If you take a closer look on the back of the products you find out there is one predominant compound family in all products mentioned above: silicone elastomers and other silicone-based compounds. Cyclohexasiloxane, Phenyl Trimethicone, Acrylates/Polytrimethyl Siloxymethacrylate Copolymer, Dimethyl-vinyl crosspolymer and many, many more. There is an interesting and persistent myth about silicone-based ingredients clogging your pores and ‘not-letting-skin-breath’ and when I was younger I was told to believe it acts like a ‘plastic bag on your skin’ by a saleslady of a natural cosmetics company. Silicones are rather a smart, non-irritant, very small ‘architecture’ that does not sink into skin since the molecules are too big and the mixture only sits on your skin like a very porous framework (source).
Silicone-based ingredients not only keep water inside your skin but absorb your sebum, too, so your skin stays matte (see here). Every time a brand advertises its makeup to ‘act like a sponge’ you don’t even have to take a look at the labels to know silicones are involved. With silicones and silicone elastomers it is all about emolliency and spreading (read more). They cover both. Silicone elastomers swollen by solvents such as cyclomethicone are the thing for manufacturers of contemporary foundations (see here). Acutally it is the only instant solution so far for a younger but still matte skin appearance. I chose the word appearance on purpose because it is only a temporary effect and will probably not change your skin condition permanently; neither better nor worse. So it is up to you if you decide to have silicones in your skincare. Hope you didn’t stop reading halfway and understand your futuristic foundation a little more, Ea Birkkam
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
An effective, minimalistic diy facemask with scientific backup that takes only one(!) ingredient next to water: Oatmeal (aka Avena Sativa). Preferably finely milled to colloidal oatmeal. Who knew that grandmother’s old house remedy turns out to be so much more effective than most pricey beauty products. I must admit I was a little surprised. There are a lot of things in oatmeal which make it a great face mask. Starch, lipids, proteins, and beta-glucan (a polysaccharide) serve both to keep water inside and on top of your skin. Oatmeal has also been shown to normalize the pH of your skin and protect it a little bit from harmful UV rays (read more here). The best about it? It is very, very low irritating and allergenic sensitizing (see here).
Additionally you can find research implying it is a great remedy for atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and drug-induced rash (e.g. 1, 2, 3) mostly because of one attractive component of oats: chemicals called avenanthramides (see picture above for one of them, Avenanthramide B). These only make up 0.03 per cent of dry oatmeal by weight, but are powerful antioxidants, and have strong anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. Aventhramides seem to act as a soothing agent to relieve itch and irritation (read here and here). I think that is a lot of efficiency for a 20ct-worth face mask compared to the average face care product. Oatmeal is a healthy snack, too! It helps you to curb your appetite and leaves you satiated for a while(see here). Well, I am pretty sure tomorrow i am going to eat my morning porridge with much more enthusiasm. Best, Ea Birkkam.
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark” Stephen Hawking
Last time a friend of mine told me about his new beautysecret: BIOEFFECT EGF Serum. When i looked it up online it immediately got my attention both with its super minimalistic product design and the immaculate ingredients. Their main ingredient (one of the only 9!) is EGF or epidermal growth factor which acts as a cell-activator and literally accelerates the cell turnover rate which is important for skin density and a young-looking skin (read more). What excites me is the paper i found that indicates EGF does a great job deminishing acne (read here). To extract the substance BIOEFFECT developed a smart derivation from icelandic barley in a collaboration with Sif Cosmetics, daughter of ORF Genetics. I found an abstract from japanese research (see here) that mentioned there is evidence for effectiveness of EGF applied on skin in combination with a vacuum/laser device (Isolaz).
By the way: If you think you have only one option keep looking. There is a big boom for EGF face care and you find a great amount of new startups (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) using all kinds of cytokines (small proteins released by cells to affect the behavior of other cells). Of course there needs to be done more research about EGF before we start to glorify it as the new holy chalice of everlasting youth and imagining a 6045 dalton polypeptide possibly penetrating the skin seems out of the question. If you still feel excited about EGF i tagged your best bets on the right bar since i compared the ingredients, price and packaging of all the EGF serums i found. Best, Ea Birkkam.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” Leonardo da Vinci
Randomly looking for new promising foundations i came across the brand Astalift, which has one ingredient i recognized from my university lectures about color chemistry in nature: Astaxanthine. It is a member of the carotenoid family, a dark red pigment and the main carotenoid found in algae (see picture above) and aquatic animals such as krills (read more here). If you ever wondered why your shellfish turn pink in hot water or where the salmon meat color comes from, it is all ascribable to Astaxanthine. So what is it allegedly doing in our foundation?
It is primarily a powerful antioxidant. It has the capacity to quench free radicals and reactive species of oxygen and to inhibit lipid peroxidation and there are studies that have shown astaxanthin 500 times stronger than vitamin E and much more potent than other carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene. Astaxanthin found inside cells protects against oxidative damage by three general mechanisms: Quenching of singlet oxygen (read here why possibly bad for skin) and dissipating the energy as heat, scavenging of radicals to prevent or terminate chain reactions and preservation of membrane structure thereby inhibiting membrane lipid peroxidation. I found an abstract (here) that shows success in preventing UV-induced skin damage using a topical application of a liposomal formulation containing Astaxanthin (which can be a foundation, too). It is only soluble in lipids by the way, so if you want to take your Astaxanthin supplement -you may not need if you regularely eat seafood and algae- be sure to not have some kind of fat-free diet. Anyways it still needs more evidence and research to fully convince me to buy a 50 dollar créme or makeup but it seems like a nice promising basic antioxidant ingredient to me. Best, Ea Birkkam.
“The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.” Sigmund Freud
A beautiful, healthy tan. A nice dark Victoria Secret-like tan requires no sun at all anymore but a can of spray tan. There are various different ingredients serving as tanning agents but there is one that finds its way on most products’ INCI labels: DHA or Dihydroxyacetone, a simple, non-toxic three-carbon ‘sugar’. So how does it work on the skin? The very basic principles are the same as a cut apple staying a little too long in the air. Amino acids interact with sugars to create brown or golden brown compounds, we call this kind of reaction Maillard reaction. Currently it is defined as the reaction of the amino group of amino acids, peptides, or proteins with the glycosidic hydroxyl group of sugars, forming brown products referred to as melanoidins. And there we have the dark tint on our skin. There is only one common ‘skepticism’ that i hear so often: “But doesn’t it turn your skin orange?” Yes and no, and that is where we have to be a little smart.
Only the monomeric form of DHA undergoes the Maillard reaction that leads to tanning and biproducts like Glyceraldehyde (an orange light oily six-membered H-bonded conformation of DHA) and the other dimeric forms of DHA want to be avoided. So there are a few tricks that can ensure your tan develops its best: Don’t use your product in combination with very alkaline or let’s say ‘soapy’ products, DHA requires a slightly acidy surrounding to develop its best and your skin -not fresh from the shower- is a great base for it, so put at least 4 hours before and 4 hours after your application of the self tanner and a shower and happily use the skins own buffer to achieve the optimal pH of 5-6. Another tip: Don’t carry your self tanner or DHA product in your beach bag that might get hot in the sun and store it in a cool, dark place. DHA is not stable over 40°C, temperature-dependent spectra have indicated that increasing the temerpature favored the formation of glyceraldehyde (see here). One last thing you: never forget your SPF. There are studies that have shown that DHA-treated is especially sensitive for a day after self-tanner application and excessive sun exposure should be avoided and sunscreen should be worn outdoors. An antioxidant cream could also minimize free radical production. Another study though showed a 3% DHA solution overnight provides SPF of at least 3 in the UVB region and SPF of 10 in UVA region on skin treated with a 15% solution of DHA (read more here). But most of self tanners only have 3-5% DHA formulations, so it isn’t a compeating fact to the sun-sensitivity. Save your skin, Ea Birkkam.
“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.” Patrick Süskind, Perfume
Bioactive perfume. So many fictive possibilities, imagine a world where you are olfactory manipulated: Scents of a sexually suitable partners, scents of being in love. Pure body language. Well, we are not too far away from that Science Fiction-esque dream: A while ago scientists from the Max Planck Institute discovered that women prefer the smell of men who have different immune gene variants than they themselves have and are now cracking the olfactory code for partner selection and synthesizing the first biologically effective perfume. Musk, amber, zibet… there are tons of skinlike fragrances that aim to mock the both sensual and sexual scent of skin since medieval times. Most of them extracted from animal bi-products that oftentimes exploit or kill the animal. But now it can be produced synthetically without resorting to animal products. Read the rest at scitechdaily.com here.
Another great article i found about neuroscientific chances of modern scents showed how animals separate smells, such as food sources or the scent of predators, from background information. In an August 3 paper in Nature Neuroscience, a team of researchers led by Venkatesh Murthy, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, showed that while mice can be trained to detect specific odorants embedded in random mixtures and how their performance drops steadily with increasing background components. “This study is interesting because it first shows that smells are not always perceived as one whole object – they can be broken down into their pieces” Murthy said. “(…) we can now get a better understanding of how the brain does this. One can also imagine that understanding how this is done may also allow us to build artificial olfactory systems that can detect specific chemicals in the air that are buried amidst a plethora of other odors.” Check out the rest of the ‘olfactory cocktail party’ article here, Ea Birkkam.
“Beauty is certainly a soft, smooth, slippery thing, and therefore of a nature which easily slips in and permeates our souls” Plato, Lysis
Long, healthy and beautiful nails. There is an ocean of products promising it and most of them are nail polishes. You find them in almost every colour. But if you have really brittle nails you look for a great nail hardener first and most of the polishes have formaldehyde as a hardening agent which is neither good to breathe in or when touching the skin (see here). Today I came across a very interesting article in the Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research about a product that sounds kind of auspicious, it is characterized as a “medical nail polish.” A colorless, water soluble nail lacquer which is a medical device for treating nail dystrophy (very brittle nails). You have mainly 3 ingredients that make it work:
-Hydroxypropyl-chitosan (HPCH), which is a bio polymer and a film former (similar chemistry as shrimp shells).
-Horse tail extract (ancient roman house remedy for brittle nails and a diuretic- ok, let us skip this one…)
-Methylsulphonyl-methane (a penetration enhancer, presumably to deliver the HPCH into the nail.)
So far i came across 3 products available online, check the right bar for them, i would love to test one of them the next weeks and see how it works. Regards, Ea Birkkam.
“A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true, for if the things be false, the apprehension of them is not understanding.” Isaac Newton
Futuristic, haptic footwear. It got my immediate attention as i am a big fan of futuristic design and life improving features. Developed by Ducere Technologies and available for approximately 100-150$, the Lechal smartshoe is somehow comparable to Google Glass — though it’s not able to take POV pictures and videos.
You can either choose the Lechal smartshoe or only insoles which you can slip into your own shoes. Via Bluetooth the smartshoe connects to your iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device. The insole contains the usual slew of sensors that you would expect from a wearable computer, allowing the companion app to accurately track how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burnt, and so on. What truly sets the Lechal apart from a fitness band, though, is that each insole can vibrate. I am not so sure if I am a fan of vibrating shoes (tickles) but it seems practical. I wish they would come as monochrome as in the pictures above, but you have beautiful black with red linings if that is fair enough for you. What do you think about them? Best, Ea Birkkam
“Science and art are only too often a superior kind of dope, possessing this advantage over booze and morphia: that they can be indulged in with a good conscience and with the conviction that, in the process of indulging, one is leading the ‘higher life’.” Aldous Huxley
Blemish and age defense. Almost every face care serum that concerns both topics has a magic little ingredient on its INCI labels: LHA or Beta-Lipohydroxy Acid, an innovative, lipophilic derivative of salicylic acid. And no wonder, it is so much better than your Clearasil: in combination products that include salicylic acid, the LHA/salicylic acid combination is more effective than salicylic acid alone and still it is less irritating than salicylic acid alone. LHA has an eight-carbon fatty chain connected to the aromatic benzene ring (see picture above). This “attachment” allows for LHA to be more lipophilic than salicylic acid, while penetrating less deeply, which may partially account for its lower irritation potential.
According to results of prospective, randomized, double-blind studies presented by Brigitte Dréno, Doctor of Medicine, at the World Congress of Dermatology. “LHA is a keratolytic that prevents the formation of new microcomedones, which are the first lesions of acne. Through that activity it can help to maintain clearing in persons who have responded well to acne treatment but also act synergistically with tretinoin, decreasing the delay to efficacy while allowing a decrease in the frequency of tretinoin application to reduce side effects and improve patient compliance,” she said (read here). LHA has been shown to stimulate renewal of epidermal cells and of the extracellular matrix which makes it a potent anti-aging compound aswell. Anyways, most of the research is done by the company itself (La Roche Posay) and it yet lacks a little research by independent scientist (more here). Best, Ea Birkkam.
“Art is the right hand of Nature. The latter has only given us being, the former has made us men.” Friedrich Schiller
Babassu Oil or cusi oil is a South American light yellow vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of Attalea speciosa (a palm). In cosmetics this oil has properties similar to coconut oil and is a great alternative to it. Babassu oil is about 70 per cent lipids (mostly Lauric-, Myristic-, Palmitic-, Oleic-, Stearic Fatty Acid; read here) and therefore a great skin-like oil since Lauric and myristic acids have melting points comparable to human body temperature. It makes a great solid melt followed by a cooling sensation.
Buriti Oil or moriche oil comes from a South American swamp palm. It is a dark orange oil extracted from the fruit of the moriche palm. The oil contains high concentrations of oleic acid, tocopherols (vit e) and carotenoids (vit a), especially betacarotene (more here). There is scientific research about the Oil on filtering and absorbing cancer-causing UV rays from the sun (see here). It would make a great tanning oil with light spf.
Tamanu Oil, a polynesian dark/greenish inedible oil, has proven track record as a skin healing agent through its unique process of Cicatrization (ability to speed up wound healing and promote the formation of new tissue, read here). It is a widely used traditional tropic aid and Pacifit island folk medicine uses it liberally on cuts, burns, insect bites, acne and more. Feeling tropical, Ea Birkkam