Hi, I'm Perry and you're listening to the Beauty Brains.

Hello and welcome to the Beauty Brains, a show where real cosmetic chemists answer your beauty questions and give you an insider's look at the beauty product industry. This is episode 199. I'm your host Perry Romanowski, and joining me today is my co-host, Valerie George!

How’s it going Valerie?

On today’s show we will be answering questions about…

But first, let’s cover some of this week’s beauty industry news!

Beauty Science News

New 1 - Valerie provide overview of bill then we can riff on good and bad parts

Last week, two representatives from NY State introduced a bill to the House of Representatives in Washington DC, called the Natural Cosmetics Act. This act aims to define the terms natural and naturally-derived, which currently have no meaning. Under this bill, cosmetics using the term natural must contain at least 70% natural substances, excluding water. And, this bill would also impact the ingredient suppliers. Suppliers would be required to conduct Carbon-14 testing, which must be submitted to manufacturers. Carbon-14 testing can detect if there are synthetic, petroleum-based molecules in an ingredient.

Additionally, this bill would give the FDA authority to issue a cease distribution order or ask for a voluntary recall for any product deemed misbranded.

I’m excited to see something moving forward about definitions for natural, but I think there are some flaws.

For example, sodium benzoate, a preservative used especially in natural product circles, is technically naturally occuring in nature. However, it is synthetically produced to make it commercially viable. Would this be disqualified in the proposed law, despite the fact it’s nature-identical?

Carbon-14 testing is only one test for naturalness and speaks nothing to natural purity - you can adulerate natural ingredients with other contaminants. There is no single test that can guarantee naturalness. GC-MS, short for Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, is an instrument I like to use for fragrances and essential oils, which contain very small portions of chemicals and needs a sensitive test method. Additionally, chirality testing can be used since technically the compounds are similar, they are just mirror images of each other.

Additionally, there are many international standards of naturalness - International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has a standard for calculation of naturalness. Any raw material supplier I’ve emailed has been able to provide this number or calculation. We should implement the standard as part of our legislation.

What I like about the ISO standard is that it also takes into consideration chemical manufacturing that the ingredient undergoes. Many brands brag about their coconut-based surfactants, but don’t realize how much chemical modification goes.

Where does the 70% number come from? Is this a parallelization of the USDA organic requirements? Can you just call your product natural at 70%, or are you still required to make a percentage claim? I can think of a lot of things that could be in that 30%!


News 2

The purple hair challenge is going viral - https://www.allure.com/story/tiktok-purple-shampoo-challenge

It seems that teenagers are putting an entire bottle of purple shampoo on their hair. I guess in an attempt to either make their hair turn icy blonde or purple.

What should happen?  Explain about purple used in shampoo why, and what to expect.  Then we can do some social commentary on whether this is a good idea.

See one of the Tik Tok videos that explains that “purple shampoo pulls out yellow tones.  You have to use blue shampoo to remove orange tones...you need to use green shampoo to remove red tones. You don’t know because you’re not cosmetologists.”  lol!

Beauty Questions

Question 1

KH says - Hi. Is there any difference in the formulas besides fragrance?

Suave Professional Men Daily Clean Shampoo says "Refreshing Shampoo made specifically for men's hair"  Is this BS? Thanks.

Differences between male and female hair

Differences in formulations

Fragrance, color, packaging

Beyond fragrance, color, and packaging are there any real product differences between male and female cosmetics?


Question 2 (Audio)

Kristin - Is tea tree oil as effective as benzoyl peroxide at removing blemishes? You don’t have to dilute it in a carrier oil as with other essential oils?  How true is this?

Review of the research


What is tea tree oil?  Tea tree oil is an oil that comes from the tea tree in Australia. Also called Melaluca oil because that’s the latin name for the plant. It’s thought to be an antibacterial which is why it has been suggested for use against dandruff, athletes foot and acne.

As far as how well it works, well results will vary.  In a recent review of the literature, there have been 7 studies that looked at how it works on acne and 6 of those were comparing tea tree oil to a standard acne treatment.  Only one of those studies looked at tea tree versus benzoyl peroxide. What this study found was that tea tree oil can have a positive impact on acne. After 3 months of treatment the lesion counts were significantly reduced for both tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide. But benzoyl peroxide performed significantly better than tea tree oil at 1, 2 and 3 months. Skin oiliness differed significantly between groups at 1, 2 and 3 months, with less oiliness experienced in the benzoyl peroxide group. Adverse events such as dryness, stinging and burning were reported significantly more in the benzoyl peroxide group (79% of patients) than in the tea tree oil group (44% of patients).

So, tea tree oil did appear to be effective (in this study) but benzoyl peroxide was still better.

I should add that one of the biggest problems with using tea tree oil is that there is no standardized way to get the ingredient. It can be harvested in a variety of ways so you might get potent tea tree oil or you might get a non-potent version.  This is just a general problem with any “natural’ ingredient. You really never know exactly what you are getting.

If you are having a problem with benzoyl peroxide, you might try tea tree oil. But between the two ingredients, I’d have more faith in BP than an ingredient of unknown quality like tea tree oil.


Question 3

Hello BB,  I am a new subscriber to your podcasts and have been learning so much from binge-listening to past episodes. I wonder if you can look at the information in the following link and comment on some of the claims made. I take supplements sporadically - usually when in winter (we're getting into that season in England now). I have tried collagen supplements in the past but found it made no difference to my skin. I continue to take vitamin c, d and sometimes a multivitamin as an 'insurance policy'.

Am I wasting my money?  Thank you.

Akosua Wilson.

There was a video attached to this post but first off, I would say that the evidence of taking collagen supplements to improve skin is weak. It’s not completely devoid of research (as most of these things are) but the studies that are out there are often not blinded, sponsored by supplement companies, and not very impressive. In 2014, there is a study published in the Clinical Intervention on Aging journal titled “Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen® reduces visible signs of aging”.  They concluded that taking that specific supplement which consists of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and minerals counteracted the signs of aging including reducing skin dryness, wrinkles, and nasolabial fold depth. And it had an increase in skin firmness.

There was a literature review published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology - Eleven studies with a total of 805 patients were included for review. Eight studies used collagen hydrolysate, 2.5g/d to 10g/d, for 8 to 24 weeks, for the treatment of pressure ulcers, xerosis, skin aging, and cellulite. Two studies used collagen tripeptide, 3g/d for 4 to 12 weeks, with notable improvement in skin elasticity and hydration. Lastly, one study using collagen dipeptide suggested anti-aging efficacy is proportionate to collagen dipeptide content. Conclusions and Relevance: Preliminary results are promising for the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging. Oral collagen supplements also increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. Collagen supplementation is generally safe with no reported adverse events. Further studies are needed to elucidate medical use in skin barrier diseases such as atopic dermatitis and to determine optimal dosing regimens. 

 It should be noted that anti aging effect of CH is more obvious on women aged more than 30 years.

Problems with taking collagen supplements is that there is no standardized quality control. Again, you as a consumer can’t know the quality of the product you are taking. Is it an effective version of collagen, is it even collagen? The way supplements are regulated in the US and other places around the world, you just don’t really know.

Another problem with these studies is that it didn’t look at collagen itself. It was always done with other supplements like Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, minerals, etc. So, it’s hard to say whether the collagen is important or it’s something else that is in the supplement.

Finally, another thing about the study is that they don’t have a positive control group and as things go, this is what should be most important to you as a consumer.  What you want to know is whether you should use collagen not whether collagen has some effect. You want to know whether it is better to use a skin lotion daily or whether to spend your money on daily collagen supplements. None of the studies showed this comparison. I suspect it is because they wouldn’t fare very well.

Maybe I’m too cynical about the supplement industry. I don’t see good reasons to take collagen supplements but it isn’t completely without supporting evidence like many other supplements.

She also included a video from a dermatologist to who had lots of advice.  I thought it might be useful to go through the claims he made.

First, he says that Collagen thins as you get older - yes.  This is pretty much true. As you age your skin does change and you lose collagen and elastin.

Then he says - Collagen supplements will increase a thickening of collagen in skin.  Some studies suggest certain collagen supplements showed an improvement in skin over time but as I already suggested, there are some problems with that claim. Anyway, there is no study that says specifically the collagen is increasing the thickness of collagen in skin.

Another claim is that - by taking collagen supplements you will see skin steadily start to improve?  Probably not. Any change in skin will be subtle at best and it’s unlikely you will notice differences in 12 weeks. Who remembers what their skin looked like 12 weeks ago?

He claims - Bone broth will improve your skin because it contains gelatin and collagen. Again, this isn’t really proben

Then he makes some claims about retinol (we already know that can be beneficial to skin) but he says that taking multivitamins will help skin (this isn’t proven) And he advises taking a probiotic and fish oil (neither of which have been proven to have a benefit for skin)

He also frequently says that you should “take one that is high quality” - Consumers have no way of knowing what is “high quality”  That’s what the biggest problem with taking any supplement is. You have no way of knowing whether they even have the stuff in that they say they do.

Now, for your ultimate question...are you wasting your money?  If you’re looking for the collagen supplement to do something you’ll notice, then you probably are wasting your money. But if it is making you feel good, then it might be worth it to you.


Question 4

I recently came across an... interesting product from Farmacy, a brand known for its honey-based salve and mask. The product in question is the Bright On Massage-Activated Vitamin C Mask. In the description, amongst other things, they state the following: “As you massage it into your skin, the vitamin C capsules burst, turning the mask from lavender to green, so you know it's working to bring out your brightest, most perfect skin.” I have personally never heard of Vitamin C changing color in such a manner to indicate efficacy or activation. How/why does this supposedly work, or is it just a gimmick? https://m.sephora.com/product/bright-on-massage-activated-vitamin-c-mask-with-echinacea-greenenvy-P432257?skuId=2046605


Thanks, Chelsea! This is no magic trick - it’s just chemistry! The vitamin C is encapsulated in a micelle of sorts to help stabilize it. Depending on which company’s encapsulation used, there are many release mechanisms for bursting the encapsulation hiding the vitamin C. The rest of the formula has a colorant in it. This colorant’s color is pH sensitive - meaning, at a low pH the product will have one color, and at a high pH, the colorant will display a different color. Two things could be happening - when the vitamin C encapsulate burts, the encapsulate materials cause a pH shift in the formula, and the colorant changes with the shift in pH. Or, when the product is applied to the skin, regardless of the encapsulation, it shifts with the pH of your skin. So while the vitamin C itself, isn’t changing color, the product does because of the colorants. It is a little gimmicky, but it’s pretty fun!


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