Glass Packaging: Beautifully Practical Or Uselessly Expensive?

glass packaging

Once upon a time, cosmetics were mostly packaged in glass containers. For some people, nothing else would do. Then, plastic was invented. Considerably cheaper, it allowed brands to save on materials and sell their products at more competitive prices. But glass packaging hasn’t disappeared. Glass is still the preferred material for perfume bottles and is also chosen by few brands to give their products a more luxurious feel.

Of course, it comes at a higher cost. Some people are happy to pay more for a beautiful bottle, while others consider it a waste of money. Plastic is just as good, right? Well, not always. Aesthetic is not the only reason why some brands decide to use glass instead. There are a few cases in which this material works better:

1. Glass isn’t dissolved by oils

Have you ever wondered why perfumes are still widely packaged in glass bottles? It’s not just because they’re prettier. Some perfume oils, aided by the solvent nature of the alcohol used in fragrances, can break down plastic, thus ruining the packaging. That’s true of essential oils as well. That’s why you only see those packaged in glass bottles too.

2. Glass is a better barrier against oxygen and light

Oxygen and light don’t get along well with antioxidants. They can degrade them, causing them to lose their effectiveness over time. Airtight plastic bottles and tubes are usually a great way to protect them from oxygen and light, but only when they are thick enough. If the container is too thin, some light and oxygen can still get inside, slowly spoiling the formula unseen. A darkly tinted glass bottle, which is nonporous and impermeable, is better able to protect delicate skincare formulas from these two enemies. What about glass jars? Avoid them. They may protect the product decently when closed, but you’ll still expose it to light and air whenever you unscrew the lid.

3. Glass doesn’t leak harmful substances

Some cosmetic ingredients, when packaged in plastic containers, may cause them to leak out plasticizers. Eventually, this will spoil the formula. Responsible brands will avoid the risk by packaging such formulations in glass containers, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If you’re really concerned about it, though, paying more for products packaged in glass bottles may be worth it to put your mind at ease.

4. Glass is recyclable

Only some consumers and a handful of brands run by environmentally conscious owners care about this, but glass is a better choice for the planet. Glass is highly sustainable and easy to recycle. Unless you break the bottle, you can wash it and reuse it again and again. And if you have no use for it, you can throw it in recycling bins. It will then be taken to a glass treatment plant where it will moulded into a new product.

Of course most often than not, brands package their products in glass containers only for aesthetic reasons. In that case, you’ll be paying more just to have a pretty-looking bottle sitting on your vanity. But it’s nice to know that there are some cases where glass is better than plastic and investing in it makes more sense, isn’t it?

Do you buy beauty products packaged in glass containers?

3 Things You Need To Know About Comedogenicity Ratings

comedogenic ingredients

Today I’m very excited to bring you a guest post by one of my favourite acne experts, Seppo Puusa. In his blog, Acne Einstein (what a great name is that?) he shares science-based advice on natural acne treatments. Here, he explains why comedogenicity ratings aren’t as reliable as you may think:

There’s danger lurking in every skincare bottle. Hidden deep beneath glossy marketing claims and polished labels lurk an untold number of comedogenic ingredients that threaten to turn your carefully cared face into acne battleground. Or at least if you listen to any of numerous comedogenicity experts out there.

As with many other things, commonly accepted ‘beauty blog wisdom’ doesn’t always line up with what science says. In this post we’ll go over 3 reasons you should take comedogenicity claims with a grain of salt.

Products with comedogenic ingredients aren’t automatically comedogenic

Many beauty bloggers like to post long lists of ingredients ranked by comedogenicity rating. Your duty is to check your skin care products against that list and discard any that contain comedogenic ingredients. This sort of detective work seems so.. scientific, and makes us feel smart.
It’s also utter rubbish.

In 2006 Dr. Draelos and colleagues showed that products with comedogenic ingredients don’t cause acne. Read that again. Products with comedogenic ingredient’s don’t cause acne.

In the study they tested 10 products with known comedogenic ingredients on 12 people prone to getting back acne. The products were applied on patches to the upper backs of the participants. The patches were changed every 48 to 72 hours, and this went on for 4 weeks. The researchers counted the number of comedones before and after the study and this was compared to both positive (highly comedogenic substance) and negative (nothing) controls.

These graphs show the results:


The graphs show relative increase in the number of comedones before/after the study. The authors note that any results +/- 10% of the negative controls are due to random variation and can be considered as non-comedogenic.

In short, none of the products containing comedogenic ingredients caused acne.

There are limitations to what we can conclude from this study. Most of the ingredients were rated between 1 and 3 in the comedogenicity scale, with only a few that were considered strongly comedogenic.

This apparent disconnect between comedogenicity ratings and real world results leads us to the next point.

Comedogenicity testing doesn’t reflect real life usage

Comedogenicity ratings are appealing because they seem to offer a simple answer to a complex problem. But you should keep in mind that this data hasn’t been generated by observing people using skincare products in everyday life. The data comes from ‘acne models’, both human and animal, and there are severe limitations to what we can conclude from the data.

Even if we set the ethics of animal testing aside, there are serious problems with animal models of acne. Mostly because no other animal experiences acne as commonly as humans do, and there are differences in human and animal skin that probably explains this.

Rabbit ear (REA), the most common acne model, is far more sensitive than human skin and produces scores of false positive results. A 2007 paper examining various acne models concluded that the rabbit ear model is only useful for determining absolute negatives.

Presently, the most commonly used assay is the REA, which possesses a hypersensitive response to acnegenic substances compared to human skin; however, this model is unable to accurately depict the acnegenic potential of chemical compounds, and is therefore only valuable for distinguishing absolute negatives. (Source: Mirshahpanah P. et al. Models in acnegenesis. Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2007;26(3):195-202)

Human models, while better than animal models, are still far from perfect. Human models use highly exaggerated conditions to make the tests more sensitive. These include:

Subject selection. They usually only include people with large pores who are prone to getting pimples.

Application conditions. The test materials are applied under occlusion, meaning the area is covered after application. This increases absorption and skin penetration.

Dosage. The test materials are used in high concentrations. This doesn’t take dose response in account. A substance may cause acne at high concentrations but has no effect in concentrations found in skin care products.

2 cases where comedogenicity ratings are useful

This doesn’t mean that we should just throw away all the comedogenicity data. Rather, we should take it with a grain of salt. My view is that comedogenicity data is useful in two cases:

Determining absolute negatives. Since all the models are more sensitive than real life usage conditions, a substance with comedogenicity rating of 0 to 1 should be safe.

Determining worst offenders. Substances that rank high at the comedogenicity scale should be treated as potential suspects.

There’s so much uncertainty in the comedogenicity data that it’s not very useful for anything that falls between those two extremes.

Comedogenicity addiction can lead to bad purchasing decisions

Taking comedogenicity ratings too seriously unnecessarily limits your choices. You may end up paying more or choosing less than optimal products.
For example, comedogenicity is such a fear-inducing word that many people will pay more for products formulated without comedogenic ingredients – even if it’s a distinction without a difference.

And even if you don’t end up paying more, you may still pass on a good product because ‘it has comedogenic ingredients’.

Comedogenicity rule of thumb

I condensed everything that we’ve discussed earlier into a simple rule of thumb.

Be wary of products with strongly comedogenic ingredients high up on the ingredients list. Otherwise forget about it.

Some people may challenge me and say ‘the rule is dangerous because my skin always reacts to even mildly comedogenic ingredients’. That may be so, and I don’t doubt some people are like that. My point is that comedogenicity ratings are not reliable enough to make generalized recommendations. They may be helpful for someone, but then again, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

And of course avoid any products/ingredients you know your skin reacts badly to – regardless of their comedogenicity rating.


To me comedogenicity ratings are a bit like astrology – just because someone made elaborate charts and systems doesn’t mean it’s correct. The scientific-looking ratings hide severe limitations.

The models used to generate the data are far more sensitive than real world skin care product usage, and they produce scored of false positive ratings. As such, the data isn’t very useful in guiding everyday skincare choices.

The best we can say is to avoid products with highly comedogenic ingredients high up on the ingredients list and ignore the rest.

Concerned about acne? Choosing noncomedogenic skin care products is a start, but for more reliable results, please check out my Comedogenicity Helpers email tips written specifically for Beautiful With Brains readers. Go here to get started ==>

Can Hot Water Open Pores?

Image courtesy of phasinphoto at

Image courtesy of phasinphoto at

Wash your face with hot water to open the pores and finish off with cold water to close them. This is one of the first things we learn when we start getting into skincare. It’s used to sell millions of products, it’s repeated by magazines, aestheticians and, sometimes, even our moms, and… it’s dead wrong.

Pores cannot open and close

Yep, pores cannot open and close. They don’t have muscles. They aren’t doors. Instead, their size is genetically determined, but can also be affected by the activity of our oil glands. Sebum, which is just our skin’s natural moisturizer, is produced by the sebaceous glands and then flows to the surface through the pores. When these glands are too active (usually on the nose and forehead), they produce too much sebum, which gets trapped into the pores together with dead skin cells, comedogenic ingredients, and other impurities, stretching the size of the pores and making them look bigger.

What hot water really does

Hot water cannot open pores. But it can dry out your skin, causing it to produce even more sebum. But there is a kernel of truth in this myth. Introducing a bit of heat in your cleansing routine can help pores look smaller. How? Heat can help melt the oils and fats that are clogging up the pores, allowing them to flow out more freely. And when the pores are cleansed of all impurities, they look smaller.

The best, and safest, way to make your pores look smaller, though, is by using an exfoliant with salicylic acid. This acid can get inside them, removing all the gunk that’s clogging them.

Do you ever use heat to make your pores look smaller?

AHAs VS BHA: Which One Is Right For You?

ahas vs bha exfoliants

I have already talked about my love for chemical exfoliants. They produce more precise results and are gentler on the skin than scrubs. The types used in cosmetics are Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs). While they can both dissolve the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together, allowing them to slough off, they also have different properties that make them more suitable for different skin types. So, which one should you choose?

AHAs work best for normal, dry, and sun damaged skin types

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are acids derived from sugar, milk, nuts, and fruits. The more common types used in cosmetics are Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, and Citric Acid. They exfoliate skin, reduce hyperpigmentation, stimulate collagen production, decrease small wrinkles, and act as humectants to hydrate skin. As a result, skin looks smoother, brighter, younger, and even-toned. Because of their anti-aging and hydrating properties, they are more suitable for dry and sun damaged skin.

The best AHAs for exfoliation are Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. That’s because their molecules are quite small and so can easily penetrate skin. But if you want to use them for anti-aging purposes, opt for Glycolic. Unlike lactic acid, it can increases the thickness and firmness of the skin too. Keep in mind that high concentrations of AHAs can irritate skin. That’s because they work by removing the top layer of dead skin cells, which protect the raw skin underneath. While removing some of them will be beneficial for the skin, going overboard will result in red, flaky, and painful skin.

So, exfoliate only two or three times a week, and stay from those 20% or higher glycolic peels. Don’t believe those who say they can be safely performed at home. If not administered by a professional, they can do more harm than good. AHAs also increase sun sensitivity so never use them during the day without applying sunscreen afterwards.

Best picks: Olay Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir, Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% Alpha Hydroxy Acid, and Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 10% Moisturizer

BHA works best for oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin types

The only type of Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) used in skincare products is Salicylic Acid, which is derived from the willow tree bark. Salicylic acid too dissolves the substance that hold cells together, and can reduce hyperpigmentation, surface roughness, and fine lines.

What’s the difference with AHAs then? Well, while AHAs are soluble in water, Salicylic Acid is soluble in oil. This means it is able to penetrate inside the pores, which are filled with sebum and dead cells, and unclog them. That’s why it is a better option for people with oily or acne-prone skin. It is also a great alternative for those with sensitive skin. Because it has anti-inflammatory properties and is effective at lower concentrations (1% or 2% already provide great results) than AHAs, it is less likely to irritate it.

This doesn’t mean that it won’t irritate your skin if you overdo it, though, so use it carefully. And always with sunscreen. Salicylic Acid too can increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Best picks: Proactive Solution Clarifying Night Cream, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion, and Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment & Moisturizer

Do you use chemical exfoliants? Do you prefer AHAs or BHA?

Do You Have Dry, Acne-Prone Skin? Here’s How To Deal With It

how to deal with dry acne prone skin

We tend to think of acne as something that can occur only to those with oily skin, but that’s not true. If you have dry skin, you can be plagued with it as well. Often, this dry skin is self-inflicted. In an effort to get rid of acne, you can go too far, drying out your skin and damaging it even more. But other times, your skin was already, maybe has always been, dry, when you started developing acne.

In either case, having to deal with both acne and dry skin at the same time can be very confusing. How do you treat both conditions without making things worse? Let’s start by figuring out the cause:

1. Harsh anti-acne and anti-aging ingredients

Anti-acne ingredients such as Salicylic Acid (it penetrates inside the pores, exfoliating them from within), Benzoyl Peroxide (it can kill the bacteria that causes acne), or Differin (it accelerates cell turnover) are very effective at keeping this condition under control but, if used in high doses or too often can irritate skin and drying it out.

Some people use two or more of these ingredients at the same time, sometimes even adding OTC retinoids and Vitamin C to the mix to help fight premature aging as well. While your skin needs antioxidants to stay young and healthy, these particular ingredients can also cause irritations when used too often or in too high doses.

The solution? Experiment to find the anti-acne routine that works best for you. You can use a BHA exfoliant with salicylic acid during the day and retinoids at night. Or you can use retinoids only every other day, alternating them with benzoyl peroxide. Also consider reducing the doses of these active ingredients. Rather than using a 10% BHA exfoliant, for instance, opt for a 2% concentration. Some people cannot use these ingredients at all because any concentrations make their skin act up. In that case, replace BHA exfoliants with AHAs ones and OTC retinol products with antioxidant rich serum. For alternatives to prescription products, consult your doctor.

2. Harsh skincare products

Even if you’ve found the right anti-acne or anti-aging products, you may be using something else that makes your skin act up. Avoid bar soaps and harsh cleansers, in particular those with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, that can strip too much oil from your skin. Oil is the skin’s natural moisturizer so, while removing any excess is good, getting rid of it completely can dry it out even more. Instead, opt for cleansers with gentler surfactants, such as Boots Expert Anti-Blemish Cleansing Foam or Paula’s Choice Clear Normalizing Cleanser Pore Clarifying Gel.

Not everyone needs toner, and certainly no one needs those loaded with alcohol, witch hazel, or menthol. They just dry out or irritate skin even more. And so do harsh scrubs that remove dead skin cell with the help of apricot or walnut seeds. Their jarred edges can tear at the skin, irritating it. The Clarisonic brush, if used too often, can make things worse as well. For exfoliation, stick to BHA, or, if that irritates your skin, AHAs exfoliants, which are gentler on the skin.

If your skin is dry, you may be tempted to use rich moisturizers. But if your dry skin is caused by the wrong skincare products or by abusing good ones, a moisturizer that’s too rich won’t help much. It may actually make things worse. How? A lot of the heavy moisturizing and thickening ingredients used in them can clog pores and exacerbate breakouts. Instead, opt for a lightweight gel formula loaded with antioxidants such as MD Formulations Moisture Defense Antioxidant Hydrating Gel. And don’t even think of skipping sunscreen! Your skin will never heal if you keep inflicting sun damage on it too every day.

Finally, keep in mind that any skincare products, including those formulated for acne-prone and/or dry skin, can contain any of the harsh ingredients already mentioned, such as alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate, or menthol. So always read the ingredient list carefully before purchasing a skincare product or you may risk throwing money away on something that will make your problems worse, not better.

What if you still have dry skin and acne?

What if there’s nothing wrong with your skincare routine but your skin is still dry and acne-prone? Your dry skin may be due to other causes, such as cold weather and low humidity that can suck all the moisture out of your skin. Genetics, aging, and medical conditions such as thyroid disease can play a part too.

If your skin is really acne-prone and dry, all the tips above bar one apply. A lightweight gel moisturizer may not be enough for your skin type. Only in this case, you should opt for a richer formula. Just make sure it doesn’t contain any of the irritating ingredients mentioned above. Stay away from moisturizers with mineral oil as well. Although cosmetic grade mineral oil isn’t comedogenic, it can still exacerbate acne in some people.

Dealing with both acne and dry skin can be frustrating, but with the right products and skincare habits, you too can get clearer, softer, and more hydrated skin.

Do you suffer from both acne and dry skin? If so, how do you deal with them?

5 Things I Learned About Skincare

skincare lessons learned

I cringe when I remember the damage I inflicted on my skin as a teenager. Harsh toners, no sunscreen, moisturizers too rich for my skin type that made me break out horribly. Eventually, I learned how to take care of it, but it wasn’t until I started blogging that my knowledge about all things skincare expanded immensely. Here’s what I learned along the way:

1. It’s the dose that makes the poison (or the elixir)

It’s not just about what ingredients are in a product, but in what concentrations too. So many skincare products contain plants extracts or vitamins that are supposed to be beneficial for the skin, but, in the minuscule concentrations they’re used, are pretty much useless. On the other hand, ingredients that are dangerous at high doses are perfectly safe when used in minuscule amounts. 100% Propylene Glycol is an antifreeze that can be very irritating, but in cosmetics, where it serves as a humectant and penetration enhancer, it is used in such tiny doses to be harmless. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that does wonders for the skin, but if you ingest too much, it could kill you. Nothing is either bad or good. It just depends on the dose.

2. Packaging matters

I have always been a sucker for pretty packaging. When I was younger, I often impulse bought something because it looked so good on the shelf. These days, packaging is still one of the main deciding factors when I purchase something. But now, rather than to aesthetic, I’m drawn to functionality. A lot of the best beneficial skincare ingredients, such as retinoids, antioxidants, and sunscreen actives, lose a bit of their effectiveness whenever they are exposed to light and air. So, they must be packaged in air-tight and opaque tubes and bottles. Otherwise, you’re just throwing your money away.

3. Stick with the purpose products are formulated for

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If I don’t like a face moisturizer, I will use it on my body. But I would never do the opposite. Why? Because body care products tend to have heavier consistencies that moisturize the thicker skin of our bodies well, but could easily cause havoc on our faces. And using anything on your skin that hasn’t been formulated for it is a no-no. Dishwashing liquids may contain the same cleansing agents as those in your shampoo or body wash, but the concentrations are higher and harsher, and could seriously dry and irritate your skin. Milk Of Magnesia can seem a godsend for oily skin, but its ph is way too high and could cause all kinds of troubles. Yes, there are times when a brand just packages the same formula in different bottles and charges you double for it (for instance, a lot, but by no means all, eye creams are just facial moisturizer in tinier but more expensive jars), but often, there is a very good reason why a product is labelled for a certain use, so stick with it.

4. Skin is more useful than we think

Our society puts a lot of emphasis on the way we look, so it’s easy to believe the only purpose of our skin is to look good. But skin does a lot more than that. Its main job is to keep stuff OUT of the body, and it is incredible good at that. Think about what happens (or better, doesn’t happen) when you have a shower or a bath. Your body doesn’t soak up all the water, does it? Yet, there are people who would have us believe that everything we put on our skin penetrates it. On the contrary, very few substances are able to get through it. Most stay on the surface or, if they manage to get through, only remain in the superficial layers of the skin, never reaching the blood stream. And why should cosmetic ingredients be able to penetrate so deep into the body, anyway? Their purpose is to beautify and take care of the skin, so they’d need to stay in the zone to do their job properly.

5. You don’t need that many skincare products

Cleanser, toner, facial moisturizer, eye cream, serum, mask, exfoliant, sunscreen… There are so many skincare products we’re told we need, but that’s not true. What your skin needs depends on its problems and concerns. At 31, my skin is pretty good, just a bit oily on the t-zone. My main concern, now, is anti-aging. So, in the morning, I use a cleanser, a serum with antioxidants, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen. At night, a cleanser, a serum with retoinds, and an antioxidants-rich moisturizer. A few times a week, I exfoliate, and whenever I feel like it, or my skin needs an emergency pick-me-up, a mask too. Toner? I don’t need it. Eye cream? Nothing can cure my genetic dark circles so I just apply my fragrance-free facial moisturizer on the eye area. Works just fine. Only if the skin around your eyes is different from the skin of the rest of your face, or has a particular concern, should you invest in a separate eye cream.

Rather than purchasing any type of product out there, figure out what problems your skin has, what ingredients can solve it, and choose products accordingly. Only cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliant, and sunscreen are an absolute must for everyone. If you need more (such as anti-acne, anti-aging, or anti-hyperpigemntation products), add more. But don’t buy a toner, or something else, because you think your skincare routine will be incomplete without it, or you may be throwing money away on stuff that does nothing for your skin.

What have you learned about skincare?