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5. Physical separation If the product has separated into two layers it’s gone bad. You can’t always fix it by just remixing it. This is particularly true of cosmetics that have active ingredients like sunscreens and dandruff shampoos. Once the active drug ingredient has separated from the rest of the formula, it may not work properly anymore.
Do cosmetics have expiration dates?
In the United States cosmetic products are not required to have expiration dates. That’s not really a bad thing because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to really predict to the exact shelf life of any giving cosmetic products.
(European products must be stamped with a Period After Opening date – we’ll tell you about that another time.) The shelf life of any given product depends at least in part on how it’s stored. Products can be stable for several years if they’re kept away from light and heat, the two biggest enemies of cosmetics. But that same product can start to show fragrance degradation and color shift in a few weeks if exposed to sunlight and/or high temperatures.
The exceptions are over the counter drugs like dandruff shampoos, antiperspirants, fluoride toothpastes and acne products. The activity of drug ingredients in these products can be measured over time to estimate an expiration date. But it really doesn’t work that way for non-drug products.
But for the vast majority of cosmetic products it’s a guessing game.
Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products - 167 What about the secret code?
The bottom line is there’s no way to tell just from looking at the package if the product is still good or not. But if you’re really desperate there IS one thing you might try: look for the “secret” code that is the manufacturer’s lot number. If you’re shopping on Ebay and you see a product that you like, you can email them and ask if they can tell you the lot number off of the package.
Then you could contact the maker of the product and ask them to tell you when it was made. That doesn’t guarantee the product is good, but at least you can get an idea of it’s age before you spend a lot of money on it.
Is Radiation From Cell Phonesand Computers Bad For Your Skin
Bluz Cluz Smells A Bogus Claim:
Someone posted about this Clarins product which supposedly protects your skin from electromagnetic effects from cellphones and computers. Is this something that we should be concerned about? Seems like it’s dressed-up toner. Would love your insight.
The Left Brain Laments Bad Science:
It’s so refreshing to hear a little skepticism. This has got to be one of the most ridiculous new products I’ve heard about in a long time.
You are correct, this does appear to be a typical toner. While I couldn’t find a complete ingredient list, I was amused to read about their “Magnetic Defense Complex with Thermus Chermophilus and Rhodiola Rosea, two powerful plant extracts which reinforce the skin’s natural barrier and provide biological protection against electromagnetic waves.” Puh-lease! This can’t possibly work. To block electromagnetic fields you would need some kind of metal or insulator. This is just ridiculous.
168 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products The Beauty Brains bottom line Even if these ingredients DID absorb EM radiation, you’d have to smear them ALL over your body before they would protect you. And finally, even if these ingredients DID work and even if you DID apply the product all over your body, there is absolutely no demonstrated negative effect on skin due to the electromagnetic fields created by cellphones or computers. So, we say save your money and don’t sweat the “scary” electromagnetic fields.
Is Foreskin Good For Your Face?
There is a product called TNS Recovery Complex by Skin Medica that is made from (how can I say this tastefully?) a discarded piece of skin that some parents opt to have removed from their newborn baby boys before they leave the hospital. My dermatologist recommends and sells it. It has also been talked about enthusiastically on Oprah. Does this product really live up to the hype as an anti-aging, antiwrinkle cream? It is VERY expensive!
The Left Brain replies:
According to the Skin Medica website, TNS contains an ingredient called NouriCel-MD which is their tradename for a combination of Natural Growth Factors, matrix proteins, and soluble collagen. You’ve seen proteins and collagen before but you may not know that Natural Growth Factors are a new category of compounds that act as chemical messengers to turn on and off a variety of cellular activities.
Do Natural Growth Factors work?
Theoretically, these compounds could have anti-aging properties when used in cosmetics. However, although products like TNS do contain growth factors, it looks like this technology is still in the experimental stages.
According to Dr. Farris of the American Academy of Dermatologists “A multi-center double-blinded clinical study is currently underway to assess Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products - 169 the anti-aging effects of human growth factors, and I expect that we’ll be hearing a lot about their potential in medical applications in the coming years.” Until we see study results to the contrary, we assume this product is more marketing hype than scientific breakthrough.
Show me the foreskin But where did the notion that TNS contains foreskin come from? As the AAD article points out, growth factors can be extracted from plants, cultured epidermal cells, placental cells, and human foreskins. Ah ha! Since growth factors CAN be derived from foreskin (as well as other sources) and since Skin Medica uses growth factors in their TNS product, you can see how someone could jump to the conclusion that TNS contains actual human foreskin.
In fact, according to Skin Medica, their Nouricel-MD ingredient was developed by a San Diego-based biotechnology company that patented a process for growing cell banks. So, until Skin Medica announces that their secret ingredient is really based on infant penile sheaths, our guess is that this is just another internet rumor. (Note to Skin Medica, we’ve already written your next ad slogan: Foreskin - For Skin!) Update on 4/21/07: We did find a reference to an Oprah show where it was announced that this product contains an ingredient “engineered” from human foreskin cells. We’re looking into this to find out exactly what that means.
Stay tuned… Update on 4/22/07: Dr. Rob Oliver, a Friend of the Brains and author of the Plastic Surgery 101 blog, says it’s possible that TNS contains an ingredient that is DERIVED from foreskin cells. That doesn’t mean that Skin Medica is chopping up foreskins and putting them in their product. You can read his remarks in the comment section on the blog. Thanks Dr. Rob!
170 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products 4 Ways To Tell If Your Cosmetic Has Expired
Gilda’s guilty of using old product:
I have a Matrix Sleek Look shampoo and conditioner I bought 3 years ago, Can I use it? Is it effective?
The Right Brain reassures her:
Three years for a shampoo or conditioner is not out of the question, so your Matrix might be fine. But what about cosmetic products in general? if you’re really worried that your product being past it’s peak, ask yourself the following questions. If the answer to any of these is YES, then you might want to splurge on a replacement.
1. Does it fail the See and Sniff test?
Most cosmetics are designed to last a couple of years. A shampoo or conditioner like Matrix will probably still be fine. But before you use an old product, squeeze a little bit out and look at it and sniff it. Does it still smell okay? Maybe the fragrance just faded a bit. But if any of the ingredients have gone rancid or if there’s microbial growth, you’ll smell an off odor. Also look for junk growing in the product like mold or fungus. If you see or smell anything funky, don’t use it! Likewise, if the product changed consistency and has become way too thick or way too thin, that’s a signal that something changed. And not for the better!
2. Is it past the expiration date?
Ok, this one’s tricky because most products don’t HAVE an expiration date.
Over The Counter Drug products do, but most regular cosmetics won’t.
If you don’t see an expiration date but you do see another string of numeric or alphanumeric code on the bottle, it’s probably the lot code. The lot code tells the company when (and even where) the product was made. It’s meant to help the company track the product so if you call them, they can tell you when the product was made and they should be able to recommend how long you can keep it before it expires.
Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products - 171 By the way, in Europe, a new law requires a PAO (Period After Opening symbol) on the package. It looks like a little jar with a number on it and it tells you how many months the product is good for after you first start using it. You’ll also see this symbol on some US products.
3. Was it stored improperly?
Some products are sensitive to heat, cold, and light. For example, we recently wrote about Babor’s Intelli-zyme product that contains enzymes. Enzymes are notoriously unstable at high temperatures. Products like this can easily go bad from heat exposure. On the other hand, emulsion products, like skin lotions, can crystallize, thicken, or turn to mush if they’re frozen. There`s no way to know what happened to a product BEFORE you bought it, but you can take care to store it properly once you get it home. Don’t leave products in the trunk of your car on a hot day or a cold day.
Then of course there’s the condition of the package. Was it stored in a tightly sealed opaque bottle? Then there’s less chance that light or air could have caused any problems. But if the lid is loose and it’s in a clear glass bottle that sat in the window for 3 months, forget it!
4. Does it contain any “special” ingredients that are fragile?
If it’s a regular product, like the Matrix example mentioned above, you probably don’t have much to work about. But some active ingredients are a bit finicky, and those products can expire much sooner. Products like Babor’s Intelli-zyme and even sunscreens are much more delicate. Click here if you want to read our previous post about how to tell if your sunscreen’s gone bad.
172 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products Myths About Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Janessa, Sally, and several others in The Beauty Brains community have asked about the health risks associated with using antiperspirants. While we share your concerns, it turns out that most of those rumors are just that: rumors. How do we know that? Because we trust the research done by the experts in the medical field. So, fresh from the American Cancer
Society’s website, we present the true story:
The Top 5 Myths About Antiperspirants
1. Antiperspirants increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.
2. Applying antiperspirant after shaving allows chemicals to enter the body from the armpit area and increase breast cancer risk.
3. Parabens in antiperspirants cause disease.
4. Antiperspirants keep a person from sweating cancer-causing toxins out through their underarm lymph nodes, resulting in accumulation of these toxins in breast tissue.
5. Men are less likely to get breast cancer because antiperspirant gets caught in the underarm hair and is not absorbed by their skin.
Click through to the ACS site for the full explanation on why these myths are false. And don’t believe everything you read on the internet unless the information can be traced to a credible source. That’s one of the basic beliefs of The Beauty Brains.
Will Covering Your Body With Antiperspirant Suffocate You?
Jessica is perspicacious about perspiration:
Is there any danger in applying antiperspirant on large areas of the body?
For example, on the under arms, back, hairline etc.?
The Right Brain responds with dry wit:
Jess, sounds like you might have a case of hyperhydrosis, a condition that causes your sweat glands to kick into overdrive. So before we talk about antiperspirants, let’s explain the source of sweat.
Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products - 173 Where does sweat come from?
There two types of sweat glands on your body: eccrine glands and apocrine.
Eccrine glands are found all over your body but most concentrated on the palms of hands, soles of feet, and the forehead. These glands produce sweat that is water and some salts and they are important in regulating body temperature. Sweat from eccrine glands doesn’t cause body odor.
Apocrine glands are not as widespread. They are always associated with hair follicles so they show up wherever there is body hair, like in your arm pits and…uh…other areas. Apocrine glands produce a milky sweat that contains fatty materials. Bacteria that feed on these fatty materials create the unique smell of sweat.
How do antiperspirants stop sweating?
The active ingredient in antiperspirants are aluminum salts. Aluminum ions from these salts are absorbed by the cells that line the eccrine gland ducts.
When water mixes with the salt, the cells swell up and form a plug that closes the gland so more sweat can’t get out. A typical antiperspirant can decrease your sweat by at least 20 percent. Extra strength products, available by prescription, are even more effective. (Want to learn more? Read our post on how to avoid antiperspirant irritation.) Can you use antiperspirant all over your body?
This question reminds us of the story of the actress in the James Bond film Goldfinger who supposedly died from asphyxiation after being covered with gold paint. Fortunately, this story turns out to be an urban myth – your body doesn’t “breath” through your skin so you can’t really suffocate. However, eccrine glands do help control body temperature and if you blocked all your sweat glands, your body would be in danger of over heating.