The Best Products for Removing Silicone Buildup in Hair

Removing Silicone Buildup in Hair

Silicone buildup is actually a very simple problem to solve. Many hair products contain both silicones and quaternary ammonium compounds, which bond with hair to create a protective layer. Unfortunately, as we know, these ingredients can also create buildup in hair. For some people, products with these ingredients don’t give them buildup problems, but for those who have trouble, there are several recommendations.

One of the things many people recommend is a “clarifying” shampoo. But it’s not so much about the label of clarifying as it is about the ingredients. As it turns out, you don’t need special shampoo to reduce buildup.

Silicone and Quaternary Ammonium Compound Buildup

Silicone Buildup

Silicones and quats will buildup in hair, particularly if you condition without washing every time (or, co-wash). While silicones tend to bind best to healthy hair, quats — which are the same compounds found in fabric softener — bind well with damaged hair (Washington PostJournal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists).

Before getting into how to handle silicone buildup, it’s important to know a few things about it. Silicones and quats won’t buildup indefinitely. You only have so much hair and that hair only has so much surface space. So while buildup may leave you with hair that feels greasy or heavy, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done any permanent damage.

As far as removing silicones from hair, one study found that washing once with a non-silicone-containing shampoo could remove up to 90% of the residue from a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology).

[Read More: Are Silicones in Hair Products Good or Bad?]

Why You Want Some Silicone to Stick

Of course when you wash you want some silicone to stick — after all, that’s why they’re included in conditioners. But there may be other reasons besides making hair softer and easier to brush through, there’s also the matter of those with severely damaged or dyed hair.

When your hair is damaged, the cuticle opens. This is the first line of defense in protecting your hair and acts as a barrier. When its open, hair is susceptible to more damage, like split-ends and moisture loss (Journal of Cosmetic Science). This opening of the cuticle can happen with damaging activities like thermal styling, but also with some surfactants in shampoos.

Silicones and quats form a protective barrier that helps to keep hair from further damage. They can also help extend the life of a dye, as researchers have found that dyed hair treated with quats loses less dye than hair that was not treated with quats (Journal of the Society for Cosmetic Chemists). Essentially, these act as a seal on your hair that can keep damage out and dye in — so using quats and silicones are most necessary for people with damaged and dyed hair.

I personally really like the Nioxin Intensive Therapy Deep Repair Hair Masque. And there’s also Alterna the Science of 10 Hair Masque ($40.95,

Nioxin Intensive Therapy Deep Repair Hair Masque

Surfactants are Hair’s Fickle Friend

Surfactants are what give shampoo its suds and they serve as excellent cleaning agents. They’re the best ingredients to remove silicone and quat buildup. The best surfactants for removing silicone are: Sodium or Ammonium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Sodium C14-17 Alkyl Sulfonate (Olefin Sulfonate), or Cocoamidopropyl Betaine (Naturally Curly).

That said surfactants have a downside. The best surfactants — like sodium lauryl sulfate — have also been shown to irritate skin. In fact, sodium lauryl sulfate is used in patch tests to look at the barrier function of skin (Cosmetic Dermatology). And the less powerful the surfactant — primarily those that aren’t sulfates — will work, but not quite as well at taking the silicone from your hair.

If you’re concerned about finding a shampoo without sodium lauryl sulfate, consider Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner. Another option is New York Streets Shampoo and Conditioner.

Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner

[Read More: Spotlight On: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate]

Bottom Line

Hair greatly benefits from quats and silicones because they can do wonders in regards to protecting hair from damage and act as a protective measure. Unfortunately, they can also cause buildup, which makes hair lackluster and greasy. The remedy for this is simply surfactants, despite some recommendations about clarifying shampoos. Unfortunately, surfactants can sometimes be harsh and drying.

Some people have more difficult than others with silicone buildup and surfactants, so it’s important to find the balance and hair care that works for you.

Contributing author: Natalie Bell

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Does the Walnut Extract in Davines Momo Moisturizing Cream Protect Hair from Aging?

Davines Moisturizing Anti Aging Daily Cream

Can you stop your hair from aging? Not exactly, but you can mitigate some of the external factors that cause it to age faster.

Davines Momo Moisturizing Anti Aging Daily Cream  with walnut extract promises to improve body, shine, and softness in dry and damaged hair. But it’s name promises anti-aging — is that possible? Yes and no. The truth is, there’s a complex relationship between hair and aging that we don’t fully understand. While much of it is genetic, some of hair graying may be caused by environmental factors and Davines Momo Moisturizing Anti Aging Daily Cream can do some work to preserve your hair from these problems.

Davines sent over a sample for us to try and I found that the cream made my hair smoother and less frizzy, but it did feel a bit stiffer after I put it on. While it doesn’t eliminate gray hairs, I still think it’s a solid choice.

Why Does Hair Turn Gray?

Why Does Hair Turn Gray?

For the most part, you can blame your parents for graying hairs. Though similar complex interactions between intrinsic and extrinsic factors are at play, it’s your genes that really decide when you’ll start to go gray. Look at your parents — you’ll probably start graying around the same time they did. But, the same way certain processes can speed up your skin aging, certain things make your hair lose its color faster (Medline PlusPopular Science).

The color in your hair comes from the same place as the color in your skin: melanocytes, which produce melanin. You hair cells product little bits of hydrogen peroxide — that’s right, the chemical that makes you bleach blonde — which is, in turn, broken down by the enzyme catalase. As we age, catalase decreases and the hydrogen peroxide begins to block those pigment-producing melanocytes, making for less colored, or gray strands (Science Daily). For the most part, you can blame your parents for graying hairs. Though similar complex interactions between intrinsic and extrinsic factors are at play, it’s your genes that really decide when you’ll start to go gray. Look at your parents — you’ll probably start graying around the same time they did. But, the same way certain processes can speed up your skin aging, certain things make your hair lose its color faster (Medline PlusPopular Science).

[Read More: Why Does Hair Turn Gray?]

But it’s not solely genetics at play in making this process happen. Environmental factors like pollution and free radicals can make your hair gray faster. And, of course, there’s the theory that stress may also play a role (Scientific American). Sun can also do more than just temporarily bleach your hair. Pigment protects hair from the sun, but in doing so, it becomes degraded in the light. Over time, this can lead to loss of softness, shine, and, yes, color (International Journal of Trichology).

[Read More: Why Your Scalp Absolutely Needs Sun Protection]

What Are the Benefits of Walnut Extract?

Benefits of Walnut Extract

Walnut extract has not been significantly studied in terms of what it can do for the aging of hair. Traditionally, walnut shell has been used as a dark hair for hair dye and the Greeks touted that burned walnut kernels aided in hair growth (African Journal of Microbiology ResearchHistorical Value of Walnuts).

However, walnuts have been found to have several skin benefits that might translate to what they can do for hair. Walnuts have been shown to have phenolic compounds, and are beneficial as antioxidants and free radical scavengers. Free radical accumulation in hair has been shown as one of the causes of gray hair and antioxidants help to reduce this problem (Trends in Genetics).

Walnut may also protect against the sun. English walnut also contains juglone, which reacts with keratin proteins in the skin to create sclerojuglonic compounds that have UV-protective properties (Pharmacognosy Review). Hair also contains kertain, which means that one could expect walnuts to have similar photoprotective properties in hair.

Personal Use and Opinion

Davines Momo Moisturizing Anti Aging Daily Cream has a thick, creamy consistency and a pleasant and mild nutty scent. It smoothes well into hair and definitely left my hair feeling smoother and less frizzy, albeit a bit stiffer than it was before. The manageability likely comes from the inclusion of silicones disiloxane, dimethicone, and amodimethicone, which help coat hair to make it smoother.

[Read More: Are Silicones in Hair Products Good or Bad?]

I like that it can help aid manageability and have some UV-protection, but it definitely doesn’t have the same kind of protection as a hair sunscreen. However, it does have antioxidants, which have been shown to benefit hair, particularly since this also includes powerful, natural antioxidant vitamin E.

Bottom Line

Davines Moisturizing Anti Aging Daily Cream won’t have a profound effect on gray hairs — it’s not a miracle cure. Hair mostly grays thanks to the environment. What it can do — thanks to the antioxidants and UV-protective properties of walnut — is help to stop some of the extrinsic or environmental damage that can be one of the causes of gray hair. It contains beneficial antioxidants and will make hair more manageable and healthier long term.

Contributing author: Natalie Bell

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The Science Behind Blake Lively’s Hair

The Science Behind Blake Lively's Hair

Blake Lively may be married to Ryan Reynolds, but it’s her hair that gets our attention here at FutureDerm.  Based on reports from Lively’s stylist, Jennifer Johnson, here are the products Lively uses to give her hair that gleam:

1.)  Kérastase Masquintense

The Science Behind Blake Lively's Hair - Kérastase Masquintense

According to Johnson, “I use the Kérastase mask on Blake twice a week. Her hair gets styled every day for the show, so it goes through a lot.”

We also love the Kérastase masks -  see our post, The Product That Saved My Hair – Kérastase Masquintense – from years ago!  The product is amazing because it contains four key hydrators:

  • Cetearyl alcohol is a long-chain alipathic alcohol that is commonly seen in reparative shampoos and conditioners in concentrations up to 20%.  It lubricates the hair and gives styling products a creamy consistency.  Cetearyl alcohol has also been found to be largely non-toxic, as established by research published in the journal Toxicology.
  • Amodimethicone is an abbreviation of “amine-functionalized silicone”.  According to cosmetic chemist Tonya McKay Becker, the secret to amodimethicone is that it provides selective conditioning to the areas most in need of it. The mechanism is electrostatic attraction, as highly damaged areas of hair possess higher negative charge density, which enhances the affinity of the positive charges to that area.  Amazing!
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein has a low-molecular weight, enabling it to penetrate the hair shaft.  Once inside, hydrolyzed wheat protein acts as a humectant, attracting moisture from the environment.  As discussed in the textbook Conditioning Agents for the Hair and Skin, hydrolyzed wheat protein has been shown to reduce brittleness and limpness and to increase body and shine in numerous studies.
  • Helianthus annuus/Sunflower Seed Oil is an emollient and occlusive agent that is used in a number of natural skin and hair care products.  The secret to its efficacy is that sunflower seed oil contains about 60% linoleic acid, which is incorporated into lipids within the skin and prevents water loss from the hair.

Safety: If you have particularly sensitive skin, you may not wish to use Kerastase Nutritive Masquintense or any other product with hydrolyzed wheat protein, because it has been shown to cause contact dermatitis in susceptible patients in a significant number of studies, including in the journal Allergy.

The product also contains parabens, which we have found to be safe in the concentrations they are found in skin care and beauty products.  Popular dermatologists like Dr. Katie Rodan (of Rodan+Fields) and Dr. Leslie Baumann agree with us.  However, if you choose not to use parabens, then avoid Kerastase Nutritive Masquintense.

Lastly, Kerastase Nutritive Masquintense contains citrus oils, which can make the skin and hair more sensitive to the sun.  Be sure to use this product with a hair sunscreen – or, better yet, at night!  I’ve been known to put Kerastase Nutritive Masquintense on my hair and do some chores around the house.  After an hour, my hair is ready to rinse, and silky smooth!

Ingredients:  Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Glycerin, Amodimethicone, Cetyl Esters, Isopropyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Trideceth-6, Glyceryl Linoleate, Helianthus annuus/Sunflower Seed Oil, Glyceryl Oleate, Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, Cetrimonium Chloride, Linalool, Hydroxycitronellal, Hexyl Cinnamal, Cintronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Coumarin, Geraniol, Safflower Glucoside, Glyceryl Linolenate, Parfum/Fragrance

2.)  David Babaii Bohemian Beach Spray

The Science Behind Blake Lively's Hair - David Babaii Bohemian Beach Spray

Johnson says, “This beach spray isn’t sticky and gives Blake a lot of lift at her roots. Then I lift her hair up with a Mason Pearson brush and blow dry the roots to create volume.”

We say:  Yes for those with thick hair, no for those with thin hair.  I tried David Babaii Bohemian Beach Spray and it left my straight, medium-thickness, long-length hair a little too piecey and crunchy for my own taste.  However, my friend with thick, curly hair said it left her hair “sexy” and “beachy.”

Ingredients-wise, the silicones are lightweight enough for everyone, but it’s the shea butter and Theobroma grandiflorum seed butter that make it much too much for those with thinner hair types.

Safety:  There is some concern that triethanolamine can form nitrosamines when it is used in conjunction with nitrosating agents.  However, the FDA and Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel found it to be safe in concentrations of up to 5% in leave-on products [Read more:  Spotlight On:  Triethanolamine]

We do not see problems with the ingredients in the concentrations they are used in David Babaii Bohemian Beach Spray.

Ingredients:  Water, Isopropyl Myristate, Triethanolamine, Acrylamide/Sodium, Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Spirulina Platensis Extract, Cyclopentasiloxane, Phenoxyethanol, Phenyltrimethicone, PVP, Benzyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Hedera Helix Extract (Ivy), Trigonella Foenum Graecum Seed Extract, Panthenol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Theobroma Grandiflorum Seed Butter, Butylene Glycol, Algae Extract, Mangifera Indica Fruit Extract (Mango), Actinidia Chinensis Fruit Extract (Kiwi), Urtica Dioica Extract (Nettle), Equisetum Hiemale Extract, Orchis Mascula Flower Extract, Cucumis Sativus Fruit Extract (Cucumber), Hedychium Coronarium Root Extract, Zingiber Officinale Leaf Extract (Ginger), Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract (Rosemary), Avena Sativa Kernel Extract (Oat), Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydroolyzed Wheat Starch, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Wheat Amino Acids, Panthenyl Hydroxypropyl Steardimonium Chloride, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Fragrance/Parfum, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Ceteth 20, Carbomer

3.)  Kérastase Lait Nutri-Sculpt for Blow Dry Protection

The Science Behind Blake Lively’s Hair - Kérastase Lait Nutri-Sculpt

Blow-drying is damaging for the hair because it is hitting the hair when it is wet – a thoroughly weakened state. My mother, a former beautician, used to always tell me to imagine the hair like a piece of lace. When the lace is moistened, it certainly is easy to realize that it is weaker and more susceptible to damage.

When you are blow drying your hair, three things happen:  it weakens internal hair proteins; it decomposes melanin (pigment); and it damages the hair fiber’s external surface (Journal of Cosmetic Science, 1995).  However, thermal hair products help because they provide a layer between the hair and the heat.  In the case of Kerastase Nutri Sculpt, it’s the polyquaternium 4, which has been shown to have cationic (positively-charged) properties that prevent static build-up, as well as forming bonds between hair strands that will help to redistribute the heat (Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2004).

As such, always towel-dry with a super-absorbent towel first, air-dry if possible, and then apply Kerastase Nutri Sculpt.

Safety:  We believe all the ingredients in Kerastase Nutri Sculpt are safe in these concentrations.

Ingredients:  Aqua/Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Propylene Glycol, Dimethiconol, Laureth 23, Laureth 4, Dimethicone Copolyol, Phenoxyethanol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Carbomer, Potato Starch Modified, Polyquaternium 4, Aminomethyl Propanol, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Methylparaben

4.)  Mason Pearson Brush

The Science Behind Blake Lively’s Hair - Mason Pearson Brush

Believe it or not, there is a science to hair brushing.   The rules cosmetic scientists have found:

  • The thinner the hair, the wider the spacing between bristles needs to be.  More hair is grabbed with each stroke of the brush, allowing for more volume.  On the other hand, this “volume” looks like “static” to those with already thick hair.
  • The longer the hair, the bigger the brush needs to be.  Again, using this same reasoning:  Long hair means you want to use fewer strokes for less static.
  • If your hair is shoulder-length or shorter, forgo the boar bristle in place of a round nylon ball-tipped brush. Those little nylon ball tips provide greater resistance and introduce less static into your hair.  (And, as a bonus, is great for styling).
  • Cost matters.  We don’t say this often on FutureDerm, but cheap boar bristles are from domesticated boars, with very soft hair.  You need hard boar bristles for optimal redistribution of oils in the hair.  Invest in a high-quality boar bristle brush, like the Mason Pearson.  [Read more: Is a Boar Bristle Brush Good or Bad For Your Hair?]

The Mason Pearson Boar Bristle & Nylon Hair Brush is ideal for normal to thick hair of long to extra-long length.

Bottom Line

Sure, genetics plays a role, but Blake Lively’s hair is also a nod to using the right products.  We especially love the Kérastase Masquintense for weekly use, the heat-styling product before blow drying, and the Mason Pearson Boar Bristle & Nylon Hair Brush with a large paddle and small spaces between bristles for long, thick hair like Blake’s.

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Why I Love Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

I often see pictures of Asian supermodels like Lily Zhi (shown above), or gorgeous women like Jane Seymour, and I’m envious.  Though I’m Asian and have waist-length hair, my hair is lifeless and limp when straight, and flat at the crown when curled – not the kind of hair that is going to launch any ships anytime soon.

I’ve taken hair vitamins, I’ve gotten layers, I’ve paid experts to cut my hair (sometimes well into the hundreds), and yet, still nothing.  That is, until I tried Living Proof “Full” Hair Care.  Developed by MIT scientists, Living Proof Full actually thickens hair at the microscopic level.  Here’s how it works:


Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

The secret of Living Proof Full is an ingredient called poly beta amino ester-1, a polyfluoroester.  This patented ingredient coats each hair shaft.  Once dried, polyfluoroesters on adjacent hair strands grab at each other, but leave spaces between each strand.  Think of it like tiny, thick magnets on your hair:  they bind, but they create space – and hence lift – for your hair.

How Much Fullness to Expect

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

Source:  LivingProof website

As with any other product, Living Proof Full will only make your hair as big as you style it to be.  I, for one, adore big voluminous wavy hair (see below), so I use the Living Proof Full system before I curl my hair with sponge rollers nightly, and then seal with the Living Proof Hold Flexible Hair Spray ($19.99, come morning.  On the other hand, some of my friends adore a sleeker, straighter look.  For them, Living Proof Full makes a visual 20-30% increase in hair thickness, with no teasing or hair-setting necessary.

How Much Product to Use

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

Intuition may tell you that more thickening ingredient would mean thicker hair, but this is not the case.  Keep in mind that Living Proof Full was formulated for about a quarter-size amount of shampoo, conditioner [from chin-length downward], and thickening cream for an average-size woman with hair going down to her shoulders.  If you apply too much Living Proof Full, particularly the Thickening Cream, the silicones in the product can actually overcome the effect of the polyfluoroesters, weighing hair down a bit.  On the other hand, if you don’t apply enough, you won’t see as much effect.  The best option is to play around with the system a bit and find what amounts work best for you.

Does it smell?

Ever since I used Herbal Essences as a teenager, I’ve been obsessed with the scent of a hair care system.  (I don’t think I could recommend even a highly scientific hair care product if it was malodorous!)  Thankfully, Living Proof Full is one of the best-smelling hair care systems I’ve tried, a light floral blend with fruity notes mixed in.  I use Chanel Chance eau tendre as my daily perfume, and the scent blends magnificently with Living Proof Full.  Unfortunately, Living Proof Full is rather fragrant, and you may not find it blends as well with your daily perfume.  I suppose one woman’s selling point could be another’s deal-breaker!

Bottom Line

Living Proof Full Thickening Hair Care

I’m a huge fan of Living Proof Full, and I recommend it to anyone with fine, limp, or straight hair who is looking for a voluminous boost.  It also leaves your hair feeling light, shiny, and bouncy, in addition to nice and fragrant – I honestly can’t say enough good stuff about this line!  Now, if only Living Proof would create a UV protectant spray and a heat-protectant spray…

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Do You Need to Do a Daily Scalp Massage?

Do Scalp Massages Work FutureDerm

I am a firm believer that anything great is made of small daily disciplines, repeated daily. Things like working out, writing blog posts, formulating new products, spending time with my friends and family, and washing my face before bed are all some of mine.

But every time you turn around, it seems companies are coming up with new daily disciplines that you must do. Like scalp massage: It sounds believable, but does it really work? And how? And what products do you need to use? Here, I get to the bottom of this:

How Does Scalp Massage Work?

In India, scalp massage has been incorporated into therapeutic practice for about 5,000 years as part of ayurvedic medicine [source: Osborn].

Although further research is necessary to formally define the benefits of massage, some studies have shown that massage can increase the production of certain chemicals in the body, includin [source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]. These chemicals can help put you in a better mood, reducing your stress and creating an environment for relaxation.

Scalp massage also can relieve pain by improving circulation and removing muscle tension [sources: WebMD]. This can be especially helpful if you have a migraine or headache. Migraines are sometimes caused by a decrease in serotonin levels; scalp massage may be able to increase serotonin levels and relieve pain. Headaches, on the other hand, may be caused by muscle tension, which a scalp massage can also alleviate [sources: Mayo Clinic].

Does Scalp Massage Stimulate Hair Growth?

FutureDerm Hair Cycle

The results of a randomized, seven month trial used to investigate the effectiveness of aromatherapy in the treatment of people with alopecia areata were reported in the Archives of Dermatology in 1998. The study, conducted by Isabelle C. Hay, Margaret Jamieson and Anthony D. Ormerod in the Department of Dermatology at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in Scotland, United Kingdom, involved 86 people, all of whom had been diagnosed with alopecia areata, a condition in which hair loss is apparent on some or all parts of the human body, particularly the scalp.

The participants in the study were divided into two groups. The first group, referred to as the active group, received a daily massage for hair loss over a period of seven months. The essential oils of lavender, cedarwood, thyme, and rosemary in a blend of the carrier oils of jojoba and grapeseed were massaged into the people’s scalps in the first group. The second group, referred to as the control group, received daily massages with only the carrier oils of jojoba and grapeseed over the same time period.

Hay and Ormerod then set about evaluating the success of massage for hair loss using computerized analysis of the traced areas of hair loss shown in the photographs they had taken throughout the study. They also used a six-point scale to measure the effectiveness of massage for hair loss in the two groups. Hay et al. witnessed an improvement in 44% of the 43 patients making up the active group. In contrast, the same could only be said for 15% of the 41 patients allocated to the control group. The results of this study indicate that massage for hair loss with essential oils is an effective treatment for the condition of alopecia areata.

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9 Holy Grail Holiday Products Worth the Splurge

Laura Mercier Tightline Cake Eyeliner

Hello, FutureDerm readers! We recently decided it would be a good idea to have more members of our team contribute to the site, so we can showcase opinions from women of different ages, skin types, ethnicities, etc. I’m Lesley, and I run marketing. I have been obsessed with skincare and beauty since junior high, which was *cough cough* years ago. These are my “Holy Grail” products.

1. Frederic Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Cream, $25-34,

icon Frederic Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Cream icon

This, as far as I’m concerned, is the best hair product on the planet. I have medium-thick, long, color-treated hair with a tendency to go frizzy when not professionally blown dry, and a quarter-sized amount of this tames the frizz (via silicones and olive glycerides) without making my hair greasy or stiff.

Scientific Fact: Olive oil is an antioxidant and a well-known source of Omega 3 fatty acids. But did you know olive oil is also a source of resveratrol? Also famously found in red wine and grapes in general, resveratrol may promote the activity of sirtuins, agents that are believed to prolong the life of fibroblasts (collagen-producing cells). By using olive oil regularly, you may be letting your skin (and in this case, hair) stay younger looking for longer.

2. Benefit They’re Real iconmascara, $23.00,


Benefit They're Real

Until a couple of weeks ago, mascaras had basically become commodotized for me– I didn’t care what brand as long as it was black. Recently, however, I received a sample of Benefit They’re Real mascara, and was blown away by how well it worked. The brush is extremely dense and the coverage with one coat was perfect. I highly recommend it. Tip: If, like me, you don’t wear mascara every day, the sample size is worth seeking out. The brush is still fantastic, and you won’t be paying for mascara you probably won’t use up before its “pitch me or risk a nasty eye infection” date.

Scientific Fact:To make the most out of applying Benefit They’re Real! mascara (or any mascara), hold your mouth open slightly as you face the mirror. which helps to control your facial muscles. This is because when you widen your eyes, you create tension in the masseter muscle, which is connected to your jaw.

3., $41.07, Phytomer Peeling Vegetal icon


Phytomer Peeling Vegetal

Once upon a time, in some salon in Boston, I had a facial using Phytomer products, including this one. I could not believe how smooth my skin was afterward and purchased this on a return visit. It is gentle, smells just a tad herby/medicinal, and is perfect for perking up your skin before a big event. If your skin, like mine, responds much better to enzyme exfoliation (this contains brown algae and papaya extract) than to scrubs, check it out.

Scientific Fact: If you burn your skin in the Tropics and don’t have a tube of Phytomer Peeling Vegetal nearby, break open a papaya. Papaya fruit enzymes are not new to medicine: a 1999 study in Burns reports that papaya fruit extracts are able to help skin after burns, most likely by increasing cell turnover.

4. FutureDerm, $89, Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2

FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2

I know, I know, I work here. But well before I joined the team, I started testing out their products. After all, who wants to be in charge of marketing a crummy product? Not me. The Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 is like nothing I’ve ever tried before. The texture reminds me of a primer (it contains slip agents like cyclomethicone, and feels great under makeup). The microencapsulated vitamin C really does deliver an intangible glow. Plus it smells like fresh oranges. Also, this is a data point of one, but you know milia, those annoying little white bumps around your eyes? I had a few that were not worth having professionally removed, but which bugged me (in the way that small details in your skin no one but you ever notices can bug you). About a month after I started using the FutureDerm serum, they started to go away. And they haven’t come back.

Scientific Fact: A combination of at least 15% vitamin C + 2% vitamin E has been shown in independent scientific studies to boost UVA/UVB protection by up to 400 percent (that’s four times, folks) when worn under a sunscreen. Woo Hoo!

5. Laura Mercier Tightline Cake Eyeliner, $20.70 (normally $23.00!),

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If you haven’t tried tightlining your eyes before, give it a shot– it totally changed my approach to eye makeup. Done correctly, it looks like you have thick eyelashes and defined eyes, without an extremely obvious line. I have brown eyes and love the Blue Marine color (shown here). I also own Black Ebony, but in writing this story, I saw that Nordstrom has SEVEN colors. Plum Richeicon, consider yourself added to my Christmas list.

Scientific Fact: The trick to this amazing liner? It’s in the ingredients, namely the first two, talc and propylene glycol. Talc is the main ingredient, which is cosmetically beneficial to the skin, absorbing oil, preventing shine, and providing a lightweight base for further cosmetic application (Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology). On the other hand, propylene glycol is a fatty alcohol that helps the absorption of key ingredients into the skin — meaning it stabilizes the color, all day long. Now that’s what we call beautiful science!

6. YSL Touche Eclat, $36.00 (normally $40.00),

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This is a longtime favorite of mine. It’s light-reflecting, but not glittery (thankfully, as 1. I’m not a teenager and 2. I use it near my eyes). And it’s on sale.

Scientific Fact: It is true that there aren’t always many differences between high-end and drugstore brand cosmetics. But two places it does often make a difference are pigmentation (high-end tend to be richer, more highly pigmented formulas) and micronization. YSL Touche Eclat contains micronized light-reflecting particles, so if a beam of light hits a 2 square-inch portion of your face, it will simply reflect back more light than if you used a concealer without micronized particles or no concealer at all. Simply beautiful!

7. Butter London 3 Free Nail Lacquer in All Hail the Queen, $15.00, icon



This is beige nail polish that isn’t just beige. There are teeny tiny sparkles. It’s flattering, interesting, and doesn’t scream “I let my 9-year-old do my nails” when you’re in a business meeting.

Scientific Fact: We love this brand at FutureDerm, despite the fact that they are insistent on the non-scientific idea of being “Toxic Trio” free. The basic premise of the Toxic Trio is that most nail polishes contain “toxic” ingredients formaldehyde, DBP, and phthalates that make them dangerous. However, these claims are false, as pointed out by Dr. Eunice Cofie, Ph.D., on The Beauty Brains:
“DBP can irritate your stomach, eyes, and upper respiratory system.”  - It’s not surprising that a volatile compound can be irritating but this is true of many compounds and doesn’t make nail polish toxic.
“Phthalates found in mothers can be particularly harmful, causing reproductive damage to sons.” – I don’t know what this has to do with nail polish.  Are women drinking nail polish?  Where is the research showing phthalates from nail polish are getting through the nail and into the body?

These are common fears that propagate throughout the internet, but the levels used in nail polish are not harmful. Keep in mind that water is toxic if you drink more than 40 glasses a day. Water is also toxic if you take human skin cells and embed them in plain old water (it’s true, you need a balanced solution with a lot of electrolytes, not just water). Yet scientific studies that claim to prove an ingredient is “toxic” in beauty products often do just these things, taking an ingredient that is perfectly fine in very small concentrations, like DBP, and exposing people or animals to them in very high concentrations, or embedding cells in them and concluding they kill you. Awful!

8. Diamancel #5 File, $33.00,


Diamancel is better known for their #20 file, which makes your feet look fantastic by grinding the calluses on the bottom into the most disgusting pile of dust you’ve ever seen. But their #5 file is my favorite. It removes the dry skin next to the edge of the top of your nail. You know, the hard skin that likes to crack and bleed and hurt like the dickens in winter. This gets rid of it. It’s a very specialized little tool but makes a big difference in how my fingers look and feel.

Scientific Fact: Despite popular belief, filing your nails or trimming your nails won’t make either grow faster. Factors like internal and external stressors like environmental changes, hormonal fluctuations, nutritional imbalances, and diet/exercise patterns can make a difference in your nail growth — but not filing.

9. Neutrogena sunscreen, in general, varies,

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A couple of summers ago, I went to Italy with my family. The airline lost our luggage and didn’t return it to us for about a week. Most people would flip out about not having their clothes. I didn’t. I flipped out about not having the four bottles of ultra-high SPF Neutrogena sunscreen I had packed in the checked bags. I personally love Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunscreen (shown above), but I think any of their high SPF products are worth having in your anti-sun arsenal.

Scientific Fact: The Helioplex in Neutrogena products has been shown to make chemical sunscreen more effective than usual in the long wavelength UVA range. While Nicki still prefers physical sunscreens like titanium or zinc oxide, if you’re going to go chemical, Neutrogena is the best.

My Collaboration with Phyrra: Introducing Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir!

Phyrra's Pretty Little Hair Elixir

I’ve honestly had the time of my life speaking to readers about their wants and creating them products, like our FutureDerm Complete Skin Care System. And then one day it hit me: What if I created a product for another blogger? She would have a readerbase with specific needs and wants of their own, and it would present a unique challenge.

So when Phyrra came to me, asking for “an awesome cruelty-free and vegan hair masque,” I immediately took up the challenge. When it came to choosing a blogger, it was easy to choose Phyrra. She is the sweetest person and someone I consider a friend; she also has the best response time of anyone I’ve ever met to calls and emails and texts. What’s more, she has such a unique and dynamic style — completely bold, completely authentic, and 100% her. And even though her brand is more bold than my own (she’s more Alexander McQueen, I’m more Alexander Fleming [the dude who created penicillin]), I thought together we could create just the perfect product for her readers, from branding and packaging to (of course) the very best in ingredients. And I hope I’m right, with her new Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir ($39,, out today. For a full FutureDerm-style review, read on.

The Best in Vegan Ingredients for Your Hair

Nicki Zevola

Phyrra‘s readers are very concerned with vegan and cruelty-free products, so we first started by choosing from only those types of ingredients.

Next, Phyrra said she wanted to invigorate hair, giving it a healthy, restorative shine. Enter Quaternium-91. Quaternium-91 has a unique molecular structure that enables it to provide exceptional hair conditioning, softening, and hair color protection (Cosmetics and Toiletries, 2006). Quaternium-91 has been found to increase hair shine and hair smoothness with regular use over time in several studies, including this 2009 study in the Journal of Cosmetic ScienceHowever, Quaternium-91 needs to be found in sufficient concentration in order to get the full softening, shine-enhancing benefits. I can’t reveal the exact concentration of Quaternium-91 we used in Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir, but I can tell you it is listed as the second ingredient because it is plentiful! :) It has a very high safety profile, and a low risk of irritation or sensitivity.

Another property Phyrra said she wanted for her haircare product was repair and protection from heat styling and hair-dyeing. She said a lot of her readers dye their hair often (I guess the reading apples don’t fall far from the blogging tree?) Silly jokes aside, behentrimonium chloride fits the bill. Behentrimonium chloride has been around for decades, but it gained popularity in the 2000′s when it was found the ingredient protected and restored hair after heat or dyeing damage (Fibers and Polymers, 2010). Despite the fact that it has a long-sounding, convoluted name, even the most chemical-averse reader need not worry; behentrimonium chloride was declared safe in concentrations of up to 3% (that’s a lot) in a lotion applied all over the body for weeks at a time (Toxicology in Vitro, 2013).

Lastly, Phyrra requested hydration without weighing hair down. In a formula for her readers, this could be tricky; some of the best hair and skin penetration enhancers are glycols, but I didn’t think her readers would like glycols, given that they are sometimes given a bad rap online. (I love glycols in skin care, but I also worked in biochemistry labs for seven years, so I know the internet rumors are false). The mutual solution? Myristyl Myristate. A compound that is 100% natural, derived entirely from vegetables, myristyl myristate increases the absorption of formulations into the hair, leaving your hair silky smooth.

Personal Use and Opinions

Hair with Phyrra's Pretty Little Elixir

Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir is hydrating and helps to repair the hair from dyeing and heat-styling. For my medium-texture, waist-length hair, I haven’t done any dyeing apart from a stint with highlights in 2010 (don’t remind me), but I do a lot of heat-styling. (I swear, half of my staff wouldn’t recognize me without curls!) That said, Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir felt like a really solid hair masque, like Kerastase, but didn’t weigh my hair down. It still had sufficient volume and body.

It admittedly took us a while to perfect this formula. Phyrra knew her readers would focus on look, feel, effect, and an amazing softness and shine. I knew I wanted to create it with proven ingredients in sufficiently high concentrations, and have it work as well. Together, we made Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir to feel like a cream, but absorb quickly into the hair. It definitely conditions, nourishes, strengthens, and repairs when used consistently over time. Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir is super-nourishing and can be used daily or as little as once/week, or anywhere in between. I definitely got a beautiful, healthy shine from it. You will definitely get more body and shine to your hair, no matter how tired it is from dyeing or heat-styling!

Full Ingredients List in Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir

Quaternium-91, Behentrimonium Chloride
Myristyl Myristate
Cetearyl Alcohol
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol

Bottom Line

I am so happy to have collaborated with my friend and fellow beauty blogger Phyrra on her Phyrra’s Pretty Little Hair Elixir, and I hope you will check it out! Visit to buy, with an unconditional money-back guarantee.

Got questions? Let me know in Comments below!

LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar Review: Why You Should Skip It

I’ve never been one to worry about shampoo. Since I have curly hair, it’s naturally a lot drier than my straight-haired friends’, so I stick to washing it once a week (and co-wash daily) for fear of stripping it of its hard-to-acheive moisture. I usually stand by the logic that if I’m only using it once a week, then what’s the point of worrying what it’s made of?

Unfortunately, that’s not the best stance to have on this issue, especially since I don’t need something along the lines of a clarifying shampoo; I don’t use silicones in my hair, so there’s no chance of build-up. So when I stumbled upon the LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar ($11.95, lurking about in our office, I just had to try it; it’s cute, smells like the beach, and seems fun. How bad could it be?

What the Science Says About the Ingredients 

The first ingredient listed raises quite the red flag: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), the infamous ingredient known for its lipid-stripping abilities. According to Leslie Baumann, M.D., SLS, it’s a well-known irritant used in patch-tests to evaluate how the skin’s barrier function will perform against the harsh chemical. It strips your skin and hair of natural oils, weakening any defenses those parts may have against future environmental damages (Cosmetic Dermatology). This is further demonstrated by researchers who studied the effects of application of a 2% SLS solution on skin, which showed that repeated application resulted in transepidermal water loss in 29 of the 34 test sites, which is indicative of a decrease in skin barrier function (JAAD). 

Next, LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar boasts the use of Chondrus crispus, also known as Irish moss gel. There isn’t much research on this type of red algae, but as far as generalities are concerned, algae extracts are known for their ability to moisturize hair, increase shine and softness, and decrease static (Dweck). Irish moss gel has been shown to produce mucilage when immersed in hot water, which lends itself to detangling your hair in the shower (The Examiner). Mostly, this is present in the formula for its stabilizing and emulsifying properties (Journal of Biomaterials Science: Polymer Edition).  

The product’s namesake lies in its inclusion of Fucus vesiculosus, also known as Nori seaweed. According to Lush, it’s used for its softening effects on hair, which makes sense as it’s composed of 40% fatty acids. These include linoleic and linolenic acids, which will protect your hair from losing moisture as well as hydrate the cuticle (Journal of Applied PhycologyCentre Clauderer). 

Does It Work?: Personal Use and Opinion

At first, I was a little confused by how the LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar is supposed to work — do I just lather it up in my hands? — so I had to consult LUSH’s website for a video. After following the website’s recommendation of rubbing it directly onto my hair, I noticed that it lathered rather well, and I didn’t need to use the bar once I got it going. The smell is great (oceans!), and I liked that it had chunks of seaweed in it, although I guess that might be a little off-putting when they actually come off of the bar.

While I thought the concept was fun and different than your average shampooing routine, I can’t said I liked the effects too much. My hair felt too squeaky-clean due to the sodium lauryl sulfate, and I could actually feel the oil of my hair being stripped away. It didn’t tangle my hair like a lot of other shampoos have, but I still wasn’t happy with the results. 

Bottom Line

The LUSH Seanik Solid Shampoo Bar is a great concept; the product is small and contained in a cute tin, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your shower. Unfortunately, its main ingredient is the lipid-stripping sodium lauryl sulfate, which means it isn’t good for your hair, even if your hair is particularly oily. Since I only wash my hair once a week, it wouldn’t really make too much of a difference in my hair’s moisture levels, but I’d still recommend staying away from this product. Instead, look for a shampoo with sodium laureth sulfate, which will clean your hair without drying out your luscious locks.

Other Articles You Might Enjoy…

Need a Fast Gift? Check Out LUSH’s Pre-Wrapped Presents!

LUSH Ocean Salt Scrub: Tried, Reviewed, and Adored

Product Review: LUSH Breath of Fresh Air

Late Night Relaxation: LUSH Midnight Massage Bar Review

Product Review: LUSH Emotional Brilliance Liquid Eyeliner

Can Olive Oil Be Used As Hair Conditioner?

Olive oil is one of life’s little delights, in my opinion. Really, truly good olive oil — the kind that burns a little in your throat as it goes down — is one of those gastronomic wonders that I too often take for granted as just part of everyday cooking. But beauty lovers certainly haven’t taken it for granted, since it seems to be popping up in all kinds of products and, yes, home remedies.

And this is one of those home remedies I’ve seen everywhere. Dr. Oz recommends it. Women’s Day recommends it. Elle recommends it. Generally speaking, just because everyone says something doesn’t mean it’s true, and I’m a firm believer in that. As Mark Twain once remarked, “The history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.”

So, with a healthy sense of skepticism in mind, I went forth in search of information on olive oil.

Olive Oil as an Antioxidant

Olive oil has plenty of benefits that have made it a darling of the personal care and home remedy world. Olive oil is known to be packed with antioxidants, and these vitamins are known to help to prevent the occurence of UV-induced cancers (Toxicology). In studies on mice, topically applied olive oil helped delay the onset of UVB-induced tumors (Carcinogenesis). The vitamin C and vitamin E in olive oil make it a great antioxidant that can help protect hair from environmental damage by keeping free radicals at bay.

The Ups and Downs of Olive Oil as a Moisturizer or Conditioner

Olive oil is an occlusive moisturizer, meaning that it helps to trap moisture and keep your skin, or, in this case, hair, hydrated. But that’s only if you’ve already got enough moisture. Occlusives on their own aren’t enough for dry skin and hair because what dry skin and hair need is water, not oil. So that means that just coating your hair in olive oil, without adding something moisturizing, could actually create an occlusive barrier that makes it harder for water to get in, but that doesn’t actually add moisture (David E. Banks, M.D., FAAD). Oh, and aside from that, researchers writing an article in the American Family Physician were sure to note that it was really hard to wash out.

What you really want is an emollient plus an occlusive moisturizer so that you’re getting the extra moisture you need in addition to a protective barrier. In terms of emollients, you want something with medium-to-long-chain hydrocarbons. For those of you who aren’t immediately familiar with what that means, the oils you want to look for to add hydration are oils such as palm oil, coconut oil, pequi oil, and palm oil (Dermatitis; Skin Therapy Letters).

While it’s true that you could magically stumble on the right combinations of oils, it’s almost certainly better to pick a product that’s been professionally formulated. Cosmetic chemists go through rigorous training to create products that are not just super effective, but are also safe. Their formulations are crafted to try to keep you from getting contact dermatitis and even nastier issues.

Verdict: Treat — With a “But”

So, olive oil can help to condition dry hair, but there’s a pretty big BUT attached to that. First and foremost, I’ve heard a lot of different estimates, but most say that at least some imported extra virgin olive oil purchased in the U.S. is either fake or cut with other oils. So, whether eating or applying it to your hair, you want to make sure you get real olive oil. The other “but” is that olive oil is an occlusive that won’t add moisture to your hair and is pretty tough to wash out, so you might want to consider getting an olive oil-containing product. These contain all the benefits of olive oil, but they’ve been formulated to go in your hair. Check out these other options:

Kiehl’s Strengthening & Hydrating Hair Oil-in-Cream with Olive Fruit and Avocado Oils ($25)

Carol’s Daughter Olive Oil Infusion At-Home Hair Treatment 3-Piece Set ($25)

DevaCurl One Conditioner ($44.50)

Consider something like this to keep your hair soft and shiny. These have the benefits of other awesome ingredients that help your hair to stay soft and shiny and have tons of antioxidants.

*Editor’s Note: This post contains affiliate links.

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