powered by

powered by
The Beauty Connoisseurs

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Lesson in Chemistry

As usual, I was browsing my twitter timeline when I came across something that made my eyebrows raise. What I read reminded me of how little "normal" people know about chemistry. By normal, I mean people that aren't as nerdily passionate about chemistry as I. Although I'm a cosmetic chemist, I enjoy and have studied all areas of chemistry which leads me to this pet peeve...

The elements in a compound alone do not determine the properties of the compound.

I want to keep this quick, so allow me to use an example. Take water and peroxide, for instance. Notice that they have unique names, yet they are made of the same 2 elements-- Hydrogen and Oxygen. What is the difference between the two? Well, the number of molecules for starters. Water contains 2 molecules of hydrogen per 1 molecule of Oxygen hence the notation H2O. Peroxide, on the other hand, contains 2 molecules of Hydrogen per 2 molecules of Oxygen and is noted as H2O2. They also differ in structure. The molecules in water occupy the same plane, however, peroxide molecules occupy 2 planes. **To visualize the planes consider a sheet of paper. In a water molecule, everything lays flat on the sheet of paper. However, in a peroxide molecule half of the compound lays flat on the paper and the other half sticks out of the paper.

Water Molecule

Peroxide Molecule

The number of molecules and their structure/arrangement in the compound make water and hydrogen peroxide very different. In fact, while water is safe to ingest and apply to skin, the same is not true for peroxide. In low concentrations, peroxide can be applied to the skin and even swished around in your mouth. BUT in higher concentrations, H2O2 is highly corrosive and will cause serious chemical burns to your skin and mouth. One job I held in undergrad required me to work with very concentrated peroxide. I had to be very careful to properly dilute it to prevent injury to myself and those using the finished product. H2O2 is NO JOKE!

I used the example of water and peroxide because it was among the simplest I could think of. However, these types of major differences can be seen between all kinds of compounds that happen to share elements or similar structures. Keep this in mind when assessing your cosmetics ingredients or when you see things like "Propylene Glycol is used in anti-freeze. It can't possibly be safe in cosmetics." Give me a break! A lot must be considered in the assessment of chemical safety including stuff like steric tension, hydrogen bonds, concentration... You get the picture.

That's enough of my nerdy pet peeve... Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Color Therapy

One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage self esteem through cosmetics. That may sound superficial to some, however, I see it as very real and very necessary. Cosmetics help enhance the beauty we already have. Though I'm not a makeup wearer, I do see how makeup makes women feel good. When you think of makeup, you think of color... a rainbow of colors in just about every shade, hue and intensity you can think of. Have you ever considered the role color cosmetics play in enhancing a woman's overall esteem? I'm not talking about masking imperfections. I'm talking about makeup artistry-- using the face as a canvas to create art and freedom of expression.

The fact that color appeals to one of the five senses is a clear indication that it can affect us on a deeper level. Color has the capacity to incite or simply complement a full range of emotions and moods. In my daily life, I use nail polish as a form of color therapy. I like to wear colors that make me feel happy and pretty. I'm a bright color kind of girl. That's not to say I wear neon nail polish, but I tend to avoid colors on the darker end of the spectrum. Yesterday, I fell in love with a periwinkle blue color that has been brightening every second of my life since I brushed it on. This color reminds me of a clear blue sky over a body of water. It is just so pure. To complete the therapy, I added big yellow polka dots to one nail. That's like my sunshine. Of course a mani will only last so long, but I'm taking in every moment of this one.

Don't be afraid to use a little color to brighten your days, too. Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In the Lab: Product Inspiration

I gather a lot of product inspiration from fashion and home design. It may sound strange, but somehow I can translate the colors and designs of clothes and home accessories into cosmetics and fragrance. There was a spread in the July 2011 issue of Vogue that immediately drew me in. "Spellbound", as it was appropriately named, was inspired by "1940's film noir chic". Anything old hollywood screams richness and luxury to me. That can be creatively translated into lip and eye color, nail lacquer and even high end fragrance.

The basis of my product idea stemmed from the fact that film and tv in the 1940's was completely black and white. What a perfect canvas for bold colors, textures and prints! The most striking page in the spread featured Lara Stone in a beautifully tailored Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere shirtwaist dress (2011RTW). With bold colors of fuschia, shades of orange, royal blue/purple, red and mustard yellow set on a white background, I was staring at a palette of inspiration. I think this dress spoke to me so deeply because I've always been attracted to that kind of paisley-esque floral. In fact, I've been stalking this dinnerware set in a similar print at Target for months. I just can't muster a good excuse to purchase it.

So imagine my joy when I met with my latest joint venture partner and she unveiled swatches of colors that had been dancing around in my head for the last two weeks. Talk about thrilled! Glam girls think alike :-)

We'll revisit this post when it's time to reveal the new project. Until then, take note: Beauty and fashion walk hand in hand. If you want to succeed in the beauty industry (especially color cosmetics) you must keep a close eye what the fashion industry is doing.

Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cracking the Code: Shea Butter and SPF

On more than one occasion, I have heard and seen shea butter being purported as a sunscreen. While I know this to be untrue, I thought it would be a good idea to explain where this particular shea butter myth comes from, what's true and what's not.

Natural, unrefined Shea butter is very complex. If you've ever melted pure shea butter and noticed a gritty texture when it cooled, then you've experienced firsthand just how complex it is. The chemical component that people attribute to shea butter's sun protection is cinnamic acid. Cinnamic acid does, indeed, have UV absorption properties in the 250-300 nm wavelength (UVB). However, the concentration of cinnamic acid in shea butter is not strong enough to provide any real sun protection. Even when shea butter is standardized for a higher concentration of cinnamic acid, it still doesn't provide substantial sun protection. Alternatively, the cinnamic acid in shea butter can work in synergy with organic sunscreen actives (ex: OM-Cinnamate)to give a broader spectrum SPF (more UVB protection and maybe some UVA protection). **We'll discuss synergy in a later post.

To sum it all up, shea butter alone is not enough to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. It may (or may not) give your sunscreen of choice an extra boost of sun protection when applied separately. The synergy more than likely works better in the actual formulation. If you're looking for a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection, shea butter is an ingredient that you probably want to see in the ingredients list. Plus, you get all the other benefits of shea butter with just one product.

Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Spirit of Competition

It is inevitable, every business has competition. There's always going to be another company that offers the same or similar products/services as your own. As the saying goes-- There's nothing new under the sun. In order to grow a strong, successful cosmetic company, you must familiarize yourself with the competition and learn how to compete. Most people understand the concept of competition, but not everyone knows how to compete effectively.

The biggest mistake I see startups make is trying to make a product too much like one that already exists. What I find fascinating is that usually companies start out with a very unique idea yet end up with a product that is not equally unique. I know exactly how it happens because I've seen it a time or two. In the midst of studying the competition and seeing what it is that people like about their products, you start to convince yourself that consumers will only find use for products that are just like the ones that already exist. Oh ye of little faith! Give consumers a little credit... they like what they like until something comes along that is.... drumroll.... BETTER. Understand that an existing company has already carved out it's fan base. There are consumers who use those products loyally because of product performance and the relationship that has been built over time. To introduce a product to the marketplace that virtually already exists is a huge risk. It's challenging enough to convince consumers to give your product a try so when they do try it, give them a reason to keep coming back. The key to being able to compete and (ultimately) win, is to stand out. Below are my 5 tips to winning in business:

1. Decide what you want to sell and who you want to compete with.

2. Get to know what your competition has done to find success.

3. Improve on what your competition has to offer. **When I say improve on the competition, I don't mean take their exact product and add a little something to it. I mean study the benefits and results their product. Find out what their fans love about their product and then develop your own product that tops the competition.

4. Customize your product/brand to suit YOU ie your personality, style, thought processes, etc.

5a. Market it.

5b. Market it some more. Branding and visibility go a loooooonnnnng way in getting your product(s) the attention they deserve.

If you follow my advice, you'll be well on your way to thriving business.

Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beauty Reflections

I just spent about 10 minutes in the mirror analyzing my skin... studying it, assessing the flaws and thinking of a master plan to make it perfect. This past week has been a complete disaster in the beauty department. I make no apologies for being vain... and when I say vain, I mean I care a whole lot about my appearance. I want my hair to be perfect and when it's not it can ruin my day. I want my skin to be clear, soft, pore-less and glowing... when it's not, I'm nearly depressed. This morning, I sat in deep reflection about skin and hair care from a personal perspective. I thought, "My skin and hair could probably take care of itself if I just let it." I believe that wholeheartedly.

I stopped using shampoo back in September (6-7 months ago) because I developed a product that cleansed the hair without stripping the natural oils. That was one of the best things I could have done for my hair (and my daughter's). I was reminded of just how harsh shampoo can be when I decided to use it last weekend and experienced the biggest hair trauma of my life... complete with dramatic tears and sound effects smh. My hair, especially my natural hair, is better off without the suds. I'm beginning to think the same is true for my skin. I'm not willing to eliminate my soap and body wash, but I think it's time to throw out my facial cleanser and allow my skin take care of itself. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to put the good stuff in. I won't be letting go of my toner, exfoliators or moisturizers. I just think that maybe I'm doing too much by using a cleanser to "clean" my face. How dirty could it be? With using a cleanser I've noticed my skin has changed from dry to combination... but not in the typical areas. I don't have t-zone issues alone, my cheeks may break out too. O_O I NEVER had issues with breakouts before. I also started to see my pores in the smile line area between my nose and mouth. That is not cool at all. Halfway through my skin care bootcamp this past week, I stopped using my cleanser. Instead, I rinsed my face with warm water and used my white tea toner and aloe. My dry patches are clearing and my pores are returning to normal size. From a scientist's perspective, I think the cleanser may have been throwing off my skin's natural ability to regulate itself.

This is not to say that I think everyone should throw out their shampoo/cleanser. But as a person with naturally dry skin and hair, I don't need it. I rarely wear makeup (only eyeliner and mascara when I go out). Nor do I put a lot of product in my hair between washes. Someone that did either may still need to use a little bubble action in their beauty regimen. Just remember, if bubbles are involved, conditioning and moisturizing is not an option, it is a requirement.

What are your beauty reflections? Have you considered changing the way you care for your hair and skin? Tell us about it!

Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

DIY Skin Care Recipes

It's been quite awhile since I've posted on the blog. I really wish that weren't true because I have so much to share. I literally have about 20 blog titles written down in my little journal, I just haven't had the time to post. I've been super busy in the lab making magic for my clients and I just recently moved to a new location. :-D

I rarely share skin care recipes, but since I've slacked off so much here, I think it's ok. On March 26, 2011, my first ever television segment aired on WXYZ Channel 7 News (Detroit). There I shared 2 very easy and effective skin care recipes that you can whip up in your kitchen. The recipes are posted below the video. And for those of you who are wondering, yes I do actually use these recipes. I use the toner daily and the mask as needed (1 or 2x a week). Right now I'm doing a skin care bootcamp because my temperamental skin has decided to act out on me o_O. So this week I'm doing a version of the mask everyday.

Here's to the Glam Life!

Antioxidant Facial Toner

What you’ll need:

1 cup of boiling water
1 bag of green or white tea
(I use white tea with blueberry and pomegranate)
1 tsp of pure honey


Add the honey to hot water and stir.

Steep the tea in the honey and hot water mixture for 2 minutes.

Let tea cool to warm or room temperature.

Apply toner to the face and neck using your fingertips in an upward circular motion.

Let dry for 15-30 seconds before applying moisturizer or facial mask.

Strawberry Cream Facial Mask

What you’ll need:

3 strawberries, chopped
1 tsp of wheatgerm
(Can substitute with oatmeal)
2 tbsp (Organic) Whole Milk Plain Yogurt


Mash the strawberries in a clean, dry bowl.

Add the wheatgerm (oatmeal) to the strawberries and mix.

Add the yogurt to the mixture and stir until completely mixed.

Apply to damp face and neck with fingertips. Feel free to lay it on thick.

Let dry for 15-20 minutes.

Rinse with warm water. Pat dry. Apply moisturizer.
[ ... ]

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beauty Product Challenge

I wanted to start the year off with a challenge for my readers-- consumers and fellow formulators alike. While natural products are all the rage these days, it can be difficult to find "all natural" products that can compete on all levels with their synthetic counterparts. Before you allow yourself to think that natural formulators need to step it up, allow me to give a little insight.

A great deal of the ingredients used in cosmetics are needed to enhance the appearance and texture of an otherwise effective product. Formulators go to great lengths to ensure that their finished products feel great on the skin and also look good in the jar/bottle. I'm willing to bet most of us have never considered the level of effort that it takes to make a crystal clear bath gel that also smells like berries. Some of the very ingredients on the chopping block are only used to the more superficial expectations of the consumer.

My own laboratory work is limited from time to time because I have to make sure the products are not only effective, but also look/feel like something consumers have seen/felt before. When you're working with natural ingredients that have their own color and texture mixed in with their amazing benefits, things get tricky.


I challenge consumers to throw out all of their preconceived thoughts on what a cosmetic should look or feel like. Forget that creams and lotions are "supposed" to be pure white. Pretend that liquid hand soap was meant to be a little cloudy. Allow a cosmetic to improve your skin over a period of time instead of expecting instantly silky hands and legs. If you say you want natural, give natural a real shot. This way, formulators can focus on creating products that truly give long term benefits as opposed pretty colors and short lived instant gratification.

I also challenge formulators to push natural products even if they are a little different than what consumers are used to. Someone will be willing to try it... and when they love it, the word will spread.

Let's step out of the monotony and jump into something new, unique, different and worth it. Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Lesson in Elasticity

Elasticity is a very important factor in assessing the strength of hair. The elasticity of the hair is an indicator of what styles and/or processes your hair can withstand. When hair has low elasticity, it will not hold a curl well (thermal or wet styled) and it is more prone to damage caused by styling and chemical treatments. Basically, hair with low elasticity is weak and must be handled with care.

Chemical treatments including relaxers, permanent wave, color and even keratin should be preceded by an elasticity strand test to ensure minimal (ideally zero) breakage occurs. But you should also consider performing an elasticity test before going to wacky with the hooded dryer, blow dryer, round brush and flat iron because this requires good elasticity, too. One way to test your hair's elasticity is to take a [full length] strand of hair from your comb or brush. Hold the strand with the index finger and thumb of both hands about 2 inches apart. Quickly and firmly pull the strand of hair. If the strand snaps, it has low elasticity; If it remains in tack, it has good elasticity.

Another strand test that is equally as fun is what I call the "ribbon curl" test. Hold a strand of hair between the index finger and thumb of one hand. With the index finger and thumb of the opposite hand, use your thumb nail to firmly run along the length of the strand so that it curls. -- This is similar to curling a ribbon with scissors. -- Now stretch the curl until the strand is straight then let it go. If the strand returns to the original curl pattern, it has good elasticity. If it returns to at least half the original curl, it has moderate elasticity. If it stays straight, your hair is in bad shape :(.

Many factors affect the elasticity of the hair. Excessive heat styling, combing/brushing when the hair is wet and chemical treatments can all have a devastating effect on your hair's level of elasticity. If after performing the strand test you find that your hair has low elasticity, avoid all of the above styling faux pas. Hair elasticity can be improved by giving your hair what it lacks... PROTEIN! Hair is 100% protein (keratin). Hair with low elasticity has weaker protein bonds than that of good elasticity. Nevertheless protein treatments are a good idea for everyone sooooo... Run, run, run to your nearest beauty supply to purchase a deep conditioning protein treatment.

Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hair, Hair and More Hair!

Wednesday evening, I gave a speech entitled "Hair, Hair and More Hair!" at my Toastmasters International club. I covered a lot in that 9min 30sec speech that I have not yet covered here... so, here it goes. :-)

I've always been completely fascinated and intrigued by hair. My mom has maintained her cosmetology license for nearly 30 years, so I grew up a tad more knowledgeable and obsessive about my hair than many other little girls. In addition to working on a hair care line in the lab, I recently decided to make a drastic change in the way that I manage my hair. Enter even more obsessive behavior O_O. As the glam girl in me was reading about various hair textures and styles and treatments, the scientist in me peeked in to ask a few questions. A scientist that has questions cannot rest until they have answers, so you can probably guess how my "research" grew wings.

How does hair get it's texture?

The texture of any one person's hair depends on the shape and size of the hair follicle. There are 4 general shapes of a hair follicle which happen to correlate perfectly with Andre Walker's hair types philosophy. A hair follicle is like a tiny tube that guides the hair to the surface of the scalp. A round hair follicle yields straight hair. The more oval the hair follicle, the more curly the hair it yields.

Similarly, the thickness of hair is dependent on the size of the hair follicle. Large follicles produce thick strands of hair while smaller follicles produce thin strands of hair.

What I really wanted to know was the real science behind hair texture. I was interested in why hair texture differs across and within ethnic groups. Could it be genetic? Hormonal? Due to human adaptation/evolution? Apparently, the type of hair your parents have definitely determines the type of hair you end up with, whether that is straight, wavy or curly. Just last year, a study showed that variants of a particular gene determine how curly your hair will be. Scientists still aren't clear exactly which variants play a part or how they work.

The fact that some people have hair that changes textures throughout their lifetime hints that hormonal changes may be at work. There are even cases of caucasian people with thick, coarse hair like that of African and African American people. It's a rare occurrence, but it happens often enough to have a name-- "Wooly Hair Syndrome". Imagine that.

While I'm slightly disappointed that all of my questions were not answered, the research is well on it's way. I look forward to finding out what factors are at work in determining our hair texture. I hear that the research is being pushed because the findings are a gold mine. There may be a pill developed that could change your hair texture from straight to curly and back straight. My curiosity didn't take me to that train of thought (that's bordering on mad scientist territory imo), nevertheless, I find it all muy interesante...

So, what's your hair texture? Does it change from time to time?

Here's to the Glam Life!
[ ... ]