Thursday, December 22, 2016

Vacation Time ... Happy Holidays!!!

Hello Everyone,

  This is Mike.  Since the Holidays are upon us, I am going to take a short vacation.  I know, you are going to miss all of the wonderful content.  I know that a few of you are desperately waiting for an update on "Mike's Mental Awareness" webpage.  Furthermore, those readers who are currently following my interest in demystifying the science behind aging and skin care products in the 'anti-aging' series are eager to move onto more products.  But first, we have yet to discuss the ingredients and a note about their toxicities -- which is coming next.

  With that being said, check back in just after the beginning of the new year.  I hope that each and everyone of the visitors to this site have a great set of holidays.  I look forward to writing soon.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Write to you soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Garden Plan (Fall 2016, Spring 2017)

Thinking about the benefits of renting, I always ask myself, "why would I want a bigger yard when there's so much work to do in even a small yard?"  We currently have 1/16th of an acre. Definitely not enough for subsistence farming.  I used a website to map out our current garden layout. (

Front                                                                       Rear

This year, around my birthday, I built an arbor in the backyard out of some scrap wood and a 4' x 8' reed fence.  I've been moving stuff around back there all year.  I thought it would be a good spot to grow some special plants.  A friend gave me some heirloom seeds and I tried growing them in the backyard because sometimes people steal my plants from the front yard. Due to the drought, it wasn't practical to water them as much as they would have needed, even though I did install a mister system along the arbor.  Maybe I'll use it next year.

To determine what would grow the best (and where in the yard to put it), I took a series of photographs each hour.  This was in response to the new arbor and also to the City of Glendale who came by and chopped down so many branches of the Magnolia tree out in front of our house.  I had lots more veggies out there that didn't survive without Momma Magnolia's dense shade.

Another great thing that happened this year is that I started composting again.  One of my neighbor's plants started spreading a powdery mildew that attacked my garden.  I treated the leaves with dormant oil and baking soda (via spray bottle) then started composting near the original host plant.  It seems like it's coming back healthier than before.  I hope she flowers this spring.

Front Yard Only
I'm not so sure the computer-generated garden plan is more appealing than the hand drawn plan. What do you think?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

2017 Garden Plans

I shared my 2012-2014 gardens here.  In 2015 my garden plans were listed here.  This year, I made some great plans for 2016.  We had a really hot summer, and lots of things sprouted but never bloomed.  Maybe I got too busy, teaching two summer classes simultaneously, and didn't water the garden regularly.  The drought limited our outdoor watering, and the Zika virus scare made water collection impossible.

I can't say the drought is over, but at least Gov. Brown's water restrictions have been partially lifted.  We can now water between 6pm and 9am for 10 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. There is no time limit for watering by hand, but the three-days-per-week rule still applies.

I don't have automatic sprinklers, and in the past I have used rain barrels as well as greywater reclamation. I got so depressed at the sight of my empty containers in July 2016 that I planted a bunch of colorful pinwheels to look like beautiful flowers, and thought about the best layout for companion planting.  Instead of putting my energy into the outdoors, I did a bunch of online research that may someday be part of a grant proposal for a community garden space.

Then I got the idea to go for drought-tolerant plants.  It would beautify the space, although not produce edible leaves.  I researched cacti.  Then we got a variety of new plants at the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA) Inter-City Show at the LA County Arboretum.  Some of the recent planting calendars for LA that I've made, together with a "care guide" for the succulents, cacti, and bromeliads I bought are here.

So I bought some new seeds and rearranged the garden layout to start some of them this month.  I don't totally care if things don't work out.  I'll let you know how it goes.

"There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments," ~ J. K. Philips

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 6: Short Glossary Of Functions For Skin Care Ingredients

In my last post on the the ingredients in Jergen's Skin Firming Lotion, I listed the ingredients (of which there were 29 in total) in the formulation.  Included in the listing was the primary and secondary function of each ingredient.  My intention with part II was to discuss the function of the ingredients and add insight into the toxicities associated with certain compounds.  As a reminder, this post is number 6 in a series called "Anti-Aging Skin Series" -- which was originally meant to deconstruct an original post located here.

Since the current series was my first attempt at deconstructing the chemicals inside skin care products, I have been oscillating (going back and forth) with a given layout of the series.  No, this is not your fault (the reader).  I am just trying to find a way to simplify the series to illustrate the science behind such products and furthermore the ingredients within.  The ultimate goal is to demystify the scams and myths behind 'anti-aging products' which seems to be growing toward an annual multi-billion dollar industry.

With that being said, to continue with the last post, I got caught up with a few of the ingredients having multiple functionalities listed like "Skin-conditioning agent" or "Absorbent".  This led me to form the glossary below -- which I hope will shed light on the purpose of listing the functions of each chemical ingredients on websites like the "Environmental Working Group" which provide great (and detailed) information to the public.

Glossary Terms:

To start with, I will proceed alphabetically.  I will cover the terms listed as functions in the last post which can be found here.

1) Absorbent:

From "The Free" -- Absorbent: a substance that is capable of absorbing.

2) Adhesive:

From "wikipedia" for 'Adhesive':

Adhesive may be used interchangeably with glue, cement, mucilage, or paste,[1] and is any substance applied to one surface, or both surfaces, of two separate items that binds them together and resists their separation.[2] Adjectives may be used in conjunction with the word "adhesive" to describe properties based on the substance's physical or chemical form, the type of materials joined, or conditions under which it is applied.[3]
The use of adhesives offers many advantages over binding techniques such as sewing, mechanical fastening, thermal bonding, etc. These include the ability to bind different materials together, to distribute stress more efficiently across the joint, the cost effectiveness of an easily mechanized process, an improvement in aesthetic design, and increased design flexibility. Disadvantages of adhesive use include decreased stability at high temperatures, relative weakness in bonding large objects with a small bonding surface area, and greater difficulty in separating objects during testing.[4] Adhesives are typically organized by the method of adhesion. These are then organized into reactive and non-reactive adhesives, which refers to whether the adhesive chemically reacts in order to harden. Alternatively they can be organized by whether the raw stock is of natural or synthetic origin, or by their starting physical phase.

3) Anti-caking Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'Anti-caking Agent':

An anticaking agent is an additive placed in powdered or granulated materials, such as table salt or confectionaries to prevent the formation of lumps (caking) and for easing packaging, transport, and consumption.

Ex: a list of common 'anti-caking agents' (and articles) can be found here.

4)Anti-foaming Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'anti-foaming agent':

A defoamer or an anti-foaming agent is a chemical additive that reduces and hinders the formation of foam in industrial process liquids. The terms anti-foam agent and defoamer are often used interchangeably. Commonly used agents are insoluble oils, polydimethylsiloxanes and other silicones, certain alcohols, stearates and glycols. The additive is used to prevent formation of foam or is added to break a foam already formed.

5)Binding Agents:

From the website "Cosmetics and" -- Binding Agents: binding agents such as gums, fats, or waxes which hold the product together.

6)Buffering Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'buffering agent':

A buffering agent is a weak acid or base used to maintain the acidity (pH) of a solution near a chosen value after the addition of another acid or base. That is, the function of a buffering agent is to prevent a rapid change in pH when acids or bases are added to the solution. Buffering agents have variable properties—some are more soluble than others; some are acidic while others are basic. As pH managers, they are important in many chemical applications, including agriculture, food processing, biochemistry, medicine and photography.


From the website '' -- Denaturant:

The process adds a small amount of a denaturant to the alcohol to make it taste bad, thus creating  alcohol  that is not suitable for drinking, but is otherwise similar for other purposes.


The definition of an 'Emollient' comes from 'wikipedia' for "Moisturizer":

Moisturizers or emollients are complex mixtures of chemical agents specially designed to make the external layers of the skin (epidermis) softer and more pliable. They increase the skin's hydration (water content) by reducing evaporation. Naturally occurring skin lipids and sterols, as well as artificial or natural oils, humectants, emollients, lubricants, etc., may be part of the composition of commercial skin moisturizers. They usually are available as commercial products for cosmetic and therapeutic uses, but can also be made at home using common pharmacy ingredients.

 The range of properties causes formulation chemists to break down the definition further.  Below is the list of definitions from the website "Chemists Corner" - taken directly from here:

Traditionally, emollients are considered ingredients which have smoothing or softening properties. They are put into formulas to provide moisturizing benefits and support a variety of conditioning claims. There are a number of types which we’ll list below.

Hydrophilic emollients

The term emollient is rather broad so things that are humectants can also be considered emollients. Water soluble ingredients like glycerin, sorbitol, and propylene glycol are all technically emollients. When you need conditioning, this are good ones for your water phase.

Lipophilic emollients

These are ingredients that are not soluble in water and make up the bulk of the available varieties of emollients. The one that you use depends on properties such as polarity, emolliency scores, spreading behavior, compatability with other ingredients, rheological behavior, and hydrolytic stability. This group can further be broken down by grouping them by their polairity.

Non-polar: These are mostly derived from petroleum and include ingredients like mineral oil, Isoparaffin, and Isohexadecane.

Polar: This includes a range of ingredients including materials such as natural oils (Jojoba oil, Olive oil, coconut oil), esters (Octyl Palmitate, Isopropyl stearate, Isopropyl palmitate) and alcohols (Octyl dodecanol).

Silicone fluid emollients

The final group is silicone fluids. They provide incredible levels of slickness and also feel light compared to lipophilic emollients. The most common ones used include Cyclomethicone and dimethicone. There are a number of varieties to choose from and each have different characteristics when it comes to viscosity, volatility, and ease of formulation.

9) Emulsifying Agent:

From the "UNC School of Pharmacy" -- Emulsifying Agent:

Emulsions are stabilized by adding an emulsifier or emulsifying agents. These agents have both a hydrophilic and a lipophilic part in their chemical structure. All emulsifying agents concentrate at and are adsorbed onto the oil:water interface to provide a protective barrier around the dispersed droplets. In addition to this protective barrier, emulsifiers stabilize the emulsion by reducing the interfacial tension of the system. Some agents enhance stability by imparting a charge on the droplet surface thus reducing the physical contact between the droplets and decreasing the potential for coalescence. Some commonly used emulsifying agents include tragacanth, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium dioctyl sulfosuccinate, and polymers known as the Spans® and Tweens®.

Emulsifying agents can be classified according to: 1) chemical structure; or 2) mechanism of action. Classes according to chemical structure are synthetic, natural, finely dispersed solids, and auxiliary agents. Classes according to mechanism of action are monomolecular, multimolecular, and solid particle films. Regardless of their classification, all emulsifying agents must be chemically stable in the system, inert and chemically non-reactive with other emulsion components, and nontoxic and nonirritant. They should also be reasonably odorless and not cost prohibitive.

10) Emulsion Stabilizing Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'emulsion stabilization using polyelectrolytes':

Polyelectrolytes are charged polymers capable of stabilizing (or destabilizing) colloidal emulsions through electrostatic interactions. Their effectiveness can be dependent on molecular weight, pH, solvent polarity, ionic strength, and the hydrophilic-lipophilic balance (HLB). Stabilized emulsions are useful in many industrial processes, including deflocculation, drug delivery, petroleum waste treatment, and food technology.

11) Foam Boosting Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'foam boosting agent':

A foaming agent is a material that facilitates formation of foam such as a surfactant or a blowing agent. A surfactant, when present in small amounts, reduces surface tension of a liquid (reduces the work needed to create the foam) or increases its colloidal stability by inhibiting coalescence of bubbles.[1] A blowing agent is a gas that forms the gaseous part of the foam.

12) Film Forming Agent:

From 'Paula's Choice Skincare' for 'film-forming agents':

Large group of ingredients typically found in haircare products, but that also are widely used in skincare products, particularly moisturizers. Film-forming agents include PVP, acrylates, acrylamides, methacrylates, and various copolymers. When applied they leave a pliable, cohesive, and continuous covering over the hair or skin. The film has water-binding properties and leaves a smooth feel on skin. Film-forming agents can be weak skin sensitizers, but this almost always depends on the amount used; lower amounts generally are not problematic.

Additional definition -- 'wikipedia'

13) Humectant:

From 'Wikipedia' for 'humectant':

A humectant /hjuːˈmɛktənt/ is a hygroscopic substance used to keep things moist; it is the opposite of a desiccant. It is often a molecule with several hydrophilic groups, most often hydroxyl groups; however, amines and carboxyl groups, sometimes esterified, can be encountered as well (its affinity to form hydrogen bonds with molecules of water is the crucial trait). They are used in many products, including food, cosmetics, medicines and pesticides.
A humectant attracts and retains the moisture in the air nearby via absorption, drawing the water vapor into or beneath the organism's or object's surface.[1][2] By contrast, desiccants also attract ambient moisture, but adsorb—not absorb—it, by condensing the water vapor onto the surface, as a layer of film.[3]
When used as a food additive, a humectant has the effect of keeping the foodstuff moist.[4]
Humectants are sometimes used as a component of antistatic coatings for plastics.
In pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, humectants can be used in topical dosage forms to increase the solubility of a chemical compound's active ingredients, increasing the active ingredients' ability to penetrate skin, or its activity time. This hydrating property can also be needed to counteract a dehydrating active ingredient (e.g., soaps, corticoids, and some alcohols), which is why humectants are common ingredients in a wide range of cosmetic and personal care products that make moisturization claims (e.g., hair conditioners, body lotions, face or body cleansers, lip balms, and eye creams).

14) Masking Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for 'masking agent':

A masking agent is a reagent used in chemical analysis which reacts with chemical species that may interfere in the analysis. In sports a masking agent is used to hide or prevent detection of a banned substance or illegal drug like anabolic steroids or stimulants.


--FDA : labeling cosmetics

--List of masking agents - 'thegoodscentscompany'

--Warnings: 'naturalcosmeticsnews'

15) Occlusive Agent:

From the website "ChemistsCorner" - Occlusive Agent:

Occlusive agents increase moisture levels by providing a physical barrier to epidermal water loss. Ingredients with occlusive properties include petrolatum, waxes, oils, and silicones. Some occlusive agents like petrolatum can leave a heavy feel so they are often combined with other ingredients, like emollients, to improve consumer appeal.

Additional resources: here and here

16) Opacifying Agent:

From 'wikipedia' for Opacifier:

An opacifier is a substance added to a material in order to make the ensuing system opaque. An example of a chemical opacifier is titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is used to opacify ceramic glazes and milk glass; bone ash is also used. Opacifiers must have a refractive index (RI) substantially different from the system.

17) Refatting Agent:

From the website 'wiktionary' - Refatting Agent: The replenishment of lipids to the skin.

18) Skin-conditioning Agent:

From the website "MiMi beauty" - Skin Conditioning Agent:

A skin conditioning agent and an essential fatty acid that helps maintain optimal skin health and function.  Lipid Organic products found in living systems that are insoluble in water, like fats. Cell membranes are made of lipids.

Additional resources: ChemistsCorner

19) Skin Protecting Agent (skin protectant):

From the website 'Walgreens' for Skin Protectants:

Remedy Dimethicone Skin Protectant provides a breathable barrier that protects against moisture. Also protects and helps relieve chapped or cracked skin. Protects against moisture loss. This product is equally intended for use as a long-lasting moisturizer.

20) Surfactant:

From 'wikipedia' for Surfactant:

Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersants.

21) Surfactant-Solubilizing Agent:

See 'wikipedia' page for 'Surfactant'.


As you can see above, the functions are clarified by listing the definition of each.  Although, there are some glossary terms that refer to multiple terms in the glossary itself.  One example is a 'skin conditioning agent' -- an emollient, etc.  We need to think critically about the purpose of having the ingredient inside of the formulation.

Furthermore, listed above are the functions of the ingredients.  Lots of information have been left out.  One important piece is the relative concentration of each chemical.  Some companies do not list concentration to avoid duplication of their marketed project.  In the next post, we will return to the last post and look further into the lotion "Jergen's Skin firming" lotion in more detail.

Until then, Have a great day.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

What's Next In The "Anti-aging Skin Series"?

After exploring (by listing) all of the ingredients in the last blog post for the skin care product made by Jergens -- "Jergens Skin Firming Lotion," I promised to address the ingredients more "in detail" and provide a greater insight into the toxicity associated with them.  The task has proven to more difficult than I initially thought to it would be.  No Worries -- Not to say insurmountable.

In the last post, I listed all 29 ingredients of the lotion.  As I look over the list of functions which I listed from the website "EWG" -- I see many terms which can be further defined under the category "Function" of the ingredient.  Therefore, I will start by composing a small glossary of terms like "Skin Conditioning Agent" or "Emollient" in the next post.  This will assist us in future posts on "anti-aging" skin care products.  Additionally, this glossary will help with other skin care products by providing better insight into the actual function.  After I publish the glossary, we will pick back up with the previous blog post on "Jergens Skin Firming Lotion."

For those readers just joining us, the blog post is part of the ongoing skin series on anti-aging stemming from the initial blog post which can be found here.  The series is titled "Anti-aging Skin Series."  By clicking on the hyperlinked text, past blog posts can be found.

With that in mind, I will return to composing the glossary from which we can explore other products in the future in greater detail.  If you (the reader) have any preferences on the layout of the information which would clarify the subject matter in any light, please leave a comment below.  I am always open to suggestion.  Part of the issue at hand currently, is that I am approaching the subject from a chemist's standpoint and want to deconstruct the ingredients in the easiest way possible for everyone to understand.

Anyways, until next time, have a great weekend!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Happy Veterans Day Everyone!!!!

Happy Veterans Day Everyone!

This week has been a crazy week with the election.  I have been promoting science issues over on my other blog post.  Recently, I felt compelled to write about the science issues that face the nation from here forward.

First, here is a post regarding the top 20 questions regarding current science issues.

Second, here is a post discussing why those issues and others matter moving forward.

Finally, in honor of Veterans Day, I just posted a blog post about the election results and the implications for veterans moving forward.  Read about those implications and think hard for those who have served, continue to serve, and given the ultimate sacrifice.

Last but not least, I will return next week with the 'Anti-aging Skin Series'.  Until then, Have a great weekend.  Cheers!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 5: Part 1 - Jergens Skin Firming Moisturizer Lotion

Continuing on with our journey through the scientific claims (in products) of "Anti-Aging" skin care products, the time has come to tackle a chosen product.  For those readers just joining the educational series, the series is called "Anti-Aging Skin Series" and by clicking on the title, previous posts can be accessed.  The series came out of an original post which was lengthy and addressed a couple of popular technologies.  One was artificial skin while the other was that reversing aging skin with the use of 'skin creams' which have claims of restoration of crucial ingredients in the human skin like 'collagen' or 'glycans' (on the surface of cells - which promote collagen growth).

In the paragraphs below, we will look at a skin care product that is supposedly aimed at "skin firming" by 'tightening' or 'toning' the consumer's skin to appear young and healthy skin.  Specifically, we will break the blog post into two parts: 1) An Ingredient List and 2) a discussion about the ingredients and functionality of each.  Below is part 1 of the first product -- a Skin Firming Moisturizer product.

Here is a picture of the skin care product named 'Jergens Skin FirmingMoisturizer' below:

Without further ado, lets start exploring the skin firming moisturizer in greater detail.

Skin Firming Moisturizer

As I just mentioned, the product that we are exploring today is named 'Jergens Skin Firming Moisturizer' and is specifically for tightening and toning older skin to appear younger.  If we look at the product description from the website 'Amazon' -- here is what the site states as a selling point:

About the Product
JERGENS Skin Firming Moisturizer helps you achieve deeply luminous, visibly firmer skin. This unique formula tightens and increases elasticity of celllulite prone skin for visibly firmer results.
Reduces the appearance of cellulite and features a unique illuminating HYDRALUCENCE blend, Collagen, and Elastin.
Improves skin‘s resiliency, elasticity, and firmness. With an exclusive anti-cellulite Firm Perfecting Complex.
Relieves dryness and replenishes moisture to improve skin‘s tone, texture, and luminosity.

The marketing teams behind these products are amazing -- the teams can really sell a product.  I have to give credit where credit is due.  Of course, this credit is only from a 'selling standpoint' and not from a 'scientific standpoint' -- which we shall explore shortly.

According to the product manufacturer's claim, the skin firming moisturizer is a 'unique formula' that will increase "elasticity of cellulite prone skin for visibly firmer results."  Remember this claim along with other mystifying statements like "features a unique illuminating HYDRALUCENCE blend, Collagen, and Elastin."  From my read, the last statement is the most true statement: "Relieves dryness and replenishes moisture to improve skin's tone, texture, and luminosity."  After going through the ingredient list, these claims will be either proven true or false!

If the container is turned around to reveal the backside of the product container, the statement and ingredients are shown as follows:

and zooming in on the ingredients, the list is shown below:

Remember in the original post that aging skin appears dry, flaky, and saggy due to the loss of 'collagen'.  Additionally, the 'saggy' skin is often referred to as 'crepey' skin too.  If a product was advertised to 'tighten' and 'tone' skin to make the skin appear to be more youthful skin, then obviously, the product would sell well and appeal to a large audience.  I imagine that is the case with the following product under review in this post.

How do the ingredients function to make skin appear 'tightened' and 'toned'?

If the ingredient list is explored into greater detail, a better understanding of the function of each ingredient will become apparent.  In the next section, a list will be formed using data collected on a very resource rich website 'Environmental Working Group'.  The EWG is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to demystify the harmful ingredients that are contained in consumer products and lobby in Washington D.C. toward safer use of chemicals in consumer products.  Their website is dense in information.

One of the overarching goals on the KaiserWellnessCenter blog is to provide you (the reader) with the correct resources that you can use for yourself in your journey toward wellness and a better understanding of the surrounding environment.  Below, I will list information 'about' the chemical in question and the 'function' of the chemical in question.  You might ask:

Where does this information come from?

One of the chemicals off of the ingredient list is "Aluminum Starch Octenyl Succinate" with an ingredient profile from the EWG that is shown below:

As you can see, the two pieces of information needed to understand the importance of the ingredient are the "about" and "function" of the chemical.  Also, the various names would be useful as different manufacturers of different products might choose to use different names.  The EWG provides a fair amount of information in the frame shown above.  Although, if you type in the chemical name like I did, there is more data on the chemical not shown in the image above.  I broke the webpage for "Aluminum Starch OctenylSuccinate" up into three images.  Here are the remaining two with additional toxicity data and resources on the references of the information above:

And ...

The EWG is one great resource to find information on chemicals in consumer products that are sold on the market.  Additional sites do exist along with reference books (like "A Consumer's Dictionary Of Cosmetic Ingredients") which will be mentioned as we explore different products.  For the purpose of the introductory post on a "skin firming moisturizer," the EWG will be the sole source of the ingredient list.  In the future, you will be able to type in a variation of a name and search for yourself.

Ingredient List

I just mentioned that a list of the two types of information would be made about each ingredient.   Each ingredient will be underlined and then followed by two sentences.  The first sentence will contain the "about" information.  Whereas the second sentence will contain the "function" of the chemical in the product.

Note: the information on the ingredient list is taken directly from the website - EWG.  This is to illustrate the first pass at deconstructing any ingredient list.  In future posts, only relevant functions will be extracted for the product under review.

Remember, click on any of the 30 chemicals listed and you will be directed to the original source -- the EWG website page for the chemical in question.

1) Water:

About: n/a

Function: Solvent

2) Glycerin:

About: Glycerin (also called glycerol) is a naturally occurring alcohol compound and a component of many lipids.

Function(s): Denaturant; Fragrance Ingredient; Hair Conditioning Agent; Humectant; Oral Care Agent;Oral Health Care Drug; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Humectant; Skin Protectant; Viscosity Decreasing Agent; PERFUMING; SOLVENT

3) Cetearyl Alcohol:

About: Cetearyl Alcohol is a mixture of cetyl and stearyl alcohols that can come from vegetable or synthetic sources.

Function(s): Emulsion Stabilizer; Opacifying Agent; Surfactant - Foam Booster; Viscosity IncreasingAgent - Aqueous; Viscosity Increasing Agent - Nonaqueous; EMOLLIENT; EMULSIFYING; EMULSION STABILISING; FOAM BOOSTING; VISCOSITY CONTROLLING

4) Petrolatum:

About: Petrolatum is a semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum.

Function(s): Hair Conditioning Agent; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Occlusive; Skin Protectant; EMOLLIENT; MOISTURISING; UV ABSORBER

5) Mineral oil:

About: Mineral Oil is a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Hair Conditioning Agent; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Emollient;Skin-Conditioning Agent - Occlusive; Skin Protectant; Solvent; ANTISTATIC; PERFUMING; SKIN PROTECTING

6) Ceteareth-20:

About: Ceteareth-20 is the polyethylene glycol ether of cetearyl alcohol; may contain potentially toxic impurities such as 1,4-dioxane.

Function(s): Surfactant - Cleansing Agent; Surfactant - Solubilizing Agent.

7) Aluminum Starch Octenyl Succinate:

About: This ingredient is an aluminum salt of chemically modified starch.

Function(s): Absorbent; Anticaking Agent; Viscosity Increasing Agent - Nonaqueous; VISCOSITY CONTROLLING.

8) Cyclopentasiloxane:

About: Cyclopentasiloxane (cyclomethicone) is a silicon-based cyclic compound; may be associated with environmental toxicity.

Function(s): Hair Conditioning Agent; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Emollient; Solvent; SKIN CONDITIONING

9) Acrylates Copolymer:

About: Acrylates copolymer is composed of acrylic acid and methacrylic acid building blocks.

Function(s): Adhesive; Artificial Nail Builder; Binder; Film Former; Hair Fixative; Suspending Agent -Nonsurfactant; ANTISTATIC; BINDING; FILM FORMING

10) Dimethicone:

About: Dimethicone (also called polymethylsiloxane) is a silicon-based polymer used as a lubricant and conditioning agent.

Function(s): Antifoaming Agent; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Occlusive; Skin Protectant; EMOLLIENT; SKIN CONDITIONING; SKIN PROTECTING.

11) Stearic Acid:

About: Stearic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Surfactant - Cleansing Agent; Surfactant - Emulsifying AgentSurfactant-Cleansing Agent is included as a function for the soap form of Stearic Acid.; EMULSION STABILISING; MASKING; REFATTING.

12) Glyceryl Dilaurate:

About: Glyceryl Dilaurate is a diester of glycerin and lauric acid.

Function(s): Skin-Conditioning Agent - Emollient; EMULSIFYING.

13) DMDM hydantoin:

About (FORMALDEHYDE RELEASER): DMDM hydantoin is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser preservative.

Function(s): Preservative.

14) MethylParaben:

About: Methylparaben is in the paraben family of preservatives used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Preservative.

15) Fragrance:

About: The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate.


16) Butylene Glycol:

About: Butylene glycol (1.3-Butanediol) is a small organic alcohol used as solvent and conditioning agent.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Miscellaneous; Solvent; ViscosityDecreasing Agent; HUMECTANT; MASKING; SKIN CONDITIONING; VISCOSITY CONTROLLING.

17) Acrylates/C10-30 Alkylacrylate Crosspolymer:

About: This ingredient is a polymer of actylic acid and related chemicals.

Function(s): Emulsion Stabilizer; Viscosity Increasing Agent - Aqueous; Viscosity Increasing Agent -Nonaqueous; EMULSION STABILISING; FILM FORMING; VISCOSITY CONTROLLING.

18) PropylParaben:

About: Propylparaben is in the paraben family of preservatives used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Preservative; PERFUMING.

19) Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PNP Crosspolymer:

About: Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PVP Crosspolymer is a crosslinked copolymer of HydrolyzedWheat Protein (q.v.) and PVP (q.v.).

Function(s): Film Former; Hair Conditioning Agent; Hair Fixative; FILM FORMING; HAIR FIXING.

20) Sodium Hydroxide:

About: Sodium Hydroxide is a highly caustic and reactive inorganic base.

Function(s): Denaturant; pH Adjuster; BUFFERING.

21) Arginine:

About: Arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Hair Conditioning Agent; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Miscellaneous; ANTISTATIC; MASKING; SKIN CONDITIONING.

22) Tocopheryl Acetate:

About: Tocopheryl acetate is a chemical compound that consists of acetic acid and tocopherol (vitamin E)

Function(s): Antioxidant; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Miscellaneous; SKIN CONDITIONING.

23) Centella Asiatica Extract:

About: Extract of the leaves and roots of the medicinal plant Gotu Kola, Centella asiatica.

Function(s): Skin-Conditioning Agent - Miscellaneous; SKIN CONDITIONING.

24) Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Water:

About: Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Water is an aqueous solution of the steam distillate obtained fromCocos nucifera.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; MASKING.

25) Hydrolyzed Collagen:

About: Hydrolyzed Collagen is a hydrolysate of animal or fish collagen derived by acid, enzyme orother method of hydrolysis. It is characterized by a significant level of hydroxyproline residues.

Function(s): Hair Conditioning Agent; Nail Conditioning Agent; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Miscellaneous; ANTISTATIC; EMOLLIENT; FILM FORMING; HUMECTANT; SKIN CONDITIONING.

26) Polyimide-1:

About: Polyimide-1 is a terpolymer that is made by reacting poly(isobutylene-alt-maleic anhydride)with dimethylaminopropylamine and methoxy-PEG/PPG-31/9-2-propylamine in a mixture of ethanol andWater.

Function(s): Film Former; Hair Fixative; FILM FORMING.

27) Withania Somnifera Root Extract:

About: Withania Somnifera Root Extract is an extract of the roots of Withania somnifera.

Function(s): Not Reported; SKIN CONDITIONING.

28) Fucus Vesiculosus Extract:

About: Fucus Vesiculosus Extract is an extract of the dried thallus of the bladderwrack alga, Fucusvesiculosus.

Function(s): Fragrance Ingredient; Skin-Conditioning Agent - Miscellaneous; PERFUMING.

29) Hydrolyzed Elastin:


That is all of the ingredients listed on the backside of the bottle of 'Jergens Skin Firming Moisturizer' with 'Hydralucence' technology.  The chemical named 'Hydralucence' was not listed on the above list -- why?  Because, the name is not of a chemical but of a technology.  More specifically, the 'Hydralucence' technology is the propietary blend.

Conclusion . . .

For the time being, the above information shall give you (the reader a start) into thinking about the functions of the ingredients.  Notice the following questions remain unanswered regarding the "skin firming lotion" advertised above:

1) What are the toxicities associated with each chemical on the list above?

2) What are the concentrations of each chemical?

3) How do all of the above chemicals function together to provide the marketed claims?

4) What does 'emollient' mean?

5) What is an 'humectant'?

6) What are some of the definitions of the terms listed in the 'functions' section?

These questions along with others will be entertained in the next post.  Remember, since the "Anti-Aging Skin Series" is about breaking down the initial post into digestible parts, we must stick with the tradition of doing so.  In the meantime, the above list along with the claims in the marketing listing provide you with a few terms and questions to think about until we tackle the functionality and myths associated with the ingredients and claims in the next post -- post 6.

Until next time, Have a great day!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 4: What Is A Cosmetic Product?

The last post in the "Anti-Aging Skin Series" was tying up loose ends regarding the "function of skin".  In order to proceed to evaluate the effectiveness of a given anti-aging skin care product, we have to be able to validate the product first.  A given product will have claims associated with it that provide clarity as to the treatment on your skin.  Further, the ingredient list will provide the evidence that chemists can use to validate the claims.  Above all, to begin with, we must distinguish between a cosmetic product and other products.  What are the "other products"?  The other products are those whose claims fall outside the range of cosmetics.  Usually, these have to have approval by various agencies such as the "Food and Drug Administration."

Usual Disclaimer:

For some readers the material might be too elementary ( or too much detail).  I would challenge you to think deeply about the simplicity of the descriptions and also I will include links for you too (on the side with greater detail).

Overall Effect/Aim Of A Cosmetic Product

The overall aim of a cosmetic product is to provide the following:

1) Sense of effect

2) Desired effect

3) Manufacturer's claimed effect

After reading the above three effects you might be somewhat confused.  The following question might emerge as a result:

Why are all three not the same or a combined effect?

The reason lies within the claim of the product.  If I (a scientist) were to use a product with a claim, I would be looking to validate the claim.  Evidently, according to the "Chemist's Corner" that is only part of the achieved mission.  Why?  The most important statement from a cosmetic chemist is the following:

If the product does not make the person feel better, then the product designers of the product have failed.


Yes.  Even if the product fulfills the claim listed on the container (marketed as) and validated by the ingredients list?

The most important person to satisfy is the customer.  Which is one reason why I am breaking down the initial blog post into digestible bits.

Alternatively, the cosmetic industry understands this and can extend the claims (in fraudulent cases) in order to achieve the overall goal: satisfy the customer.  Once a customer is satisfied, then the message spreads about the success of the product and sales increase as a result.  Meanwhile, harm done to consumer propagates without understanding the nature of the fraudulent claim causing alarm.  There are regulatory procedures for a cosmetic product.  In the section below, the differences between a cosmetic product and a drug are highlighted.

What Is A Cosmetic Product?

To answer the question in the simplest terms, lets consult 'Wikipedia' for a definition of 'Cosmetics'.  An excerpt is shown below taken from the page:

Cosmetics, also known as make-up, are substances or products used to enhance the appearance or fragrance of the body. Many cosmetics are designed for use on the face and hair. In the 21st century, women generally use more cosmetics than men. They are generally mixtures of chemical compounds; some being derived from natural sources (such as coconut oil), and some being synthetics.[1] Common cosmetics include lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, foundation, rouge, skin cleansers and skin lotions, shampoo, hairstyling products (gel, hair spray, etc.), perfume, and cologne.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates cosmetics,[2] defines cosmetics as "intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body's structure or functions". This broad definition includes any material intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product. The FDA specifically excludes soap from this category.[3]

Relatively simple right?

Depending on who you ask, the definition can vary slightly or to a large extent.  A cosmetic product is a mixture of compounds.  Further, the "active ingredient" involved in the product is not necessarily correctly indicated on the label of the product.  Why do I mention this last statement?

Further, the FDA definition of a cosmetic product as indicated in the excerpt above specifies that the product CANNOT change the body's structure or functions.  That is extremely important to understand about skin care products.  Why?  Because, the claim may be specifying a change that falls into the category.  Can I point out an example of this?  Yes!

In the very first blog post which motivated the "Anti-Aging Skin Series," an excerpt was presented by Dr. Zoe Draelos regarding the efficacy and mode of action for "glycan skin care creams":

Dr. Draelos said the goal of glycan creams is to provide sugars or transform existing sugars to allow older cells to behave like younger cells. In theory, this would allow the skin to produce more collagen and heal better after injuries, including burns and cuts. Dr. Draelos notes one added benefit of glycan creams is that they are considered safe to apply to the skin because sugars are the body’s fuel.

However, Dr. Draelos notes current research has not shown if glycan creams can impact the skin to the extent that skin cell glycans begin to act more youthful. “The theory behind glycans’ impact on anti-aging is very much in its infancy,” said Dr. Draelos. “Currently there are other more proven treatments on the market, such as retinoids, but new research will provide additional targets for anti-aging strategies.”

You will recall that in the first part of the excerpt, Dr. Zoe Draelos describes the loss of glycans as a natural part of aging.   For the moment, a glycan is the intermediate (attached to the outside of the cell) toward making collagen.  As we age, the glycan levels vary and this reduction is thought to be responsible for the loss or reduction in collagen production.

Here is where a skin care product manufacturer might run into difficulty with product claims.  If the manufacturer states that the product enhances the production of collagen, then the product is not a "cosmetic product" and would be classified as a "drug" with different regulatory procedures to jump through to get to market.

Take home message?

The clear distinction between a cosmetic product and a drug is necessary for each of us (as consumers) to understand when seeking to purchase a product for an intended purpose.  Here are two excerpts taken from the "Food and Drug Administration's" website regarding the distinction.  First, the strict definitions of both a "drug" and a "cosmetic product" are shown below:

How does the law define a cosmetic?
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics by their intended use, as "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance" [FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)]. Among the products included in this definition are skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup preparations, cleansing shampoos, permanent waves, hair colors, and deodorants, as well as any substance intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product. 

How does the law define a drug?

The FD&C Act defines drugs, in part, by their intended use, as "articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" and "articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals" [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1)].

Furthermore, it is important to understand that both a "drug" and a "cosmetic product" have completely different "approval" routes.  Here is another excerpt taken from the FDA website regarding the approval routes for the two types of products:

How approval requirements are different ?

Under the FD&C Act, cosmetic products and ingredients, with the exception of color additives, do not require FDA approval before they go on the market. Drugs, however, must generally either receive premarket approval by FDA through the New Drug Application (NDA) process or conform to a "monograph" for a particular drug category, as established by FDA's Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drug Review. These monographs specify conditions whereby OTC drug ingredients are generally recognized as safe and effective, and not misbranded. Certain OTC drugs may remain on the market without an NDA approval until a monograph for its class of drugs is finalized as a regulation. However, once FDA has made a final determination on the status of an OTC drug category, such products must either be the subject of an approved NDA [FD&C Act, sec. 505(a) and (b)], or comply with the appropriate monograph for an OTC drug. (A note on the term "new drug": Despite the word "new," a "new drug" may have been in use for many years. If a product is intended for use as a drug, it must comply with the requirements outlined above.)

Having the knowledge above will allow you as a consumer to understand the various claims of the cosmetic product's manufacturer.  Further, the information above allows you to ask knowledgeable questions as a consumer into the efficacy and justifiable claims made.  And last but not least, you can now help the rest of the world by reporting false claims to the FDA to have the products removed from the market.  Especially, if a given product is causing consumers harm.

Conclusion ...

Over the course of writing the initial blog post which was lengthy, I have now come to realize that the skin care product business is varied in the amount of information presented on the back of each product container.  This will become apparent to the reader (you) in the weeks to come as we continue the series in investigating "anti-aging" products.  Additionally, I am surprised that consumers have so much trust in the cosmetic product market.  When all is said and done, at the end of the day, the consumer is both the market and the safety advocate.

What do I mean by this?

The cosmetic market is run by years of highly successful consumers passing on opinions regarding various products.  These opinions have been unmatched by scientific safety information.  Only after a problem is reported does a product get scrutinized.  Yes, certain ingredients have been approved to incorporate into cosmetic products.  Therein lies the large range in which these companies have to operate and market in.

As we move forward, examples will be shown of "anti-aging" products and the ingredients/claims will be further investigated.  I look forward to having the reader provide input where necessary (or interested) to enhance the quality of the material presented.

Until next time, have a great day!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Where Did The Summer Go?

Lately, life seems to be playing out  at  a "fast forward" speed.  When I stop to think about the last time that I have reported back to this page, I am amazed at how fast time flies by.  Especially, when a person is so busy that stopping to smell the roses seems almost difficult.  Realizing this is a great step toward living a healthier life.  How?  Below are some thoughts on this realization.

First, as the summer flew by, I have been over involved in a bunch of different activities.  As a result, I managed to get sick as did others around me.  Exposing yourself to a variety of people will inevitably result in exposing yourself to a wide variety of potential forms of a local or global form of a virus or cold.  With that being said, there is little excuse for me not to be able to check into this blog to report on my health during the "good times" of which I have had many over the summer.  I have been drawn completely to the world of "blogging" as a form of health.

To continue reading this post, click HERE!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 3: Skin -- Function - part 2

A little over a week ago, I wrote the first part of the "Skin -- Function" in the continuing series: "Anti-Aging Skin Series."  In that post, I briefly introduced the top layer of skin -- the Epidermis.  Generally speaking, there are two main layers of interest to designers of cosmetic formulations and skin care products -- the top two: Epidermis and Dermis.  The last post was concerned with the Epidermis since this layer is made up of 5 critical layers (each with a specific function).

In the interest of Kayla's advice of breaking down the initial blog post on "Anti-Aging," I chose to divide up that last post into two parts.  This post will be the second part of the function of skin concerned with the deeper layer below the Epidermis -- the Dermis.  Without further delay, lets explore the Dermis in regards to the function that it plays in the overall purpose of skin.

Usual Disclaimer:

For some readers the material might be too elementary ( or too much detail).  I would challenge you to think deeply about the simplicity of the descriptions and also I will include links for you too (on the side with greater detail).

How Important Is The Dermis?

I decided to start off this part with the question of "How Important Is The Dermis?"  Why?  In order to answer these questions, lets revisit the diagram of the structure of human skin.  A diagram of the structure of human skin taken from a book authored by Dr. Zoe Draelos and Dr. Peter Pugliese titled "Physiology of the Skin" is shown below:

As you can see the top few layers of the skin make up the epidermis and were discussed in the previous post.  From the diagram above, the first assumption of the function of the dermis in relation to the entire "skin" as an organ might be to serve the epidermis.  In the last post, we learned that the epidermis is not static and is quite dynamic (evolving over time).  Since there is no vascular layer in the epidermis, a supply of some sorts needs to come from somewhere.  Where is that "somewhere"? The dermis layer of the human skin organ.

What are some of the other functions of the dermis layer?

If "Wikipedia" is consulted to answer the question above, here is the response in the form of an excerpt:

The dermis is a layer of skin between the epidermis (with which it makes up the cutis) and subcutaneous tissues, that primarily consists of dense irregular connective tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. It is divided into two layers, the superficial area adjacent to the epidermis called the papillary region and a deep thicker area known as the reticular dermis.[1] The dermis is tightly connected to the epidermis through a basement membrane. Structural components of the dermis are collagen, elastic fibers, and extrafibrillar matrix.[2] It also contains mechanoreceptors that provide the sense of touch and thermoreceptors that provide the sense of heat. In addition, hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, apocrine glands, lymphatic vessels and blood vessels are present in the dermis. Those blood vessels provide nourishment and waste removal for both dermal and epidermal cells.

The dermis appears to play a large role in the production of skin.  Stem cells start forming here and move up into the Epidermis to proceed further into the five layers -- which were discussed in the previous post.  Above all else, the dermis plays a critical role in thermal regulation.  Controlling the body temperature along with providing the sense of touch, reaction to heat, and housing the glands to secrete toxins makes the dermis layer critical to having healthy skin.

Upon inspection of the dermis layer in the diagram above, the layer appears to be quite heterogenous.  Heterogenous means that there are multiple components that make up the dermis -- which have many different functions -- such as those highlighted in the excerpt above.  In order to control the body temperature, the ability to sweat is critical.  Sweating is the main avenue toward "cooling down" the body.   Along with the hair follicles and blood vessels are sweat glands.

How many sweat glands do we have on our skin?

According the American Academy of Dermatology website, we have a the following in every square inch of skin:

1) 650 sweat glands

2) 20 blood vessels

3) 60,000 melanocytes (which give skin its color)

4) 1,000 nerve endings (sensing touch, pain, etc.)


How many sweat glands are needed across our entire body?

In a previous post that I wrote on my personal (Mike Thinks) site, the number was set at around 2.5 million strategically spread throughout the human body surface.  These sweat glands are mixed with a system of blood vessels that differ in size and range in function -- from providing oxygen to the epidermis (lower layers) to providing oxygen and nutrients to the dermis.  Remember, the dermis makes up around 90% of the skin (three layers: Subcutaneous, Dermis, and Epidermis).  The temperature control and shock/strain control are a major function.

How Does The Dermis Produce Healthy Skin?

In the previous post on the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin was essentially the "defining layer" toward the appearance of healthy skin.  Although, there are five layers of the epidermis that are continuously changing.  Over the course of two months, stem cells formed in the dermis layer move up through the epidermis and go through the following processes.  As the layers move toward the surface, the cells start to die out and flatten out.

At the same time, the body produces a "glue" called the "natural moisturizing factor" to hold the flattened out 'corneocytes' together.    This layer of the epidermis is responsible for holding in water and helping to regulate the body temperature.  At this point, you may be wondering the following question:

Why are you talking about the epidermis when the post is about the dermis layer of the human skin?

The reason is because the dermis and epidermis work in synchronization with one another.  Collagen, the "cushy" part of the skin -- giving skin the volume or body is produced in the dermis and then moves into the epidermis -- which ultimately flatten out.

As people age, their skin tends to lose collagen.  Additionally, as the "natural moisturizer factor" is depleted over time and not replenished by our body, then the skin tends to dry out and become irritable and flaky.  Other descriptions include "crepey" skin.  This is where the importance of using skin conditioners -- moisturizing factors become important.  That is one way of keeping healthy skin along with not smoking, drinking enough water, and staying out of the sun.

Do not fall for the scams!!

Now that you have knowledge of the process by which skin is produced, try not to fall for any scams.  For instance, if a cosmetic product has a "promise" or "claim" written on the bottle that the formulation contains "chemicals" or "ingredients" that will replenish the "collagen" in your skin -- do not fall for the scam.  The only way to produce more collagen is the genetically enhance the production.  If that were possible, the cosmetic product would still fall out of the reach of the skin care business -- and would need to be FDA (Food and Drug Association) regulated.  The product would have to be treated like a pharmaceutical product.  Be careful what you believe in a product's claim.


Over the past three blogs, I have introduced the structure and function of the human skin.  Along the way, I have raised questions which should remind you (the reader) to be wary of the claims on a given cosmetic products brand.  At the same time, when a cosmetic product is being used to enhance the appearance of your skin, be sure not to interfere with the skin's natural progression (of producing new skin) to shed old skin.  Any good cosmetic product should enhance the appearance of your skin while allowing the skin to regulate body temperature and feel wonderful touches.

Remember as we traverse the landscape of anti-aging claims and products that above all, your opinion is most important.  Looking back on questions such as: "What does healthy skin look like for me?" -- are critical to consider when deciding which cosmetic product is right for you.  Alternatively, do not forget that the human skin is a living organ.  Despite the corneocytes that have died and flattened, there is a whole other layer -- dermis to consider with the vast networks of blood vessels and sweat glands along with the nerves to consider.  Quite possibly, a cosmetic product could damage the 'dynamic' nature of the skin or process.  Normally, cosmetic chemists aspire to achieve the correct formulation for a given result.  But each of us should be wary of the method by which the result is achieved.

Until next time, have a great day!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Anti-Aging Skin Series Post 2: Skin -- Function - part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short little blog post introducing the "structure of skin" in the first blog post on the "Anti-Aging Skin Series" which is a break down of a long post titled "Can Science Really Reverse Aging Skin?".  With the basics of the "structure of skin" in hand, the next obvious blog post should be on the "function of skin."  Why - you might ask?  Well,  as with most scientific advances, "structure" and "function" are the critical components of any new scientific advancement.  Many consumer products make wild claims.  Additionally, many consumer products claim to "possess" ingredients (chemicals) which will perform (in a certain way) or heal specific diseases.  With regard to chemistry and chemicals found in consumer products, understanding the "function" of a chemical based on the "chemical structure" is critical to understanding any benefit or disadvantage.

Usual Disclaimer:

For some readers the material might be too elementary ( or too much detail).  I would challenge you to think deeply about the simplicity of the descriptions and also I will include links for you too (on the side with greater detail).

With this in mind, lets explore the "function of the skin."  To understand the function each macroscopic layer plays, the easiest way is to start from the outside and work our way down - inside.  I use the term "macroscopic" to emphasize that the cellular picture is too specific for the discussion and will be referred to when needed.  The outermost layer of the skin is referred to as the "Epidermis."  If we continue down inside the organ (skin), the next two layers would be: Dermis, Hypodermis.  Since the purpose of the "Anti-Aging Skin Series" is to break down a long post into edible bites, I think in the current post, introducing the function of the Epidermis will be more than enough for one reading.  Enjoy!

What is the function of the Epidermis?

A diagram of the structure of human skin taken from a book authored by Dr. Zoe Draelos and Dr. Peter Pugliese titled "Physiology of the Skin" is shown below:

In the first chapter of the book, the content is captured appropriately by the title of the chapter -- "Behavior of Normal Healthy Skin."  Of the three types of skin mentioned in the introductory post about skin (access here), the two types of skin that are relevant to the cosmetic industry are the outer two layers: epidermis and dermis.

I am a big believer in not "reinventing the wheel" -- meaning, I like to cite other authors work and use their explanations when better understood than mine.  From the first chapter of the book, here is a description of the epidermis that captures the function in a simple but complex manner:

The epidermis is the outer skin layer that forms a outer barrier to the outer world.  This barrier keeps out water, sunlight, insects, germs, heat and cold, dirt and gases.  It keeps in fluids such as water and blood, and holds safe minerals, vitamins, hormones, proteins and heat.  An incredible self-renewing system, the epidermis provides replacement of the outer cells lost to the environment.  It provides a water proof outer layer, yet permits internal water to carry nutrients to the outermost living cells.  It provides a tough outer layer to resist friction, abrasion and pressure, yet is sensitive to the lightest touch or softest breeze.  Less glamorous, but equally as important, the skin serves as a vast waste disposal system, ridding the body of many toxic substances.

I had to read that excerpt a few times before comprehending the entire range of the skin.  Remember when your older sister or brother use to grab onto your arm skin and twist it -- to cause a sudden escalation of pain along with the outcry...."stop that you bully..."   Well, I had my fair share with dispensing a few to my younger brother.  Yet, at the time, the last idea running through my head was the dynamic range of the skin.

To be able to withstand abrasion, yet feel the softest breeze.  The body is amazing.  From the diagram above, a person would never have been able to ascertain the many functions that the outer layer of skin provided.  At least, I would not have been able to (I cannot speak for anyone else).

Here is a short -- 2 minute video worth watching to give you a basic idea about the epidermis that was taken from the website "Chemist's Corner" titled "What Is Skin For?" shown below.  I highly recommend viewing the short video before reading further into the blog post:

The producers did a great job of listing the relevant steps in the process of producing the various layers of the epidermis. If I had just started with the weird names such as "stratum corneum" you might have been asleep already, right? 

The Epidermis can be split up into five layers which are of importance.  Especially, when formulating a product.  The outermost layer of the epidermis is the "stratum corneum" and for functional purposes is the hardest.  Keeping foreign invaders out is just one purpose along with the many others listed in the excerpt above.  The four layers underneath the stratum corneum serve to different steps in production of the outermost layer -- as you will see shortly.  The video above illustrates the point just made that the bottom few layers manufacture the final outer layer of skin.  Lets take a look at the stratum corneum below.

Function of the Stratum Corneum

As I just mentioned, the stratum corneum is fueled by the layers underneath.  Below is a brief breakdown of the layers along with an excerpt to clarify a few key terms which will help us understand anti-aging products claims and effects in later blogs.  Further, at times, the Stratum Corneum will be referred to in abbreviated form -- "SC".  Here is a diagram of the Stratum Corneum taken from the book above -- "Physiology of the Skin" shown below:

Working our way to the top from the bottom, a few points about each layer should be understood by a cosmetic chemist or a consumer.  There are many claims that originate out of the "marketing" or "Public Relations" departments in product lines that have no or very little scientific basis.  After reading about the various layers, as a consumer, you might have a different perspective toward your next purchase.

Without further ado, starting with the Stratum Basale:

Cells known as keratinocytes start forming in the stratum basale layer.  Additionally, another type of cell of importance is made here -- melanocytes which produce the chemical pigment melanin.  Melanin is devoted to skin color but also contributes as a defense mechanism again harmful UV rays.

An important note about the various layers of the epidermis is that there is an upward movement of the layers.  Think of a reptile like a snake which over time will shed it's skin or the teeth of a shark which produce a new set every weeks.  Similarly, the keratinocytes and melanocytes that are made in the basale layer will eventually make their way up to the outer stratum corneum layer.

Note: But first, on their way, transformations will occur.  These transformations will be a change of polarity in the proteins itself, death (cells will flatten out and dry out/die), and production of natural moisturizer factor.  That is to say, cells that arise in the basale layer will eventually die when they reach the stratum corneum.

Next, the Stratum Spinosum:

In the stratum spinosum, the keratin cells start becoming "spiny" -- which is to say, their shape starts to  change.  Lipid production has already occurred in the previous layer, therefore, the lipids are very similar in structure.  This layer is referred to as "early differentiation."

The "Zone of Transition" -- Stratum Granulosum:

In the "zone of transition," many changes are starting to occur.  There is the keratin proteins have started to fill the cells completely.  Earlier, in the stratum spinosum, lipids were 'static' (i.e. not changing).  That is not the case in the stratum granulosum.  Along the way, the production of various macromolecules have started to take place.  In this phase, sterol production is increased along with glycolipids, and cholesterol sulfate.  The SC is now close to formation.

Finally, the Stratum Corneum:

In the last layer -- the layer closest to the environment (the outside world), the keratinocytes have lost enzyme function and are doomed to flatten out into their final shape.  The cell has lost most of the function -- except that the new function is to be flat and hard -- to serve as a barrier toward to outside world.  As the cells (keratin protein filled) harden the matrix forms of "flattened cells" -- called corneocytes.

The matrix of corneocytes have intercorneocyte layers.  Intermixed in the layers are lamellar bodies.  These bodies serve an important purpose.  The secretion of vital chemicals (such as free sterols, sphingolipids, and other compounds like glycoproteins).  Combined, this chemical matrix permits both hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials to pass through the intercorneocyte space.  The matrix serves as a "guard" agains foreign invaders.

Overall, the layers of the underlying skin have produced the critical components for the formation of the stratum corneum.  Here is another excerpt that might help clarify the complex stratum corneum from the book:

Keratin is the protein that makes up the bulk of the SC.  Keratin is a helical, or coil-shaped fibrous protein made up of a series of building blocks, known as polypeptides.  These polypeptides are, in turn, made up of the most basic substances, known as amino acids.  Amino acids are arranged in a variety  of orders to form chains of polypeptides, which are then twisted around each other to form proteins.  These polypeptides vary in different parts of the body so that the skin protein is not homogeneous, but rather heterogeneous.  The protein is resistant to water and many chemicals.  It is this complex structure that provides part of the protection from the outside.  Manufacturing proteins is one of the major functions of the skin.  
These keratin proteins are formed and arranged into cells known as corneocytes that are held together with fats, known as lipids.  The SC can be thought of as a brick wall, with the protein-rich corneocytes forming the bricks and the lipids functioning as the glue.  It is this brick wall that provides the barrier necessary for the beauty and health of the body.
The lipids that keep the proteins glued in place in the SC are water-insoluble, oily substances.  They can be classified by their electrical charge and by their structure.  The two major groups of lipids are polar lipids and nonpolar lipids.  Polar lipids have an electrical charge.  Examples of this type of lipid are phospholipids, glycolipids and cholesterol.  Non-polar lipids have no electrical charge.  Tryglycerides, squalene and waxes are examples of this group.
The six major structural groups of lipids are: triglycerides, the most abundant lipid in the body, which function as energy strorage compounds and make up between 12-25% of the lipids in the SC; fatty acides, which give the oily feel and make up between 12-20% of the lipids in the SC; waxes, which make up 6% of the lipids in the SC; and cholesterol, shingolipids and ceramides, which make up between 14-25% of lipids in the SC.

Does the Stratum Corneum seem complicated?  This layer is the smallest layer and most crucial layer toward the outside world.  The total thickness is around 150 micrometers.  To give you an idea of the relative size of this layer, a human hair is around 70 micrometers.  The stratum corneum is roughly two hair strands in diameter and of the upmost importance with the multifunctions that it provides in relation to protecting the body from outside forces.

And last but not least regarding the stratum corneum -- it is the only layer that is visible on the skin.  Therefore, the stratum corneum defines the image of the skin on the body.  Scary to imagine that a layer of the skin that is roughly two strands of hair thick -- gives rise to the image of healthy or diseased skin -- Wow!  Additionally, the process of producing a new layer is accomplished over a ten week cycle (every 2 months a new SC)!


The structure of the outer layer of the skin -- the Epidermis -- is more complicated than you would have initially thought.  Although, I would like to highlight that you do not have to be a professional medical doctor or a dermatologist (specialist) to understand the physiology of the skin -- the basics.  Additionally, I would like to drive home the point that you need not be a professional to tease out the "false" or "absurd" claims that cosmetic manufacturers use to get the consumer (you ) to buy their product.  Each product has different benefits and disadvantages.  Some more than others.  Ultimately, you will decide which you will purchase and use.  I just provide some insight in the process.

A few final questions that you (the reader) should entertain after reading the post (and the next blog post) would be:

1) How do cosmetics (skin, creams, lotions, etc.) affect the function of my skin?

2) How is my skin different than other people's skin?  - i.e., dry skin, itchy skin, psoriasis, etc.

3) What does healthy skin look like for my skin?

Each person is different.  Therefore, each of us have different skin needs.  There exist general skin functions as highlighted above.  Although, when a person has a unique skin condition or need, the function might be slightly different.  This is not a bad observation.  In fact, this observation might be a saving grace for you -- in terms of money and health.  Until next time, have a great day!