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We couldn’t find any medical references that explained exactly how much antiperspirant it takes to really be dangerous. The best we could come up with is this reference from Unilever (makers of Degree) that warns antiperspirants 174 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products are “…really only designed for reducing underarm sweat and they should never be sprayed all over your body as you may overheat if too many sweat glands are blocked.” It seems like a reasonable caution to us but it’s not a very satisfying answer if you’re drenched in sweat. If hyperhydrosis is really a problem for you, we’d suggest checking with your doctor about using prescription strength antiperspirants or even more drastic measures like electrical treatments or Botox injections that can temporarily stun the sweat glands.

3 Reasons Why It’s Ok To Have Toxins in Cosmetics

Lin longs to learn about Ammonium Hydroxide:

I’ve noticed it in several skincare products (like Neostrata AHA gel) and I’m worried because I read on a medical website that Ammonium hydroxide is a toxin and is found in many industrial products and cleaners such as flooring strippers, brick cleaners, and cements. And worst of all they warn you not to get it on your skin or in your eyes. Why is this toxic chemical in cosmetics?

The Right Brain lends a hand:

Thanks, Lin. Consumers should be asking questions like this to find out if their cosmetics are safe. But believe it or not, a lot of cosmetic (and food products!) contain ingredients that can be harmful at high concentrations. It’s actually perfectly safe to use ingredients like this as long as they’re formulated properly. Here are three reasons occasions that it’s ok to have toxic chemicals in cosmetics.

1. Present at low levels The ingredient can be added to the formula at such a low level that it has no negative effect whatsoever. Some preservatives are irritating when applied

–  –  –

2. Used up in a reaction The ingredient can be used up or reacted so it`s not actually present in the finished product in a harmful form. Ammonium hydroxide is a good example of this type: it reacts with acidic materials in the formula and is neutralized to form a safe salt.

3. It’s not abused The ingredient can be dangerous if abused, but is safe if used properly.

For example, a hair relaxer is very dangerous if you swallow it or get it in your eye. But when you use this toxic product properly, there’s usually no problem. (Although some people do find relaxers irritating.) The Beauty Brains bottom line Obviously, we’re being a little tongue-in-cheek here. We’re not saying that ALL toxic ingredients should be treated as safe. We’re just saying that you shouldn’t over react to something you read on website when the information is provided out of context. Ammonium hydroxide is not something you have to worry about in your skin lotion.

–  –  –

176 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products have a bottle with code 26952V and an expiration date of 10/08, return the product immediately.

Herbal Supplement Outrage And then ask yourself why are you giving an unregulated, unnecessary herbal supplement to a child? As we previously discussed, Herbal Supplement Companies Are Not Regulated! And the FDA does not have enough resources to test every supplement product put on the market. You have no way to know whether the product is safe or not. Unlike food manufacturers, there is no law that requires independent testing of the products made and sold by herbal supplement manufacturers. It’s complete nonsense. These supplements can have real health effects and it’s only through shear luck that problems are discovered. Why is it that the FDA had to find the parasite when the company MOM Enterprises, Inc. couldn’t? Clearly something is messed up.

The Nonsense of Natural Products I see that MOM Enterprises also sells a line of personal care products.

Hopefully, they don’t rely on the ‘naturalness’ of their raw materials and they treat them to remove disease causing parasites, bacteria and viruses. These are the kinds of things that preservatives are designed to kill. Yes, preservatives protect us from the evil things found in Natural Products.

It is interesting that Baby’s Bliss has a Diaper Cream they claim to be “100% natural”. Then they show in their list of ingredients…

- Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride

- Cetearyl Olivate (and) Sorbitan Olivate

- Cetyl Alcohol

- Stearic Acid

- Glycine

- Zinc Oxide

- Dimethicone

- Fragrance Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products - 177 Where in nature can you find Dimethicone? I know it’s derived from sand but you have to go through a lot of chemical processing to make Dimethicone.

This product isn’t 100% Natural. It’s processed. And that’s a good thing.

Processed products are safer products!

The Beauty Brains bottom line:

When you don’t process and chemically alter natural things you end up with PARASITES or bacteria or other disease causing microbes. That’s not something you want.

And if you are in the United States and you’re giving herbal supplements to your children, you’re taking a huge risk! The products are unregulated and in this Beauty Brain’s opinion, unsafe for children.

178 - Cosmetic Concerns & Perilous Products Appendix A Beauty Brains Quiz A popular feature of the Beauty Brains blog is our weekly beauty science or BS quiz. We find 3 science stories that are true and make one up. You have to figure out which one is the fake. Good luck.

1. Which of these statements about men and women’s skin is NOT TRUE?

A. Coffee can improve a man’s skin, but not a woman’s.

B. A woman’s skin ages faster than a man’s.

C. A man’s skin is more prone to skin cancer than a woman’s.

D. A man’s skin is 50% thicker than a woman’s E. A woman’s skin is less oily than a man’s.

2. Which one of the skin stories below is the fake one?

A. Drinking tea may protect your skin B. Smearing black raspberries on your skin may protect it C. Oil used to cook French Fries may repair damaged skin D. Playing a musical instrument may be good for your skin

3. Which one of the hair stories below is the fake one?

A. Hair can expose eating disorders B. Tea drinking can speed hair growth C. Oil spills can be cleaned with hair D. Lizards use hair to stick to surfaces

4. Which one of the skin stories below is fake?

A. Your skin color may be influenced by what your grandmother ate B. Melanin can make you more susceptible to skin cancer C. Regular running makes you more prone to skin cancer.

D. High stress can increase acne severity

5. Which one of the following beauty devices are not really for sale?

A. Wand that shoots oxygen into your skin to smooth and tone B. Hand held laser that makes your hair grow C. Electronic headband that relaxes muscles to remove wrinkles D. Ceramic unipolar magnet that controls acne

6. Which one of the beauty research studies below is made up?

A. Rich people are more prone to skin cancer.

B. Prolonged use of muscle pain cream can kill you.

C. You can become addicted to tanning.

D. Your skin is home to over 182 species of mites.

7. Which one of the beauty stories below is fake?

A. Nanotechnology was used for hair dyes 2000 years ago B. Women dress better when they’re less fertile C. Hypnosis can help cure skin disorders D. Bull semen is used to increase hair shine

8. Which one of the following stories about the beauty industry are fake?

A. People with facial acne are more likely to get back acne B. PETA kills thousands of animals each year C. Strippers taking birth control pills earn less money D. Temporary black henna dyes can cause permanent scarring

9. Which one of the following stories about the beauty industry are fake?

A. Some people hear colors and see sounds.

B. Men prefer reddish colors more than women.

C. Excessive vitamin use can lead to heart disease.

D. Flesh-eating fish are used to exfolliate skin.

10. What odor has been scientifically proven to turn men on the most?

A. Buttered Popcorn B. Black Licorice and Cola C. Pumpkin Pie and Lavender D. Orange


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Appendix B Useful Resources It is our hope that reading the Beauty Brains will make everyone a smarter consumer who makes informed decisions when purchasing beauty products.

While you can learn something new every day on the Beauty Brains blog, there are a number of other great resources for finding more beauty product information and advice.

Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org/cro/health-fittness/beauty-personal-care) This is the online version of the magazine. It features information about a variety of beauty and personal care products including reserached reports on sunscreens, wrinkle creams, anti-aging products and more. They have good information and get many things right.

The Cosmetics Cop (www.cosmeticscop.com) Paula Begoun started her career as make-up artist, moved to television as a beauty reporter and finally became the Cosmetics Cop authoring several best selling books about the beauty industry such as Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me and The Beauty Bible. Her website and books feature reviews of thousands of cosmetics and personal care products.

She does an excellent job of reviewing both the products and some of the science behind them.

Quack Watch (http://quackwatch.com) While this site is dedicated to primarily health related topics, it provides an excellent foundation for critical thinking and evaluation of the claims, demos and bunk used to sell cosmetics and beauty products. You can find a number of articles about how to protect yourself from quackery you’ll see all around you.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-toc.html) Contrary to what some sources claim, the FDA does provide regulatory guidelines for the cosmetic industry. At this website you can find information about a number of cosmetic issues such as ingredient and product descriptions, labeling requirements, recall information and even a quiz to test how smart you are about cosmetics.

Personal Care Products Council - Cosmetics Info (www.cosmeticsinfo.org) This website is run by the cosmetic industry oversite council who is responsible for ensuring that cosmetics in the U.S. comply with accepted standards. They provide good scientific information, but it is not completely unbiased since it’s run by cosmetic manufacturers.

American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org) This site provides a wealth of free information regarding nearly every type of skin condition known. You can find advice for how to deal with acne, eczema, psoriasis and other common skin problems. It also gives great information for finding a dermatologist in your area.

Society of Cosmetic Chemists (www.scconline.org/website/news/ask_the_expert.shtml) If you want to know more about cosmetics and you’re not getting a response quick enough from the Beauty Brains (we get swamped with questions) try the SCC’s Ask the Expert page. Simply fill out their form and send in your question. It will be answered by a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. Of course, it won’t be as clever as the Beauty Brains’ response, but you’ll get good information.

The Demon-Haunted World - Science as a Candel in the Dark


Sagan is a wonderful writer and this book is one of his best works. In it he explains how science can be used to understand the world better. Of particular interest to skeptical beauty afficionados is Chapter 12 in which he provides a “balony detection kit” for determining if something is science or fiction.

Appendix C Ingredient Lists Perhaps the most important skill you can have when evaluating cosmetics is reading the ingredient list. In the cosmetic business it’s called an LOI or List of Ingredients. Here is how you read them, what they mean, and where you can find more information.

In the United States, cosmetic manufacturers are compelled by the governing industry trade organization known as the Personal Care Products Council (formerly the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association) to include a list of ingredients on their labels. They maintain a book known as the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook which the names of nearly all the ingredients used in cosmetic products worldwide. It’s quite a tome that makes groovy bedtime reading.

Why have the labels?

The labels are required because the industry wants consumers to know exactly what chemicals they are putting on their bodies. This will allow you to make choices as to what chemicals you want to be exposed to.

Of course, that assumes you know what any of the chemicals are, which for most consumers is not the case. Fortunately, with the internet you can simply look up chemical names using a search engine to get more information about the compounds. Be careful however, there are plenty of sites loaded with misinformation about perfectly safe chemicals. Compounds like propylene glycol, mineral oil, and sodium lauryl sulfate have been slandered by biased sources all over the internet. Read all things on the internet with a skeptical eye. We reject gurus and encourage everyone to become their own experts.

What does the label mean?

When properly written, the labels can provide you with a lot of useful information. In the United States, any chemical above 1% by weight in the formula is required to be listed in order of concentration. Below 1% the order can be anything they like. Typically, preservatives, fragrances, and colors are listed at the end. Let’s look at an example of a skin moisturizer.

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