Episode 191

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

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Welcome to the Beauty Brains, a show where real scientists answer your beauty questions and give you a different spin on the beauty product industry. This is episode 191. I'm your host Valerie George and with me today is my co-host, Perry Romanowski!

On today's episode we’re going to discuss

Plus we’ll cover a couple of stories we found interesting in the world of the beauty industry.

But first, Perry, hi! Guess where I was while you were in New Zealand?




Rhode Island has complimentary sunscreen stations installed on state beaches and in state parks.

I can’t believe we missed this! A Rhode Island governor, US senator, Rhode Island Department of Health, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, South County Dermatology and Raw Elements Sunscreen partnered up in May to post complimentary sunscreen stations all over Rhode Island. The Governor’s hope is that, “Offering complimentary sunscreen stations at our public recreation facilities is an important way… help people of all ages protect themselves against skin cancer this summer. Not only are visitors to the parks protected, but so are the workers.

Sun safety is not a recent phenomenon to Rhode Island; Senator Reed wrote the 2014 Sunscreen Innovation Act. The state and local authorities have tried to promote sun-safety behaviors for over 10 years. The PTRCinRI and South County Dermatology also provide complimentary skin cancer screenings at the state’s beaches and parks. Summer’s not over yet - still time to take advantage of the free screenings - and free sunscreen - in teh final dog days of summer.

The International Top 30 Household and Personal Products Companies


One of my favorite yearly articles came out from Happi magazine. That’s the article that lists who are the biggest cosmetic companies in the world. I like to see how the cosmetic industry is doing as a whole and it also gives me a chance to step back and see the big picture about the industry. There is so much that you read about cosmetic products on the Internet and claims and the things that people say are important. But seeing what brands are really being successful gives you a much better idea of what most consumers care about than any press release, blog post, YouTube video or beauty magazine article.

What people find most surprising is just how many brands are owned by big companies. Lots of brands do a great job of obscuring who actually owns them.  For example, Burt's Bees cultivates a natural image of a small company created by this guy Burt, but really they are part of the giant company Clorox.

It’s kinda hard to keep up with these things but I thought of a little game we could play Valerie.  This game is called “Who Owns That”?  I’ve got a list of 7 popular beauty brands and see if you can guess what large company owns them.  This is the International edition so these companies are all based outside the United States.

(here we’ll go through some brands and you guess who owns what - we’ll see how it goes)

Alright, there you have it, Who Owns This.  It’s actually helpful for you to know what big company owns which brands because often they use the same raw materials and sources for their formulas, and sometimes they even use the same formulas changing only the feature ingredients and fragrance.  In this way, if you find a brand that you like and it’s too expensive, you may be able to find the same formula in a different brands from the same company for less money.  L’Oreal owns a lot of brands and they often use the same technology / formulas across the different lines.


I didn’t think we would have to do another of these so soon but here is another big product recall. https://www.neutrogena.com/light-therapy-statement.html

Correction:  Perry has a correction...

Beauty Questions

Question 1 (Audio Question)

Gillian - What’s the deal with squalane oil? What’s the difference between squalane oil and squalene oil, and how do they compare to other oils like rosehip oil? She’s seen claims that squalane is considered the best oil for all skin types? Is that really true? It is more shelf-stable and less likely to go rancid because it is a saturated oil versus rosehip oil being polyunsaturated. Excellent hydrator, anti-oxidant, oil controller and anti-bacterial that also sinks into skin better than other oils. What can a $38 oil (Peter Thomas Roth) do that a $8 cannot (Ordinary)?

Squalane is popping up everywhere these days in various facial oils, moisturizers and serums. People swear by it for all the reasons Jillian stated - it’s an excellent hydrator and does not feel greasy when applied to the skin. I have not seen any studies that caution one skin type over another from using squalane. Squalane is not naturally occuring, and actually is derived from hydrogenation of squalene. Squalene is a precursor in metabolic pathways to various cholesterol steroids in the human body, and can be found in tiny amounts in our sebum, but it’s also found in plants and other animals. Squalene is infamous for coming from shark liver oil; however it’s now readily available from differing plants, like olives, and through bioengineering, where sugar is used to produce it. In certain geographies, squalene can still be obtained from shark liver oil, but in the majority of the world, this practice is frowned upon and it typically comes from plants or biotechnology. Olives aren’t actually harvested for squalene; squalene is actually a waste product from the refinement of olive oil. Once olive oil is refined for consumption in other industries, the waste is used for non-olive oil purposes. Olive oil refinement waste can contain around 30% squalene. Squalene is not very stable, so it is hydrogenated into squalane.

In biotechnology, yeast are transfected with a gene. The yeast are fed sugarcane as they undergo fermentation. Instead of alcohol, the yeast produce farnesene. The farnesene is converted to squalene, which is then hydrogenated to squalane. The end result is a very pure material that is sustainably produced.

Squalane, whether it’s produced from olives or yeast, is extremely stable and is not readily prone to oxidation. However, other oils, like the aforementioned rose hip oil, have constituents that readily undergo oxidation, rendering them unstable. Squalane is not composed of triglycerides, like vegetable oils, and rosehip oil is famous for its omega-3s, which oxidize very easily. Oils typically are tested for stability by an Oxidative Stability Index test, where they are exposed to heat with air passing over them to a certain oxidation point, where the hours to reach this point are recorded. RHO has an OSI of just over 5 hours, which means it’s not very stable.

And whether or not Peter Thomas Roth is worth the $38 price over The Ordinary’s $8; that’s up to you which brand you choose to support. 


Question 2

Ceyda asks - Does a product's, say moisturizer or serum, number of ingredients matter for its effectiveness?

The number of ingredients is not really an indication of the effectiveness of a product.

Ingredients are put in formulas for three main reasons  1)Functional ingredients that provide the main benefits, 2)Aesthetic modifiers & stabilizers which make the formula look, feel, and smell good. They also help keep the product stable & microbe free.  3) Claims ingredients - these are just put in to help create the marketing story.

The ingredients that get talked about the most are the “claims ingredients”...talk about these.

Bottom line: No - don’t pick products because they have a long ingredient list. Most of those ingredients are put in to build the marketing story. The main functional ingredients are usually found in the first 5 or 6 ingredients. After that it is aesthetic modifiers and marketing fluff.


Question 3

Ana from Instagram says, “I am enjoying your podcast and have heard you talking about the efficacy of different nail polishes, but am concerned about the safety of gel nail polish and SNS - which some people call ‘dip’ nail polish. I am concerned about what it will do to my nails with continuous use. Do nails need to ‘breathe?’ I appreciate any feedback.”

First and foremost, the biggest myth about nails is that they need to breathe. Nails do not breathe! Any nutrients the nails need come from the blood supply to the nail bed. Applying topical products and nutrients does not feed your nail, and nothing in the air helps make your nails stronger. Those nail polishes promising strength through vitamins? Throw ‘em away!

Let’s talk about the safety of the nail bed. People do perceive gel nail polish and SNS polish to be highly damaging to nails - and they can be if they’re improperly removed. Often times the nail technicians rush through the removal process or use aggressive, physical means of removing the product. This can make the nails pit and flake, leading to further damage or weakened nail plates. With proper nail bed preparation and gentle removal, your nail beds will be left with minimal to no damage.

What about sharing nail products? Aside from the fact that nail products should only be applied to healthy nail beds, microorganisms can’t live in the blend of solvents used in gel nail polishes. However, “dip powders” do not have any solvents and Doug Schoon has advised that it is high-risk to dip multiple client’s fingers into the same powder as many clients do not sanitize their hands before the nail procedure.

Nail products are regulated by the FDA for safety, as cosmetics are, so the FDA does provide some basic guidelines for safety of nail product ingredients on their website.


Question 4 (Audio Question)

Rebecca - Anti-dandruff shampoos - how do anti-dandruff shampoos work? do you have to use them multiple times a week in order for them to be effective?

Thanks for the question. This is probably one that many in the Beauty Brains community are wondering about because about 20% of people suffer from dandruff at some point.

I’ve never really had a problem with this as I can recall, how about you?  Acne…

Dandruff is a scalp condition that results in flakes of skin that get in your hair and on your clothes and can be embarrassing for some people. It can also cause your head to itch a bit. Fortunately, for most people, it’s readily treatable.

It can have a number of causes such as excessively oily skin (seborrheic dermatitis) or not washing your hair often enough. It’s also thought by some to be caused by a fungus (Pityrosporum Ovale) which lives on most people’s head, but only causes dandruff in some people. Dry skin and having a skin reaction to ingredients in hair care products can also result in dandruff.  

Interestingly, dandruff is related to your age. Before puberty it is rarely seen, it’s common during puberty, peaks for people in their early twenties and declines in middle to old age. I guess that’s why I don’t worry about it much.

The different causes is why there are different types of anti-dandruff shampoos and actives.

Two types of anti-dandruff actives are anti-fungals. These include Zinc Pyrithione - which is found in Head and Shoulders, and Ketoconazole which is found in the brand Nizoral.  Coal tar is another active to fight dandruff and that’s found in Neutrogena’s T/Gel shampoo. And there is also Selenium Sulfide which is found in Selsun Blue.  Finally, there are antidandruff shampoos that use Salicylic acid which essentially exfoliates the flakes off your head.  This is the active found in the Neutrogena T/Sal product.

These are the only active ingredients that have been proven to be effective. There are some home remedies such as tea tree oil, coconut oil, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, but these things haven’t been proven to be effective. If you want to really get rid of your dandruff, stick to the stuff that has been scientifically proven to work.

Incidentally, I also saw the advice to use crushed up aspirin to control dandruff because it contains salicylic acid…Aspirin is not salicylic acid. It is acetylsalicylic acid. These are not the same molecule and acetylsalicylic acid has not been proven to work the same way as salicylic acid.

So on to the question of how often should you use the anti dandruff products.

The standard advice is to use an anti-dandruff shampoo every day until your problem is gone. Then you can use it once a week or so, just to ensure that the condition doesn’t come back.

But you have to experiment with what works for you because different active ingredients work better for different people.

The good news is that a number of the antidandruff shampoos also use pretty good standard shampoo technology. For example, if you look at the ingredient list, Head and Shoulders is essentially the Pantene formula with an anti-dandruff active. Hope that helps.

Next time on The Beauty Brains

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