Your Questions About Beauty Ingredients, Answered!

Wondering what all those crazy ingredient names mean in your skin and hair care products? YouBeauty's Cosmetic Chemistry Expert Ni'Kita Wilson answers your burning questions.

| February 13th, 2013
Cosmetic Ingredients Questions Answered

Cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson stopped by our Facebook page to answer your questions about the ingredients in your beauty products. The discussion was so informative that we couldn't bear to see it disappear into our timeline. Here, your top 20 questions and her responses! (Catch up on the full chat here.)

Question: What is a cosmetic chemist?
Ni'Kita: A cosmetic chemist is someone who develops or formulates personal care products, hair care and color cosmetics. Every product you use, a cosmetic chemist sat down and put the recipe together to manufacture that product.

Question: How can I prevent my oily skin from looking shiny all the time?
Ni'Kita: I have that problem so I can relate! I use a primer with wonderful oil-absorbing ingredients like vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, polymethylmethacrylate, nylon-12 and boron nitride!

Question: My skin is really tight, dry and even gets visibly flaky sometimes. What can I do about it? 
Ni'Kita: The best approach to really dry skin is to find a moisturizer with a multi-prong approach, which means it should have humectants in it as well as occlusive moisturizers. The occlusive moisturizers form a barrier on the top of the skin to prevent any moisture in the skin from escaping, and the humectants will draw water into the skin from the atmosphere, so if you're in a highly humid climate it creates what I call a "hydra-shield," a shield of moisture. If you're in a dryer climate, they draw moisture up from the lower levels of the skin to the higher levels of the skin, but because we have the occlusive barrier it won't escape. It's almost like creating an irrigation in that its hydrating the cells as they move up but it has a seal to keep it in. Examples of humectants are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, trumella (a mushroom extract), and lactic acid. As for occlusives, you can look for dimethicone, petrolatum, or beeswax. You want to try a heavier cream, because lotions do not have enough fatty substance within the base to quench your dry skin. As for the flakes, take the same approach as you would with regular dry skin, and add an exfoliator like lactic acid. You want to remove that dead skin and then allow the moisture barrier to soothe it and make it feel supple and hydrated.

Question: Is it possible to make products without sodium laureth sulfate? What function does it serve? 
Ni'Kita: Yes, it is possible to make a product without sodium laureth sulfate. It has many different uses, but primarily, it's a cleansing agent, which is why you see it in shampoos and body washes. But it can also help oil and water stay together and is used in creams and lotions for that purpose. If it's irritating for you, look for a sulfate-free product.

Question: What's the best alternative to silicone to look for in a makeup primer? Silicone makes me break out.
Ni'Kita: Silicone actually has not been proven to clog pores and cause breakouts, but you can buy silicone-free primers if you'd prefer. Look for ingredients like silica, magnesium silicate, polymethylmethacrylate and nylon-12, which are all non-silicone ingredients that can prevent oil.

Question: Is there any evidence that copper peptides are effective for wrinkle reduction?
Ni'Kita: About 10-15 years ago, there were studies done that did show that copper peptides were effective for wrinkle reduction. The person who ran the study actually patented the use, which is why it's not widely used in other products.

Question: I sometimes notice that my frizz serum leaves a buildup if I use it every day. Is that bad for my hair? 
Ni'Kita: Buildup of any kind of product in your hair is not a good thing, because it actually weakens the strands. If you find that you do have buildup, strip your hair down to the minimum with a clarifying shampoo that doesn't have a lot of ingredients. All you need is water, surfactant, and preservatives. Stay away from a hydrating formula with a lot of conditioning ingredients‚ those are meant to stay on the hair and will most likely create more buildup. This will allow you to start with a clean slate. (You don't want to use a clarifying shampoo more than once a week, depending on your hair type, otherwise, it might dry your hair out.)

Question: I am in search of something that successfully treats cystic acne but isn't full of ingredients that are harmful... any suggestions?
Ni'Kita: You won't find a truly effective treatment for cystic acne that's made with natural ingredients. Have you tried Coral Actives? It's a two-step system‚ a cleanser and a serum‚ it's 6% benzoyl peroxide and a very potent anti-inflammatory. I've seen a lot of clinical trials with amazing results for cystic acne. I gave it to my niece and it's made such a huge difference in the texture and feel of her skin.

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