Heat & Hair


We all know that applying heat to the hair whether straightening, curling, or blow drying is damaging. But why? What exactly does the heat do to the hair strands and why is it bad? Before answering these questions, let’s first talk about what hair is made of.

Hair is made up of keratin which is a protein with long chains of sulfur-containing amino acids. Because of the sulfur atoms, hair is difficult to break. The sulfur atoms from adjacent strands of keratin bond together forming disulfide bonds, which are typically strong bonds giving hair its durable nature and fixed position.


However, this fixed position can be broken with the help of heat. The thermal energy targets these  disulfide bonds and breaks them. When broken, the chains of keratin assume the desired position (straight, curly, etc.) and when the hair cools, the disulfide bonds reform leaving the hair in a new fixed position. This process is damaging to the hair shaft because of the high heat that is applied to it making it more brittle.


When moisture contacts the hair, the water creates hydrogen bonds with the keratin which reshapes the stands to its original form. Of course, there are more permanent methods to alter your hair but that will be discussed in a later post. Stay tuned!





Tell me about Lip Plumpers


Plump lips are a trend that is definitely on the rise. Women use a variety of techniques to achieve that Angelina Jolie-esque look whether it be a generous use of lip liner or lip plumping formulas. However, these formulas target different means to result in the desired full lip. But how much do we know about these products? Are they safe? And how do they work? In this post we will break down the different types of lip plumper products on the market.

Because the skin of lips is sensitive, some lip plumpers work by lightly irritating it. Ingredients such as cinnamon, caffeine, and wintergreen are common in swelling the lips. These products are accompanied with soothing agents to counter the stinging sensation of the lip plumping ingredient. Using these products are deemed safe as long as they are used occasionally. Overusing the products can cause lips to peel or ulcers to develop.


The more permanent plumpers use palmitoyl oligopeptides which signal the lips to produce more collagen and elastin fibers. Facial wrinkles are due to the collagen and elastin fibers breaking down which negatively effects the firmness of the skin. This also happens in your lips which is why revamping the collagen and elastin fibers result in plumper lips. Temporary lip fillers and injections insert collagen and fat into the lips for this reason.

For a mild approach, one may opt for products that use the vasodilation effect. These plumpers widen the blood vessels by relaxing and expanding the vessel walls. Essentially, this increases the blood circulation in the lips making them appear thicker.

The idea of stimulating your lips with spices or inducing the production of collagen seems really harmful. However, cosmetic chemist, Nick Morante, argues that “There are many other things that people use on or around their lips that can cause much more irritation and discomfort,” explains Morante, “even eating and drinking! The levels of the ingredients in question are low and considered safe when used at these concentrations.” So achieving those plump full lips is actually really easy and surprisingly safe!





The Main 8 || Thickeners

beauty cream

To attain an appealing and useful consistency, thickeners are added to many products. Here are the four types of thickeners and a brief overview of how each of them work:

1. Lipid thickener -These substances work by incorporating their natural thickness to the formula. Some examples include cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, and carnauba wax.

2. Naturally derived thickener- These substances, as one may gather from the name, come from nature. They absorb water, swell and thus make the solution more viscous. Some examples include Locust Bean Gum, Xanthan Gum, Gelati, and Guar Gum. Below is a lewis structure of guar gum. As you can see, the molecule is super polar and loves to interact with water allowing the guar gum to absorb the water.guar_gum


3. Mineral thickener- These thickeners are very similar to the naturally derived thickener in that they are both natural and react with water similarly. The substances absorb water and swell. However, the resulting solution has a different texture than one that would be derived by the gum substances. Some examples include Silica, Bentonite, and Magnesium Aluminum Silicate.

4. Synthetic thickener- These are the most commonly used thickeners in lotions and creams. Carbomer, seen below, swells when introduced to water and its unique shape gives the solution a nice smooth texture unlike other thickeners that have a sticky finish.300px-all-carbo-benzene


Tell me about Teeth Whitening


In basic terms, teeth whitening is the process of bleaching your teeth. The main bleaching agent is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Hydrogen peroxide, having a reduction potential of 1.78V makes it a really good oxidizing agent. This molecule is absorbed into your teeth where it encounters organic composites such as hydroxl and superoxide radicals, which is the source of the discoloration. Therefore, when the hydrogen peroxide enters the tooth enamel, it oxidizes these molecules, meaning the molecules lose electrons and the hydrogen peroxide is reduced.Essentially, the H2O2 breaks down these molecules resulting in smaller organic composites that are lighter in color.


Take me back to 4000 BCE Egypt


Want to know how and why ancient Egyptian women achieved those feline shaped eyes? Then keep reading!

Culture behind cosmetics:

Both men and women wore eye makeup and other cosmetic products such as oils to prevent the skin from burning in the sun. Men and women of higher economic status wore more clothes and makeup. The ancient egyptians darkened their eye lashes, eyelids, and eyebrows and used the colors black and green to make their features distinct. Powders were used as makeup by ground up minerals and rocks in palettes. Then, they mixed this with water to form a paste.

Ancient Egyptians used makeup not only for beautification purposes. They also used it for medicinal reasons. They prescribed the use of kohl to combat eye diseases and to shield the eyes from the sun. Egyptian mothers would apply eye makeup to infants to strengthen the child’s eyes and prevent his/her eyes from becoming cursed. Also, the green eye makeup was used to replicate the eye of Horus, the God of the Sky and Sun.


Udju was made from green malachite, green ore of copper. This material was found in the mines of Sinai which was considered to be ruled by the Hathor, the ancient goddess of beauty. However the beautiful green pigment that it produced is harmful. “The exposure would eventually lead to irritability, insomnia and mental decrease,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist in Omaha, Neb. The skin can absorb the materials quite easily and lead to levels of copper in your body.


Kohl was made of soot and minerals. It was found around Aswan on the Red Sea Coast. This substance can be dangerous due to the high levels of lead. However, its dark opaque pigment was what gave ancient Egyptians their signature makeup look.







The Main 8 || Emollients



Emollients are a moisturizing agent that soften the skin. They lock in the moisture of the skin by filling in the gaps between skin cells.


The emollient cream improves the appearance of dry patches. Using fats and lipids, a protective barrier on the skin’s outermost layer, which is most prone to dryness and flaking, is formed and traps the moisture in the skin. Some emollients use fatty acids that have a charged and uncharged end which is helpful in locking in the moisture since it creates a protective oily layer while keeping the water deep in the skin.

Examples of emollients are petrolatum (petroleum jelly), mineral oil, glycerine, zinc oxide, butyl stearate and diglycol laurate.


However, many doctors and scientists have expressed concerns regarding the use of mineral oil claiming it may be contaminated with toxins. In a 2011 study, researchers stated “there is strong evidence that mineral oil hydrocarbons are the greatest contaminant of the human body”. Also, mineral oil is said to clog pores because of its heavy characteristics. Bacteria that is trapped under the emollient may get into your pores and cause acne. Lastly, mineral oil does not really do anything beneficial to the skin. It does not provide nutrients or moisturize but rather sits on your skin to seal the moisture form seeping out.

Keep this in mind when purchasing moisturizers!



Tell Me About Toners


Toners are one of the most under-appreciated and misunderstood beauty products so, let me clear up the confusion and enlighten you about these magnificent products!

Your skin has an acid mantle which is a thin film on the surface of the skin that is made up of water, various acids, sebum, and amino acids all of which prevent the environmental pollution and bacteria from entering the pores. The acid mantle has a pH of 5.5 which is ideal for enzyme function but also prevent pathogenic bacteria from thriving since they prefer alkaline (pH>7) environments. However, several factors such as diet, products, and exercise habits may leave the acid mantle unbalanced.

After the skin has been cleansed, the skin is usually alkaline since the soap may be too harsh. The high concentration of hydronium ions decreases as the hydroxides neutralize them. Below we see a soap molecule. The hydrophobic group binds to the oil particle and the hydrophilic group binds to the water molecules allowing for this compound to slide right off the skin. In the hydrophilic group, the O- can take a H+, illustrating how the soap molecule acts as a base (proton acceptor). Strong soaps can strip the skin of too much oil and acid leaving the skin dry and basic.


Toners restore and balance the pH after the skin is cleansed. A common ingredient in toners is ceramide which is a lipid. It contains a fatty acid tail which allows for the decrease in pH. Toners also have several amazing ingredients that hydrates, calms and smoothes the skin but they differ from product to product. Therefore, the idea of toners may seem daunting in that there are a variety of products that may affect oily, dry and combination skin differently.

What happens if I do not use a toner? Your skin will automatically secrete oil and other necessary substances to rebalance the pH and restore the acid mantle within a few hours. So, toners are not a necessary step that you must add to the routine but there are several advantages in investing in one. It can remove the excess oil and dead skin cells that the cleanser may have missed and help other products that you use subsequently to penetrate the skin more rapidly since toners also reduce the surface tension of the mantle. Now, you can decide if it is in your best interest to use one!


The Main 8 || Preservatives


Preservatives are a necessary ingredient because it prevents the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. Therefore, preservatives are used for the safety of the user as well as to increase the shelf life of the product. Some examples of preservatives are parabens, benzyl alcohol, salicylic acid, formalidehyde and tetra sodium EDTA (ethylenediaminetetra-acetic acid).

Preservatives work by disrupting the cell walls of microbes (lysing the membrane kills the microbe since the intracellular fluid seeps out). However, the way they do this differs between the preservative used. For example, natural preservatives like honey and sugar bind to water molecules. This makes the water inaccessible to microbes, which need it to grow and multiply.


Another way preservatives prevent the growth of microbes is by controlling the pH. Microbes’ ideal pH is between 5-7.5. Therefore, adding salicylic acid to a mixture keeps the pH below acidic making microbes unable to exist.

Parabens, the most common preservative, work at a broad spectrum of pHs and against several microorganisms. The function of these molecules are not well understood but scientists believe that these molecules easily permeate the cell membrane of microbes and are able to disrupt the lipid bilayer and ultimately kills the cells by leaking its contents.

A cosmetic product that is labeled preservative-free or paraben-free may be seen as more attractive since it is debated whether or not these preservative material have a negative health effect. However, you must keep in mind that these products may develop microbes quicker and thus keep an eye out for signs that bacteria is forming. If you see black/green dots in the formula (bacteria and fungi colonies) or if the product smells different than its initial scent, dispose of the product since it is most likely microbe-infected.





The Main 8 || Emulsifiers


Emulsifiers are materials that keep two substances that would naturally separate bound together. A common emulsion in creams, moisturizers, and lotions is water and oil. Naturally, water and oil separate due to differences in polarity. Water is a super polar substance. The oxygen in H2O has a high electronegativity meaning that the atom attracts bonding pairs of electrons. Therefore, the oxygen pulls on the electrons of the two hydrogen atoms creating a negative charged end (from the oxygen) and a positive charged end (from the hydrogen atoms). On the other end, oil is typically made up of long strands of hydrocarbons. Carbon atoms are much weaker in electronegativity when compared to oxygen, which ultimately makes the oil a non-polar substance. With the principle of “like dissolves like”, the water and oil do not interact but rather separate completely.

So, here are where emulsifiers come in. Emulsifiers have hydrophilic heads (water-loving) and lypophilic tails (oil-loving). The heads bond with water molecules while the tails bond with oil molecules, thus joining the two molecules together.


Common emulsifiers include Borax with Beeswax, Beeswax, BTMS 25%, Carbomer, Cetaryl Alcohol, Emulsifying Wax-NF, Lecithin, PEG-20 Stearate, Propylene Glycol, Silky Emulsifying Wax, Stearyl Alcohol NF, and Polysorbate 80. Below is Polysorbate 80 which shows the two distinct parts of the molecule. The hydrophilic head is characterized by the large number of oxygen atoms (to bond with H2O) while the lypohilic tail is comprised of nonpolar hydrocarbons (to bond with oil).

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The Main 8 || Water

Water is used in almost all cosmetic products as a solvent: dissolves other ingredients and makes emulsions (a Main 8 that will be explained in another post). Therefore it is found in lotions, shampoo and conditioners, skin care products, creams, makeup, etc. It is usually listed as the first ingredient on the label due to its high concentration but it is not usually listed as water. Instead, it is called aqua or distilled/purified water because the water that scientists use is completely microbe, toxin and pollutant free.

However, studies have found that only 10% concentration of water on the outermost layer of skin is all that is needed to keep the skin soft. In fact, externally, water dries out the skin by evaporating with the natural oils that skin produces thus drying out the skin. Therefore, the water that is in these cosmetic products is not the moisturizing agent but rather acts solely as a solvent and a component to the formation of emulsions.