Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sugar or salt scrub - which one to chose?

Inspired by a question asked by Maria from one of my favorite blogs, I have decided to write a post where I compare salt and sugar as products for homemade scrubs.

Both salt and sugar are easily available and very affordable products. At first glance the biggest difference is that salt grains have sharper edges, whereas sugar grains are more round and therefore gentler for the skin. Salt grains can be a good choice for rougher areas of the body such as elbows or heels. In the form of a scrub they can easily remove layers of even very hard skin cells. Salt scrubs will improve skins texture, reducing rough skin and dryness. Salt also possess anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, as well as being a great source of minerals (especially more fancy salts such as Dead Sea sea salt, Himalayan salt or Mediterranean salt).
Sugar grains used as  scrub product are more gentle and less likely to scratch and irritate skin. Sugar scrubs are a good choice when making a face scrub or for persons with sensitive skin. Sugar also dissolves more easily in warm water then salt making it gentler in a scrub. Sugar does not contain the minerals that salts contain, but if you use more natural sugars they also have the nutrients of sugar cane.

To sum up, whether you decide to use sugar or salt as a base for your scrub is a personal choice. For sensitive skin sugar is advised and for rougher areas that need to be regenerated salt is a great choice. But you should try both and decide what works best for you!

Image courtesy of

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Aluminium hydroxide in skin care

Aluminium hydroxide Al(OH)3 is a synthetic ingredient found in many skin care products for example sunscreen lotions, body lotions, deodorants, toothpastes, lipsticks, foundations, shampoos, and others. It is used as a opacifying agent and skin protectant. 

Many sunscreen lotions use aluminium hydroxide as a coating for titanium dioxide. The aluminium hydroxide prevents it from forming clumps and allows for an even application. This way it forms a layer on the skin surface and helps reflect UV rays away from the skin. 

Although not all aluminium containing ingredients are safe in skin care, aluminium hydroxide is considered safe for use in cosmetic products.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sodium tallowate

You might think that most soaps sold nowadays are made from vegetable fats, but this is not quite true. A basic Palmolive Lavender & Chamomile soap which I recently read the ingredients list of while shopping happens to have sodium tallowate as the main ingredient. 

If you don't know yet sodium tallowate is the sodium salt of tallow acid. Tallow is the fat derived from fatty tissue of cattle and sheep. Long time ago it was the main ingredient for soap making, but for a lot of people (including me) it comes as a shock that it is still used so often in cosmetics. If you are not a vegetarian this might not bother you, but if you are it might be useful to know that this ingredient 'sodium tallowate' is actually an animal derived product. 

What is sodium tallowate used for in cosmetics?
It works as a surfactant (cleaning agent), foam booster and viscosity increasing agent. It can be found in cosmetic products such as soaps, shaving creams, lipsticks, shampoos, and others. 

For those who do not mind animal ingredients in their cosmetic products (and I have actually even come across vegetarians who do not mind using tallow to make their own soap) you should know that there are reports which clam that sodium tallowate may cause eczema and blackheads due to its high contents of fat. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Noncomedogenic ingredients

Noncomedogenic is a word you will often find on beauty products, especially those for oily and acne prone skin. Noncomedogenic means that it does not clog pores. It is important to avoid comedogenic ingredients (those that do clog pores) if you have oily skin, acne or break-out prone skin. Comedogenic ingredients clog your skins pores making it worse. If you have dry or normal skin usually it is ok to use comedogenic ingredients. 

Noncomedogenic products do not treat acne, but they can prevent it from getting worse. If you have break-out prone skin and try to avoid comedogenic ingredients make sure to learn which ingredients are actually noncomedogenic and do not trust the label on a cosmetic product. Any product can have a 'noncomedogenic' label. Make sure you really understand what you are using and that it is the right product for your skin.

What ingredients are noncomedogenic? Below a list of several widely used ingredients which you can safely use on break-out prone and acne skin:
  • aloe vera gel
  • anhydrous lanolin
  • allantoin
  • ascorbic acid (vit.. C)
  • bentonite clay
  • ceresin wax
  • chamomile extract
  • cyclomethicone
  • glycerin
  • iron oxide
  • isopropyl alcohol
  • kaolin clay
  • mineral oil
Although there used to be a lot of myths about not using oils on break-out prone skin, skin with acne and oily skin in general nowadays we know this is not true. Still if you have break-out prone skin you need to be aware that certain oils can be highly comodogenic while others are a good choice for your problematic skin. 

Best oils to chose if you have break-out prone skin:
  • jojoba oil
  • rosehip oil
  • safflower oil (high linoleic acid variety only)
  • castor oil
  • calendula oil
  • pomegranate oil
  • hemp seed oil
Oils and butters which are comedogenic and should be avoid if you have break-out prone skin:
  • coconut oil
  • wheat germ oil
  • cocoa butter
  • shea butter
  • corn oil
  • soybean oil
  • cotton seed oil

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Milk of magnesia in skin care

I have read in several places that milk of magnesia can be used in skin care as a face mask or primer for oily skin. I have been wondering about the effectiveness and safety of this and came up with the following facts. But first a few words about what milk of magnesia is. 

The active ingredient in milk of magnesia is magnesium hydroxide Mg(OH)2, additionally sodium hypochlorite NaClO and water are listed on the ingredient list. In medicine it is used as a laxative and antacid. It is most often used to treat hurt burn, indigestion and others. 

Milk of magnesia is used in skin care for oily skin as it has the ability to absorb lipids on the skin. It is known to reduce shine in a great degree when spread on the surface of the face. This is why it is often recommend as a face mask to reduce oiliness of skin and as a primer to reduce shine. 

Yet the problem with using milk of magnesia as a skin care product is its high pH. As you know the skin's pH is slightly acidic. This creates a good environment for good bacteria which live on our skin and protect it from other bacteria (for example the ones causing acne). The pH of milk of magnesia is 10.5. When using a skin care product with such high pH for a longer time you are risking damaging the acidic environment of your skin and causing it to become dry, sensitive and more prone for acne. 

Therefor although milk of magnesia is effective in reducing oiliness and shine of skin it should not be used too often as it can damage the natural acidic environment of our skin.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Should you avoid skin care products with talc on the ingredient list?

Talc (hydrous magnesium silicate) is a soft mineral used in various cosmetic products mostly as an absorbent, anti-caking agent, filler, and to improve the feel of the product. It is most often used in mineral make up and cosmetic products for oily skin due to its ability to help control shin, improve the adhesion of the make up to the skin and prevent caking. 

If you start researching online you will find a lot of information about talc not only clogging pores and causing breakouts, but also that it can cause lung and ovarian cancer. 

It is often linked to lung cancer because talc can sometimes contain asbestos fibers, which when inhaled can cause lung cancer. Yet, this only true in technical grade talc used in industry and the appropriate precautions are taken while working with it. Cosmetic grade talc does not contain asbestos fibers and therefor does not cause lung cancer. Additionally in order to prevent inhaling the cosmetic grade talc is micro meter sized (usually larger then 5 ┬Ám).
As for risk of ovarian cancer the studies carried out showed that there was only a slight risk when talc  is applied on sanitary napkins or directly to their perineal area. It was found that the highest correlation to ovarian cancer was true for the fragranced talc and not the unscented one. Still more research is needed to clear out this issue. Though if avoided on private parts talc should have no link to causing ovarian cancer. 

Also studies showed that talc is not comedogenic, therefore it is very unlikely that it will cause the skin to breakout. If you are using a skin care product with talc, which is causing your skin to breakout perhaps it is a different ingredient that is causing this.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What is cetrimonium bromide?

Cetrimonium bromide is an ammonium salt often found in skin and hair care products as well as hair dyes ad colors. It is a white crystalline powder. The cetrimonium cation is an effective agent against bacteria and fungi therefore this salt is often used as a preservative. It is also a cationic surfactant, emulsifier and it prevents static build up in hair (which makes it a very conman ingredient in hair conditioners). As all other surfactants it is partially water and partially oil soluble allowing the two phases to mix. 
It is considered to be a rather safe cosmetic ingredient.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Myristyl alcohol

Myristyl alcohol is a straight 14 carbon chain saturated fatty alcohol. It is derived from natural fats and oils found in coconut oil, palm kernal oil and nutmeg. It is a white waxy solid, which is practically insoluble in water and slightly soluble in ethanol.
Myristyl alcohol is used in cosmetic products mostly for is emollient properties. It soothes the skin and prevents moisture loss. Additionally it can be used as a foaming agent and fragrance ingredient. It is used in hair care products, creams, lotion, perfumes and other cosmetic products. It is known under several other names besides myristyl alcohol, among them the most frequently used ones are: 1-Tetradecanol, 1-Hydroxytetradecane, Myristic alcohol, Tetradecyl alcohol and Dytol R-52. It is considered to be a safe ingredient. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sodium benzoate in cosmetics

Sodium benzoate is a salt of the aromatic acid - benzoic acid. It is a widely used preservative in the food and cosmetic industry.  In the food industry it is usually known as E211. Although benzoic acid is a more effective preservative, it is not very soluble in cold water and therefore the more soluble sodium benzoate is often used instead. 
Sodium benzoate is found naturally in cranberries, apples and cinnamon. The sodium benzoate used in cosmetics is derived synthetically. Besides working as a preservative it is also known to be a fragrance ingredient, anti-corrosive agent and masking ingredient.
There has been some controversy in the past years about sodium benzoate being a carcinogenic product. Research showed that if it interacts with ascorbic acid (vit C) it can potentially form benzene which is carcinogenic. For this to happen though it would require excessive heat exposure. Alone sodium benzoate is not a toxic or carcinogenic ingredient.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Aluminium oxide in cosmetic products

Aluminium oxide also known as alumina is a crystalline compound of aluminium and oxide. It is most often used in cosmetic products as an absorbent and thickening agent. Additionally it works as an anti-caking agent and prevents the formation of lumps in cosmetic products. Because of its texture aluminium oxide crystals can be used for exfoliation. Alumina is an ingredient in cosmetic products such as powder foundation, blush, mineral makeup, lipstick and others. 

Generally compounds of aluminium can be very harmful to the human body as they may cause damage to the central nervous system. They are dangerous if they are inhaled or penetrate through the skin. As alumina is reported not to penetrate through the skin it is considered as a safe ingredient in cosmetic products.