The Beauty Brains

The Beauty Brains


Real scientists answer your beauty questions


Is aloe vera lotion really good for skin? Episode 156  

Is aloe lotion good for skin? Gemma asks…I am a huge fan of Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Fresh lotion. However, I have found another aloe lotion that is even cheaper: Perfect Purity. So I’m wondering can you tell me if the Perfect Purity will perform as well as my beloved Vaseline? Or should I just […]

How can I tell if a product will cause acne? Episode 155  

Can a patch test predict acne? Janelly asks…I would like to know if patch testing a product for acne can really work. I see this concept mentioned a lot on Reditt as a way to test if a new skincare product will cause acne. That’s a great question but patch testing for acne does NOT work. […]

Are cosmetics poisoning our water supply? Episode 154  

Should your cosmetics be biodegradable? Fabi asks about biodegradable products… I have an outdoor shower and it drains into the ground and everyone tells me I have to have biodegradable shampoo, conditioner, and body wash for the ground. Can you explain biodegradable products? It’s really hard to find them. What they’re all about and why […]

Is store brand mouthwash as good as name brands? Episode 153  

How can I tell if a store brand mouthwash is the same as the expensive name brand? Victoria says…My husband insists that all name brand products are stronger and better than store brands. He feels strongest about Listerine and his dentist agrees with him. Does it matter in areas other than cosmetics? When discussing store brands, […]

Can Baby Foot really make your feet smoother? Episode 152  

How does baby foot work? Leslie asks…Can you please explain how Babyfoot works and if it is truly safe to use. I have used it and my feet did peel but I really don’t understand how it works.  In case our listeners aren’t familiar with this product, it’s a special type of exfoliator designed just […]

How does Tresemme Beauty-Full Volume Reverse Wash haircare system work? Episode 151  

How does Tresemme Beauty-Full Volume Reverse Wash haircare system work? Jess says…I just saw an ad for the Tresemme Beauty-Full Volume system. Is there really something to conditioning first and then shampooing or are they just convincing us to wash our money down the drain? Let’s talk a little bit about the process of reverse […]

Are Micellar Water makeup removers the real deal? Episode 150  

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 Mice...

Is Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle cream really miraculous? Episode 149  

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,

Does an anti-aging skin cleanser really exist? Episode 148  

Our plane just landed and I'm posting this from my phone while waiting for Perry who's stuck in customs. Apparently they think his juggling balls are contraband. We'll be home soon! In the meanwhile listen to this blast from the past about skin cleansers and active ingredients. Click this link to read the original show notes.

Zika or bug spray: which is more dangerous? Episode 147  

I thought for sure we'd be back in the country by now but before we could board the plane Perry was detained by the police. I'm still not sure what's going on but apparently it has something to do him getting robbed on the way back to the hotel.   Don't worry though, you can still listen to this encore episode where we discuss the infamous "date rape" nail polish controversy and the safety of DEET, the active ingredient in mosquito sprays. Click here for the original show notes.

Are fragrance allergies all in your head? Episode 146  

I thought we'd be flying home from our tropical vacation today but it turns out Perry lost our plane tickets in a poker game last night. Looks like we'll be flying stand by. Until we get this all sorted out, please enjoy this encore episode on fragrance allergies. You an find the original show notes here. Image credit:

Can the Think Dirty app really protect you from dangerous cosmetics? Episode 145  

I was planning on coming back to work today but Perry just ordered another picture of margaritas. That means today's podcast has to be another rerun. Check out our discussion of the Think Dirty app. Click here for the original show notes.

Do you smell different when you ovulate? Episode 144  

Perry and I are still at the beach but don't worry he's constantly rubbing me down with sunscreen. While we’re gone please enjoy this encore episode of our podcast about the odors of ovulation.   Click here to read the original show notes. Thanks and see you soon!

Is it safe to use antibacterial soaps? Episode 143  

Perry and I are on summer vacation.  While we're gone please enjoy this encore episode of our podcast about antibacterial soaps. Click here to read the original show notes about antibacterial soaps. Thanks and see you soon!

Do you really need 3 kinds of conditioner? Episode 142  

Do I really need to use 3 kinds of conditioner? Dev asks… Is it absolutely essential to use a leave in, a rinse out, and a deep conditioner? I’ve been washing my hair and appling a regular rinse out conditioner and then I leave it in until the next time I wash my hair about a week later. Am I damaging my hair this way or do I really need to use a leave in, a daily and a deep conditioner? No Dev, don’t be ridiculous. you don’t need to use a leave in, a daily rinse out and a deep conditioner. But you DO need to use a pre-wash treatment, a rinse out conditioner, a deep repair restructrurizer, a dry damaged masque, a hot oil treatment, and a leave in detangler. EVERY SINGLE DAY. You have to keep in mind that a lot of these conditioner products overlap and that they only reason they exist if because marketing wants to sell more products. Yeah, these deliver the same primary benefits, to different degrees, or they may just offer different ways to deliver that benefit. To give you some context let’s talk a little bit about talk about conditioners work. Most conditioners work by lubricating the hair to smooth the cuticle. That’s the outer layer of the hair which consists of overlapping scales called cuticles. These cuticle are like the shingles on the roof of your house – they protect what’s beneath it. As your hair is damaged from washing and drying and combing and brushing and perming and coloring, the cuticle starts to wear away. When this happens your hair is broken more easily. By smoothing the cuticles, conditioners make hair feel softer, look shinier and, most importantly, reduce breakage from brushing and combing. This is the essential function of almost all leave ins, rinse outs, and deep conditioners. A rinse out and a deep conditioner or a mask that you leave in your hair for 3 to 5 minutes don’t really do anything different. They can deliver lubrication using different ingredients but they all do essentially the same thing to the outside of your hair. Now, SOME conditioners can work on the inside. There are a few ingredients that have been proven to penetrate hair and strengthen the inside. Panthenol is one of those ingredients although you rarely see it used at high enough levels to make a difference. Coconut oil is another although again, the level has to be high and it has to be left on hair for hours to allow it to penetrate and to water proof your hair from the inside. Also, there are some speciality products that have added benefits. Most split end menders are just hype. But there are a couple of technologies that can actually bind splits back together and keep them that way for several washings. We’ve written about this a few times. Most color protect products are hype as well. We have seen a few technologies that can lock color in hair. Tresemme Color Revitalize is one of these. Dev asked about using a rinse out as a leave in? In many cases, you should not. That’s because some ingredients are not intended for long term contact with the skin. For example, cetrimonium chloride is limited to 0.2% in a leave on product but it can be used at much higher levels in a rinse out product. If you’ve been doing this without any adverse effects you may be fine but if you try this with a different rinse out conditioner you may find your skin reacting differently. The bottom line is that at the end of the day it’s really about your personal choice. If you like the way your hair feels after layering it with multiple conditioners there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s also very unlikely that you’re getting much additional benefit and you’re probably wasting money. Can you get addicted to body lotion? Courtney asks…Is it possible for your skin to become dependent on lotion? In the winter, I got in the habit of putting it on every time I showered because my skin was dry. I've kept it up into the warm weather and I'm wondering if it's helping my skin, hurting it, or neither.

Can Coca Cola give you a better sun tan? Episode 141  

Can Coca Cola give you a better tan? Nanda asks...Will Coca Cola give you a better sun tan?
 When I first head this I thought it was an obscure, ridiculous rumor. But I was wrong. it turns out it’s a very pervasive, ridiculous rumor. Yeah, if you Google “using coca cola to tan” you get THOUSANDS of search results from people raving about the tanning powers of Coke. People all over the world say that you can get a darker tan if you apply Coke to your skin. My favorite is…Top ten myths about Coca Cola which just happen to be true. But all the article does is repeat the myth - there’s not a hint of evidence.
 Another website explained it this way…Imagine this, your body is the skillet, the sun is the fire, and the sugars and caramels are burning on you! I don’t think that’s QUITE right. Even a high tech mechanism like that doesn’t convince me. What about the Coca Cola company? Have they weighed in on this controversy? The only official response from Coke I could find was on their UK website where they said "As much as we love Coca‑Cola, we really wouldn't recommend using it in this way. There is no sun protection factor in it at all - it's a drink!” And that’ s exactly what I’d expect them to say regardless of whether it works or not. if they said it does work then someone could try it, get sunburned or skin cancer and sue them. Better to deny, deny, deny. So is there any science here? First of all, some versions of this myth say to mix Coke with baby oil before tanning. So if you did this how do you know it’s not the baby oil giving a darker tan? There is evidence that oils can darken tans by reducing the amount of sunlight that’s reflected from the skin.  (Ref: Phototherapy treatment of psoriasis today) In this version of the myth it could just be the effect of the mineral oil. But let’s take a look at the ingredients in Coke to see if there’s anything ELSE that could be accelerating the tanning process. The product is pretty simple it just consists of Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel coloring, Phosphoric Acid, and Natural Flavourings Including Caffeine. The water certainly won’t do anything. I suppose in THEORY the sugars could dry on your skin and form a layer that reduces the reflection of sunlight (just like mineral oil does) but I don’t believe sugar has the right optical properties to do that. Could the caramel coloring be staining the skin? Caramel does have staining properties but I doubt that as well because the concentration is so low. The viscosity of Coke is so low that you can’t really apply a thick layer to concentrate it either. So that doesn’t appear to be the answer. Yeah, just about the worst application properties you can imagine. Phosphoric acid would have no effect it’s just there to control the pH. Okay, so what about the natural flavors and caffeine? Well, according to the text book Sunscreens by Nadim Shaath, insert reference] one way to boost a tan (which is actually increasing melanogenesis) is to increase the amount of an enzyme called tyrosine present in the melanosomes. One researcher demonstrated that a chemical known as theophylline may directly increase the rate of tyrosinase synthesis. (Of course this was done on cell cultures in the lab…) Theophylline is chemically related to theobromine which is found in the leaves of the cocoa plant so it COULD be a part of the “ natural flavorings” used in coke but since the exact recipe is secret we’ll probably never know. Caffeine is another related chemical so the combination of the two THEORETICALLY may be able to boost melanogensis. Of course, as I said a second ago, this has only been shown possible in cell cultures and NOT when applied topically. So you’d also have to prove that these chemicals penetrate skin and that there’s enough present to cause an effect. Yeah. If there is Theobromine is Coke there’s not very much. since it’s only slightly water-soluble (about 330 milligrams per literhttps://en....

Is fabric softener a good hair conditioner? Episode 140  

Does blotting oily sunscreen reduce SPF? Emma asks in Gmail…I don’t like the oily skin I get from using sunscreen so I blot off the excess with an oil absorbing sheet. Is this reducing the SPF of the sunscreen? Yes, blotting some of the sunscreen off your face will reduce the UV protection, to some degree. That happens for two reasons: First, most UV absorbers are not water soluble so they’re dissolved or dispersed in an oil phase. That means a high percentage of the active ingredient is in the oil that you’re removing. And less of that active ingredient means less sun protection. Second, good sun protection depends on having a relatively thick, even film of the sunscreen on your skin. In fact, dermatologists specifically talk about sunscreen being wiped away as one of the main reasons to reapply. Apparently this is well studied because I found a paper titled “Effect of Film Irregularities on Sunscreen Efficacy” in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Science. The researchers tested how well different sunscreen films worked and they found “Nonuniform distribution of sunscreen films on skin…account for large discrepancies between naively predicted efficacy and that observed clinically.” In other words, regardless of how good the sunscreen is, if the film isn’t uniform it won’t work as well. The bottom line is that blotting off excess oil is one way to disrupt the film so if you want good sun protection, then you shouldn’t do it. Is it safe to use fabric softener on hair? Chloe asks…is it safe to use fabric softener on your hair? I guess this qualifies as another of those DIY beauty hacks that we’ve been talking about lately. I’m not sure WHY you’d want to do this - to save money? To get better conditioning? Regardless of your rational here are 3 reasons this isn’t a good idea: 1. Beware of build up Fabric softeners have a stronger charge then many hair conditioners. That means they may stick to fabric providing long-lasting softness. This is a good thing when it comes to your close which you wash rather infrequently. However in the case of your hair repeated, frequent use of fabric softer could result in horrific buildup. 2. You want the best for your hair The ingredients are designed to stick to fabric but they can also stick to your hair after rinsing which is why they work so well. But that's where the similarity ends. A good conditioner will include some sort of agent to add shine to your hair, for example a silicone. You will not find this in a fabric softener since "shine" is typically not desirable of clothing. The types of quats used in hair conditioners are fine-tuned to deliver the best aesthetic experience possible. The ingredients that are good at softening fabric may leave here feeling heavy and limp with a notable waxy coating. Fabric softeners are also heavily fragranced you may find yourself choking on the scent of Downey or Snuggles compared to your typical salon brand. 3. Skin safety Of course the biggest concern is one of safety. Cosmetics (despite what other people may tell you otherwise) are formulated and tested to ensure they are safe for prolonged contact with skin. There are multiple regulations which control what may and may not be used in cosmetics. Not surprisingly the laws that govern fabric softeners are different than the ones that control cosmetics. That's not to say that fabric softeners are necessarily dangerous but they certainly aren't intended to be used in direct, prolonged, contact with skin. Let’s look at the ingredients in Downy which is probably the most popular brand. DEEDMAC: The main ingredient, which provides the conditioning, is diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride (or DEEDMAC). The good news is that studies have found this is NOT a sensitizer on skin. Similar And similar ingredients are used in cosmetics. Formic acid: which is a skin sensitizer and can produce allergic reactions. Not used in cosmetics.

Can hair really be sensitive to protein? Episode 139  

Is the NIOD brand really “ultra-scientific?” Saania says…I have a question about a skincare brand that's gained a cult status amongst serious skin care junkies. The brand NIOD, under the umbrella brand Deciem, claims to be "skincare for the hyper-educated".  Their star product is called Copper Amino Isolate Serum. I wanted to know what you thought about the science behind this serum, as well as some of their other super sciency sounding products and claims. I was not familiar with this company so I had to do a little research on Deciem. The first thing I found was the company tagline which is... “WE ARE ABNORMAL.
NO, SERIOUSLY. WE ARE REALLY NOT KIDDING.” I also found out that Deciem was started in 2013 and that now the company owns 10 different brands, one of which is NIOD which stands for “Non-invasive Options in Dermal Science.” The others include Hylamide, Grow Gorgeous (proven to make hair visibly longer, fuller and thicker), Inhibitif (all about hair removal), and White Rx (which is “ultra-scientific leader in skin care pigmentation.) I’m not sure what their credentials are but I’ve never seen any leader in the industry refer to themselves as “ultra-scientific.” But you asked specifically about their Copper Amino Isolate serum so let’s talk about that. Here are some of the claims from their website: “This product contains 5.0% pure Copper Tripeptide-1 (GHK-Cu) to be mixed with a specialized activator before first use. “This extraordinary concentration …help to prevent and reverse largely all aspects of visible skin aging…. including textural damage, uneven pigmentation, loss of elasticity, lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores and general lack of a…radiance…” “In short, the skin will act and look younger starting within 5 days with continued improvements over time.” “Superb award-winning technology to stabilize and enhance the activation of copper peptides.” Okay, let’s break this down. First of all, peptides are quite commonly used in anti-aging products. We’ve talked about peptides as anti-aging ingredients back in Episode 55 where we explained there are 4 basic types. Copper Tripeptide belongs to the type known as “Carrier Peptides” which deliver trace elements, like copper and magnesium, which help with wound repair and enzymatic processes. These trace elements have been shown to improve pro-collagen synthesis, elasticity of skin, and overall skin appearance. I don’t see anything in their claims that seem highly unreasonable. The product probably does what they say it does but there’s no indication that it works any better than any other product containing copper peptide at a similar concentration. I should also mention that the product costs $200 for 15 mls and you’re instructed to use it twice daily. I wonder how long that bottle will last…3 or 4 weeks? That’s $200 per month! What about the “superb award-winning technology?” Have they received some sort of “Nobel Prize” for their “ultra-science?” Not quite. We contacted to ask them about the award and we were specifically told that this product won “Tatler's Best Serum” award. Tatler, in case you didn’t know, is a UK based website published by Conde Nast. I couldn’t tell if the website just picks the winners or if they have consumers vote. Either way it’s just a popularity contest of sorts, which is fine, but this is not any kind of independent validation of their technology. Finally, what about this notion that the product can “stabilize and enhance the activation of copper peptides?” The product is a two part system that requires mixing to “activate.” We also asked the company about this and here’s their response: "Copper Peptides on their own are very reactive to even the smallest variations in pH. Since they are only soluble in water, even the most precise formulations will lead to pH variations once water is present abundantly enough to solubilize the peptides. The activation step involves saturating the pure peptides with suffici...

Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair? Episode 138  

Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair? Georgina asks…Are boar bristle brushes better for your hair? I’m looking at a Mason Pearson brush that’s about $100 and I want to know if it’s worth it. It’s tough to give a definitive answer because as you might imagine there aren’t many double blind, peer reviewed scientific studies comparing different hair brushes. But we DID find a couple of studies that may be helpful. The first study, “A Statistical Analysis of Hair Breakage,” pointed out the something that seems obvious: different combs and brushes will affect your hair differently depending on their structure. The researchers say that the spacing between teeth or bristles has a big influence. They also noted that “different comb or bristle materials may also have a different tendency for abrasion.” Unfortunately, the research didn’t provide any data on the differences in abrasion which would have been really helpful to answer your question! A second study compared brushes to combs and confirmed the importance of the configuration of the brush bristles (or comb teeth.) It compared hair breakage resulting from use of three different styling implements: A Goody flat paddle style brush with featuring plastic bristles with bulbous tips with a bristle bulb diameter of 0.2134 cm. A cylindric Prive styling brush also containing plastic bristles with a smaller bristle bulb diameter of 0.1118 cm. An Ace comb of unspecified dimensions. Their results showed that both brushes and combs cause hair breakage because hairs become “looped” around individual bristles. Once they are looped, the friction increases and the hair can be pulled out or broken. Interestingly the data showed that brushing causes more long hairs to break while combing causes shorter hairs to break. Apparently this has to do with how brush bristles are configured in multiple rows and columns. The other interesting finding of this study is that brushes tend to distribute hair over a wider area than a comb which tends to confine the hairs to a narrow path. That means that in terms of oil distribution a brush could provide a better opportunity for even oil spreading than a comb. Finally, although we couldn’t find any data to back this up, we hypothesize that boar bristles MAY do a better job of spreading scalp oils throughout the hair. That’s because boar’s hair brushes would have a greater affinity for oils than plastic or nylon brushes. If the boar’s hair does act as a natural reservoir of oil it could lubricate hair better. Again, that’s just a guess. So the bottom line is that we don’t have a definitive answer but it LOOKS like the configuration of the bristles is more important than what material they’re made from. Based on what we’ve seen it may be best to use a combination of a wide tooth comb to detangle and a natural fiber bristle brush (like boar’s hair) to distribute oils through your hair. However, even though there MAY be some slight advantage to boar bristle brushes it’s hard to say how much money that difference is worth. You also have to consider the overall quality of the brush, how long it will last, and how it feels in your hand and so on. Even if there’s no clear scientific benefit sometimes it’s just nice to splurge on nice stuff. Reference 1:
J. Cosmet. Sci., 61, 439–455 (November/December 2010) A statistical analysis of hair breakage. II. Repeated grooming experiments. Trefor A. Evans and Kimun Park. Reference 2:
J. Cosmet Sci., 58, 629-636 (November/December 2007) Hair breakage during combing IV: Brushing and combing hair. Clarence Robbins and Yash Kamath. Can you use  Magic Eraser to remove spray tan? Marilyn says...I read that you can use a Magic Eraser sponge to remove spray tan. Will it work and is it safe?  First of all, what is a Magic Eraser? It’s a brand name for a P&G household product under their Mr. Clean line. It’s made from a spongey like material called Melamine foam and I think i...

Are super foods good for your skin? Episode 137  

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: 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. 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. 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.

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