Know Your Ingredients: Palm Kernel Acid

palm kernel acid

What it is
Palm Kernel Acid is a mixture of fatty acids derived from palm oil.

What it does
Palm Kernel Acid is a surfactant: it helps water mix with oil and dirt so they can be rinsed away.
It can also be used as an emulsifier: it prevents the oily and water parts of a formula from separating.
Finally, it adds opacity to soaps and cleansers.

Side effects
Palm Kernel Acid is generally considered to be safe.


Know Your Ingredients: Guaiac Wood


What it is
Guaiac Wood is a small tree. Also called guayacan, guaiac wood is one of the hardest woods in the world.

What it does
Guaiac Wood is used as a fragrance extract. It adds a smokey, tarmac note to a perfume.

Side effects
Guaiac Wood can cause irritations in some people.

(Source: fragrantica and paula’s choice)

Can Castor Oil Really Thicken Hair?

castor oil thicken hair

Castor oil is a wonderful moisturizer, both for skin and hair. It softens and smooths them, and creates a protective barrier that prevents water loss, keeping them hydrated. And now people are saying it can thicken hair as well. But is this last claim true too? Let’s investigate:

Can castor oil thicken hair?

Hair thickness is determined by genetics, so I’m always sceptical when I hear something can increase it. And, unfortunately, I was right. There is no scientific evidence that castor oil or one of its many components (such as rinoleic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid) can thicken hair. Sorry, ladies! When it comes to hair thickness, we’re still stuck with what we were born with.


But how did this myth originate?

Although castor oil can’t make hair thicker, it can fool you into believing it does. How? Castor oil is sort of like a glue. It is thick, viscous, and stays put once applied. This can make hair look thicker. The small particles of dust this oil attracts can contribute to the illusion of thickness as well. But they make your hair dirtier too. Not really what you wanted, is it?

But there could be another explanation. Hair thickness is often mistaken for hair density, i.e. the number of hairs in an area of the scalp. Castor oil, due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, can help treat follicles infested with bacteria, thus improving hair density.

Also, castor oil is usually applied with a light massage. And massage can stimulate blood circulation, and, as a result, the flow of nutrients to the hair. This can make those strands of hair that had fallen out or had been pulled out grow back. But you don’t really need castor oil for this. The massage alone can do it.

The Bottom Line

Hair thickness is determined by genetics, and castor oil can’t modify it. It can only give the illusion of thicker hair.

Have you ever used castor oil to try and thicken your hair?

Spotlight On Bentonite

I don’t use masks often. To me, they just provide a nice pick-me-up for skin before a special occasion, but aren’t a necessary part of my skincare routine. But when I do use one, it usually contains a type of clay, more often than not bentonite. So, it got me thinking, what’s so special about it?

What’s bentonite clay?

Named by Wilbur C. Knight in 1898, after the Cretaceous Benton Shale near Rock River in Wyoming, Bentonite is an absorbent impure clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite. There are different types of bentonite, each of which owes its name to its dominant element, such as potassium, sodium, and calcium. Bentonite usually forms from weathering of volcanic ash, most often in the presence of water, but the term has been used to describe clay beds of uncertain origin as well.

paula's choice skin balancing oil absorbing mask

Bentonite has excellent absorbent properties

Bentonite is often used in masks designed to reduce excess oil, shine and impurities due to its excellent absorbent properties. They have been demonstrated in a 1982 study, in which scientists used bentonite to soak up sebum in twelve subjects with inflammatory acne and in twelve control subjects, so they could measure how much of it their skin produced (those with acne produce about 3 times more sebum than normal).

Bentonite is also said to be able to draw toxins and impurities out of the skin. I admit I was sceptical, believing it to be one of those exaggerations skincare companies so much love to make. But, as it turns out, the army has been testing absorbing agents including bentonite for the “decontamination of supertoxic lethal chemical warfare agents on skin” with promising results. Still, when it comes to detoxification, it’s your liver and kidneys that do most of the job, so don’t rely on bentonite too much.

Does bentonite clay have any side effects?

Its absorbent properties make bentonite clay an ideal choice for people with oily skin who want to reduce excess sebum and shine. But they also make it unsuitable for those with dry skin. Dry skin lacks oil and, by absorbing that little their skin produces, bentonite clay makes things worse.

nu skin clay pack

What are the best products with bentonite?

My favourite masks with bentonite are Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask ($19.00) and Nu Skin Clay Pack ($13.40). They are both packaged in air-tight, opaque tubes and also contain hydrating ingredients to counteract the potentially drying effects of bentonite, and antioxidants.

It’s true that antioxidants work best when left on the skin for hours instead than being rinsed off after 20/30 minutes, but they are still a nice addition, provided they don’t make the prices skyrocket.

The Bottom Line

Bentonite has excellent absorbent properties that make it an ideal treatment for those with oily, clogged skin. Those with dry skin, though, may find it a bit drying.

Do you use masks with bentonite clay?

Know Your Ingredients: Acerola Fruit Extract

acerola extract

What it is
Acerola Fruit extract is derived from the acerola plant, a small tree or shrub that produces cherry-like, bright red fruits.

What it does
Acerola Fruit extract contains Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can stimulate collagen production, prevent premature aging, and brighten skin.

Side effects
Acerola Fruit extract is generally considered to be safe.
However, it is unclear how much Vitamin C is left in the extract as the drying and processing it undergoes destroys a lot of it.