A foundation that covers and treats acne. A pretty varnish that wipes out fungal nails. A soft skin oil that eases itchiness.
These are just some of a raft of new ‘double-duty’ beauty products that also treat health issues. But just how effective are they?
CAROLINE JONES asked experts to assess a selection; we then rated them.
FACE POWDER FOR ACNE
bareMinerals blemish rescue for fighting acne scored 5/10 in the test
BareMinerals blemish rescue skin-clearing powder foundation, 6g, £28, bareminerals.co.uk
CLAIM: This contains 0.5 per cent salicylic acid, which the maker says will fight acne and promote clearer skin. It also contains chamomile, aloe vera and oat protein, said to calm skin.
EXPERT VERDICT: Dr Anton Alexandroff, a consultant dermatologist at BMI The Manor Hospital in Bedford, says: ‘I prefer acne patients to avoid make-up because many products can block pores and sebaceous glands, which can cause flare-ups. However, some patients struggle to leave the house without it — and for them, a powder like this may be useful. The chamomile, aloe vera and oat protein should calm inflammation, and salicylic acid is thought to exfoliate skin and unclog pores. However, there are no robust clinical studies to confirm this. This also contains chlorphenesin, a preservative that can irritate some skins.’
Green People’s mascara for those suffering from eczema was rated 6/10
Green People volumising mascara, 7ml, £16.50, greenpeople.co.uk
CLAIM: Made with ‘natural pigments’ zinc and titanium oxide rather than the synthetic dyes in other products, this is suitable for those with eczema and psoriasis, the maker says. It is also free from irritants such as alcohol.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘People with allergies often have to avoid mascara because it can cause irritation to the delicate skin around the eyes,’ says Dr Alexandroff. ‘On balance, I think this product will be a much better choice than standard mascara for people with sensitive skin because it avoids a number of key chemicals that can trigger or make eczema worse, such as alcohol.
‘It is worth noting that it also contains beeswax — and although this provides water resistance and a lovely creamy texture, it may cause contact dermatitis or worsen eczema. But this only affects one in 1,000 people, so most users won’t have a problem.’
SHAMPOO FOR HAIR GROWTH
Fast’s shampoo for rapid hair growth scored 1/10 in the test
Fast hair growth shampoo and conditioner, two 300ml bottles, £33.99, livebetterwith.co.uk
CLAIM: These contain vitamins, proteins and herbs, which the maker says ‘encourage blood flow to the scalp for faster hair growth’.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Independent research found that the proteins here — cystine, cysteine and methionine — can help with hair growth if you are deficient in these,’ says Iain Sallis. ‘But these studies were done with oral supplements. I’ve not seen good evidence to show a shampoo can make your hair grow faster. I can’t find details on the maker’s trials in which it claims that “100 per cent of users had increased hair growth after 84 days” — even the links on its own website don’t work.’
CAMOUFLAGE FOR SKIN COMPLAINTS
Microskin’s camouflage was rated 9/10
Microskin, 50ml, £399, transforminglives.co.uk
CLAIM: The maker calls this a ‘simulated second skin’ to cover birthmarks, vitiligo (loss of pigmentation), burns and scars. It contains ethanol (a type of alcohol) and castor oil, which release colour particles to provide maximum skin coverage. You book a consultation with one of the clinics on the website, during which a colour match is mixed for you and you’re shown how to apply it.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This is an expensive but ground-breaking product, which could help people who struggle with self-confidence because of the appearance of their skin,’ says Dr Alexandroff.
‘Any foundation can cover scars and vitiligo, but they tend to require thick layers to do this, which can make some skin conditions worse.
‘The combination of ethanol and castor oil here bind the product’s pigment to the skin, forming a thin waterproof layer that can last for up to five days. I see a huge benefit for people with vitiligo who want to cover large areas of skin. The only small downside is that castor oil may cause reactions in some susceptible individuals.’
NAIL POLISH FOR FUNGAL INFECTION
Nailner’s fungal nail infection treatment scored 8/10 in the test
Nailner fungal nail infection treat & colour, two 5ml bottles, £25.99, superdrug.com
CLAIM: This consists of a bottle of the anti-fungal ethyl lactate, and another bottle of a coloured nail polish to camouflage the discolouration caused by infected nails.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Fungal nails are common and cause the nail to thicken and turn yellow – which can be embarrassing and make sufferers reluctant to show their feet,’ says Dr Alexandroff. ‘This product can both treat and cover unsightly nails to make them more presentable while the infection is being dealt with. Ethyl lactate was shown to be effective against fungal nail infection in trials, so this is worth a try. But such infections are notoriously difficult to treat and may require prescription-strength medication.
‘If nails do not improve after three months of this product, see your GP or a dermatologist.’
SERUM TO BOOST EYEBROWS
RapidBrow’s serum for restoring eyebrows scored 3/10 in the test
RapidBrow eyebrow enhancing serum, 3ml, £37, boots.com
CLAIM: This contains a ‘potent’ mix of compounds to restore eyebrow hairs. These include keratin, biotin, vitamin B5 and apple extract. Brush it through your brows twice a day for at least two months.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This makes “visibly looking thicker” brows simply because it physically plumps them up when applied, rather than actually growing more hair,’ says Iain Sallis. ‘But there is no independent research to back up the mixture of proteins and vitamins here. There are only studies conducted by the maker which found less sparse-looking eyebrows in 60 days. It’s expensive, too, and I suspect it won’t have a huge effect.’
DYE FOR BRITTLE HAIR
Tints of Nature’s hair dye kit for brittle hair was rated 3/10 in the test
Tints of Nature permanent hair dye kit, £10.95, tintsofnature.com
CLAIM: A hair dye that uses 95 per cent ‘naturally derived’ ingredients and less PPD (the chemical pigment in hair dye people can be allergic to). The maker says it can be used by people following cancer treatment when hair is brittle or growing back a different colour. Wash hair with shampoo provided then apply the colour gel and wash off after 30 minutes. Finish with conditioner.
EXPERT VERDICT: Iain Sallis says: ‘It’s important to find out what’s behind the changes in your hair before you use anything on it. Although 95 per cent natural, this product still contains PPD; simply having less doesn’t make it safer than standard dyes, in the same way that even a single particle of peanut can cause a dangerous allergic reaction in susceptible people. Always check with your oncologist before using any hair dye.’
OIL FOR ITCHY SKIN
Defiant Beauty’s skin oil for patients undergoing cancer treatment was rated 7/10
Defiant Beauty Itchy Skin Oil, 100ml, £17, shop.macmillan.org.uk
CLAIM: Aimed at patients undergoing cancer treatment, which can cause skin to feel itchy, this contains ‘100 per cent natural’ ingredients said to have soothing properties, such as apricot kernel oil, calendula and sunflower oil.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Chemotherapy can cause dermatitis and itchy skin because it throws the immune system out of balance, and this can result in it overreacting to harmless substances,’ says Dr Alexandroff. ‘Sunflower oil has been found to help with itchiness in animal studies and in experiments with artificially grown human skin. There have been mixed results with calendula helping dermatitis following cancer therapy. However, until this oil has been tested in a clinical trial of patients with irritated skin, it is simply a soothing moisturiser. But patients may find it more pampering to use than other creams, and this is important during cancer treatment.’
LOTION TO REGROW LASHES
And Mylash’s liquid for helping eye lashes grow stronger was scored 8/10 in the test
Mylash, 3ml, £105, mylash.org
CLAIM: This liquid contains bimatoprost, which is said to help grow stronger and thicker eyelashes. Apply daily with the brush provided for four months.
EXPERT VERDICT: Iain Sallis, a consultant trichologist at BMI The Park Hospital in Nottinghamshire, says: ‘Bimatoprost was initially developed to treat people with the eye pressure condition glaucoma, which can cause blindness, and users of the drug noticed an unexpected side-effect: thicker, longer lashes.
‘It’s not licensed for any specific hair loss problem, but is worth a try for some hair loss conditions or if chemotherapy has caused your eyelashes to fall out.
‘I sometimes recommend products like this to patients with eyelash loss. It’s safe to use, but see your GP if you get side‑effects such as irritation.’