If you have any bottles of sunscreen left over from last year, throw them out, even if it’s almost full. It is a pity, yes, but also a necessary precaution, because sunscreens expire and, if we use them after the date, we cannot be sure that they filter the sun’s rays. It is not an aesthetic question; like many things in cosmetics, it is about health. Raquel Marcos Esteban, doctor in Chemistry and creator of the blog Ciencia y Cosmética, makes these and other warnings in her book ‘Beauty with science’ (Editorial Martínez Roca).
The ‘trick’ of the 99% natural
“One hundred percent natural does not exist in cosmetics.” And, then, those products with ‘85% natural products’? They do, yeah “But one of the main ingredients in almost all cosmetic formulas is water,” he clarifies the mystery the specialist. There are labels that even advertise ‘99% natural ingredients’. In a cream it is difficult, because it does not carry as much water, but a shower gel could.
How to ‘read’ the expiration date
The expiration date on food is obviously something we all look at. Not so much that of cosmetic products, although they do. «If its useful life is less than thirty months, the manufacturer must show it on the label together with the symbol of an hourglass and the expiration date, counting from the moment of its manufacture. Cosmetics that last longer are accompanied by the PAO symbol –period after opening–, which indicates the recommended time of use once opened.
– What products expire sooner than we think?
– Lipsticks, for example, last about two or three years. After that time, sometimes even a few white dots appear. And one of the products that most people use expired is the mascara, which we should not use for more than six or eight months, whatever the manufacturer indicates.
The effect? From nothing to skin lesions or loss of effectiveness, an issue that is not important in the case of mascara, but it does in the case of sun cream. «An expired moisturizing lotion can cause irritation, but in the case of an ineffective sun cream we speak of sunburn.
– Do you notice at first glance that a cosmetic is expired?
– Although many products carry perfumes, sometimes a slightly acidic smell is perceived. It is more noticeable in the texture, which changes, like when the typical ‘agüilla’ comes out.
This liquid should not be confused with the one that comes out of some products if they are not shaken. “Some creams must be shaken to stabilize the formula and it is usually indicated this way on the packaging”, clarifies Raquel Marcos.
Does the lemon mask work?
One of the common skin problems is blemishes and there is a home remedy that is as widespread as it is ineffective. «Lemon masks, far from eliminating stains, can be counterproductive. The essential oils of the lemon generate a phototoxic reaction, so that, when we expose that skin ‘treated’ with lemon to the sun, we risk skin irritation. This type of masks, and also those made of yogurt, can do more harm than good, “warns the author of the book.
Are there ‘anti-wrinkle’ creams?
Anti-wrinkle creams are actually claiming almost magical properties. «There are few ingredients that can eliminate wrinkles. What do exist are ingredients that can ‘fill in’ the skin and thereby camouflage the wrinkle.
– Is it a lie then about ‘anti-wrinkle’?
– It is only misleading up to a point, because most of the creams that are advertised as such incorporate sun protection, which is the first step to prevent the skin from generating wrinkles before its time.
Watch out, parabens!
Preservatives are like ‘coconut’, but in cosmetics they are “essential”, since without them “more than 80% of the products would have a shelf life of a maximum of one week.” As water is one of the main ingredients in this type of product and this is a means for bacterial proliferation, preservatives are essential. The effect of a ‘without’ product would be similar to that of ‘leaving a bucket of water to sit for two weeks’.
– Many people read ‘parabens’ and run away. How dangerous are they?
– Parabens are preservatives that are used not only in cosmetics, but in the pharmaceutical industry, so they are doubly looked at. A few years ago poorly designed studies were published that spoke of adverse effects that have not been proven. In the concentration allowed by law, they are not harmful. Another thing is that people, due to ignorance, have them associated with something bad and only buy products ‘without parabens’.
Gluten free shampoo
Two years ago, a gluten-free shampoo came on the market that, beyond the novel claim, does not contribute anything else. «It is striking and has a hook; besides being useful if we have a hobby I miss eating shampoo ». Marcos explains that gluten is not a common ingredient in the cosmetic industry and that those with traces of gluten do so in an amount that does not even reach half the danger threshold on food labeling.
The ampoule, a safe format
That some products come in blisters is no accident. «The format is interesting because the formula is sealed under an inert atmosphere and absence of oxygen. In the absence of this, there is no risk of bacterial growth. It is very appropriate, says the expert, for pure vitamin C, “which oxidizes in contact with air.” Of course, as they hardly have preservatives, once the blisters are opened, they must be used in less than two or three days.
Even the deepest layers of the skin? Not so much!
Some products advertise among their virtues that they “penetrate to the deepest layers of the skin.” They remain, however, on the surface, because, if they penetrated beyond the epidermis, the first layer of the skin – below it are the dermis and the hypodermis – “we would not be talking about a cosmetic, but a medicine”. Regarding this penetration of the product, a very widespread hoax is that the skin absorbs 60%. This argument is used among the detractors of cosmetics, but the specialist assures that, far from absorbing that amount, “it is much less.” So it would be more correct to say that a product simply “sits on the skin.” “For it to be absorbed systemically, for it to reach the bloodstream, it should penetrate to the dermis and they don’t; cosmetics remain in the stratum corneum, the most superficial part, “made up of about eleven to twenty layers of dead cells that are renewed every twenty-eight days.”
Let’s not just look at the packaging
Small boxes within larger ones, plastics … «The consumer thinks about the garbage they generate, that is why we believe that a cosmetic free from packaging is more sustainable. Sustainability yes, but also “human sustainability”. “A cosmetic product marketed in Europe with synthetic silicones in a laboratory may be more sustainable than one with rose oil, for which we need between 5,000 and 10,000 petals to produce”. Green cosmetics, the author qualifies, to carry such a surname “has to be sustainable not only in the ingredients that compose it, but also in the extraction of raw materials, in transport, in working conditions …”.
Shampoo for colored hair
Shampoo for dry, oily, colored, fragile hair … “Although sometimes it seems that the hair cosmetics industry tries to sneak in the odd unnecessary product, they usually get it right”, reassures Raquel Marcos.
The 3 essentials of the expert
«It is an indispensable product, for continuous use. It is a true anti-aging and is beneficial for the health of the skin.
“Any facial cream and some body creams that contain retinoids, because they stimulate collagen synthesis and ‘remove’ roughness. They improve the luminosity of the face and body, they are good against stretch marks ».
“A cleansing gel with a pH 5.5 to use before going to sleep and just getting up.”
Lagarto soap is not for the skin
The famous Lagarto soap, which has been used for everything, should not be used on the skin. «That ‘grandmother’s pill’ has a pH of 8 or 9, very far from the natural pH of the skin (5.5), in such a way that it produces an alteration of the skin barrier: it removes lipids from the skin, which allow the retention of water and that it fulfills that function of protective barrier ». If you’ve ever scrubbed your body with one of these pills, you’ve noticed that the after effect is “dry skin,” and that’s a red flag.
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