Category Archives: Science

Hard core science straight from the journals.

Intermittent Fasting

Carrying More Pounds Than I Have To

I’m at that age where I need to be careful about a lot of things I never used to give a second thought to. Well into my forties I had little to worry about with my weight. But since then I have found that left to itself, my stomach indulges in what used to be called middle aged spread. This bothers me mainly because my self image is someone who is thin. And indeed most of the rest of me is indeed thin. If my stomach expands it is all the more noticeable.

More seriously, having a high BMI increases the risk of a number of health conditions that I still don’t really believe should apply to me. Sadly they do. And on top of that carting extra kilograms around is unnecessary work, and I don’t have the energy to waste any more.

I found a pretty good solution in the form of intermittent fasting. I went for the 5/2 option. I choose to eat only 600 calories on Mondays and Fridays. This pretty much got my BMI back into the NHS’s approved range for my height and age, and I felt generally better too. So that was a good result. It wasn’t too difficult to implement either. I could get to mid afternoon on most fast days hardly noticing I was doing it. It was more difficult in the evening though, and I breached the 600 calory limit reasonably often. But overall it was working for me and I was keeping to it.

Then came the COVID lockdown, which required me to work in my kitchen a lot. This clearly was going to make it more difficult to fast. I have a reasonable level of willpower, but not enough to cope with a nearby fridge and larder for hours on end. So I just gave up for the duration of the pandemic. I could, after all, go back to my old habits when the crisis was over.

But now we are approaching the one year mark I am beginning to realise just how bad a state I have got into. I have put on 10Kg and my weight is categorised as obese by the NHS. I don’t look it, but I know I am. I have also found my energy and concentration levels plummeting. Included in this is a loss of willpower.

We tend to think of willpower as a personality trait. But in reality it is more like a muscle. You can strengthen it a bit with exercise, but you really need the energy behind it if you want to do anything with it. I am seriously doubting that I any longer have the ability to follow my intermittent fasting regime. So what to do?

I did a bit of inadvertent research over Christmas. Due to circumstances I found myself having to move a lot of stuff out of our shop in a very limited timescale. I managed this, and to my surprise I found that when I had finished rather than being exhausted – as I had expected – I was actually more energetic than I had been for many months. Thinking it over, I realised that the physical activity combined with the tight time schedule had greatly reduced my snacking. Was there something in this?

I realised that I had been doing a less formal version of intermittent fasting. Skipping a few meals and not snacking was quite close to what is often called 16/8 fasting – only eating in an 8 hour window. The prospect of going all day without food seemed too daunting. But basically just skipping breakfast until 12 seemed doable. (I have never eaten after 8:00pm, so that was all I needed to do to get to 16 hours.)

So I gave it a try. I found that it wasn’t too difficult. In fact it was easy to skip not only breakfast, but lunch as well. As I write this, I have got through a week only eating between 5:00pm and 8:00pm. This is a very extreme sounding 21/3 pattern. I have lost an astonishing 3Kg in 8 days. I obviously won’t keep up that rate of weight loss. I don’t think even hunger strikers would generally shed pounds at that rate. It isn’t remotely sensible to lose weight that quickly anyway, but I suspect that each successive kilogram will take longer to shift.

I am going to keep up my new regime for a while and see where it takes me. If it proves interesting, I’ll post my findings.

Learning Cosmetic Science for Non-Cosmetic Scientists

learning about the science behind cosmetics

A question from Emma

Dear Colin
I started reading your blog a few months ago, and find it a fascinating and useful resource. I am in the process of setting up a small business selling soaps and bath products that I make myself by hand. I started this as a hobby about 4 years ago, but found that I loved the process and the huge learning curve, and wanted to devote more and more time to it…
I am very keen to learn more about basic chemistry, but I have no idea where to start as I have no science background (if you were arty in my day, the sciences were another world!). If you are able to suggest any reading or learning material to get me started I would be very grateful.
Yours
Emma

Continue reading

Egg and Yoghurt As A Hair Conditioner

I was talking to someone who grew up on the Indian subcontinent and he asked me about something his mother and sister do.  They make their own hair conditioner using yoghurt and egg.  It’s quite an interesting idea.  As a cosmetic chemist I can draw on raw materials from several hundred suppliers and use all sorts of equipment to develop and make highly effective hair treatments.  But what if I had to work with only the materials that were to hand in the average country kitchen? Continue reading

Grey Hair Gene

Grey Hair Gene

Grey hair may not be inevitable in the future

Grey hair is something we can all look forward to.  That the genes have something to do with it is pretty clear.  Some people go grey in their twenties – a few put it off until their fifties or even later.  And it is very rare that someone goes grey and then turns back again.  So it is a pretty safe bet that this is not strongly an environmental thing.   Continue reading

Antibiotic Free Rosacea Treatments – Dermalex

antibiotic free rosacea treatments

Rosacea is bad – though generally not this bad

A question from Lucy

Exciting to find your site… thank you for interesting articles.

Do you know anything about Dermalex Rosacea Cream? It sounds tempting in so far as being antibiotic free and reducing redness but the scary-sounding ingredients are unfamiliar. Is it genuinely safe?
I’d be grateful for your opinion Continue reading

Hair Care Secrets – Horizon BBC2 23rd January 2017

Hair Care Secrets BBC HorizonSo how much hair care can you cover in an hour?  Quite a lot, but maybe not as much as the producers tried to cram into this one.  We had the biology of hair, a run down of the chemistry of both shampoos and conditioners, restorative hair surgery, a new hair strengthening agent, hair evaluation technology, how to shoot hair for adverts, greying hair and the latest gene research.  I am out of breath just typing it all. Continue reading

Is Standing Healthier Than Sitting?

Is Standing Healthier Than Sitting?

Is standing up a lot a good idea? The claimed health benefits for standing rather than sitting are quite impressive. According to juststand.org excessive sitting is causing “obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease. ” Continue reading

The Epidemic of Methylisothiazolinone

three things you should know about scare stories

There’s a new paper out with some numbers from dermatology clinics about reactions to methylisothiazolinone (MI).  Dermatologists regularly patch test people to discover what they are allergic to.  This involves applying a set of common materials that tend to provoke allergic reactions to the skin, and seeing which ones the individual reacts to.   Continue reading

Microbeads In Cosmetics Are Bad – But Plastic Is Everywhere

Microbeads In Cosmetics Are Bad - But Plastic Is Everywhere

Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish

Christmas 2016 is over, and like a lot of people for me the next item on the agenda is getting rid of all the rubbish.  I am particularly aware of it this year having read an article in the Biologist over the holiday by freelance naturalist Rajith Dissanayake.  Despite the popularity of naturalness and general greenery we still produce one heck of a lot of plastic.  I can certainly vouch for that as I have tried to squeeze of lot of it into my bin.  Rajith quotes the figure that the average American produces around 2.5Kg of plastic waste per day, and us Europeans can’t be far behind.

Continue reading

Is It Time To Free Cosmetics Of Caffeine?

Is It Time To Free Cosmetics Of Caffeine?

Do you need this stuff on your skin?

Caffeine has been a cosmetic ingredient for a long time, and you’ll find a jar of it on the shelves of most cosmetic development laboratories. There are three things it gets used for. There are the so called body sculpting products. The idea behind these is that you apply them to parts of your body that have more fat than you’d like. The caffeine stimulates fat burning, so you can get rid of the fat in the areas you don’t like it. Keep it up and you can change the shape of your body to something you like the look of. It is also used to improve the tone of the skin.  It is supposed to stimulate energy production in the upper layers of the skin. This again uses the breakdown of fat, but in this case to release energy to improve the look of the skin. And finally it is used in shampoos to stimulate hair growth.

Continue reading