Hi, I'm Valerie and this is Episode 193 of the Beauty Brains!

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Welcome to the Beauty Brains, a show where real scientists answer your beauty questions and give you an insider's look at the beauty product industry. I'm your host Valerie George and with me today is my co-host, Perry Romanowski – (say hello)

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

But first, let’s say hi…


Beauty news

Walmart Launches New Range of Clean Beauty Products


Walmart has launched its own brand of clean beauty products called EARTH TO SKIN; the brand promises that nearly 30 products, all at a cost of $10 or less, will be free of parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, mineral oil, sulfates, gluten, or animal testing.

Perry’s Beauty Story…

A win for the little guy?  https://www.happi.com/contents/view_breaking-news/2019-08-13/a-win-for-the-little-guy/

Last week L’Oreal lost a court case that was filed against it by Olaplex.  They claimed that L’Oreal took some of their trade secrets related to their product and were ordered to pay $91 million.  A jury said that L’Oreal indeed had infringed on the patents and stolen trade secrets.

L’Oreal is appealing the decision and I’m sure they will probably settle.

I’ve never seen what the big deal was about Olaplex but some stylists seem to love it. It’s not surprising to me that a company like L’Oreal could lose in court because I’m sure the jury is not scientifically savvy. They probably looked at a big guy like L’Oreal and wanted to back up the small guy.

We’ve actually gotten a couple questions about Olaplex and perhaps we should cover it in a future show.



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. You can monitor FDA recalls for Food, Drugs and Cosmetics at the FDA website.


On the last episode, of our Kitchen Chemistry segment included a series of beauty hacks with making your own waxing sugar scrub where in the video Valerie described the legs as being irritated with bumps, followed by a homemade soothing cream to get rid of the irritation and bumps. We received an email from a loyal follower that said they were surprised to see us include DIY sugaring base as a dangerous home product.

And a follow-up...

This one is related to episode 187.  Stephanie says - Hi hope all is well,

I was just listening to your recent episode on natural ingredients in hair and skin . I just recently started listening to you guys and you’re amazing ! Love it. I have a question concerning deodorant , you mentioned several times in this podcast that aluminum isn’t used in deodorant, however when I see the ingredient : aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex listed as an active ingredient in my suave deodorant what does it mean ?

Thank you !

Alright, this is pretty easy to explain. Deodorants are products that make you smell better.

If they only do this, they do not contain aluminum salts.  Antiperspirants are products that make you smell better AND stop you from sweating.  These products do contain aluminum salts.


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.

I looked at the product and honestly, it’s difficult to tell whether the product has any redeeming qualities. But it does have a number of things that make me suspicious.

First, they don’t follow proper ingredient naming rules. A phrase like “Organic nutrient blend” does not belong in the list of ingredients. Ingredient lists are supposed to be for people to identify whether an ingredient is going to cause an allergic reaction (if they know they have that)  If some company is so careless with making their product that they don’t follow proper rules, I would avoid them. It just makes me wonder what other safety things are they skimping on.

Another issue is that the product is filled with dozens and dozens of ingredients. It’s hard enough to demonstrate that a single ingredient does anything. But when you throw a bunch of natural ingredients together, you have no idea what’s going to happen. Do the ingredients interfere with each other? Are they going to cause problems? Are they going to keep working? It is better for people to stick to a minimum number of ingredients. Companies that throw a bunch of things together are just doing so for marketing purposes. There is no scientific or benefit reason you’d throw Yucca, Flaxseed, lavender, horse tail, red clover and all the other dozens of ingredients they have in there.  This is just a recipe for making something which is going to negatively react with a lot of people’s skin.  And then they also have a ton of different preservatives in there. Benzyl Alcohol, sorbic acid, just everything but the kitchen sink.  It’s ridiculous.

I don’t actually find the jar issue much of an issue but when you’re picking products, I suppose a jar might be worth avoiding. Especially if the product isn’t properly preserved like I suspect this one isn’t since they proudly avoid parabens. That’s another red flag for me.

Having said all that, if you’ve used the product and you haven’t had any irritation issues, it’s probably fine for you. You’re not going to get much benefit beyond skin moisturizing and maybe having a fun experience, but don’t expect anything amazing for your skin. And maybe..expect that you might eventually get a rash or other type of breakout.

Question 2

Monistat on your scalp makes your hair grow? <play audio>

Monistat is the brand name for a drug that is responsible for yeast infection treatment and can be purchased at any drug store, simply by the name Monistat. While most famous for yeast infection treatments, the Monistat brand also offers other vaginal and feminine care products, from itch relief to cooling cloths to refreshing gels - so while these may not contain the drug, they’re all related to feminine health.

Until 1990, topical products for yeast infection treatment were only available by prescription. In 1990, an advisory committee met with the FDA and recommended that women who have had a yeast infection diagnosed by a doctor could adequately self-treat their condition and the first 7-day intravaginal drug came into the market. In 1990, the first 3-day treatment came onto the market, and in 1997 the first single-dose treatment for yeast infections launched.

Miconazole is the active drug ingredient in Monistat, which is intended to be applied inside the vagina. For vaginal creams, it is a 2% cream with each dose being 100mg. Miconazole is an anti-fungal used to treat other skin infections involving fungus as well like diaper rash, jock itch and ringworm. What does fungus have to do with the vagina and yeast infections? Yeast is a fungus and the overgrowth of yeast in the vagina is called a yeast infection. In order to get rid of the yeast, we need to stop the growth and that is done with Miconazole. Miconazole works via imidazole chemistry, which is a chemistry common in anti-fungal treatments. In fact, some preservatives in cosmetics use imidazole chemistry to prevent growth of yeast. This chemistry prevents fungi from being able to build their cell membranes.

So, why are people using it for hair loss treatment?

It turns out, using Miconazole to treat hair loss is something spewed all over the web and there is no scientific evidence that using Miconazole in this way will help hair regrow.

Hair loss occurs for several reasons - some of which include:

One other reason could be a disorder called “tinea capitis, which is patchy hair loss due to a fungal infection of the scalp. In this case, an oral antifungal drug would be prescribed for this treatment, not miconazole.

I did read about one imidazole drug called ketoconazole that had studies performed to see if it could treat tinea capitis; ketoconazole is typically not prescribed for this because there is not enough data to support its safety for use in this manner, but it has been shown in studies that it is also effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. In 1998, a study was performed to see if ketoconazole can improve alopecia compared to nothing and compared to minoxidil. In 2004, a study was conducted on mice that suggested topical application of ketoconazole is useful in treating seborrheic dermatitis accompanied by hair regression or male pattern hair loss. In 2014, another study was published that showed, in mice, ketoconazole helped regrow hair but minoxidil was most effective.

I don’t know if this equated into ketoconazole is an imidazole and so is miconazole, and maybe I’ll just put Monistat on the head, but ketoconazole and miconazole are two very different drugs and each have their own prescribed use with margin of safety and their own side effects. We did find some patents where several of the azole drugs were patented for nail and hair growth, but this doesn’t mean it works or is safe.

Additionally, in any of the studies we read that compared the imidazoles to minoxidil, minoxidil still outperformed everything so if you are interested in hair growth, I would stick with what the FDA has approved for hair regrowth, which is Minoxidil.


Question 3

Sydney asks...What’s the deal with Mineral Oil?

Thanks for this question.  There is a lot of bad information on the Internet about mineral oil and it troubles me to see a perfectly good ingredient get so maligned.

Before answering your specific questions it will be helpful to talk a little bit about mineral oil, what it is and why it’s put in cosmetics.

Mineral oil is a clear, colorless and odorless liquid made up of long chain hydrocarbons. It is similar to natural plant oils, which are also long chain hydrocarbons, except that it is composed of molecules with longer hydrocarbon chains. So palm oil for example is mostly made up of hydrocarbons with 16 carbons, while mineral oil is made up of hydrocarbons that are up to 50 carbons long. It’s derived from the petroleum industry which is why it probably gets such a bad reputation.

Now to your questions

Is mineral oil a filler?

I see this claim all the time.  No, mineral oil is not a filler. In fact, there are no “fillers” put in cosmetics. Fillers is a term that comes from the food industry and while it might make sense there, it makes no sense in the cosmetic industry. No one puts mineral oil into the formula just for fun or just to fill in the formula. Mineral oil is put in formulas for a specific, beneficial function.  Which brings us to your next question...

Does it do anything? Are there any benefits to it at all?

YES, mineral oil does something. It does a few things in cosmetic products.  In skin products it is both an emollient which means it helps sooth dry skin, it helps make it feel nicer to the touch, and it makes it look better.  Additionally, it has an occlusive characteristic to it which means it also can help lock water into the skin and help with moisturization. The reason companies use mineral oil in formulas is because it is highly effective at providing these benefits.  In fact, there are almost no ingredients that work better in terms of emolliency.  In hair products, it also works well as a conditioning agent although if you use too much it might weigh down your hair.

Other reasons companies use it is because it is consistent and pretty much inert which means it doesn’t react with other chemicals. Natural oils are not always consistent because their composition depends on growing and harvesting conditions. They also contain molecules which can oxidize, degrade, change color, change odor or otherwise spoil a perfectly fine formula.

Is it bad for skin?  

No, it is not bad for your skin. You’ll see on the Internet people claiming that mineral oil is comedogenic.  It is NOT comedogenic. It will not clog your pores. It is a perfectly fine ingredient to use. Mineral oil also does not dry out the skin or cause premature aging. Mineral oil is a perfectly fine ingredient.

Mineral oil has also been proven safe for skin. Claims of it being a carcinogen are just wrong. The mineral oil used in the cosmetic industry is not a carcinogen. It is safe to use and it is not something you should worry about.

Now, mineral oil is derived from petroleum so it is not a sustainable ingredient.  I can understand someone avoiding it for that reason. However, alternatives to mineral oil are not necessarily sustainable either (i’m looking at you Palm oil). So, as far as the environmental impact goes, it’s a bit more complicated than you’ll read on the Internet.

I personally think that mineral oil gets a bad rap because lots of companies benefit from fear marketing. When a company can’t make a product better than their competitors, they try to scare consumers away from those products. This is not true, it misleads consumers and it is leading people to overpay for products that don’t actually work better.

So, feel free to use your mineral oil containing lotions. People who try to steer you away from them are not doing so based on science.

I’d also add that I have no particular affinity for mineral oil. It’s a fine ingredient but if something worked better I’d tell you to go use that. The reality is that there are few if any ingredients better for emolliency than mineral oil.


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