BEAUTY Science is cool—es­pe­cially when it’s ad­vanc­ing our beauty rou­tines.

Who knew chemists would find a rapt au­di­ence on In­sta­gram? Meet the new beauty in­flu­encers.

ELLE (Canada) - - Contents -

WOMEN HAVE LONG been cu­ri­ous about the in­gre­di­ents in their beauty prod­ucts. Lately, though, it seems like we have col­lec­tively grad­u­ated from Skin­care 101. Take this re­cent com­ment left un­der a photo on skin­care brand Drunk Ele­phant’s In­sta­gram page: “Is the zinc Um­bra coated, pre­sum­ably with the tri­ethoxy­capry­lyl­si­lane also shown in the in­gre­di­ent list?” (The an­swer is yes, and the ques­tion was re­sponded to di­rectly by the brand’s di­rec­tor of R & D.) The de­sire for tech­ni­cal beauty in­for­ma­tion has led to some un­likely stars on so­cial me­dia: chemists. Rather than re­view­ing prod­ucts based on sen­sory as­pects or of­fer­ing tu­to­ri­als, a grow­ing num­ber of In­sta­gram­mers are breaking down the science be­hind skin­care. “I’ve seen mas­sive growth over the past year or so,” says Michelle Wong, Ph.D., a science ed­u­ca­tor based in †

Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, of her In­sta­gram ac­count, @lab­muf­fin beau­ty­science, where she takes a crit­i­cal look at com­monly held skin­care be­liefs, such as the no­tion that all syn­thetic chem­i­cals should be avoided. “I’ve been re­ally im­pressed by how de­tailed the ques­tions have be­come. I’ll do a post about some­thing I thought only I would care about, given my medic­i­nal chem­istry back­ground, but it turns out that a lot of my fol­low­ers want to know as well.” Stephen Alain Ko (@kind­of­stephen), a Toronto-based cos­metic chemist and for­mu­la­tor, has racked up a fol­low­ing of al­most 30,000 peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in his ev­i­dence-based ap­proach to com­mon skin­care ques­tions. In the United States, San Fran­cis­cobased chem­i­cal engi­neers Vic­to­ria Fu and Glo­ria Lu (@chemist.con­fes­sions) lever­age knowl­edge they gained working with anti-aging and acne prod­uct for­mu­la­tions to de­code in­gre­di­ent lists for their 32,000 fol­low­ers. “Part of our mo­ti­va­tion to keep Chemist Con­fes­sions go­ing is the be­lief that only an ed­u­cated con­sumer base can change the market land­scape,” says Fu. “We al­ready see changes hap­pen­ing now—things like choos­ing pack­ag­ing that bet­ter pro­tects the for­mula, which means it re­quires fewer preser­va­tives. Or mak­ing more en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious de­ci­sions with in­gre­di­ents, like sun fil­ters, and biodegrad­able pack­ag­ing.”

WHICH COM­MON BEAUTY CLAIM/UN­CLEAR PHRAS­ING FRUSTRATES YOU THE MOST?

Stephen Alain Ko “‘Stud­ies show’ or ‘Re­search shows.’ Of­ten, the re­sults have only been demon­strated in cells in a petri dish, which doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late to hu­mans ap­ply­ing the prod­uct to their skin. This in­for­ma­tion is of­ten left out and can be mis­lead­ing to a con­sumer.” Michelle Wong “Us­ing the phrase ‘chem­i­cal-free’ to mean nat­u­ral. Ev­ery­thing is made of chem­i­cals, in­clud­ing na­ture!” Glo­ria Lu “When brands com­bine science fic­tion with dra­matic prose—some­thing along the lines of ‘Har­vested from a rare flower that blooms once a decade, this rare, hy­per-con­cen­trated, nu­tri­tious gem of an in­gre­di­ent acts as a re­set but­ton for your aged skin and re­plen­ishes your der­mal chakra....’”

WHAT QUES­TION DO YOU GET ASKED THE MOST?

SAK “Whether or not com­bin­ing two skin­care prod­ucts ren­ders them use­less or in­ef­fec­tive. The an­swer is that there is no solid an­swer, un­less the two prod­ucts have been stud­ied.”

WHAT GEN­ERAL AD­VICE CAN YOU GIVE TO CON­SUMERS LOOK­ING AT AN IN­GRE­DI­ENT LIST?

MW “Don’t be afraid of in­gre­di­ents with tricky names; it doesn’t mean they are dan­ger­ous or worse for you. Buty­lene gly­col and ethoxy­digly­col are com­plex­sound­ing but very safe sol­vents used in cos­met­ics that act as humec­tants [ help­ing skin re­tain mois­ture]. Nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents are not nec­es­sar­ily safer or more ef­fi­ca­cious.”

HOW MUCH CAN YOU RE­ALLY LEARN ABOUT A PROD­UCT FROM READ­ING THE IN­GRE­DI­ENT LIST?

MW “It doesn’t tell you how the in­gre­di­ents are com­bined, which can make a huge dif­fer­ence in terms of how the prod­uct works—like how well the ac­tive in­gre­di­ents pen­e­trate your skin or how well sunscreen in­gre­di­ents cover your skin and pro­tect you from the sun. Un­cooked cake bat­ter would have the same in­gre­di­ent list as the fi­nal baked cake.”

IN YOUR OPIN­ION, WHAT SKIN­CARE IN­GRE­DI­ENT SHOULD EV­ERY­ONE HAVE IN THEIR ROU­TINE?

GL “Ev­ery­one’s skin is dif­fer­ent. Even skin­care su­per­stars like niaci­namide [a.k.a. vi­ta­min B3, which im­proves the ap­pear­ance of pores, among other things] can be ir­ri­tat­ing to some. For hy­dra­tion, we would rec­om­mend glyc­er­ine and hyaluronic acid for their re­li­able ef­fi­cacy and low ir­ri­ta­tion po­ten­tial.” MW “Sunscreen. There’s so much science be­hind it. It’s the best anti-aging prod­uct. In a large clin­i­cal trial, daily us­age was found to re­duce the chance of can­cer. My favourite sunscreen fil­ters are the newer ones: Ti­nosorb S and Ti­nosorb M.”

“Don’t be afraid of in­gre­di­ents with tricky names; it doesn’t mean they are dan­ger­ous.”

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