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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.
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.
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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
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!
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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.
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.
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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.
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.?
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.
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
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.
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.
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…
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.
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