4 Invaluable Lessons I've Learned from the Beauty Brains Podcast

It's totally worth going through the archives of this chemist-hosted show.
Publish date:
December 8, 2015
The Beauty Brains, bacteria, marketing, pantene, expired products, expiration dates, Podcasts

A few months ago, the lease was up on my crappy little apartment in the suburbs, and I moved to a much less crappy but equally little apartment in New Orleans. People here always make this seem like a huge ordeal, but the suburbs are literally only fifteen minutes away by car, which is like nothing when you are from the Midwest.

Although I love my apartment and being in the heart of the city, my commute more than doubled. My previously sleep-in-friendly, fifteen-minute drive upped to a half-hour or more depending on traffic.

Now, as much as I would like to sing Adele’s new album for a half-hour straight to and from work, I thought it was about time I jumped on the podcast bandwagon post-Serial, and use the time to be a bit more productive and learn a thing or two.

Among my favorites is the Beauty Brains podcast. Every week, two cosmetic chemists, Perry Romanowski and Randy Schueller, talk about beauty-science news or answer questions asked by the avid listeners.

By listening to a whole bunch of episodes from the archive and keeping up with the latest episodes, I’ve learned a lot about the beauty industry and the science that goes into products.

For example...

Old makeup really is really gross.

I am the worst at paying attention to makeup expiration dates and using up products before they expire. Maybe I’m just a really low-key hoarder who won’t give up my makeup, but, unfortunately, makeup expires for a reason, and that reason is a bunch of bacteria that can lead to rashes and infections all the way up to meningitis.

Yeah. Makes you want to think twice about heading over to your local makeup counter and swatching every single thing in sight, even if you do use the little isopropyl alcohol spray to sanitize it first. Basically, I’m having a major makeup clean out over my holiday break.

Keep skincare in airtight containers with a pump.

I’ve always preferred packaging with a pump out of convenience, but now I don’t think I’ll spend a bunch of money on products in jar containers. Besides the obvious fact that sticking your fingers into a jar product will inadvertently add bacteria to the product (ew), it also adds oxygen to the product that pump packaging will not.

This is an issue for products that have active ingredients because those pricy actives can go to waste before you even get to use it. And that just ain’t right.

Pantene isn’t bad for your hair after all.

I’m sure I’m not the only one, but for the longest time I was convinced that Pantene's shampoo and conditioner were bad for hair. When I was a young and impressionable little tween, my friend’s cool older cousin had just gotten her cosmetology license and would cut my friend's hair. She told my friend, who then told me, that using Pantene leaves a wax on your hair that doesn’t come off, which will weigh down your hair and cause it to break and be dull.

This was, like, end-of-the-world kind of stuff to a little girl who is just getting into doing her hair. But aside from that idea being mostly made up, it doesn’t make any scientific sense.

As coincidence would have it, I ran out of my shampoo not long after listening to the Pantene episode so I picked up the Pro-V Smooth and Sleek shampoo and conditioner, and I’ve been loving the results. My hair has been super-shiny and far less frizzy since using these products, so I’m all on board with Pantene now. (This is also a great episode to listen to if you like learning about the history of beauty products.)

Keep marketing in mind.

Mentioned in pretty much every single episode is the marketing of the products they're talking about. I’ve never really believed print or TV advertisements for beauty products because they always seem so unreal, but I never gave much thought to the marketing words on the product or box itself.

The hosts mention regularly that marketing doesn’t mean much unless there is evidence to prove the claims, and unless there are specific claims made, they don’t need to prove anything at all.

I love that this podcast is exhaustive when they talk about one product. They will go line by line on an item’s claims to explain what it really means and if the product is capable of living up to those claims.

  • Do you like learning about the science in beauty products?
  • Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorites?