The most important thing is that you apply sunscreen at all.

Transcript of show can be found here

Follow the Brains

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

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link or record one on your phone and send it to

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

Jun 24 2019



Rank #6: Jade Rollers – Micellar water – and more – Episode 171

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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.


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 (  

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 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.  

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Jan 28 2019



Rank #7: Should you be worried about aluminum in deodorants? Episode 134

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Should we be worried about aluminum in deodorants?

Erin asks…Should we be worried about aluminum in deodorants?

First of all don’t get confused between anti-perspirant and deodorants. Anti-perspirants contain aluminum salts that help plug your pores so you don’t sweat as much. Deodorants do not contain aluminum and they don’t stop you from sweating. They only reduce body odor. (By using fragrance or anti-bacterial compounds.) This started around 1985. Researchers found that Alzheimers patients had high levels of aluminum in their brains. There have been a number of studies since then – at least one, done in 1990, did suggest a link. Researchers tracked aluminum exposure of 130 Alzheimers patients BUT the study has been discredited because it relied on other people to provide data for the patients. It just wasn’t reliable.

More reliable studies have indicated that this is NOT a problem. For example, a 2002 studied evaluated over 4000 people over the course of several years and found no increased risk of disease (whether the patients used APs or even ate antacids which also contain Al salts.)

The current hypothesis is that the high aluminum content in the brains of patients with Alzheimers is a RESULT of the disease, not the cause. It has to do with how the brains cells eliminate toxins. Ref: NY Times. So, the bottom line despite all the fear mongering you hear about aluminum in cosmetic products the best evidence to date shows that there are no significant health concerns. (Other than the fact that some people experience skin irritation from anti-perspirants.)

The flip side to this is the popularity of so called natural deodorants. We’ve continue to get questions about these. In one discussion thread in our Forum, Kiri said that “crystal deodorants are soo good!”  Just remember that crystal deodorants may contain Alum crystals which contain aluminum. Also, Allure recently asked about using coconut oil as a natural deodorant. I looked into and found that coconut oil does have some mild antibacterial properties so it’s not inconceivable that it could act as an underarm deodorant. However, I couldn’t find any evidence in the scientific literature that it’s been tested against Staphylococcus hominis which is the bacteria species primarily responsible for producing underarm odor. That means that even though it MAY work theoretically it may not work very well. In reality, it seems like a very impractical solution due to its greasiness. It also has a low viscosity at body temperature which means it will drip down your arms and chest. An ordinary deodorant or antiperspirant will do a much better job.

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Should I wash with shower gel or soap?

Little Tabby says…I saw these 2 articles about Shower Gel versus bar soap – 1 article states that shower gel is a waste of money and the other one mentions that Bar soap is less drying to the skin compared to shower gel. I’ve had severe issues with washing my hands frequently when using these gels but not with soap. Please give your opinion on what is the better option. 

It depends on what you mean by “soap” and on what kind of detergents are used in your shower gels. TRUE soap (saponified fatty acids) has a higher pH which can (temporarily) impair skin’s natural acid mantle. Shower gels don’t have this problem but they are made with detergents (like sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate) that can degrease the skin.
Perhaps the best compromise are syndet bars which are milder detergents (like sodium cocoyl isethionate) which are extremely mild and don’t have the issue with low pH.

You mentioned “severe issue” after frequent hand washing with shower gels. The problem MAY have nothing to do with the cleansing system and more about the preservative system. If those products use Methylisothiazolinone (MI) as a preservative, you might have developed a sensitivity.

Is “lauryl” a bad ingredient in my shampoo?

Alessandra asks…Can you please check the ingredients of this Lenor Greyl Bain shampoo? I bought it in Italy and it makes my (oily) hair stay clean longer, but I see “lauryl” as opposed to my usual sodium laureth, is it too harsh?

Lauryl is just the name for the carbon chain. It can appear in a number of different detergents. It seems to have gotten a bad name because it’s used in SLS but it’s not the lauryl part that causes the problem. I’m more because it’s a sulfate salt.

This Lenore Greyl product doesn’t contain ANY SLS but it does contain there other detergents that use Lauryl as a backbone: Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Sodium Lauryl Glucoside, and Sodium Lauroyl Oat Aminoacids. These are, in fact, very mild surfactants and won’t be as harsh as SLS can be.

Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate (and) Sodium Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Sodium Lauroyl Oat Aminoacids, Glycereth-2 Cocoate, Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride, Cocamide Mea, Wheat (Triitcum Sativum) Extract, Polyquaternium-70 (and) Dipropylene Glycol, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Sacchoromyces Cerevisiae Extract, Propylene Glycol, PEG-15 Cocopolyamine, Nelumbium Speciousum Flower Extract, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Iris Florentina Root Extract, Daucus Carota Extract, Fragrance, Tocopherol, Polysorbate 20, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Metylchloroisothiazolinone (and) Methylisothiazolinone.

Can you suck your way to plumper lips?

Krunce asks…What’s the deal with products like Liptiful and Fullips?

In case you’re not familiar with these products they’re another variation on the “sucking lip plumper” trend. They’re like little plastic cup that you press against your lips – you suck on them to create a vacuum which pulls fluid into your lips. This hydraulic pressure provides a temporary plumping effect. After a while the fluid gets reabsorbed into the tissues and the lips go back to normal. That’s why you have to repeat it every day.

If you just did this occasionally it’s probably not a big deal but I found an article quoting Dr. Dendy Engelman who’s the director of dermatologic surgery at New York Medical College. He says that the suction from this process causes “vessel engorgement” (BTW if your vessel engorgement lasts more than 8 hours please call your physician.) but anyway… all this extra blood in your vessels sets off an inflammatory response (histamine release.)

If you suck hard enough you can even break these blood vessels which will result in bruising. This is especially a problem for fair skinned people. So, these products are not a great way to plump your lips on a regular basis. 


New hair repair technology

Over the years we’ve written a number articles about split end mending. For the most part conditioners and other hair care treatments can do very little to actually repair a split end – which by the way is one of the biggest of hair problems. We have talked about the Poly Electrolyte Complex that’s used in Tresemme, Nexus, and a few other brands because it actually can mend a split.

Well, this webinar introduced another technology that really works. This one is called “Kerabeads” or “Vegabeads” (that’s the trade name so don’t look for that on the label.) The come from a company called “Earth Supplied Products.”  These are capsules made from natural materials alginate polymers which come from seaweed. The presenter used an interesting analogy – he likened the structure of the capsules to a paper bag. The inside wall of the bag is positively charged and the outside wall is negatively charged. This dual charge allows the capsules to attracted to damaged hair (which has a negative charge) as well as other capsules. The capsules are small enough to get inside the split end of hair and when the capsules dry they actually pull the split shut. There’s a great video on the company’s website. Apparently, the capsules also work to help smooth the raised edges of cuticles so they can benefit from hair that hasn’t even split yet. And, as a bonus, they can deliver oils and other materials which is something the PEC technology isn’t designed to do.

I’m always skeptical about these vendor presentations but knowing how well the PEC technology works it seems very feasible that there’s really something to this. If we identify any brands using this technology we’ll be sure to let you know.

  • One ‘N Only Argan Oil Split End Mender
  • Perfectly Posh has several products that contain it.
  • Living Proof Perfect hair Day (PhD) Fresh cut split end mender

The Nivea app “nose” when you have body odor


Nivea Men collaborated with Happiness FCB to to come up with a smartphone app called Nose which will tell men when they smell bad and need to use a deodorant. It’s actually more than just an app. It’s a phone case that has the electronic nose sensors in it plus the app. You hold the phone up to your arm pit and it will tell you if you stink. The ad is certainly tongue and cheek but it looks like this is a real thing that Nivea is testing world wide. They say it will launch onto the consumer market next year.

The personal care industry hires a lot of women!

One of our loyal fans asked me to share this study for the Personal Care Products Council. Do you want to explain to our audience who that is? (Founded in 1894!) So the PCPC has found that not only is the personal care products industry is a major contributor to U.S. Economy. In 2013, the industry added nearly $237 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and supported 3.6 million domestic jobs. But the really interesting finding of this research is that women, including women with diverse backgrounds, are at the heart of the industry. The share of management positions held by women in the personal care products industry is higher than the U.S. average. Women and those with diverse backgrounds account for nearly 74 percent of all industry employment and 61 percent of management positions. Yay! We’ve lamented that aren’t more female cosmetic scientists but they are represented well across the industry as a whole.

Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

Leec23 says…Such great information. For example, I love how you explain the difference in alcohols, for many years you hear things like “stay away from any products with alcohol, they just dry everything out” Now I understand what alcohols to avoid and what alcohols are good. (I’ll drink to that….)

Madame Broccoli Cupcake says…I love these guys! They’re smart, honest, and the best kind of nerdy. I personally love Randy’s snark, and really enjoy learning about Perry’s various OCD idiosyncrasies.
Personalities aside, I’ve learned so much from this podcast like what types of beauty “hacks” to not waste my time on.

May 24 2016



Rank #8: Are cosmetics safer in Europe than in the US? Episode 101

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

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

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

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

Who makes the regulations in the EU?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the main ways the regulations control things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does it all work in practice?

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

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

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

Are cosmetics really dangerous or not?

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

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

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

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

Colin’s Conclusion

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

iTunes reviews

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

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

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

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

 Please support the Beauty Brains

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Mar 05 2019



Rank #9: Why is Moroccan oil such a big deal in hair and skin products? Episode 110

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Support the Beauty Brains by signing up for a free trial at

Perry and I are taking a little time off to celebrate the holidays. In the meantime, please listen to this LOST EPISODE to hear Sara Bellum and Left Brain talk about Moroccan oil in beauty products.

Dec 01 2015



Rank #10: Are Micellar Water makeup removers the real deal? Episode 150

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What’s the deal with micellar water make up removers?

Taylor asks…I’m a new listener and enjoy your show so much. (Gets me through the work day) I want to know the hype about micellar water and is this something new or just a mild makeup remover with a “fancy name.”

Micellar waters are named after the technical term, micelle, so before we talk about the products we should explain what that is.

Micelles are structures that are formed when surfactant are dissolved in water. Remember that surfactants, short for surface active agents, are used in beauty products as cleansers and emulsifiers that help mix oil and water soluble ingredients.

If you look at the chemical structure of surfactants they typically have a long oil soluble tail and water soluble polar head group.  When surfactants are present in water at a certain concentration, they begin to assemble into larger structures based on the water soluble/oil soluble parts of the molecule. The oil soluble tails try to group together to get away from the water. The lowest energy state for them is to have all the tails together so they are shielded from water by the polar head groups – which again, water soluble. Think of it as a ball or sphere of surfactant molecules with head on outside, tails facing inside.

These spheres of surfactants are called micelles and the concentration of surfactant required to form them is called the Critical Micelle Concentration or CMC.

Micelles have a couple of useful properties – the oil soluble tails can interact with other oil soluble materials like dirt and oil, and sort of trap them inside the micelle away from the water. That’s how micelles allow surfactants to mix oil and water soluble materials.

Secondly, the structure of the micelle helps reduce the irritation potential of certain surfactants. It’s kind of counter intuitive but because of micelle formation, a surfactant may actually be more irritating at a LOWER concentration (when the molecules are floating around by themselves) rather than at a higher concentration when they’re tied up in micelles. And that brings us back to micellar waters…

The idea is that Micellar Waters are milder or better for you skin because the surfactants are tied up in micelles. I think these products are more likely to be mild because they don’t use harsh surfactants in the first place.

Yeah, if you look at the ingredient list for products that claim to be micellar waters they tend NOT to use traditional, high foaming surfactants. Instead they use a combination of nonionic surfactants, which tend to be milder on skin. One of most common nonionic surfactant used in micellar waters is Poloxamer 184.

This ingredient is made of units of polyoxyethylene, followed by a unit of polyoxypropylene, followed by a unit of polyoxyethylene. It can reduce surface tension and help lift away dirt. Some versions of Poloxamer can give the skin a soft and smooth appearance.

Micellar waters also use solvents like hexylene glycol. In fact, that’s the number one ingredient in almost every micellar water I’ve seen. HG can help remove oily makeup all by itself and it’s not harsh on skin. Also use PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides which function similarly.

It’s also import to note that some MW do use more traditional anionic foaming surfactants but they are typically more mild, like Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate.

So overall, yes, these MW products are likely to be milder than many other cleansers. And, unlike traditional foaming cleanser’s they don’t necessarily have to be rinsed. They may even provide more of pleasant after feel than other cleansing products.

I have to say that companies have done a great job marketing these products. Somehow, these seem so special that they should be really expensive.

Yea, remember “micellar water” is a marketing term not a true technical term. (Technically we would say it’s a makeup remover “with a surfactant levels that has met or surpassed the Critical Micelle Concentration.”) There’s anything wrong with that being marketing driven but just don’t be tricked into thinking it’s worth more money because of the fancy name.

But they SHOULDN’T be that expensive. There are some very affordable MW products on the market. You can spend Simple has one that only costs about $1.00 per ounce. Of course there’s Lancôme EAU FRAÎCHE DOUCEUR Micellar Cleansing Water which is 6x the price. I doubt it’s 6 times better.

Do vitamin c boosters really work?

Sam says…I like using Paula’s Choice C15 booster exactly as indicated: adding it into my current lotions to “boost” their performance. This is super convenient because it doesn’t alter my existing routine, AND I can mix it into my body lotion and get this serum’s benefits all over without going bankrupt.

However, I am super confused about how Paula’s booster actually works when mixed with other products. Since ascorbic acid requires a pH below 3.5 to remain stable, how can the it possibly maintain this when mixed with any variety of unknown products? Paula’s customer service says the serum was formulated with this in mind and it has penetration enhancers to ensure that the ascorbic acid is viable when mixing.

NuFountain makes a similar product but they say mixing it with other products will likely affect the pH and render the ascorbic acid useless. They say to apply their serum first to allow full absorption of the ascorbic acid without any chance of altering its efficacy.

So what is going on? Are these two serums really radically different or is someone just wrong here?

I don’t think it’s a question of who’s right or wrong, I think it’s more about degrees of rightness. I understand the appeal of the “booster” premise. Essentially you’re turning any regular skin cream into a vitamin C treatment. That’s a great idea. It another way of making a 2 in 1 product. And you know what we say about 2 in 1 products…

You may gain convenience when you make a combination product but you’re always going to compromise one benefit or the other, or both, when you try to combine two products into one.

In this case you’re sacrificing the efficacy of ascorbic acid to gain the convenience of quicker product application. Let’s look at the facts.

There are 3 factors that can impact the stability of ascorbic acid in a situation like this.

  • pH – as Sam said, the pH needs to be around 3.5 for maximum stability.
  • Ingredient interaction – it’s well established that certain ingredients like oxidants and metal ions can degrade the stability of AA.
  • Dilution effect – The ideal concentration of AA is about 15 or 20%. Much more than that and it will irritate skin. Much less than that and it won’t be as effective.

So what happens when you use the “booster approach?” You’re mixing AA serum with other products that may have any or all of these 3 factors.

The pH of a typical skin lotion is in the range of 4 to 6 so you’re raising the pH out of the ideal range. I don’t see how a small amount of this booster could lower the pH of a large amount of a secondary product.

Lotions do contain oxidants and metal ions so you may be introducing destabilizing agents.

And, you’re putting a few drops of a concentrated serum into a larger volume of another product – so by definition you’re diluting the AA.

That’s ESPECIALLY true in Sam’s case where she’s using it in a body lotion to “get the benefits all over.”

Okay, so we’ve established that the boosting approach is more likely to reduce AA efficacy compared to using the AA serum on it’s own. Does that make Paula’s Choice a liar?

NO! Because none of these 3 factors we just described COMPLETELY deactivate AA. They just make it less stable. Some percentage will still work it just won’t be optimal.

In other words, if you use the product as Paula describes you’ll get the convenience and some of the benefits of vitamin C.

Right but the efficacy of the vitamin C may not be at the same level as using the serum on its own – depending upon what you mix it with.

The bottom line is that both companies may be correct but to different degrees. You have to decide which benefit is more important to you.

The best approach is to use Vit C serum by itself, apply other products later. Less convenient but maximum efficacy. Mix booster with other creams: Get convenience but sacrifice some efficacy.

How do salt sprays create texture on hair?

Annie asks…How does sea salt work to create texture in the hair? Why is it so good at creating waves? Can it be bad in any way?

Salt dries on hair and it forms a coating. Because of the crystalline nature of salt this coating has a gritty feel. This type of coating is especially good at increasing friction between hair fibers which gives texture. BTW, sugar behaves similar but may be sticky, especially in high humidity.

I don’t see any reason why it would make straight hair wavy but if your hair has a natural wave it could enhance that creating more entanglement between fibers.

What are the negative impacts sea salt can have on hair health? It’s a fact of nature that water tends to move from areas of high concentration to areas of lower concentration. This is the principle of osmotic pressure. So moisture that’s inside your hair MAY migrate outward toward the salt where it will evaporate.

That means if you have very dry/porous hair, you might want to stay away from salt-based styling products. The more porous your hair the easier it is for moisture to leach out.

That, of course, presumes that the salt is really what’s providing the benefit. If you’re interested in a salt spray just make sure you read the ingredients to see it’s really the salt doing the work and not something else. Polymers do the same thing but provide more hold less grit. (PVP or ones that start with PVP/VA).

Beauty Science News

Self-cleaning hair brush


Here’s an innovation that I think is very cool – a self cleaning hairbrush. Scientists at The Ohio State University (go Buckeyes!) discovered that a lot of people just throw away their hairbrushes because they’re so hard to clean. That means cleaning your hairbrush is a sustainability issue.

So, they designed a 3D printed hairbrush that has a flexible backbone – you simply bend back the top of handle part and the bristle part moves forward which makes it very easy to pull all the hair and junk right off. You let go and it snaps right back into place.

The university is looking for licensing partners to commercialize this patented hairbrush (US 8,857,005) in the health and beauty industry — for people and for pets.
I can’t wait to see this on the market – and I suggest it may make a good gift for Mrs. R.

Who are the top beauty brands so far in 2016?


The midyear beauty brand rankings are out and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the leaders.

So this is a ranking put out by YouGov BrandIndex. This company is supposedly the authority on measuring brand perception. They measure public perception of thousands of different types of brands in different sectors. They do this by interviewing thousands of customers every day and they do it on a global basis.

They published the results of the top brands in the US for beauty products. Specifically, they got their rankings by asking consumers “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”

And unsurprisingly the top spots are held by traditional beauty companies like P&G and Unilever. Here are the top 5 beauty brands for the first half of 2016.

5. Pantene with a score of 12.6. These scores can range anywhere from +100 to -100 so that gives you some perspective on the overall score.

4. Neutrogena is next with a score of 14.0

3. Olay has the next highest buzz score at 14.2

2. Is Head and Shoulders with a score of 14.7

And the number one beauty brand thus far in 2016 is Dove with a score of 16.8

If you look at the brands that have most improved in scores from the same time period last year, Head & Shoulders is best followed by Dove, and Neutrogena. Then L’Oreal Paris comes in next and finally MAC cosmetics. It seems they done something to improve their scores.

I guess what I find most interesting is that big brands still dominate the minds of consumers. I thought in this age of the Internet that smaller brands would be able to break through the noise of traditional advertising and steal the spot light. But it’s not true. So far, you can’t beat real advertising when it comes to making yourself known.

Shocking new information on hair loss


Let me just say that in discussing this next article I intend no disrespect to our follicularly challenged male listeners. But, science says bald guys are less attractive.

This seems to fall into the category of another one of those scientific studies that we probably didn’t need to waste money on.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Facial Plastic Surgery answers the question “Does how much hair a man has matter in how he is perceived?” The researcher, who by the way is from Johns Hopkins University, surveyed 122 people and found that men with hair were rated as “more youthful, attractive, successful and approachable.”

My favorite quote: “Limitations of the study include its small population and study design. “

We could do a better job than that using our email list and Survey Monkey. One would’ve thought that the billion-dollar hair growth industry might have been a clue that having hair on your head is a desirable attribute. Nonetheless now we have scientific proof.

Skin care line made from centipede poop.


We’ve got some beauty news out of South Korea. It seems like all the hot new beauty trends start there doesn’t it?

Anyway, researchers there have now launched a cosmetics line using an antibiotic substance found in a species of centipede. These centipedes have apparently long been used in traditional Korean medicines for generation but now this knowledge has been applied to cosmetics. Specifically, they focus on the centipede’s antibacterial property.

The extract is known as scolopendrasin I and it’s a peptide excreted by the centipedes to fight bacteria. Scientists believe that it is a proven effective treatment for atopic dermatitis.

They say that two companies are in the process of commercializing products using this centipede ingredient.

I wonder what their brand names might be.

Cent Impede – the brand that stops bacteria in it’s tracks

SPF = Savory Poultry Fun


The term SPF typically stands for Sun Protection Factor but I think it could also mean “Savory Poultry Fun.” That’s because it was in the news this week that fast food giant KFC now has a sunscreen that smells like fried chicken.

Apparently this is a promotional stunt for the Extra Crispy chicken because they tell us “The only skin that should be extra crispy this summer is on your fried chicken.” Their website describes how it works: “Harmful ultraviolet rays bounce off your skin while the lovely fragrance rays penetrate it to give you a healthy chicken aroma.”
My favorite quote: Several Associated Press reporters who tested the sunscreen said the smell did not immediately bring to mind chicken, however.

Remember our cosmetic chemist friend Colin Sanders who runs Colin’s Beauty Pages? Do you think he’s related to Colonel Sanders?

iTunes reviews

Patrickbooth says…5 stars I came for the science, but stayed for the banter. Perry is a loquacious, good natured fellow, while Randy is the somewhat curmudgeonly of the two slyly jabbing at Perry which makes for a fun time. Sometimes I think Perry could offer Randy a nice belly rub to open him up to the audience more.

Jenni4ever…5 stars Great chemistry. These two guys bring thoughtful and well articulated discussion to beauty. I specifically appreciate that they don’t use a beauty consultant as previously suggested by another reviewer. I think this untainted take on the chemistry/utility of the products gives me the most educational and straightforward information.

Kangopie from South Africa says…4 stars This is a great show! They are a bit lame but funny all the same … thats a compliment. Somehow having never met them I trust their reviews and commentary because they look at the science.

Jus1Me says…Love it when you don’t take breaks 3 stars. You take far too long on your breaks. This is the third week where you are playing repeats. Unacceptable. It doesn’t take much effort to sit and put a good show together, even when on vacation. You guys are too good to slack for so long.

Please support the Beauty Brains by signing up for a free audio book at

Click here to get your free audio book.

Sep 13 2016



Rank #11: Are super foods good for your skin? Episode 137

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Are super foods effective beauty ingredients?

Jana asks…What are your thoughts on super foods in skin care? Ingredients like acacia, coconut, grapeseed oil, berries, green tea, avocado, turmeric and resveratrol.

What the heck IS a super food? There is no scientific or medical definition. Typically you’ll see them described like this: “superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.”

Jana’s question comes at a good time because I was just asked this same thing by a reporter from R29. She asked about things like Kale, Spirulina, and Chia seeds.

First of all, this isn’t a surprising trend. Edible ingredients are a common source of inspiration for cosmetic products and it usually takes a few years for ingredient to “catch on” in the food industry before they become popular in personal care. We’ve seen this with things like Pomegranate, Açaí Berries, Kiwi, and Dragon Fruit. Why does this happen? First these things just SOUND like they’d be good for you. They’re very tempting.

Second, the food industry certainly has more stringent research requirements than cosmetics so there’s a lot of data on nutritional value. That kind of data does make for a good story which is one of the reasons you see so many food ingredients make their way into cosmetics.

What do we think about this trend? I think there are 3 reasons why super foods in beauty products are more marketing than science:

  1. The goodies in superfoods may be nutritious but they aren’t necessarily good for skin. Just because something is good for you when you eat it doesn’t mean it will do anything when you slather it on your skin. For example, kale is rich in iron which does nothing for skin.
  2. Even if the superfood does contain an ingredient that benefits skin that ingredient may not be effective when applied topically. There has to be a proposed mechanism for how the ingredient would work when applied to skin AND it has to penetrate skin to get to where it needs to work. Green tea is a good example. The active component EGCG is water soluble so it is not well suited for skin penetration.
  3. Even if the superfood contains a beneficial ingredient and that ingredient works when applied topically, t’s STILL unlikely to provide any benefit because there’s just not enough their. Most products contain an extract of the super food and they use that exact at very low levels. Vitamin C really works for example but it needs to be used at levels around 10 to 20%. Super foods contain very small amounts.

If you want the benefits of a goodie that’s in a superfood then why wouldnt you just use that ingredients like vitamin C?

Can I mix VO5 hairdressing with hair gel?

Scott says…I’ve read really great reviews about VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing and I’m curious to try it. I was wondering, will I be able to mix a dab of it with hair gel? I want to be able to add the products to my hair when it’s still wet and then leave it to air dry and set properly, before I brush it out.

VO5 hairdressing is a classic hair care product and one that we had the honor of working on for several years. It consists of a mix of oily materials like petrolatum, mineral oil, isopropyl myristate and some waxes. (Back in the day is used to contain lanolin too.) It’s good for giving hair shine and a little bit of hold. Hair gels, on the other hand, are typically water based. They include a thickening agent and some kind of hold or conditioning polymer.

Since the hairdressing is oil based and the gel is water based the two won’t mix very well. That means you won’t be able to pre-mix a bunch of it together. (Even if you could pre-mix it, that’s not a good idea because the preservative system could be compromised.) If you just want to mix a little dab together in the palm of you hand, that’s less of a problem. It won’t hurt your hair but it may have kind of a funky consistency and it may not dry properly. But if you want to experiment, go for it!

Should I use soap or shower gel – part 2

Back in Episode 134 we answered a question from Lil’ Tabby who wanted to know whether it was better to wash with shower gel or soap. We pointed out that a good alternative could be syndet bars (which stands for synthetic detergent bars) which are very popular in the US.

But our British buddy Colin Sanders from Colin’s Beauty Pages has a bit of a rebuttal to our answer. Listen to the show to hear him explain in his own words but I’ll summarize his key points:

  1. Syndet bars are not very popular in Europe.
  2. European soaps are richer because they’re based on palm oil.
  3. Cleansers always involve a tradeoff between mildness, cleansing power, and foaming.

How does semi permanent eyebrow makeup work?

Yimmy from Thailand says…My question is about the semi-permanent makeup trend that is buzzing in Asia right now.  There’s an eyebrow tattoo gel which you apply thick gel layers on your brows for a night & peel them off in the morning & poof! You get eyebrows that last for a week. Are such products safe & how do they work? 

I looked at the Etude House product you asked about and I was surprised to see that it is in fact a very clever formulation. Instead of relying on standard eyebrow colorants (which would wash off) this product uses DHA the same active used in sunless tanners. Essentially you’re tanning (or more accurately, staining) the skin underneath your eye brows. No wonder it lasts for a week!

As long as you don’t get the product in your eyes it should be safe. We’ll have to wait and see if it catches on as a trend.

Ingredients: Water, Alcohol, Butylene glycol, POLYVINYL ALCOHOL, Dihydroxyacetone, PVP, 1,2-hexanediol, Yellow 6 (CI 15985), POLYSORBATE 80, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, RED 33 (CI 17200), Citric Acid, Blue 1 (CI 42090), Disodium EDTA, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Extract, Lilium Tigrinum Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract

Beauty Science News

Consumers sue bogus over anti-aging serum


Reviva Labs is in trouble over their “Stem Cell Booster Serum with Swiss Apple Stem Cells.” It turns out that they’ve been claiming that the product uses apple stem cells to prevent aging. Sounds like a nice natural alternative to all those nasty synthetic chemicals. There are just two problems with that, according to the article I read…”there is no scientific evidence that plant stem cells can be used on humans” and the product is a “hoax which is being sold illegally as a cosmetic instead of as an unapproved drug.” Details, details.

To make a long story short, they company is being sued for $5M in a class action law suit. It’s one thing when companies are sued for safety reasons but I love the idea of them being held accountable for misleading claims.

Old Spice deodorant irritates consumers


Support the Beauty Brains by writing an iTunes review

Nikkypoo says..This podcast is such a great combination of entertaining and educational. There are so many harmful myths going around social media today and these guys do a great job at addressing these myths from a scientific perspective.

Bestinbreed says…Love you snarky guys! As a professional pet groomer I have learned so much about not only what I use on myself but what I use on dogs as well. Thanks guys!

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Jun 14 2016


Rank #12: Monistat for hair growth – does it work? episode 193

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On this episode of the Beauty Brains we answer a number of beauty product questions and talk about big companies and the brands they own.

Beauty Questions On today’s episode we answer your questions about  

  • Yeast infection medicine to treat hair loss 
  • Is an organic facial mask worth buying?
  • What’s with mineral oil, is it bad, good or indifferent?

Beauty News

Walmart Launches New Range of Clean Beauty Products – Has the Clean Beauty trend jumped the shark?

A win for the little guy?  – Olaplex wins lawsuit against L’Oreal

Recall Roundup – We check the FDA website so you don’t have to

Weleda, a natural skincare company founded in 1921, recalls a product that’s produced in two sizes and is part of one kit because specific ingredients do not appear in the ingredient list of the labels for the products. The product is Weleda Comforting Baby Oil, 6.8 fl. oz., the travel size 0.34 fl. oz., and Baby Starter Kit. FDA has no authority under the FD&C Act to order a recall of a cosmetic, although it can request that a firm recall a product. Once the brand makes the decision to recall the product, the FDA oversees the progress of the recall and ensures destroyal of the product.

See the FDA Recall site for youself

Beauty Questions

Question 1 – Grace says – I normally only buy Paula’s choice products but got a facial as a treat recently and was talked into this product by the esthetician. (Product is Eminence Organic Skin care Masque) Are there any redeeming qualities in this product or could it potentially be hurting my skin because of the essential oils? I have seen no irritation, I’ve been using it once a week just on blind faith. I realize products in jars are unstable, so I keep it in its box when I’m not using it.

Question 2 – Will Monistat on your scalp make your hair grow?

Question 3 – Sydney asks…What’s the deal with Mineral Oil?

Transcript of show can be found here

Follow the Brains

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

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link or record one on your phone and send it to

Social media accounts
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Thanks again for listening and remember Be Brainy about your Beauty

Aug 26 2019



Rank #13: If Pantene is so good why isn’t it sold in salons? Episode 108

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Question of the week: Why isn’t Pantene in salons?

Tyler asks…I would just like to say if Pantene is sooo amazing and works so well them why isn’t it sold in a salon when the company could make way more money if they sold it in a salon. I’m a hairdresser and every time someone uses pantene I can feel a build up on there hair and there hair is in terrible shape. But everyone is different so if you like Pantene then fine. But ask yourself if this product line is suppose to be so good why isn’t it in a salon?

Now that you’ve heard the question let me give you a little bit of background information. The Pantene brand is the source of a long standing controversy, not only on our website but across the internet. Essentially the debate is over whether or not Pantene is good for your hair. There are those who say it makes your hair fall out, others say that it coats your hair with plastic and suffocates it, others (and this is my favorite) is that it makes your hair FEEL healthy but it’s actually making it worse/break, etc.

People are so passionate about this. We even had one fan of ours who is a hairdresser volunteer to do a blind test to see if she really could tell if hair had been treated with Pantene or not. We washed hair tresses with two different sets of shampoo and conditioner when was Pantene and another was a salon brand selected by her. The tresses were washed and dried in multiple cycles and then I even masked the scent by putting a little fragrance on the tresses so she couldn’t smell which one was which and then I sent her the tresses and had her record her guesses. The results were… she scored less than chance but unfortunately the exact details were lost in our server crash of 2013.

So despite our best attempts to refute these rumors the controversy rages on. But before we explain exactly why Pantene is not used in salons, let’s review the history of this iconic beauty brand.

By the way before somebody accuses us of being shills for Pantene, that’s not the case. They have not sponsored us in anyway we have not even received any free product samples for them. The only reason we’re taking this is because the evidence is in its favor.

The history of Pantene

1945: We tend to think of Pantene as a modern beauty brand but, surprisingly, it’s been around almost as long as modern liquid shampoo formulations have been. The brand was created in 1945 and it was based on the vitamin panthenol which is where it gets its name. It was owned by the Swiss drug company, Hoffman LaRoche. Today Pantene is as vilified as a “big beauty drugstore brand” but ironically back at its inception it was an exclusive high-end department store brand that sold for a lot of money ) in glass bottles no less.)

1960s: Being a Swiss brand it was originally only available in Europe but in the early 1960s it made the leap to the United States. It was imported exclusively by a few New York retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue. At some point along the way, I’m not exactly sure what year, Hoffman Laroche sold or licensed of the brand to the cosmetic company Richardson Vicks, makers of Vicks Vapor Rub, among other things.

1975: Of course overtime people came to realize that glass was not necessarily the ideal packaging for a product that is used in the shower and which tends to become very slippery. So, packaging shifted to plastic and in the mid-1970s it gained its signature gold cap. That’s what it looked like when I first became aware of the brand.

1985: Now here’s where things get really interesting. In 1985 the Richardson Vicks company was purchased by Procter & Gamble who really trying to make it big in hair care and they began aggressively marketing Pantene. By the way this is the same deal that gave them Oil of Olay which is turned out to be a major win in the skin care category for them. So it was a pretty sweet deal.

1987: The next pivotal moment in the brand for the brand came as a result of something happened within a completely different Procter & Gamble hair care line: Pert Plus shampoo was launched with a with revolutionary 2-1 formula. Why is this important for Pantene? Because right around the same time or shortly there after Pantene begin using a version of the Pert Plus two in one formula which means Pantene was the first brand to ingeniously give you a robustly conditioning shampoo which was really a 2 in 1 but which was not marketed as a two and one.

This is one of the true breakthroughs in hair care in the last 50 years. The use of this technology gave Pantene and edge with consumers and also allow them to push the envelope in terms of claims about healthy hair. I think this is when they went from being just Pantene to Pantene Pro V. It was also the beginning of a new marketing era remember all those beautiful hair shots in the 1980s? It included tag lines like:

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” and “Hair so healthy it shines.”

1990s and beyond: Since then Pantene his grown to be a super block buster brand. It became one of P&G’s first billion dollar hair care brands in 1995. Since then it kind of peaked a couple of years ago but still certainly in the top two or three biggest hair care brands of the world. As of 2014 their tagline is “healthier hair with every wash” and now they talk about having antioxidant damage blocking technology. Still one of the best selling hair care brands in the world and that success is certainly based to some degree, on their conditioning technology. Let’s talk briefly about the science behind Pantene.

The science of Pantene

The key here is related to suspending silicone in such a way that it will deposit on hair from a shampoo while it’s being rinsed. This is called dilution deposition. As we said this technology first came to market in Pert where it was popular as a two and one but the same technology can be used to make what is known as a moisturizing or conditioning shampoo.

It’s not just the silicone there’s some work showing that the Guar helps with silicone deposition and provides some additional feel on that here. In addition to that conditioning functionality Pantene has a very finely tuned surfactant system that gives it a very creamy small bubble leather.

For years the conditioner relied on a combination of dimethicone and cyclomethicone. Talk about why this is so good. In more recent years they have moved away from the volatile silicones and more towards amino functional silicones.

Why we think Pantene is so good

So why do we think Pantene is so good? We know this technology is effective and we know that it sells really well. But we’ve also done blind testing on thousands if not tens of thousands of people across the US. Tested mass-market brands and salon brands and without fail Pantene would score at the top of the list every time. Keep in mind this was a blind test meaning we didn’t identify the name of the product and it was provided in a generic bottle and in some cases we even tried to disguise the fragrance of the product.

So that’s why we think Pantene is so good and that brings us back to her question: if it’s so good why is it not sold in salons?

Why isn’t Pantene sold in salons?

First of all, the Pantene formula has been sold in salons already. At least sort of. But it’s certainly been used in products that are sold as a salon brand – do you know which one I’m talking about? Vidal Sassoon. (That brand has since been sold.)

Why isn’t Pantene sold in a salon so they could make a lot more money? First, would they really make a lot more money? Let’s break it down and see how much more they MIGHT make IF they sold Pantene in salons.

Pantene sells 70-80 MILLION bottles of shampoo each year. Salon products sell on a fraction of that – about 14 or 15%. (Remember, a single bottle of salon shampoo sells for more money than a single bottle of mass market shampoo BUT mass market shampoos sell a LOT more units than salons do. So overall the sales of mass market products generate more money.)

Historically, the shampoo market has been somewhere around $1.5B -$1.7B per year. Pantene is somewhere around $240MM. If the salon market is about 15% of $1.5B then salons sell about $225MM.

So if Pantene was sold into salons and COMPLETELY replaced every salon shampoo in the country, then it would almost double it sales. That’s impressive.

But, it’s NOT going to replace every single other shampoo. So what’s a reasonable guesstimate? It could become one of the top selling salon brands. If it did that, it could capture about 10% of the salon market which is about $22MM. That’s a nice little bump in sales but it’s certainly not a dramatic shift for the brand. So let’s say Pantene said, yeah, I’ll take a 10% increase in sales. How would that even work?

Would they just go to Paul Mitchel and say hey Paul, will you take our Pantene formula which, people can buy for about $6 and put it in your best selling shampoo that costs about $25? What do you think Paul Mitchell or any professional stylist is going to say? “That’s mass market drug store crap, that’s not what my clients want.” Even if he DID make the change, it’s probably going to upset his loyal users.

Okay, so replacing an existing brand is not that easy. Could they start their own salon brand? Yes, but again how would that work? To be a salon shampoo you really need a celebrity stylist and, again, you have the problem of a stylist who wants to sign up for selling a drug store formula. They’re going to want to have some creative input into the product but they can’t because that would change it.

Lastly, I suppose Procter & Gamble could choose to license their formula to some salon brands so they could use it and bypass some of these issues. However, why would they bother to do this because the amount of money they would make from such a licensing agreement would be very small. Secondly, they wouldn’t want to do this because that would disclose their exact formula and may cause leaks and some of their trade secrets.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

So what’s the bottom line here? Why isn’t Pantene trying to sell itself as a salon brand? I think the answer lies in their basic corporate philosophy which is, and I’m paraphrasing here, if it’s not at least a billion-dollar business we don’t want to f*#& with it.

iTunes reviews

Neepa from Canada says…As a human biology student and skincare enthusiast, I find myself really appreciating Randy’s and Perry’s comments on the industry and the science behind it. I constantly have to explain to my girlfriends why certain ingredients are only marketing claims and why the word “natural” isn’t always what it seems! Finally we’ve got Randy and Perry to rely on. It’s almost as if this podcast was made especially for someone like me! Thank you guys!

YourFace says… Two dudes, beauty related topics, and science. Sounds like an odd mix, but like a peanut butter, Fluff, and banana sandwich, it’s an explosion of awesomeness – but calorie free! These two dudes make me LOL, and they keep me interested the entire time they’re talking. They’ve saved me time and money trying products that won’t work, and finding the one’s that will.

Nov 17 2015



Rank #14: Beware beauty products in jars – Episode 106

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Is Rodan and Fields really different?

Dawn asks…
I’m interested in getting your opinion on whether or not Rodan and Fields is different from any other skin care line. My gut says they are the same.  I participated in a virtual information session (my friend wants me to join her team) and all the other consultants raved about the products as if nothing else had ever worked for them before.  I feel the price point is high. And to be frank, my degree is in chemistry and I recently closed my own skin care business.  So, when I received some samples from my friend, I thought it was funny how one of their products is formulated with the same peptide I used in my product but they paired theirs with retinol and mine was paired with an AHA.  I’m interested in your take.

I reviewed the ingredients in several of their products and the first thing that struck me is that it doesn’t appear that R&F has any technology that’s not available in other products. (In other words there’s nothing patented or proprietary here.)

However, having said that, they do appear to use ingredients that are somewhat less common. For example, in their Unblemish acne wash the active ingredient is sulfur as opposed to sal acid. Both are approved OTC actives but you don’t commonly see sulfur used. Similarly, in their toner they use Lactobionic Acid, and Glu-cono-lactone which can be found in other products but are not used that frequently. And then there’s their ReDefine line with Tetrapeptide-21 which you’ll see less frequently than other peptides.

So, it appears to me that they use some rather interesting formulation approaches that you probably won’t find in very many, more common (less expensive) lines. That doesn’t guarantee they will work better, of course, or that their products are worth the high price. If you’re the kind of person who wants to “go off the beaten path” and you don’t mind spending the extra $$, then this might be a brand to try.

Does Vitamin C cause sun sensitivity?

Nathalie asks…Here in France, a lot of people think that Vitamin C is photosensitizing and are scared to use it under the sunlight. Have you ever seen a publication on this side effect?

Does Vitamin C cause sun sensitivity? I can’t find any proof of that. It’s true that if you ingest a lot of vitamin C it can interfere with the absorption of B vitamins that help protect your skin from the sun. It’s also true that citrus fruits (which contain vitamin C) can increase sun sensitivity but it’s the components in the citrus oils causing the problem, not vitamin C. (As far as I’ve been able to determine.)

What’s the difference between a facial wrinkle and a crease?

Jayne S says…Can you clarify what would be a facial crease as opposed to a wrinkle?

I’m not sure there’s a clear answer here. 
My understanding is that “wrinkle” is used to describe a line or any other disturbance in the smoothness of the skin that is caused by factors which lead to collapse of collagen and elastin. (Like smoking, UV exposure, dryness, etc.)
”Crease” is a more specific term used to describe a deeper line that is caused by an external force (sleeping on a pillow) or internal force (repeated contraction of facial muscles.)

This seems consistent with language used by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive surgery. On their website, they talk about “Prominent forehead creases, brow furrows or eye lines (crow’s feet) are produced by specific facial expression muscles repeatedly creasing the skin.”
They talk about using injectable fillers to treat…”deeper creases and folds that are not due to muscle activity.”

Should I avoid products in jars?

Beth says…Within the past year or more, I have been under the impression that jar packaging should be avoided all together. Is it worth the money to invest in products with jar packaging? For hygienic purposes, as well as product integrity?

There are two basic problems with jar packaging.The first potential issue is that an open mouthed jar can increase exposure to bacterial contamination (because you’re dipping your fingers into it.) This could cause some preservative systems to be overwhelmed. This problem applies to all types of products in jars.

Second, the “open mouthiness” of the jar exposes the product to oxygen and to light which can hasten oxidation. If the product is a simple moisturizer it probably won’t make much difference. But if the product contains antioxidants (which are typically more expensive) then those active ingredients may be “used up” before you even apply the product to your face. So, I would say certainly avoid jar packaging for expensive, antioxidant-based anti-aging products.

Can I dilute liquid soap to make a foaming cleanser?

Daniela…I have found on the web DIY recipes to make your own foaming hand soap using an empty foaming dispenser and diluted liquid hand soap or body wash. At first I was rejoicing – what a great idea – but I wonder whether there are any cons? For example, is there a risk the hand soap diluted with tap water (say 1 part liquid soap, 3 parts water) goes bad as there is not enough preservatives? Or, most importantly, is the washing potential worsened? I understand a soap removes dirt and germs mechanically and not by disinfecting, but still maybe the diluted soap does not have so much washing power as concentrated one?
I would very much appreciate your opinion as a cosmetic chemist. Would your mind be at peace using such a DIY foam soap?

You’re exactly right. By diluting a finished product threefold you’re seriously compromising the preservatives system. Granted there’s less of a risk with this type of product because the pump dispenser doesn’t allow much contact with the outside world, however, bacteria love to feed on fatty surfactants and it’s probably only a matter of time before some bacteria growth takes hold.
Once that happens you really have a problem because it’s easy for a biofilm to build up in the internal mechanism of the pump head. This kind of film which consists of layers of bacterial colonies is extremely hard to get rid of.

Cleansing power is a secondary concern. When formulated professionally foaming cleanser’s are not just diluted versions of liquid soaps. Both foaming cleanser’s and liquid soaps have approximately the same surfactant concentration (which would range from about 10 to 15% on an active basis.)

The big difference is in the type of surfactant chosen because of the amount and quality of foam generated through the pump mechanism and because you need to use a surfactant blend that doesn’t build viscosity so it’s easier to pump.

You’re diluting it down to approximately 4%. This is especially problematic in some cheaper brands of hand soap which are probably formulated on the low and anyway so you could be below 3%.
So what’s the bottom line? You certainly CAN make your own foaming cleanser but why would you bother? You’re only saving a few dollars and you’re giving yourself a product that’s prone to bacterial contamination and that doesn’t have as much cleansing power.

Are these shampoos the same?

Mandy says…The ingredients listing for these two shampoos are almost Exactly the same…. so… my question is, are there different grades of the ingredients? More concentrated levels of one ingredient in one product vs another?? Why are the formulas so similar? I know they are both owned by L’Oreal, but could there actually be a difference between the two?

Welcome to the wonderful world of hair care marketing! Based on reviewing these ingredient lists I don’t see any functional difference between these two products. The extracts, fragrance and color are different but that’s about it. 
The idea of “different grades” is a myth, for the most part. (Let’s elaborate on this a bit.) Could they use lower concentration of dimethicone or something? Maybe but not likely.
It’s very common for companies to leverage formula bases across multiple brands so this isn’t all that surprising.

So which one should you buy? Bioloage costs about $0.68 per oz while Garner is about $0.25/oz (depending on where you shop and which size you buy.) Either way, Biology is almost 3 times more expensive. So, unless you love the Biolage fragrance that much you might as well buy Fructis.

Biolage Color Last Shampoo

Water , Sodium Laureth Sulfate , Coco-Betaine , Sodium Chloride , Glycol Distearate , Dimethicone , Fragrance , Sodium Benzoate , Hexylene Glycol , Cocamide MIPA , Salicylic Acid , Carbomer , Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride , Limonene , Hexyl Cinnamal , Coumarin , Linalool , Butylphenyl Methylpropional , Benzyl Alcohol , Benzophenone-4 , Hydroxycitronellal , Amyl Cinnamal , Methyl Cocoate , Orchis Mascula Extract , Sodium Hydroxide , Citric Acid

Garnier Fructis Color Shield Shampoo
Aqua/Water/Eau, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Coco-Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Glycol Distearate, Dimethicone, Parfum/Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate, Hexylene Glycol, Cocamide Mipa, Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract, Salicylic Acid, Carbomer, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Linalool, Niacinamide, Pyridoxine HCl, Benzophenone-4, Citric Acid, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Alcohol, Saccharum Officinarum Extract / Sugar Cane Extract / Extrait De Canne A Sucre, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera Seed Oil/Grape Seed Oil, Amyl Cinnamal, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract, Methyl Cocoate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Hydroxide, Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract/Lemon Peel Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, CI 17200 / Red 33

Improbable Products

This week we played a special “beauty blunders” version of the game with special guest Mary Ellen. Which of these stories is the fake? Listen to the show to find out.

1. A Eastern European woman accidentally used spray insulation as a hair mousse.
2. A Florida woman inadvertently used super glue as eye drops.
3. An Australian man mistakenly used hemorrhoid cream as toothpaste.

Oct 27 2015



Rank #15: Is Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle cream really miraculous? Episode 149

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Is Charlotte Tilbury Multi-miracle cream really worth it?

Jo asks…I love Charlotte Tilbury’s Multi-Miracle Glow product but I’m afraid I spent too much and I worry that it really provides any benefits. Can you tell me if it has any special properties and if not is there a more budget conscious version?

Thanks for the question, Jo. It sounds like you’re really torn about using this product so let’s see if we can help.

First of all, don’t be confused if you decide to look for this product because in addition to Mult-miracle glow she also sells a “Magic Cream.” Apparently Charlotte went to the “Harry Potter School of Cosmetic Marketing.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerous Skin Cream? By the way that brings to mind another beauty question, if you have a Harry Potter, do you shave it or pluck it? Wax it? Anyway…

Let’s begin by taking a look at exactly what this product claims to do. Here are some of the claims from the website:

  • The basic idea is that this is a 3 in 1 product: a deep cleansing face balm with anti-wrinkle benefits; a regenerating mask with an “overnight facial” finish; and a “SOS remedy that you can use on cuticles, elbows, heels and shins to cheat the body of an angel!”
  • It features ingredients like Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil and Cranberry Seed Oil that “are highly effective anti-oxidant pure oils that moisturise the skin & stimulate micro-circulation.” That’s a drug claim!
  • It also has “extracts of frangipani flower soothe and help purify dirt and makeup” Purified dirt?
  • Then there are Rose hip and camellia oil regenerate the skin to delay the signs of aging
  • Finally, our old friends Vitamins A, C and E to “smooth wrinkles and bring the skin’s complexion back to life.”
  • So as you can see, the anti-aging claims are pretty standard – lots of products make these kinds of claims. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain any of the best anti-aging ingredients like retinol or niacinamide.

It does contain a functional version of Vit C (Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate) but since it appears on the ingredient list below fragrance we know it doesn’t contain a very high level. That means it probably isn’t very effective.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of the product is that can be used as a cleanser as well as a moisturizer. That’s because unlike most products it’s based on Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride which is a coconut oil derived material that can have both cleansing and moisturizing benefits.

Yea but as we’ve discussed before there are always trade offs when you combine functionality like this. That means it won’t be the best cleanser or the best moisturizer. Which brings us back to the question of product value.

Jo is right about the product being expensive. It’s costs $100 for 100 mls which is A LOT especially when you consider Charlotte’s telling you to use it on your elbows, shins, etc.

So it doesn’t have any special anti-aging benefits, it makes some compromises between being a great cleanser and a great moisturizer, and it’s really expensive. Sorry Jo but this doesn’t sound like the best way to spend your money.

Like we always tell people, if really love a product and you can afford it, then you should buy it. But don’t buy it because of the things that the company tells you. There are similar products that can save you a lot of money.

Yes, we found a couple of other products that are based on Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride. I’ll put links in the show notes but one is Credentials Collagen Elastin 14-1 Creme and it costs $14 for 2 ounces.

Another is Hyaluronic Acid Beauty Cream which costs about $24 for 2 ounces. We’re not saying these are identical to Charlottes product but they may have a similar feel and they cost a LOT less.

Charlotte Multi-miracle Glow ingredients: Glycerin, Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride , Cyclopentasiloxane, Sucrose Stearate, Phenyl Trimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance (Parfum), Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, PEG-8, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Rubus Chamaemorus Seed Oil, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Bht, Plumeria Rubra Flower Extract, Red 40 (CI 16035), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Benzoate

Replacement options:

Credentials Collagen Elastin 14-1 Creme

INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Methyl Gluceth-20, Stearic Acid, Polysorbate 60, Cetyl Alcohol, Soluable Collagen, Sorbitan Stearate, Hydrolyzed Elastin, Fragrance (Parfum), Sodium Dehydroacetate, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben

Hyaluronic Acid Beauty Cream

Ingredients: Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Emulsifying Wax NF, Glycerin, Isopropyl Myristate, Stearic Acid, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Butylene Glycol (and) Calluna Vulgaris Extract, Glyceryl Stearate, Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E), Phenoxyethanol (and) Chlorphenesin (and) Propylene Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 80, Perfume, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethanolamine, Sodium Magnesium Silicate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Bisabolol, Tocopherol (Vitamin E).

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Is “Not Your Mother’s” shampoo” any good?

Brokensticker says…I bought this shampoo- “Not Your Mothers Way to Grow Shampoo” thinking the ingredients sounded good but I find it’s drying to my hair. Can you please explain what I’m finding to be drying? I can’t figure out why- all of the ingredients seem good to me.

You know what’s more confusing than the ingredients? The branding! It’s Not Your Mothers. Or is it Not your Mothers Way? Or Not your mothers way to grow…Long and strong shampoo.

I wasn’t familiar with the brand so I checked out their website. It looks like they’re all about creating what they call “the highest quality, salon comparable products at the most affordable prices.”

That sounds laudable, let’s take a look at the ingredients in this shampoo to see if they succeeded. The backbone of the formula consists of cocamidopropyl betaine, which is typically used as a secondary foam boosting surfactant, and a blend of sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, sodium methyl oleoyl taurate, and sodium cocoyl isethionate. It also contains a conditioning polymer polyquaternium-7.

The isethionate/taurate combination does make for a mild system but it’s kind of unusual to use the betaine as the primary surfactant. I’m wouldn’t be surprised if the foam feels significantly different. In terms of what’s drying your hair, it could just be the lack of conditioning agents.

Yeah, the Polyquat-7 is the only thing that’s going to stay on your hair after rinsing to provide some slip. They don’t use any silicones or other two in one type conditioners like guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride.

In terms of value, this stuff sells for $6 for 8 ounces so as they promise it is more affordable than many salon products. And unlike many salon products, they are using premium cleansers. (You’d be surprised how many salon shampoos just use basic SLES based formulas.)

Brokensticker might be better off with one of the sulfate free shampoos from the L’Oreal line. They’re slightly cheaper, they use an even better surfactant mix and they contain more conditioning agents.

Ingredients: Water, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, sodium methyl oleoyl taurate, acrylates copolymer, fragrance, sodium cocoyl isethionate, polyquaternium-7, polygonium multiflorum extract, aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) seed extract, retinyl palmitate, tocopherol, inositol, calcium pantothenate, linoleic acid, biotin, apigenin, oleanolic acid, biotinoyl tripeptide-1, alcohol, PEG-35 castor oil, polysorbate 20, butylene glycol, PPG-26-buteth-26, PEG-40 hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glycol Distearate, Laureth-4, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone

Does this eyelash growth product really work?

FLA Girl in NJ asks…Would you please analyze the ingredients of Shiseido’s Full Lash Serum and comment as to whether any of these ingredients are prostaglandins or prostaglandin derivatives, or whether it contains any other ingredient that could potentially change eye color?  Are there any other lash growth serums you could recommend that are proven 100% safe with regard to not changing eye color?

Remember the great: “Jan Marini Eyelash Growth Controversy?” back in the 2000s? Back in 2003, a group of dermatologist published a paper in the Dermatology Online Journal suggesting that a drug used for glaucoma (latanoprost) actually stimulated eyelash growth. This could be the basis for the Jan Marini eyelash product.

I was amazed that this could be true! It seems to me that this would’ve been HUGE news in the cosmetic business and the general public. But it went by without nearly a mention. Imagine the money this discovery could bring in!
 Then I dug a little deeper and found out why the discovery likely passed unnoticed. Subsequent studies were not able to repeat what the original scientists demonstrated. According to these scientists in an article published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, topical application of latanoprost was NOT EFFECTIVE.

Not having seen the original papers, I can’t say which research study is more believable. However, in terms of credibility, the American Academy of Dermatology is one of the premiere organizations in the area of dermatology so they win out there. Additionally, amazing claims like “Renews hair growth” require amazing proof. One paper in an online journal that can’t be reproduced by peers is hardly amazing proof.

In the case of this product, it appears that the active ingredient is arginine. There is some information that suggests that arginine can stimulate release of nitrous oxide which in turn stimulates increased blood flow to the follicle and therefore increases hair growth.

We couldn’t find any definitive studies which back this up although there are several patents along this line from Proctor, L’Oreal and others.

Just because something has a patent doesn’t mean it really works. The patent could be a method of composition or even something related to packaging.

Shiseido Full Lash Serum:
Water (Aqua/Eau), Dipropylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Sorbitol, Alcohol, Polyvinyl Acetate, Glycerin, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Methylparaben, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Potassium Hydroxide, Arginine, Xanthan Gum, Zizyphus Jujuba Fruit Extract, Simethicone, Trisodium Edta, Tocopherol.

Beauty Science News

Scorpion nail polish


Here’s a story about a weird beauty trend that is going on in Latin America. Women are getting scorpion manicures. That is, they get manicures and glue tiny scorpions to their nails.

According to the story published in the Daily Mail, it started out as a joke by one beauty parlor and just caught on from there. They were having a scorpion theme day at the salon and had the crazy idea to glue dead baby scorpions to people’s nails. They posted a video on their Facebook page and it went viral. This led to people from across North America to visit the salon to get a manicure with baby scorpions attached to their nails.

Before applying them they kill the tiny insects with bug spray but these things still have their stingers and venom. It’s highly unlikely that you would get them venom in your bloodstream but still, it seems pretty crazy. And I feel a bit bad for the scorpions.

Incidentally, I searched and didn’t find any comment about this from PETA. No one is looking out for the ethical treatment of scorpions.

Marvel for men


You know I’m always on the look out for stories that intersect two of my passions: beauty science and comic books. That’s why I was excited to hear that the brand Magic Shave has teamed up with Marvel Comics to create a media program around their shaving products using the hero Luke Cage. The storyline is titled “Luke Cage in a Close Shave!” Get it?
Hearing about this once again turned my mind to other Super hero themed personal care products. I have 3 suggestions, are you ready?

  • Stretch mark cream for Mr. Fantastic.
  • Some kind of eye drops for Daredevil.
  • And for Jessica Jones maybe a bourbon scented skin lotion.

Is flossing really just a waste of time?


This story reminded me of one of my goals from a couple years ago. My goal was to floss every single day. And I was successful. I guess once you get into the habit, it’s pretty easy to do.

Anyway, the next year I restarted the goal and was doing fine until I heard a dentist interviewed on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast and this guy said that there was no scientific basis for the recommendation to floss. He claimed there were no peer reviewed studies to demonstrate flossing helps prevent gum disease or cavities. After that I sort of waned on flossing after I ran out of floss.

The thing is that no one believed me. I had a discussion with my dentists and neither he nor my hygienist thought what I was saying made sense. They told me they were taught in dental school that flossing was a good thing to do.

Well, according to Associate Press, they verified what the skeptical dentist on the show was saying. There is no scientific evidence that proves the benefits of flossing.

So, do you think that means people should stop flossing?

What it really means is that this is a subject that hasn’t really been studied very well. There are no groups who find it important enough to do a peer reviewed double blind study on the subject because everyone just assumes that there is benefits.

P&G who sells lots dental floss pointed to a two week study which “proved” that floss fights plaque but a scientific review of the study found that it was lacking (and only lasted 2 weeks). J&J declined to comment when presented evidence that flossing doesn’t reduce plaque.

So what do we make of this?

I don’t know. It seems obvious that there should be a benefit to flossing but there haven’t been good enough studies to show that it is. Maybe there just needs to be more studies.

I know I still floss just not as obsessively as I did that one year. And I don’t feel bad about it either.

This does go to show you that just because you do something and that experts recommend it, doesn’t mean that a scientific evaluation of the advice will show that their is any benefit.

Why swimming pools make your eyes red


For those of you listening to this in the summer of 2016, swimming pools have been in the news lately because of the Olympics. BTW I’m not saying Perry and I went to Rio on vacation…Anyway…Everyone knows that the chlorine compounds used to sanitize swimming pools are irritating and can make your eyes red. Right? WRONG! I just read an article that explains that the chlorine itself does NOT do that. But chorine reacts with nitrogen it can form a compound called chloramine that IS irritating. Chloramine can make your eyes string and look blood shot it can even irritate your lungs and make you cough. AND how do you think the nitrogen gets in the pool?

That’s right, mostly from poo and pee and sweat. A clean chlorinated pool will NOT cause you any irritation. Only ones full of dirty diapers, or whatever.

iTunes reviews

  • RachelMarie13 says…Randy and Perry give great unbiased information which is hard to find in beauty these days. Up there with Serial and this American Life. The best beauty podcast I have found.
  • Pam says…I am so excited to continue my journey learning from these wise scientists. Thank you for all that you do!!!
  • Bubafzhyvx says… informative, unbiased and funny, love it!
  • LaurisseRT has “Only one suggestion. The only way this show could get better is if they played airhorn sounds after the hosts burn each other with their witty quips.
    Eyelash growth product
  • FLA Girl in NJ asks…Would you please analyze the ingredients of Shiseido’s Full Lash Serum and comment as to whether any of these ingredients are prostaglandins or prostaglandin derivatives, or whether it contains any other ingredient that could potentially change eye color?  Are there any other lash growth serums you could recommend that are proven 100% safe with regard to not changing eye color?

Sep 06 2016



Rank #16: How to test beauty products yourself – Episode 121

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How to investigate a cosmetic product


I’m going to give you a headline that I saw on a beauty blog and then you tell me what you would expect to read about in the article with that headline.

“The Gloss investigates: does radiant foundation primer really make a difference?”

When I saw this I was intrigued because I wanted to see how another beauty blog went about investigating whether a product really works or not. This is something we do all the time but you don’t really see it a lot from other beauty blogs. So I read the article and essentially what it said was this:

The author had read about a certain foundation primer that was supposed to make your skin more radiant and she wanted to know if it really worked. So she applied the make up primer (which happened this happen to be a Laura Mercer Radiance Foundation Primer. Next she applied the rest of her regular make up and then she took a selfie. Then, and I presume this was on a different day based on the way the article was written, she applied the same make up while wearing the same clothes and took another selfie at the same time of day in front of the same background to try and make things as consistent as possible. After this test she concluded that she liked the product but if there was a difference with and without it , it was slight.

Ya got all that?

I looked at the pictures I couldn’t tell any difference at all except that the exposure was different or at least the white balance was different between the two pictures and when she had her hair down in the other she had her hair up what you think might of had the made the camera expose a little bit differently.

So this is fine but taking a single picture of one application of make up really isn’t much of an investigation. Now I’m not bringing this up just to bust on the Gloss. I think this is important to talk about for two reasons. First of all it’s kind of a heads up to our readers just because you see the headline like this doesn’t mean that’s really what you’re going to get.

Secondly and this is for the editors at the gloss or anyone else investigating beauty products, if you really do want to do an investigation and be a bit more thorough about it here are some tips on how you might have gone about this same exercise. The intent is not necessarily to make this a peer review level type of study but just to give them a couple of fairly easy to execute tips that would have made the test much stronger.

Blind the study

First of all she could have blinded the study. In this case she showed the first picture with the primer in the second picture without the primer and said can you guys tell a difference. You’ve biased the results right there because people know which is which. What she could’ve done is just shown the two pictures without identifying them and then asked which one do you think has the primer?

Control for photo variations

Of course that still leaves the problems of the photos themselves being intrinsically different. It’s very difficult to exactly duplicate lighting and exposure conditions. One solve for that would have been to do a half face test that would have controlled for the conditions of the photograph itself. In other words put the primer on half her face, leave it off the other half, take a picture, see if you can tell which is which.

The half face approach also takes some other variables out of the equation like if your skin is more flushed one day versus another because you washed or used another product, or the weather was different or whatever.

Gather multiple data points

If you want to make the investigation better still you could do this half face test on a number of different individuals so you’re taking your own skin type out of the equation by testing on multiple faces.

Remove application bias

And to go even one step further you could have had the same person apply make up on both sides of the faces to remove handedness as a variable. Let’s say you apply the primer on the right side when you’re right-handed your right hand may not apply to the left side of your face exactly in the same way, if that makes sense. Having a second person apply the products removes that variable.

So if you’re sincerely interested in finding out whether a product works or not these are some things you can do to be a bit more rigorous in your evaluation.

EOS lawsuit update


Remember a couple shows ago we talked about the Wen hair care brand who was facing a class action lawsuit because people claimed the product was making their hair fall out?

Well, it looks like this class-action lawsuit filing may be a trend in the beauty industry because there is another popular brand facing a class action lawsuit. This time it is against the new lip balm brand EOS. According to news reports the lawsuit was filed by people claiming that the product caused sever lip damage and breakouts.

Here in the US EOS lip balm is getting a flood of advertising and endorsements by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus. It has also been a hit with the kids with over 1.3 million followers on Instagram. EOS which stands for Evolution of Smooth has been around since 2009 but they are just starting to take off. And the complaints were starting to pile up before the lawsuit.

However, unlike the Wen brand, the EOS brand did what it could to quickly settle the lawsuit. According to the company, the fact that they settled the case demonstrates that their products are safe. They say the products are “hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, and made with the highest quality ingredients…”

The attorney who brought the lawsuit now says that “EOS has demonstrated through data that their lip balms are hypoallergenic…”

Beyond some undisclosed monetary award the company has also agreed to clarify it’s product labeling to help consumers determine if the balms are safe for them. I wonder how they are doing the?

It seems weird to me that the case was settled so quickly and amicably. It makes you wonder what was going on with these formulas. I mean, I don’t think the people were lying right?

I think what happened is that when companies make claims that their products are “hypoallergenic” consumers mistakenly believe that they won’t have a reaction. When they do, then they complain. It’s surprising that the consumers went to a lawsuit right away. I wonder if the company didn’t respond in a satisfactory way at first.

We were discussing this on my cosmetic science forum and looking at the ingredient list it is not surprising that some people had a reaction. Included in the formula is Limonene, Linalool, and peppermint oil. All of these are known allergens. It’s strange they would claim “hypoallergenic” and yet include known allergens in their products.

Oh well, looks like this was just a bump in the road for them. And for you consumers out there, just because a product claims “hypoallergenic” doesn’t mean you won’t have an allergic reaction to it.

Control your smart phone with your hair


New Scientist has an interesting article about “Hairware” do you know what this is? It’s a “switch” that allows you to control an app on your smart phone just by stroking your hair. Imagine by brushing your bangs off your forehead you could tell your phone to take a picture. Or…running your fingers through your hair a certain way could trigger a call to 911. It’s kind of cool.

Here’s how it works: Your hair can naturally store static electricity – that’s what causes fly aways. Katia Vega at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro figured out how to put this static electricity to good use. She designed a hair extension that contains metal-ized fibers and a hair clip that contains a sensor and bluetooth connection. When you manipulate your hair a certain way it changes the electrical conductivity which is picked up by the sensor and relayed via bluetooth to your phone which then interprets the signal as an action for an app.

It’s very James Bond like. And it’s not her first invention – in 2013 she came up with conductive eye make-up that can launch a drone just by blinking.  She sees this kind of technology as a safety feature for women who could secretly broadcast an emergency message when they feel threatened. Or it could be helpful to the intelligence community. Spies would be all over this stuff. And I haven’t figured it out yet but there must be some application for the porn industry. BTW, she’s working on a version for men that would be triggered by stroking their beard.

Of course, if you’re using a good conditioner that gets rid of static flyways I think it would deactivate the signal but I guess that’s a problem that some enterprising cosmetic chemist could try to solve. Maybe you should work with her on custom hair care products to work with Hairware.

New app lipstick color


Here’s another beauty app that is worth talking about. It seems like a big part of innovation in the beauty industry are new apps. Anyway, this app claims to allow you to create your own lipstick color.

The app is called Flawless Makeup and it is a color matching app that lets you take a picture of a color from a magazine or on your skin and tells you what brands would have a match.

Is sweat activated perfume a beauty breakthrough?


Let me read you a headline from one of my favorite cosmetic science websites, Cosmetics Design:

“Scientists develop first ever perfume that makes you smell better the more you sweat”

According to the article, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a unique new perfume delivery system which makes you smell nicer when you sweat. It does this because “more of its aroma will be released when it comes in contact with moisture.”

What a great idea! Can you imagine if you put this fragrance in an anti-perspirant? The more your body heats up the more you sweat the more fragrance is released. An anti-perspirant that actually works better the more you sweat would revolutionize the industry, right?

It would but it already exists.

Listen to this commercial for Degree APD from 1993: Play commercial  Degree claims that “your body heat turns it on.” Of course, as your body temperature rises you sweat more…the moisture from the sweat triggers the release of more fragrance which makes you smell better..

So as far back as 1993 we products claiming to make you smell better when you sweat.

BTW, these claims are not just advertising fluff you really can make products like antiperspirants and deodorants work better by using delayed release fragrance technology.

I was just amused that either the person writing the article or whoever at press release for Queens University was naive enough to think that this really is the “first ever” perfume technology that is moisture activated.

There are dozens if not hundreds of patents already on file about ways to delay the release of fragrance some of them rely on moisture, others rely on pressure release or a change in pH. But this is a VERY well researched area.

Maybe this technology from Queens University is a new twist on it perhaps they figured out some way to improve upon it but by no stretch of the imagination can you say they’ve developed the first ever product in the space.

The reason I bring this up is partly because the headline amused me but mostly because it’s important for our listeners to realize that if you are interested in fragrance that releases over time, especially in an anti-perspirant, there are products on the market that really can deliver this benefit that maybe you haven’t thought to try. So there’s an APD tip for you.

Is seltzer water bad for your teeth?


You know I’m a huge fan of soda pop and I used to drink a ton of the full sugary stuff. But then I switched to the no calorie option because I figured it was better. I hated diet sodas but after you drink them for a few months, you get used to them. Now, the full sugar ones are way too sweet for me.

Anyway, I did that for a few years but then switched to seltzer water because I figured it might be even more healthy. I mean, it was just water and carbon dioxide. Not that I think there is anything wrong with diet sodas, I just thought I’d switch to something even closer to water.

I think a lot of people are making this choice but it turns out, that seltzer option might not be the best idea for my teeth. According to a story in The Atlantic, seltzer water contains carbonic acid which can gradually wear away your tooth enamel. That makes your teeth weaker, more prone to staining, and even more temperature sensitive.

The dentist they interviewed says it’s even worse when you’re drinking a sparkling water that is flavored. He says that it is worse than even orange juice for your teeth and oj is considered very erosive to teeth.

So the recommendation is to reduce the amount of seltzer you are drinking to protect your teeth. It’s better to have just plain old water. Oh yeah, they also mention that you know when people put a dash of lemon juice in water? That is even worse for your teeth so don’t do that too often either.

These dentists are such kill joys.

Feb 23 2016



Rank #17: Is it okay to have alcohol in your skin care products? Episode 105

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Does bee venom cause eye puffiness? 

Tune in to listen to Perry’s amazing story to find out. (Hint: check out the picture.)

Is amniotic fluid the next hot anti-aging ingredient?

Have you heard about this new trend in skin care? Amniotic fluid.

Well, at least that is what is being claimed by this story in Stylecaster. Or is it?

The headline to the story is “Amniotic Fluid is a Growing Trend in Skin Car”. So I thought right away that I would be reading a story about amniotic fluid in beauty products. Which seems pretty weird to me. How could they put human tissue in beauty products? I know I’ve heard of placenta being used but that doesn’t really happen in the US.

Upon further reading you see that they talk about two products that are claiming “inspiration” from amniotic fluid. One of the products is from Hourglass Cosmetics. They have a skin active serum that uses a plant-based lipid that is found in high concentrations in amniotic fluid. So, it’s not amniotic fluid that is being used. According to the company, the lipid helps normalize skin cell growth which will apparently counteract signs of aging. Yeah right.

The other product they talk about is from Bilogique Recherché that uses a mix of fatty emollients that simulate vernix which is the waxy coating found on newborns. The cream mask is supposed to protect and recharge stressed skin. Oh brother.

So, despite the headine amniotic fluid is not being used in skin care products for antiaging. And there is no research of which I’m aware that has shown using amniotic fluid will have any anti-wrinkling effects. Save your money people.

Your smartphone can protect you from sunburn


I read an article that says your smartphone can protect you from sunburn. At first I just assumed this is because more people are buying the freakishly huge iPhone 6 plus, attaching it a selfie stick and then and holding it over their to shade them from the sun like an umbrella. It turns out that’s not the case at all. It’s actually an app that alerts you if you’re getting too much sun exposure.

The app is called Solar Cell (aka Sun Zap) and it’s produced in partnership with the National Cancer Center. Essentially it’s a sophisticated reminder system that tells you to spend less time in direct midday sun and encourages you to wear more sun protective clothing and hats. Those are both very common sense approaches to avoiding sun damage skin but they’re also easy to forget.

Apparently the developers have put together a system that effectively prompts you toward these good behaviors. Some proof that this works is available in the form of two clinical studies which where published in JAMA Dermatology. Here are the numbers: In the first study, 454 participants completed a survey, 305 were assigned to download and use the app, and 125 actually did it.

Since the base size was fairly small, the results showed that the people in the app group spent more time in the shade. But comparing within the app group they found that those who used it (vs those who didn’t) were more likely to wear protective clothing and to spend less time in the midday sun. This was surprising though – app users reported using LESS sunscreen. That seems counter intuitive but maybe they thought they needed less sunscreen because they spent less time in the sun.

The second study was identical in design (but with fewer people) and showed similar results. Another odd finding though: using the app didnt reduce the panelists chances of getting sunburn. (there were too few cases for the app to make a difference, said the researchers.)

I’m still not completely convinced that this will work as stated and it’s certainly not a full proof system but anything that increases your awareness and gets you to shield yourself from the sun can’t be a bad idea.

Is this new sunscreen technology an improvement?


Researchers at Yale university have developed a sunscreen that doesn’t penetrate the skin which, according to them, would eliminate a serious concern about commercial sunscreens.

They reported their findings in the journal Nature Materials. According to the researchers they found that the material they developed blocks damaging UV light and it isn’t easily removed from skin.

Their secret? Nanoparticles.

They also get into a claim that standard sunscreen ingredients like the organic molecules approved by the FDA can cause damage by creating reactive oxygen species. He says if these ingredient penetrate deep enough they could potentially facilitate skin cancer. That’s right, they are claiming the sunscreens can cause skin cancer. That is just over the top and there is zero evidence this is the case.

This story shows the naivette of university researchers. First, sunscreens don’t penetrate skin to a significant amount. Second, they aren’t associated with higher rates of cancer. And third, why don’t they just use nanoparticle sized versions of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide?

Their ingredient is a hydrophobic chemical called padimate O which is encased in a nanoparticle.

We’ll see if this goes any where. It seems like they are solving a problem that doesn’t really exist.

L’Oreal chemist revolutionizes makeup with a new true blue


Here’s a case of a L’Oreal chemist who’s being recognized for a beauty breakthrough she discovered so I want to acknowledge her here on the show today. But I also want to see if we can figure out exactly what she’s being recognized for. Let me explain….

According to Cosmetics Design, Balanda Atis who is head of L’Oréal’s Women of Color Lab, has “revolutionized makeup” for women from an array of backgrounds. How did she do this? By using a colorant that they said is “rarely” used in their formulations she was able to create makeup that can better match deep skin tones. Typically, makeup for women of color is too red or too pale. But about 10 years ago she began to work on her own solution and Balanda, who says that “We’re always looking at new colorants and other raw materials” found that incorporation Ultramarine Blue into makeup solved the problem. The VP of the division described her discovery as “game changing.”

I’m baffled by this because Ultramarine Blue is an approved colorant and has been used for YEARS. I used it to formulate color cosmetics back in the mid-1980s. So clearly, her breakthrough was not figuring out a new, innovative raw material. It must have more to do with the way she blended it with other colors? I’m mean I’m impressed and all I just don’t really understand it.

So Balanda, if you’re listening to this, please get in touch with us and help us understand.

Should there be alcohol in your skin care?


Shall we talk about the kerfuffle we had with our good friends over at Paula’s choice about alcohol in skin products?

Their position is that the study we referenced doesn’t represent how people actually use alcohol containing products. They say that the alcohol products were meant to be left on the skin and the study doesn’t reflect that usage. They also say that high amounts of alcohol in skin products cause accumulative damage. I’m not convinced.

While the study we referred to does not represent how people normally use cosmetics, it does represent skin exposure to alcohol and demonstrates a worst case scenario. If the pure ingredient applied to skin for a long time does not demonstrate significant irritation, there should be little concern about using a formula that has the ingredient blended with other ingredients. Adding ethanol at reasonable levels allows formulators to combine ingredients that may otherwise not be included. We haven’t seen any convincing evidence that consumers who use products formulated with alcohol in this way are harming their skin.

iTunes reviews

Podcast_Listener_28 says…Thank you for informative easy to listen podcast that combines beauty and brutal honesty. After Paula Begoun stopped producing her be beautifully podcast last year, I couldn’t find one I could trust. Now I do, thank you.

JK just trolling says…I’ve learned so much from the beauty brains that I should be paying them instead of my dermatologist. This podcast is a 5 star podcast except for Perry’s voice. Just kidding – even that’s great and makes for fodder for some of their signature banter.

Oct 20 2015



Rank #18: The Curly Girl Method – what’s the science? episode 170

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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:

Curly Girl method 2 :

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

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.

Jan 21 2019



Rank #19: Do oxygen facials work & more beauty questions – episode 192

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

  • Oxygen facials and how they work
  • How does plant based hair color work?
  • Does light degrade shampoo?
  • Substituting Body Wash for Hand Soap
  • And more, plus… Kitchen Chemistry!

Beauty News

Is showering daily necessary?

Showering daily — is it necessary?

Kitchen Chemistry

  • Tumeric and cinnamon for foundation & eye shadow
  • Sugar & lemon juice for waxing
  • Kool-aid for plumping lips
  • Tea bags for under eye circles
  • Beauty hacks with Coca cola

Beauty Questions

Question 1 – Rachel asks, “What is an oxygen facial and do they really work?”

The bottom line is that oxygen facials have not been proven to provide any benefit that you can’t get from a standard moisturizer treatment or exfoliation. And at from between $200 and $500 a treatment, they certainly don’t seem worth it to me.

Question 2 – Hi BB, I’m a professional hairstylist and first of all I want to thank you for all of the wonderful information you provide. It can be hard to find accurate scientific information in the beauty industry and it means a lot to me. I have a question about Biolage by Matrix’s new hair color launching this fall. They claim it to be 82-100% plant based with only 2-9 ingredients. I was pretty skeptical until I saw a video of them mixing it. It comes in a powdered form and they mix it with hot water, not developer. It looks exactly like traditional henna, but it comes in up to 20 shades. I was always taught to avoid henna hair color as any shades besides the original copper shades have to be made using compound dyes which can have bad reactions with bleach or other chemicals used in the salon. They claim this color to be completely free of metallic dyes and to be compatible with bleach. Are they just mixing it with direct dyes or mixing it with other plants besides henna to make these colors?

Question 3 – Sam says… I bought a shampoo. Specifically Garnier Ultimate Blends [Honey Treasures Shampoo]. It had suddenly stopped lathering and the shampoo just sits there doing nothing. Does light degrade shampoo? It was in a glass jar. I know shampoos comes in clear bottles so I’m not convinced light is the issue. It [wasn’t] out of date either. I’m wondering what could have caused this and if once the lathering stops does this impact on the shampoos ability to clean? Thanks. Sam  

Question 4 – Is it ok to use body wash in place of hand soap?

Question 5 – Ashley asks…In episode 172 you talked about the different variables that affect product price. What about brands that say they are made in small batches? The claim is that due to the small batches the products are made in, less preservatives are used which means there are more active ingredients. Is this true and are there any clear advantages to making products in small batches? I use Glymed Plus.

Follow the Brains

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

ASK A QUESTION – If you want to ask a question click this link or record one on your phone and send it to

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

Aug 14 2019



Rank #20: Why do women pay more for beauty products? Episode 117

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Please support the Beauty Brains by signing up for a free audio book at

Click here to get your free audio book.

South Korean beauty innovation


Japan has long been the source of beauty trends for European and American countries but more and more that is shifting to South Korea. Recent trends out of Korea include BB creams, cushion compacts, sheet masks & ingredients like rice bran & pomegranate.

Recently, the latest products that hit Europe and North America were started in South Korea. So it would be interesting to see what else might be coming our way. Here are 5 new beauty products as reported by

1. Glass nail art. Essential people are putting little pieces of cellophane in their nail polish so it looks like your nails are shattered glass. No doubt inspired by all the shattered iPhone screens that people are seeing. Did I tell you I finally was struck by the broken screen demon?

2. Next is the Mask-Making Juicer. What do you get when you combine a juicer with a beauty product? You get a juicer that blends down fruits and veggies and turns them into a facial mask. I’ll put a link to a video which shows this thing in action. It looks pretty cool. I’m sure it’s just a novelty but interesting.

3. Rubber masks – This is another mask that’s big in South Korea. It’s sold to you as flakes like oatmeal but when you add water it turns into a slimy paste. You spread it on your face and it hardens to a rubbery consistency. Then you just peel it off after 15 minutes. I’d love to try this one.

4. Intense foot peel – Here’s a product called the Baby Exfoliant foot peel which is a chemical peel for your feet. Sounds dangerous but it will certainly take the layers of dead skin cells off your feet.

5. And finally we have the Peel-off lip tint – You apply it like a regular lipstick then after 15 minutes, it hardens up and you peel it off. What you are left with is lips stained with a color that won’t come off even after a night of eating and drinking. I wonder if it comes off the next day?

Anyway, look for these products to be making their way to your beauty shelves in the coming months or years. It’s a little know fact that most cosmetic marketing is done by looking around the world to find what is selling hot in one market and bringing it to a market where the product doesn’t exist.

Breakthrough acne treatment

Speaking of “breakthroughs” in beauty science, I read about an interesting new acne treatment that qualifies as breakthrough. All you need is an ultrasonic generator, some gold particles, and a laser.

This comes to us from the Journal of Controlled Release I’ll put the link in the show notes on the off chance that any of our listeners might have missed the article. According to the article, researchers at the University of California have figured out a new way to treat acne by treating its source – which is overproducing oil glands. The new process is called photo-ther-molysis and apparently it’s extremely effective but it’s also somewhat complicated.

First, it uses low frequency ultrasound to increase the skin penetration of gold coated silica particles which are pushed into the sebaceous glands. Once the gold particles in the glands, they’re zapped with a laser that’s specially tuned to be absorbed by gold. As they absorb laser light the gold particles heat up through a process known as “surface plasmon resonance.” The heat then “deactivates” the oil gland. I think they mean “destroys” the gland, but the article was a bit vague on that point. After treatment, all the gunk that was clogging your pore, along with the gold particles, are excreted normally.

There are a couple of benefits of this approach – it doesn’t irritate or dry the skin. And, unlike antibiotic treatments, it doesn’t pose any risk of resistance or of long-term side effects. The researchers describe it as “highly local but highly potent as well.”

Before you get too excited about it, however, keep in mind that the treatment is still experimental and that more work needs to be done to understand the safety of this approach – for example they don’t know yet if it causes damage to the follicle which could stop hair growth. That might be a side benefit for women but might make it tough for a guy to grow a beard.

What’s living on your face?


According to this story your face is covered with parasitic mites called Demodex. They are microscopic arachnids that live on your skin and feed on things like oil, skin cells and skin bacteria. If you think of your face as a savanna, these little guys are like antelope grazing on whatever is coming out of the ground (or your face). Usually, they don’t cause any problems but when enough of them gather in one spot they can cause things like rosacea, dermatitis, types of alopecia, acne and more.

The fascinating thing is that researchers have been looking at the genetic history of these little guys and discovered that there or four distinct lineages that correspond to different regions of the world. There are African mites, Asian mites, Latin mites and European mites. And these mites get passed around families because any time you touch skin with another person, you trade some of your mites. The mites evolved differently in each region.

Interestingly, the population of mites reflect the history of the world. General African, Asian, and Latin mites tend to only be found on people from those regions. While European mites are found on the faces of everyone around the world. This is reflective of the days of European imperialism.

Beyond just a fascination with parasites that live on your face, there is actually some good cosmetic reasons to study these mites. Since they have been implicated in conditions like rosacea, making products that can kill these little buggers could actually help improve people’s skin. In fact, a recent study of a cream containing 1% ivermectin (an anti-parasite agent) showed that it reduced inflammatory lesions.

So if you are a suffer of rosacea, it could be your misbehaving demodex mites & a cream to stop them might be just what you need.

Should we be free from “free from” claims?


Let’s talk about “free from claims” (e.g, “free from parabens, sulfates, etc.”) The problem is that these kinds of claims are often used for fear mongering because they imply there’s something dangerous about an ingredient when there’s not. Free from claims can often be used in misleading ways – my favorite example is hair conditioners that are labeled as “sulfate free.” Conditioners don’t use sulfates (at least not the detergent kind.)

I read one article with the headline ‘Free-from claims are based on fears and should stop.’ Basically, arguing that free from claims should not be allowed at all.

You could argue just read the ingredient list but that’s to cumbersome for most people.

Now, there are other times when it’s legitimate – allergies maybe? Fragrance free? free from animal-derived ingredients, free from alcohol, That’s essentially the point of view put forward in another article I read which quotes Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of online Organic Cosmetic Science School Formula Botanica

She says “free from” claims are legit when based on ethical, religious or allergy grounds. She says that “Free from claims that do not denigrate competitors, nor create confusion with the product of a competitor, should be permissible,

Why do women pay more for beauty products?

You know how women have to pay more money for their clothes than men? Well, it turns out they also have to pay more money for their cosmetic products. According to a US study done by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, women pay an average of 13% more for female-specific personal care products.

According to the people who ran the study, they looked at five sectors of personal care products like hair care products, shaving products, body wash and deodorant. They got price information by doing observational studies at retailers like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid.

You know which category had the greatest discrepancy?

Hair care. They found that women focused hair care products were 48% more expensive than male versions. Shaving products were the next biggest discrepancy with women’s products being 11% more expensive. The best deal were female deodorants which were only 3% more expensive.

I think the important thing for people to know is that there is practically zero difference between men & women’s focused personal care products. Seriously, the only significant difference would be the fragrance and packaging. If you are concerned about saving money and don’t care much about scent or packaging, just buy the male versions of products. There are literally no significant differences.

I do wonder why there would be this difference in pricing though. Perhaps it’s because men just don’t care?

Science proves you shouldn’t tightline your eyeliner


Are you familiar with this practice of “tight lining?” It’s a makeup technique that involves drawing eyeliner inside the lash line. Apparently it’s great to make your lashes look fuller without making it look like you’re wearing a lot of eye makeup.

It’s also somewhat contentious because some people have raised the concern that it could cause pink eye or other wise harm your eyes while others say it’s completely safe.

Well, now we know the truth based on a new study published in the journal of the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists.

Dr. Alison Ng, at the Centre for Contact Lens Research at Waterloo, directed a study which proves that people who apply eyeliner on the inner eyelid run the risk of not only contaminating the eye but also causing vision problems. This is the first study to prove that particles from pencil eyeliner move into the eye.

The research team evaluated different makeup application styles and used videography to compare the amount of eyeliner particles that migrated into the tear film.

They found that “makeup migration happened quicker and was greater when eyeliner wasT put on the inner lid margin.” In fact, in as little as 5 minutes, between 15 and 30% more particles moved into the tear film when tight lining was used.

They say that this kind of contamination can cause physical irritation and redness, and, if The harmful bacteria is present in the eyeliner, eye infections or blurred vision. If you wear contact lens you’re even more likely to have these kinds of problems.

So the bottom line is tight line at your own risk – or you could use that Dior eyeliner patch we talked about back in Episode 116.

iTunes reviews

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Jan 26 2016