Read-The-Label: Beauty So Clean Brush Cleanser

I was very curious about the Beauty So Clean Brush Cleanser, so I decided to take a look at the ingredient list:

Aqua, Alcohol, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betain, Propylene Glycol, Cocamide DEA, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Polysorbate 20, Disodium EDTA, Limonene, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

Aqua, or water, the main solvent.
Alcohol is the next in line. I’m worried about the amount of sanitizing this product does, since a percentage of 70% is required to kill any bacteria. Next up the list is Sodium Laureth Sulfate. This is quite an agressive cleanser. Since you use this cleanser only on your brushes, and not on your face, I see no problem with this.
Cocamidopropyl Betain is one of the milder cleansers. Next to the Sodium Laureth Sulfate, this looks a bit odd.
Propylene Glycol is a humectant.
Cocamide DEA helps to maintain the right pH, very important to preserve to product.
Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract conditions the bristles of your brush, while Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil and Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract is added for their scent and anti-microbial properties. Polysorbate 20 is an emulsifier and Disodium EDTA is a chelating agent. A chelating agent is a stabilizer that is used to prevent the ingredients from reacting with trace elements, mostly minerals in water. Unwanted product changes to the texture, odor and the consistency are reduced.

Limonene is a perfume compound that has to be listed separately because it is a known irritant.
Diazolidinyl Urea is a preservative which fights a broad range of bacteria, while Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate fights a broad range of viruses.

Overall, this brush cleanser is a powerful mix of disinfecting agents and cleansers.

Until next time,

A-Closer-Look-At: Sunscreens (part I)

Sunscreens – part one: How do sunscreens work?

The big question is of course, why should you use sunscreen. Sunscreen is good for preventing sunburn. The red color of sunburned skin is a tell-tale sign that skin cells are damaged. Damage can be induced by UVA (Ultra violet sub type A) and UVB (Ultra Violet sub type B). There is also UVC (Ultra Violet sub type C), but the ozone layer prevents UVC from entering the atmosphere. UVB increases melanin production in the skin, which makes us tan, and also causes sunburn.

UVA is perhaps even more dangerous. UVA is able to penetrate deeply into the skin, ages skin quickly and damages DNA. Damaged DNA can lead to cancer (okay, I have to admit, that the fact that ‘DNA damage causes cancer’ is a very, very brief summary about what causes cancer. Even now, scientists are still trying to figure out how and why cancer exists.)

UVA isn’t blocked by glass or the clouds. Unlike UVB, UVA doesn’t give you any warning signs. You’re not going to get a sunburn or a tan. UVA is present every day, in every season, whether it is overcast or not. My first advice would be  to wear sunscreen (with at least SPF 15) every day. My second advice is to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen which protects you for both UVB and UVA. You should be able to tell from the packaging if this is the case.l

Oh, and it is wise to avoid sunbeds, according to a study in 2007, even one visit to a sunbed can increase your chances of getting skincancer (melanoma, the most dangerous kind) by 19%! (International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on artificial ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin canacers: A systematic review. Int J Cancer. 2007: 120: 1116-1122.)

How do sunscreens work?
There are two types of sun filters; chemical and physical.
Chemical filters (oxybenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate, octocrylene and avobenzone) are absorbed into the skin and absorb UV radiation. A number of chemical filters can be absorbed by the body and end up in the bloodstream. Others can generate free radicals (free radicals are bad!) when they react with the suns rays and therefore cause skin damage. This also happens if you don’t use a sunscreen!

Physical sunfilters stay on the skin and reflect the light. Good examples are titanium oxide and zinc oxide. They create a barrier to protect the skin by not allowing harmful chemicals to enter the bloodstream. They are known to not cause irritation. A drawback is that physical sunscreens leave a white film on the skin. If these sunscreens don´t leave a white film, nanotechnology is used.

What is nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is the use of very, very tiny particles to enhance the performance of a product. The name derives from a nanometer. A nanometer is one billionth of a metre. Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating material on a molecule or atom scale. It is a relatively new study, so long term health effects are not known yet. The main concern is whether or not the particles can be absorbed by the skin and other cells of the body. This could lead to a higher dosage of the chemical in your body. The dosage of a chemical is linked to its toxicity. How higher the dosage, the more dangerous (poisonous) a chemical is. The main concern is if nanotechnology can penetrate the skin and cells. If yes, it could be dangerous, if not, we don´t have to worry. Unfortunatley, this is still being researched, so I can´t give a clear statement whether or not nanotechnology is advisable or not.

What is SPF?
SPF, sun protection factor is a (laboratory) logaritmic measure of how effective a sunfilter is. This is mentioned on the bottle. The SPF is the amount of UV radiation required to cause sunburn on skin with the sunscreen on in comparisation of the amount UV radiation required without the sunscreen.

It is said that the number of SPF determines how long one can stay in the sun without re-applying the product. For instance, if you get a sunburn from one hour of exposure to the sun, you should be able to stay in the sun for 15 hours with an SPF 15 on. This is not true. The intensity of radiation varies considerably with time of day. In early morning and late afternoon, the radiation has to pass through more of the atmosphere because the sun is nearer the horizon. The amount of SPF is determined by factors like skin type, the amount of sunscreen that is applied and the frequency of re-application, activities (sports, swimming) and the amount of sunscreen the skin has absorbed.

It is therefore recommended to re-apply sunscreen (half a teaspoon every application for the face and a shotglass for the rest of the body) every two hours and to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day (12.00 – 15.00) of the day. Or go and have a nice long lunch in the shade. Or take a siesta.I mean, it’s vacation anyway.

Make up has an odd number of SPF (for instance, SPF 8 or 18) because first, the product is formulated and then the SPF is measured. Usually, an SPF in make up, or in a sunscreen in spray form isn´t as effective as a  regular SPF because you have to apply the sunscreen thickly. With a spray, it is usually not easy to determine where, how thickly and evenly the sunscreen is applied. With make up it is the same way. To get the SPF that is indicated on a foundation or powder, you have to put on the foundation very thickly (a.k.a. cakey!). So it’s always better to use a sunscreen under your day cream and makeup.

SPF can’t be increased by layering it. I will explain this with an experiment. Take two glasses. Fill them with water. Add to each glass the same amount of food coloring (or dye), for instance, 3 drops. Mix well, and take half of the first glass. Put this in a new glass. Now take half of the other glass, and put it in the third glass as well. Has the color changed? No. So, if you use a daycream with SPF 15 and a foundation with SPF 15, you will not get SPF 30. It will only help you to reach the required half teaspoon of sunscreen.

As I said earlier, SPF is a logaritmic scale. This means that SPF stops 93% of the UV rays (UVA or B depending on the sunscreen). Factor 30 stops 97% of the radiation. A higher factor is not always better. The higher the SPF, the more greasy the product will feel like. If your skin type is average (meaning not extremely fair), I would recommend sticking with SPF 15 in the winter and SPF 30 in the summer.

A wee bit extra
Next to a good sunfilter, it is also wise to check the rest of the sunscreen. Are there irritating ingredients in the sunscreen, like perfume, PABA, coloring agents, methylisothiazolinone, tea tree oil, witch hazel, ylang ylang, mint or citrus? Alcohol is not good either, unless it is a fatty alcohol (just type in the name of the Alcohol in wikipedia, and scan the page on the word “fatty alcohol”. For instance, cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol).

And last, but no means least, after tanning/staying in the sun and using a sunscreen, hydrate your skin! Take a luke warm shower or apply aloe vera to cool the skin. Or use after-sun.

In the next post about sunscreens, I will talk about different kinds of sunscreens, and which ones to look out for!

Until next time,

A-Closer-Look-At: Ethyl Alcohol aka Ethanol

Ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanolpure alcoholgrain alcohol, or drinking alcohol. In this article I will refer to it as ethanol, because that is the term I personally use the most.

I love, love, love to use ethanol in disinfection. I do a lab study and before and after, we have to clean/disinfect your work space. I usually spray some ethanol on the surface and wipe it off with a paper cloth. I have to wait a minute (or a few minutes if I used to much), during which time I get my supplies and voilà, a clean and sanitzed space. A tip: do wait at least 10 minutes before lighting any flame – not that I have any weird accidents with it, but just to be safe. I personally would recommend sanitizing with ethanol for non-plastic surfaces and testing a little patch before spraying it all over.

Ethanol is made by the fermentation of sugar by bacteria or by the hydration of ethylene (the adding of a hydrogen atom). I know for sure that the ethanol used in beer is made by the fermentation of sugar. Actually, the reason why some beers are stronger than others, depends on the bacteria culture and the amount of sugar added. Until the sugar runs out, the bacteria produces ethanol, or until the amount of ethanol is too high for the bacteria to survive in.

Because of hydroxide (the oxygen and hydrogen atoms, the characterizing group of any alcohol), ethanol can form hydrogen bridges with water molecules, helping dissolve organic compounds, such as sugars or parts of the celwall of bacteria. If you want to sanitize, keep in mind that a concentration of 70% or higher is to be used. Below that concentration, the ethanol isn’t effective enough. So, disinfecting with beer (5-10%) or wine (15%) is not really smart. Absinthe (70%) and Neutral grain spirit (90%) are somewhat better, but it’s still better to use regular ethanol (available in 70% or 96%) which can be found at drugstores or pharmacies. I’m alo guessing that Absinthe and Grain spirit do not need any preservative.

Oh, and, according to my old chemisttry teacher, 100% pure alcohol is a myth. Even if you attempt (as a chemist) to obtain a mixture of 100%, pure alcohol, it will disintegrate. 96% is the highest concentration of ethanol possible.

Ethanol can also be found in skin care. If it’s at the top of an ingredien tlist, (as in the first 5 ingredients) it can irritate the skin, but if it’s at the end of an ingredient list, the concentration isn’t considered a problem. High concentrations of alcohol can be found in most products for oily or skin with acne. The alcohol dehydrates the skin, making the skin produce more sebum, causing it to become more oily and clog the pores even more.

To sum it all up, ethanol is great for sanitizing, but not so good for the skin. And if you want to use ethanol for sanitizing, a concentration of 70-96% works best.

Until next time,


A-Closer-Look-At: Cetearyl Alcohol

Many people cringe when they see alcohol on an ingredientlist. And they should, because the alcohol/hydroxy group dries out the skin. The hydroxy group that makes alcohol an alcohol, consists of both an oxygen (symbol: O) and a hydrogen (H) atom. A hydroxy group can form a hydrogen “bridge” with another water molecule. It basically pulls out water and takes it with it when you, for instance, wash it off your face.

But why is cetearyl alcohol (or cetostearyl alcohol/cetylstearyl alcohol) good for the skin? That is because of it’s fatty acid tail. The tail usually has an even number of carbon atoms, ranging mostly from 8 to 22 carbon atoms, although 36 or more aren’t an exception.

To be more precise, Cetearyl Alcohol is a mixture of fatty alcohols, of which cetyl and stearyl alcohols make up most of this ingredient. Since cetearyl alcohol has a polar, (water loving) head and a non-polar (oil loving) head, it is a surfactant. It can therefore be used as an emulsifier, stabilizer, opacifying agent (cetearyl alcohol turns into a white, waxy solid at room temperature) and a foam boosting agent.

Cetearyl alcohol was first extracted from whale oil, but since commercial whaling is forbidden, cetearyl alcohol is now produced from vegetable oils, like palm or coconut oil. It is also an end-product of the petroleum industry. It can also be made synthetically, from, for instance, breaking up triglycerides (three fatty alcohols bound together). The source can determine the amount of carbon atoms. For instance, rapeseed produces longer molecules of about 20 tot 22 carbon atoms, whilst coconut oil will yield molecules with 12 to 14 carbon atoms.

Please be careful if you have sensitive skin, cetearyl alcohol can possibly worsten dermatitis.. If you don’t have dermatitis, cetearyl alcohol is a very safe to use moisturizer and surfactant.

Until next time,

A-Closer-Look-At: Glycerin

Glycerin, also known als Glycerine and Glycerol, is a colorless, odorless, viscous and sweet-tasting liquid. It has a low toxicity and three hydroxyl (=the main group of alcohol, very water-soluable) groups. It can occur as the polar head of a fatty acid. It can be made from natural substances by hydrolysis of fats and by fermentation of sugars. Next to extraction, glycerin can also be made synthetically and it is a by-product of making soap.
A plus is that the glycerin is skin-identical; it means that it can be found naturally in skin. It is therefore one of the many substances in skin that help maintain the outer barrier and preven dryness and scaling.

Glycerin is mostly used in cosmetics to moisturize, giving the skin a smooth feel, as a thickener and as lubricant. It can also be used as a humectant because glycerin likes to absorb moisture.


From the dermis, the water is drawn out to the epidermis by the glycerin. The more glycerin, the more water is pulled out of the under layers of the skin. It is therefore not very wise to apply pure glycerin to your skin. It can even cause blisters if left on too long. Since the water drawn from the inner layers can evaporate into the air, glycerin is mosty combined with other moisturizers, oils and/or other film-forming ingredients.

If you are a pro-amateur (a non-make up artist who want professional materials and results) and you are wondering if a mixing medium is something for you, you can try out this DIY. Take one part glycerin and three parts (boiled, then completely cooled before adding) water. Mix well. You can mix it in a bottle, or in a jar. Keep in mind that it doesn’t contain preservatives so you should only make a little at a time. This DIY should keep well for two weeks, discard any left overs. You can also make enough for just one application.

I hope you enjoyed this information and the little DIY on the end.

Until next time,


Read-the-Label: Embryolisse Cleansing Bar

Last Friday, I looked at triticum vulgare or wheat kernel oil, which is a component of the Embryolisse Cleansing Bar, and I was curious how the bar could be made without soap.

Let me first explain what soap is. Soap is the salt of a fatty acid and is a member of the surfactants family.
Soap is made by treating vegetable of animal oils and fats (which contain three tails) with a stong base (such as sodiumhydroxide).
The saponification (I’m not making this up) takes place by hydrolyzing and breaking up the oils into seperate tails and then mixed with the base. During this proces, glycerine is produced as a by-product. The reason soaps cleanse, is that they have a polar, water-loving head that can dissolves dirt that is water-soluble. They also have an a-polar oil-loving tail, that dissolves dirt that is soluble in oil. The reason why soap makes your skin feel dry is because while it’s cleansing, it will also wash away the natural oils (or sebum) on your skin.

So, I was quite interested in how the no-soap bar works and what the ingredients are.

Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate, sodium coco sulfate, triticum vulgare, cetearyl alcohol, paraffin, aqua, parfum, titanium dioxide.

On first glance, I see a sulfate. I’m not sure whether or not a sulfate is considered soap. There is also some paraffin and cetearyl alcohol to moisturize the skin. There is some water added, but not much.

Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate is a surfactant and it is a salt of a lauryl alcohol half ester of sulfosuccinic acid. So technically (as in, the chemical definition of soap), there is some soap in this cleansing bar. However, it’s emulsifying/cleansing properties are likely much less, so the skin doesn’t get stripped of all it’s sebum.

Sodium coco sulfate is a surfactant as well as the disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate. It is the less irritating version of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. The difference of sodium coco sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate is the degree of purification. Purified coconut oil makes sodium lauryl sulfate, unpurified coconut oil makes sodium coco sulfate. However, sodium coco sulfate doesn’t foam as well and will vary depending on the quality of the coconut crops harvested in a particular year.

So, is there soap in this bar? Well, there are no ‘traditional’ soap components, but there are some surfactants that could be classified as soap.

However, there are just two components that are classified as soap (and they do make up most of the product), but after that, the good stuff comes. For instance, Triticum Vulgare, or Wheat kernel oil, an oil with a lot of good fatty acids and vitamin E to moisturize the skin.

There is also Cetearyl alcohol, known as the “good alcohol”, one of the small group of alcohols that moisturize the skin instead of making it feel dry. It is derived from coconut oil or can be made synthetically. It is basically a mixture of fatty acid alcohols.

Paraffin is a bit of a underdog lately. It is actually an alkaline (get it? fatty acids + alkaline makes soap!) and could be used as a thickener. It won’t clog pores, because the formula will wash away during cleansing. Then there is Aqua, water; always good and Parfum. Parfum is in the formula to make the product smell nice.

Titanium Dioxide It is only used in a concentration of 1% or less, so we can safely assume that it is used to give the product it’s white color (and not to provide SPF, since it is used in a such a low concentration and will wash away during cleaning). (~could also be used as a thickening agent ~Monique) Oh, and lately I have heard that titanium dioxide is a natural compound and not a chemical. Please keep it in mind that every substance is a chemical, whether it would be water, plastic or titanium dioxide. So, a “chemical free” sunscreen claim is not correct.

So, from the ingredientlist I can conclude that there is actually soap in the no soap bar. However, the used ingredients provide for a less irritating formula than traditional soap and might be worth a try.

Until next time,


Read-the-Label: Beauty So Clean Cosmetic Sanitizing Mist

I have been asking Monique for months (ok, just one) if I could do a post on the Beauty So Clean Sanitizing Spray. Because the Beauty So Clean products are back in stock, I finally could take a look at the ingredients. Yay!

Beauty So Clean Sanitizer Mist

So, what’s on the list?
Ethyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Isopropyl Myristate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate.

Ethyl alcohol/”Ethanol: In order to sanitize a product, at least 70% of the cleaner must be a sanitizing agent. The most common agent is alcohol. Bleach is also used a lot in laboratories, however, in order to maintain that gorgeous deep red colour of that one particular eyeshadow, stick with alcohol. Ethyl alcohol consists of two carbon atoms, one hydroxy group and five hydrogen atoms. Is it safe? Yes, because it is also the alcohol that is used in beer. However, don’t drink this.

Then, a mixture of emmolients/thickners/emulsifier follows. Isopropyl palmitate is derived from palm oil and Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride from coconut.

Isopropyl myristate is the reason you would buy the Sanitizing spray instead of regular ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) in a spray bottle. It dissolves the wax from the exoskeleton of microbes (especially lice), which results in dehydration. It is made from isopropanol and myristic acid.

C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate is also an emmolient/thickner/emulsifier, made from benzoate (a benzene ring) and a lot of carbon atoms. There are 12 carbon atoms left of the benzene ring and 15 carbon atoms right of the benzene.

The sanitizing spray excells in well, sanitizing because of it’s unique blend of ethanol, isopropyl myristate and the three emulsifiers.

Oh, and get them while there hot, because they are going fast! Last time I tried to order them, I had no such luck. (I’ll save you a pack Dymphy 😉 ~Monique)

Until next time,