Fact-check: What is micellar water and how does it work? An Update

micellar-water-face

Over the past two years, my post on the chemistry of micellar water with dodgy photographed scrawlings has become one of the most popular, so I thought it was high time to update it with nicer drawings and finetune the explanation of the science. This also comes in video form – check it out here! There are tons of micellar …

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Why Vitamin C Can Stain Your Skin (and How to Avoid It!)

vit c

Vitamin C is one of the few skincare ingredients with a decent amount of independent research to back up its properties, like its brightening and anti-wrinkle benefits. But those of you who are vitamin C enthusiasts may have noticed that with some vitamin C serums that contain ascorbic acid, you end up with slightly darkened skin after a few days …

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Do I Need a Special Cleanser to Remove Sunscreen?

Do I Need a Special Cleanser to Remove Sunscreen?

Here’s a myth I’ve been seeing around skincare communities: that you have to use a special cleanser to remove water-resistant sunscreen. For example: “Keep in mind that most of these sunscreen actives are also oil-soluble (only dissolves in oil, not water), which gives sunscreens their water-proof and sweat-proof properties. Therefore, in order to completely remove sunscreen, you have to use …

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All About Cleansing & How to Choose a Gentle Cleanser

What Makes a Gentle Cleanser? All About Gentle Cleansing

Gone are the days of harsh cleansers that dried out your skin – everyone’s getting into gentle cleansers! What’s the science behind gentle cleansing, and how do you pick a gentle cleanser? Here’s the scientific background behind this skin-loving trend! Want more about the science behind choosing and using the right cleansers, moisturiser and sunscreen for your skin? Check out …

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How Do Bath Bombs Work? The Science (With Video)

lush-golden-wonder

Bath bombs are awesome balls of fizzy goodness, with some interesting science behind them! They were invented in 1989 by Mo Constantine, one of Lush’s founders. Bath bombs contain the chemical sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, as their key ingredient. This is the text version – scroll down for the video! Some of you might remember that baking …

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How Do Bubbling Oxygen Masks Work? (with Video)

How Do Bubbling Oxygen Masks Work?

Oxygen masks are products which come out of the bottle as a gel, but start bubbling with oxygen gas after a few seconds on the skin. Brands like Bliss, Peter Thomas Roth, Dr Brandt, Oseque and Sephora have oxygen bubble masks. What do they do, and how did they get the gas into the bottle?

Here’s the video, scroll down for the text version…

How do oxygen masks work?

Oxygen masks work a lot like soda water or soft drinks, where gas is dissolved in water under pressure (carbon dioxide gas, for soda), and is released when the pressure drops (when you open the bottle).

How Do Bubbling Oxygen Masks Work?

Oxygen doesn’t dissolve as well in water, so instead it’s dissolved in chemicals called perfluorocarbons, which are stable, unreactive carbon-based compounds containing fluorine atoms. They can dissolve 20 times more oxygen than water, and have even been investigated for use in artificial blood.

These oxygenated perfluorocarbons are then sealed in a pressurised bottle. When the mask comes out, the oxygen starts fizzing out slowly like the bubbles in soft drink. For some thicker products, a pressurised bottle isn’t required – the thickness of the product itself is enough to hold the oxygen until you massage it out by applying it on the skin.

How Do Bubbling Oxygen Masks Work?

oxygen-mask-IMG_9522

The most commonly used perfluorocarbons in cosmetics are perfluorodecalin and methyl perfluorobutyl ether, but pretty much anything in the ingredients list with “perfluoro” in it will be a perfluorocarbon. Here are the perfluorocarbon ingredients in some popular oxygen masks:

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Powered By Chemicals Coffee and Tea Molecule Mugs

Earlier this year I really wanted a molecule mug, but I could only really find ones with caffeine on them. But the chemistry of tea and coffee is so interesting – there’s EGCG in green tea for example, an awesome antioxidant that you’ll also find in skincare products, and there’s a bunch of scent molecules in coffee that smell nasty …

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How Does Olaplex Hair Treatment Work?

Olaplex 2 & 3: How Does Olaplex Hair Treatment Work?

What is Olaplex?

Olaplex is a line of hair repair, “bond building” treatments that’s getting heaps of buzz in the hair community, especially with people who have damaged hair from excessive bleach.

It’s available in a couple of forms – Olaplex can be mixed in with bleaching products to minimise damage, or it can be used as a separate treatment. Here’s the science behind how it “repairs” disulfide bonds in hair.

Olaplex

Note (August 2018): I’ve updated this post, and there’s a video version now as well – click here to watch it!

olaplex-product-photo

The active ingredient in Olaplex is a compound called bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate. This is a slightly ambiguous name, but I’m pretty sure it matches this structure in the patent:

olaplex-structure

What does Olaplex claim to do?

Olaplex claims to “reconnect broken disulfide sulfur bonds in the hair.” The treatment is labelled a “bond multiplier”, which limits damage to hair during or after colouring.

Related Post: My Lazy Haircare Routine for Coloured Hair 

A lot of people with damaged hair have managed to get amazing results from Olaplex. Here’s my friend Mary, who got her natural curl texture back with a single Olaplex treatment:

olaplex-before-after

So suffice to say, it definitely does something! But is it as revolutionary as the hype makes it out to be?

How does Olaplex’s claims stand up?

Background

First up, a bit of basic hair chemistry. I’ve posted about hair chemistry before in my explanation of how hair straightening and perming work, but here’s a quick recap:

Hair contains lots of keratin proteins, which has the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is special because it contains a sulfur (S) atom. Normally, two sulfurs will join together to form a disulfide bond (S-S), creating a link between two proteins:

Keratin in Hair Structure

All these proteins holding hands is partially responsible for your hair’s overall shape and strength. When hair is permed or straightened, these bonds are deliberately broken into two SH (“free thiol”) groups, and then reformed after the hair is pulled into its new shape.

Re-forming these bonds typically takes a few days (hence not washing your hair for a few days after perming, since it warps the shape).

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