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,

Read-the-Label: FACE Atelier Lip Glaze

Today I wanted to do another lip product and I choose the Lip Glazes from Face Atelier.

FACE Atelier Lip Glazes are available in 10 beautiful and versatile colors: Clear, Ice, White Gold, Flamingo, Peach, Cameo, Dianthus, Primrose, Plum and Shiraz and come in generous tubes of 15 ml/.5 fl.oz. at € 21,50. An enduring industry staple!



What’s in the product?

Polybutene, Octyldodecanol, Petrolatum, Beeswax, Ozokerite, BHA, Trihydroxystearin, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butyrospermum Parkii, Silica, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Retinyl Palmitate, Squalene.

May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Mica, Carmine, Red 7 Lake, Red 6 Lake, Red 30 Lake, Red 33      Lake, Red 27 Lake, Red 28 Lake, Red 36 Lake, Red 21 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Tin Oxide, Calcium Aluminium Borosilicate.

Polybutene is a polymer that is used for lubrication and thickening. It ensures that the application is even and smooth. Octyldodecanol is an alcohol, which is a surfactant. It is used as a thickener and emulsifier. It also gives the product a bit of opacity and provides lubrication. Petrolatum can form a film and is also used as a thickner. Beeswax is a thickening agent with some moisturizing capacities. It is made by bees, so this product isn’t vegan. Ozokerite is a mineral that is a thickening agent.

BHA, betà hydroxy acid, also known as salicylic acid (aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, and thus closely related), is an exfoliant which is probably used in a concentration of 0,5 to 2%. BHA has the ability to penetrate into the pore, and therefore can exfoliate inside the pore as well as on the surface of the skin. Trihydroxystearin is a mixture of fatty acids and glycerin and is used as a moisturizer and thickening agent. Ascorbyl Palmitate is the stable form of Vitamin C, and acts as a anti-oxidant. Tocopheryl Acetate is also a vitamin and anti-oxidant, Vitamin E. Butyrospermum Parkii, also known as Shea Butter and should be listed as Vitellaria paradoxa, is a thick butter that is renowned for it’s moisturizing properties, but can be used as a thickener as well. Silica, a mineral is used as a thickener.

Methylparaben and Propylparaben are the preservatives which stop the formula from going rancid. They are the most safe and effective preservatives. Retinyl Palmitate is better known as Vitamin A, an anti-oxidant and Squalene is an oil which could be derived from sebum, plants (mostly olives) or shark liver. It’s a natural component of the skin, and thus can moisturize the skin. It also has antioxidant and immune stimulating properties.

Now onto the “may contain” list. Keep in mind that the ingredients in this section are added in such low quantities, that is has no other effect than to color the product. For instance, Titanium Dioxide has some thickening properties, but because of the low concentration, it only acts as a white pigment. Same for iron oxides, a group of chemical compounds with have range of colors such as yellow/orange/red/brown/black. Mica is white as well. Carmine (derived from bugs), Red 7 Lake, Red 6 Lake, Red 30 Lake, Red 33 Lake, Red 27 Lake, Red 28 Lake, Red 36 Lake, Red 21 Lake are pigments used for their red color, Yellow 5 Lake is yellow, Blue 1 Lake is blue, Tin Oxide can give the product, in stable form a blue-black color or in metastable (the stability is long, but not infinte) a red color. Calcium Aluminium Borosilicate is another preservative.

It is a bit weird is that a polymer is the major ingredient. No water or any kind of (cheap) oil is used as a carrier for the other ingredients, but then again, based on the ingredientlist, this is a quite a thick liquid, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Until next time,


Read-the-Label: Naked Cosmetics Mineral Eye Shadow Cabernet Blush

Naked Cosmetics Mineral Eye Shadow Cabernet Blush

Life is full of coincidences. I spoke of oxidation last Friday, and today I’m going to review the ingredientlist of the Naked Cosmetics Mineral Eyeshadow Cabernet Blush collection. The ingredientlist is quite short;

Mica, [+/- Silica, Tin Oxide, CI 77891, CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499, CI 75470, CI 77510, CI 77288]

According to the description of the loose eye shadows, they contain 100% oxidized Mica. Note that the product doesn’t contain just mica, because there would be (almost) no colour. The 100% reflects that the Mica is 100% oxidated. I have to admit, as a scientist, it actually doesn’t sound very pausible, because there is always a little bit left that didn’t undergo a reaction. A very good example is ethanol, the most common alcohol. Higher than 96% procent ethanol is just not possible, because it will disintegrate to a level of 96%.

Anyway, back to the Mica.
Oxidized Mica is a silicone. Mica itself is a silicon, and with the addition of oxygen, it becomes a silicone. There are some Mica’s known that don’t contain silicons, but I have never come across them (yet). It gives the product it’s shine and is a good base for a loose eyeshadow. In it’s non oxidized state, it gives the eyeshadow it’s sparkle and shine.

If I look at the first “may contain” ingredient (as usual, “may contain” can be read as “yeah, it is actually in it”) it is Silica. This kind of backs up my theory that the mica isn’t fully (100%) oxidized, but there is still some residue left. It won’t harm you anyway. Tin oxide, as wikipedia and my gut tells me, is added in small doses as a reducing agent, causing the mica to oxidize. In a redox reaction (as it is officially called), a oxidizer and a reducer are necessary. One cannot live without the other (wait, did J.K. Rowling say something like that – In case you’re wondering, I’m re-reading the series. Again). Don’t worry if you don’t get it, it cost me two years to get it.

Then on to the pigments. CI 77891, or Titanium dioxide (no, these eyeshadows will not give you the necessary SPF or work as thickener – the concentrations are just simply to low for that) is white. CI 77489, or Black 7489, is a brown-to-black synthetic colour. CI 77491, or Ferric Oxide is a brownish red color. CI 77492, or Iron oxide hydroxide is a yellow pigment. CI 77499, black iron oxide is well, black. CI 75470, is carminic acid (yes, made from bugs) and gives a red colour. CI 77510 is Ferric Ferrocyanide and blue. Last one is CI 77288, chromium oxide green, which is green. Together, they create the lovely colors of the Cabernet blush collection.

(Note: these are now € 32,95 which means 25% off, to get them click here)
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: Ben Nye Matte HD Foundation vs. Ben Nye Media Pro Blue Neutralizer

Reader Tanimara (click on the link to see her wonderful blog! ~Monique) asked me to look at the (fairly new) Ben Nye Matte HD Foundation and the Ben Nye Media Pro Blue Neutralizer.

Copyright Tanimara Loupatty

The ingredients for the Matte HD Foundation are:
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Copernicia cerifera (carnauba), Talc, Ozokerite, Polymethyl methacrylate, Methyl methacrylate, Crosspolymer, Silica, Kaolin, Phenoxyenthanol, Mehtylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben.
May contain (+/-): Cl NO. 77489, 77491, 77492, 77499, 77891, 77289, 77288, 77007, 19140 (Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Chromium hydroxide green, Chromium oxide green, Ultramarines, Yellow 5). Parfum Free.

Copyright Tanimara Loupatty

And for the Blue Neutralizer Concealer:
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Copernicia cerifera (Carnauba), Talc, Ozokerite, Polymethyl methacrylate, Methyl methacrylate, CrossPolymer, Silica, Kaolin, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben. May contain (+/-): Cl NO. 77489, 77491, 77492, 77499, 77891, 77289, 77288, 77007, 19140 (Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Chromium hydroxide green, Chromium oxide green, Ultramarines, Yellow 5). Parfum Free.

Copyright Tanimara Loupatty

Two things I can already tell from scanning this list:

A) They are exactly the same. If the consistancy of the concealer is slightly thicker, it means that you’ll get the reduced version of the foundation. Try this little experiment: put a little bit of foundation in a microwave-safe jar, heat it up in the microwave and see if the texture looks the same as of the concealer. If the two textures are alike, you basically have the same product in a different jar, perhaps with a bit more solvent (caprylic/capric triglyceride) than in the concealer. If that is true, go for the product that has the best price per gram. Or, if you are a pro and carry the full range of both the foundation and the concealer, you can decide to only carry the concealers, plus the R.C.M.A. Foundation Thinner (9,95 EUR for 1 oz.) and mix to create a foundation.

B) There are no silicones in this product, which means that you have to blend, blend and blend. Using your fingers, a sponge or a brush might not suffice. This formula dries very quickly; so the key is: blend fast! Or try using the R.C.M.A. thinner. This foundation and concealer are the perfect products to use on people who are allergic to silicones.

Let’s move on to the ingredientlist.

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: First off, I love the fact that the product isn’t water/oil based. This means that you get more bang for you buck. Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride is an extract that is derived from coconut (or palm kernel oil). It is mostly used as a moisturizing and thickening agent. It has low toxicity and it’s short tails (there are tree tails in this fatty acid!) can penentrate the lipid membrane. The short tail can penetrate cell wall membrane lipids (a lipid is a fat that is the main component of a cell membrane) from bacteria. Although you shouldn’t bet that caprylic/capric triglycerice can be used as a preservative, it’s good to know that it’s able to contribute to the stability and safety of the product.

Copernicia cerifera (Carnauba) is a palm tree of which the wax is used. The wax coats the leaves to prevent loss of water, so it’s logical that it also creates a film on your skin. To obtain the wax, the leaves are dryed in the sun for days. The wax turns to dust, and is removed by threshing. It is melted, strained and cooled. This wax is the hardest natural wax available. Wax is harder than fat (for instance, you can punch butter (dutch proverb), but I wouldn’t try it with wax), it has a higher melting point and doesn’t become rancid. It can be used as a thickening agent, and it can absorb oil.

Talc absorbs oil as well, and together with the wax, it creates a matte finish. Talc is a mineral, and consists of hydrated magnesium silicate (meaning that water is added). It is grounded into a soft powder, mostly in small flakes. To be used in cosmetics, talc is milled and purified. Next to absorbing oil, and as a bulking agent, it gives the skin a silky smooth feel. Talc is perfectly safe. If it is in powder form (as in, a loose foundation or another powder), it is harmless should you inhale it (but as with everything, inhaling too much is never a good thing obviously).

Ozokerite is another wax, and it’s closely related to mineral oil. In India it is used as an alternative for Vaseline. Polymethyl methacrylate and Methyl methacrylate are like a big brother and a little brother. Most often, polymethyl methacrylate is made from methyl methacrylate. Actually, the correct listing of polymethyl methacrylate is Poly(methylmethacrylate), because poly(methylacrylate) could be a crosspolymers and belong to the group of acrylates. I’m not sure if I like it; it is acutally a form of plastic and we labrats (ok, inside joke, I know) like to handle acrylate very cautiously. In this formula, it is used as a surfactant. Whether it is good or bad I leave it up to you (I’m a bit torn), but remember: if it isn’t safe, it probably wouldn’t have been FDA approved. However, don’t flush this down the sink; we dont want to add even more to the plastic soup that is already floating in our oceans.

Silica, otherwise known as Silicon dioxide or ‘Sand’ is used to thicken the product and to absorb oil. Don’t inhale it to0 often (just like talc, it will clog your lungs!), but obviously that won’t be a problem with this cream product. Funny fact: drinking 10 mg a day of silica for over 10 years could decrease dementia. I guess we all know Kaolin, clay from the famous clay masks. It absorbs oil and thickens the product.

Phenoxyethanol is an alcohol, and acts like a preservative. Other preservatives are Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben (and correctly listed by form: least to most carbon atoms – a funny fact that I love. Call me a geek if you like). This group contains the most effective and safest preservatives available, and phenoxyethanol is very effective against bacteria and yeast.

The “may contain” section contains numbers and names. The numbers match the names listed between the brackets. These are the pigments that are used to give the product the color. So, in this context, the “may contain” indicates that it is used, but in very small amounts. So, for instance, don’t count that the Iron Oxides and the Titanium Dioxide will provide any sun protection because they are used in a very low amount. The iron oxides are a group of well, compounds that exist of iron and oxide. In this formula, they are used as pigment. This group can range from yellow to rose/red/brown. This is mainly because of the iron in it. Titanium dioxide is white. Chromium hydroxide green and Chromium oxide green are both green (in case you hadn’t guessed yet). The difference between Chromium hydroxide green and Chromium oxide green is that Chromium hydroxide green has one extra hydrogen atom. And last, we have Ultramarines and Yellow 5, and they turns out to be blue (because of a sulfide anion) and yellow. 😉

This cream product is a cream because of it’s many thickening agents and the ozokerite. There are a lot of oil absorbers in this product as well, which makes this product great for oily/combined skin. It’s not as suitable for people with dry skin, unless they mosturize well before use. I love the fact that there is no water in this product, which makes it less suseptable to pathogens (bacteria, yeast, etc.). But they actually have no chance at all with it’s well balanced preservative mix of at least four different kinds of parabens and phenoxylethanol. The only thing that could be a worry for some are the acrylates in these products; polymethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate. It’s not that bad, but you shouldn’t flush it down the sink.

Tanimara, I hope you liked this ingredient review of your products and I hope that your questions were answered. If not, you can always leave a comment for me to answer.

Out of my own curiousity, I will do a post on Acrylates next Friday, see you then!

Until next time,