Do Anti-Ageing Creams Cause Autism?


Another day, another scare story. This one suggests that ingredients in anti-ageing creams can affect the development of unborn children so they are more likely to be born autistic. Well, nothing is totally impossible but this one seems a bit more far fetched than most. The research has found that brain development can be affected by high levels of lipids.  This doesn’t seem particularly surprising to me.  Brain development is a highly delicate process so disrupting it shouldn’t be too difficult.  And lipids are certainly used in anti-ageing creams.  So should we start to worry?  Let’s have a look at what lipids are first.

Lipid is very nearly, but not quite, a synonym for fats in science.  Lipids are fats that are liquid at room temperature.  When you are writing about them, there is a tendency to use the word lipid fairly freely.  Although fat is a perfectly respectable technical term, lipid doesn’t also have an everyday meaning so it is a bit clearer.  Lipids are predominantly hydrocarbon molecules of biological origin that are liquid at room temperature and are not water soluble.

Although most people aren’t familiar with the term, there are plenty of lipids that they are familiar with.  Vegetable oils like olive oil are lipids.  Other components of food like ceramides, lecithins and cholesterol also fall into this category.  (Some are strictly speaking fats, but often get described as lipids.  If you read about this sort of stuff a lot you know what they mean.)

So in other words, lipids are something you eat in pretty large quantities every day.  It would be surprising if the same molecules would be harmful to brain development when applied to the skin but not when you eat them.  So should you stop eating them?  That isn’t possible- you would die.  They are essential components of the diet.

The nature of lipids makes them difficult for the body to transport around in their original form.  It also makes them hard to absorb across the skin.  So if they are to get to the developing foetus the body will have to contrive to absorb them, break them down and then reassemble them at the site of action.  As I say, not totally impossible.  But very very unlikely indeed.


I have now tracked down an abstract of the actual research.  It adds a further detail.  It turns out that the damage was done not by the lipids found in skin creams, but in biochemical agents synthesised in the body from them.  This makes the proposal even less likely than I originally thought.  I think this one can be dismissed as little more than speculation, and not very well informed speculation at that.

Posted in Ingredients, Oils, Scaremongers | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Story of Cosmetics Part 1 -Neanderthals (Sponsored by Artful Teasing)

mineral pigments and pestle neanderthal cosmetics

Let’s start at the beginning since as the song says, it is a very good place to start. And when I say the beginning I really do mean the beginning.  Archeological finds  have indicated that we have been using makeup for a very long time.  In fact we may well have been using makeup for longer than we have been human.   Our story starts with the Neanderthals. Continue reading

Posted in Beauty Pages, Cosmetic History | Tagged | Leave a comment

Detox – Are Biscuits The Answer?


Reading Twitter first thing in the morning is not a great idea.  Your blood sugar level is low and you are quite likely to find it annoying.  For example this morning I was confronted with a set of tweets promoting detox products and programmes.  My response was to tweet that I had just investigated the detox properties of eating a biscuit.  I had eaten a biscuit and felt better, and so concluded that biscuits are valuable form of detox therapy.  (Note for American readers – in the UK a biscuit is the name for what you call a cookie.)  Continue reading

Posted in Beauty News, Health, Scaremongers | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

MI in Paint

MI in paint

One of the most surprising things about blogging is how much you learn.  A good example arrived in my inbox yesterday.  I have just started a newsletter for people with sensitive skin, largely because I get a lot of people getting in touch looking for information about it, and in particular sensitivity to methylisothiazolinone or MI.  This is of course of no interest at all to the 99.9% people who don’t have a problem with it, so I thought a newsletter was a good way of giving them the information they want without devoting too many blog posts to it.  But a list member drew my attention to something simply too interesting not to share it. Continue reading

Posted in Health, Ingredients, Preservatives | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Glycation and Skin Ageing


Nobody knows exactly why we age.  One popular theory is that staying alive is simply too hard to keep it up for long.  We have large and complicated bodies full of intricate chemicals, all of which are under constant attack from oxygen in the atmosphere.  It is a bit like a ship in the middle of the ocean. Holes keep springing in the hull.  We can patch them up, but eventually the whole thing gets beyond repair and the ship sinks.   Continue reading

Posted in Actives, Ingredients | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Eating Vegetables Makes You Attractive


Not every blog post I do is an instant hit.  The one I did yesterday about 5 a day for example was met with widespread indifference.  Oh well.  But it did remind me that there is another reason to eat fresh fruit and vegetables apart from simply being more healthy. They can also make you more attractive. Continue reading

Posted in Beauty Tips, Health | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Is Five A Day Enough?


Another day, another health story to wake up to on the radio.  It turns out that five a day is not enough.  We need to eat at least seven portions of fruit and/or vegetable a day.  More if you can.  Oh, and fruit isn’t as healthy as vegetables.  But the good news is you will live 7.5 years longer if you eat seven or more.  You’ll probably get onto your greengrocer’s Christmas card list as well. Continue reading

Posted in Health | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Latest News on MI


I get a lot of traffic to this blog from people interested in methylisothiazolinone, or as it is now known MI.   For people who haven’t been following the story, here’s a quick recap.  MI has been used for about 40 years in combination with a closely related chemical called methylchloroisothiazolinone.  I’ll call that MCI.   The combination works extremely well at very low levels.  Its Achilles Heel is that it causes a lot of allergic reactions when used at higher levels.  This took formulators a while to work out when it was first introduced.  But the level was scaled down and the reactions went down.  Continue reading

Posted in Beauty News, Ingredients, Legislation, Preservatives | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Olay Regenerist Daily 3 Point Treatment Cream

The second highest selling personal care product in the UK at the moment is Olay Regenerist Daily 3 Point Treatment Cream.  (The top seller is Bio-Oil, but I have already done that one.)   Users are giving it pretty good reviews, and if Olay are stuffing the reviews with fake positive ones they are doing it very cleverly because the reviews seem to be pretty genuine.  So lets have a look at the ingredients. Continue reading

Posted in Ingredients, Product Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Face the Future SCS Symposium – Interview with Barbara Brockway

SCS Symposium Face The Future

SCS Symposium Face the Future

It’s good to be spontaneous sometimes.  I ran into Barbara Brockway at Making Cosmetics.  Nobody in the industry needs to be told who Barbara is – she has worked at the Body Shop and several other companies and is now the ideas person at IMCD who are one of the biggest suppliers of speciality chemicals.  If all that weren’t enough, she is the current president of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists here in the UK.  She is also a very dedicated scientist, so it didn’t surprise anyone when she put together just about the most scientific symposium programme in the society’s history. Continue reading

Posted in Beauty News, Science | Leave a comment