Why your dermatologist or that sales person may not know what a ‘sebaceous filament’ is

You may have read a few articles recently saying that the blackheads on your nose are more properly called sebaceous filaments. But as it turns out ‘sebaceous filaments’ isn’t really a standard or common term, at least in the research and medical world.

A quick Google search from 1960 to 2010 reveals that the term came into popular use beginning in the late 2000s, mostly on acne and bodybuilding message boards.

Sebaceous filaments were defined on one site incorrectly as “oil glands” and the only scientific paper from that time-frame I found mentioning sebaceous filaments was in a British Journal of Dermatology paper – which mentioned them, but did not describe them.

Where did ‘Sebaceous Filaments’ come from?

The term sebaceous filament likely originates from around 1912 by French dermatologist Sabouraud quoted in the Journal of Cutaneous Diseases Including Syphilis where it is quoted as “seborrhoeal filaments” and presumably translated to sebaceous filament.

It’s then referenced 12 years later as sebaceous filaments in a paper by Rulison in the Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology.

These of course are looking at seborrhoel or sebaceous filaments of the scalp, but a German paper published in 1976 under Follikel-Filamente examined ones found in the skin. Sebaceous filament was then mentioned by David Whiting in his 1979 review on acne, before making its way into a book by Plewig and Kligman in 1993.

In many textbooks microcomedone, impactions, follicular casts, follicular filaments or just the contents of the infundibulum (the pore opening above the sebaceous gland) are also used to describe them.

If you do a Google Scholar search for the term “Sebaceous Filament” you only get about 15 hits, a University of Toronto literature search only returns 7.

This may be why articles from Teen Vogue and Allure have a hard time differentiating between a blackhead and a sebaceous filament. There’s arguably only one paper defining the term, the rest just use it as a descriptor.

The original German paper outlines some morphological differences and makes an argument that they are different from microcomedones and richostasis spinulosa (a condition which leads to the development of fine, dark hairs in the pore).

How are blackheads and sebaceous filaments the same?

“Sebaceous filaments are most commonly found in the centrofacial areas and the alae nasae in postpuberal individuals with large facial pores and seborrhea.”

These are also common areas for microcomedones which may turn into blackheads (more properly called open comedones).

“Sebaceous filaments are cylindrical tubes of whitish-yellowish color, which can be expressed from areas of the face rich in sebaceous follicles by pinching the skin or by the cyanoacrylat-technique.”

The cylindrical tubes are composed of bacteria, sebum, dead skin cells, and often also contain a fine hair. Blackheads or open comedones are also composed of bacteria, sebum, dead skin cells, and also often contain a fine hair.


How do blackheads and sebaceous filaments differ?

Sebaceous filaments are considered a normal feature of the skin, whereas a blackhead or open comedone is non-inflammatory acne.

Generally, blackheads or open comedones are going to be a larger buildup of sebum and dead skin cells. Blackheads or open comedones frequently distend or swell the shape of the pore. Blackheads or open comedones have an oxidized cap of melanin and lipids, giving them their dark or black appearance. Sebaceous filaments don’t always have a dark cap like blackheads, but they’re often the ones a person consider an issue, as the lighter ones can blend into the skin.

The two also seem to differ in ways that aren’t readily apparent to the human eye.

“Follicles containing sebaceous filaments have a conspicuous granular layer and no acanthosis.”

Acanthosis is a thickening of the layers of skin, and the granular layer is the stratum granulosum – the third layer of skin.

In regards to blackheads or open comedones, another group of researchers found that there was some acanthosis or thickening of the skin, and a relatively normal stratum granulosum.

The German researchers also noted that in comparison to sebaceous filaments, microcomedones had smaller sebaceous glands as well as more skin cells in areas of the hair follicle.

Another author notes that the key difference between a sebaceous filament and a blackhead is that the skin cells become “sticky” in a blackhead and agglomerate into a plug.

So what’s the takeaway?

The two are probably best imagined as being on a continuum rather than two separate categories.

Both are mostly caused by the continuous production of sebum and skin cells. Sebaceous filaments are considered a normal build-up in the pores and can lead to blackheads or open comedones.

For someone with dark sebaceous filaments on their nose or chin, knowing that it’s normal or calling them blackheads or sebaceous filaments doesn’t really matter. The goal is to reduce their appearance.

I don’t bother “correcting” people when they describe blackheads on their nose. At the end of the day, as long as both parties understand what is being talked about – it’s fine!

What’s the best way to reduce blackheads or sebaceous filaments?

Both sebaceous filaments and blackheads or open comedones can reform after a certain period of time. The German researchers suggested it was 30 days for sebaceous filaments, but anecdotal evidence suggests it may be much sooner for some people. In the case of blackheads or open comedones, if the obstruction is removed the blackhead should not reform – at least to its previous size.

Consistent removal of the debris from the upper area of a pore will reduce the appearance of both a sebaceous filament and a blackhead.

This can be done through gentle manual exfoliation, chemical exfoliation with acids like glycolic or salicylic, or retinoids (anecdotally from dermatologists I’ve spoken to tazarotene is the most effective). The main thing to keep in mind is that sebum and skin cell production is constant, so consistency is crucial to reduce their appearance. The key is to find a product that you can use frequently enough to reduce their appearance, but doesn’t cause irritation. A very strong acid may reduce or completely eliminate your blackheads or sebaceous filaments, but you may not be able to use the product again before they return.

I’ve personally found that certain surfactants are more effective than others. The two that have given me the best results are disodium laureth sulfosuccinate and decyl glucoside. These tend to perform better at removing lipids from the skin, but are less irritating than sodium lauryl sulfate.

What about nose strips, peel masks, or pore vacuums?

These tools can help remove both blackheads and sebaceous filaments by adhering to the upper layer and then pulling them out of the skin.

There’s some concern that consistent use of nose strips or peeling masks can lead to larger pores and skin damage like vein formation.

However there’s no evidence that this occurs. Pore size is associated with age, chronic UV exposure, sebum output levels, and sex, among other things. In women, pore size can also be influenced by the menstrual cycle.

But just because there’s no evidence doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Perhaps it just hasn’t been studied – on the other hand, perhaps it was studied and there was no result…so the researchers decided not to publish. There is research on tape stripping, which is a method of removing skin layer by layer with tape. After 5 tape strippings there was a very modest increase in water evaporation through the skin which is usually used as a measure of skin barrier function. More apparent and drastic effects took between 20-30 tape strippings. So it seems one use of a nose strip or peeling mask infrequently isn’t likely to cause much of an issue.

If nose strips or peel masks work really well for you, I’d recommend you keep their use to no-more than once a week, and to make sure your skin is in its best condition before using. So I would not recommend using them if you’ve recently introduced an exfoliant or are using retinoids on the skin. Right after desperately scrubbing your skin to reduce blackheads or sebaceous filaments is not a good time to use a pore strip or peel mask.

Pore vacuums are also coming back into popularity, but it’s important to keep in mind that these don’t actually vacuum up blackheads or sebaceous filaments. What they do is apply negative pressure on the skin, and this suction pressure and the additional pressure from sliding it against the sides of the device compresses the pore, expressing its contents. It’s very similar to squeezing your skin.

If you’re not convinced you can watch this Youtube video of water in a vacuum chamber. The water doesn’t get sucked up by the vacuum when it’s turned on.

So blackheads, microcomedones, impactions, sebaceous filaments, follicular filaments, follicular casts – whatever you want to call them…they’re arguably natural features of the skin, and if you’d like to reduce their appearance the treatment options are the same.

Want to help further acne research? These clinical trials are recruiting!

Timolol for the treatment of Acne and Rosacea

Where? Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, United States

What? The researchers want to see how timolol, a medication most commonly used to treat high bood pressure or glaucoma, can affect acne or rosacea

How? Participants will apply timolol to half of their skin for 8 weeks, and then their whole face for 8 weeks

Who? Must have acne or rosacea. Can not be pregnant or bearded, and should not be using acne or rosacea medications

Contact Sabrina Alessi at 410 502 7546

Sebacia Gold-coated Microparticles and Laser Therapy for the treatment of Acne

Where? Sebacia, Inc. in Aalborg, Denmark and Geneva, Switzerland

What? The researchers want to see how well Sebacia Microparticles reduce acne. Sebacia Microparticles are gold plated silica microparticles, they are designed to penetrate the skin and lodge in areas like the sebaceous gland. A laser is then placed on the skin and the laser is selectively absorbed by the Sebacia Microparticles and converted to heat. This heat is thought to reduce the activity of the sebaceous gland

How? Participants will be evaluated every 12 weeks for 36 weeks. It’s unclear how many times the Sebacia Microparticle and laser treatment will be performed

Who? You must not have tattoos in the area with acne, you can not be pregnant. You must be eligible to receive laser treatments, or not had a laser or intense pulsed light treatment recently

Contact Mariann Wittendorff at +45 98 12 52 59 in Denmark and Silvia Ferrari at 4122 807 2777 or silvia@skinpulse.ch in Switzerland

A 4% Minocycline Foam for the treatment of Moderate-to-Severe Acne

Where? Foamix Ltd. in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, United States

What? FMX-101 is a foam that contains 4% of the antibiotic minocycline

How? Participants will use the FMX-101 foam or a placebo for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks participants can decide to use the FMX-101 foam for an additional 40 weeks

Who? You must have moderate to severe acne, and no more than 2 nodules. You must be willing to only use the supplied cleanser (Cetaphil) and no other acne medications or treatments

Contact TKL Research at 201-587-0500

Effects of Isotretinoin combined with Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for the treatment of Acne

Where? UCLA in Los Angeles, California, United States

What? The researchers want to see the effects of concurrent use of Isotretinoin and Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Isotretinoin is an acne drug most commonly known as Accutane.

How? Participants who are taking Isotretinoin will be provided with an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement or placebo, the participants will take the supplements twice a day for 24 weeks

Who? You must be at least 18 and beginning Isotretinoin medication soon, you can not have taken Omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the past, or dyslipidemia, blood thinners, or high blood pressure medication

Contact Gail Thames at 310-825-0453

Olumacostat Glasaretil gel designed to reduce sebum production for the treatment of Acne

Where? Dermira, Inc. in Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Texas, United States

What? Olumacostat Glasaretil is a novel, small molecule in development for the treatment of acne vulgaris that is designed to target sebum production, following topical application

How? Participants will apply the Olumacostat Glasareti gel or a placebo for 12 weeks

Who? You must have moderate to severe acne, but not nodular acne. You must not use other acne medications for at least 2 weeks, and must not have participated in another acne experiment recently. You must not have used birth control for the previous 4 months. You must not have used Isotretinoin (Accutane) in the past year

Contact Beth Zib at 650-421-7210

ELAPR002f and ELAPR002g, a cross-linked tropoelastin filler for treatment of Atrophic (Sunken) Acne Scarring

Where? Elastagen Pty Ltd in London, United Kingdom

What? Tropoelastin are the smaller components that elastin is made from, the treatment injectable is combined with hyaluronic acid. Experiments have shown that after ELAPR002 is injected, it can form into elastin and can integrate into structures of the skin.

How? Participants will receive one round of injections in their scarring of either the ELAPRoo2 filler or a saline placebo. They will then return for assessment after 2 weeks and other times for 24 weeks.

Who? You must have scarring of at least 2 cm atrophic or sunken acne scarring on both sides of the face. You must not have active acne, be pregnant, or participated in a previous clinical trial in the previous month

Contact Dr. Robert Daniels at +61 9209 4054

Copper Gluconate is not a Copper Peptide

Everyone makes mistakes. I certainly do, and I think they’re actually an incredibly useful learning experience. For example, I recently misinterpreted the conclusions of an experiment – which was then pointed out to me. Because of this discussion, I became aware of a gap in my understanding of sunscreens and now believe I have a better understanding of the issue.

As a community I think we want to know what the best ingredients, what the best products, and what the best ways to use them are. In order to move towards that goal – we need to be able to confront our mistakes as learning opportunities, not as personal attacks to our ego or ignore them.

There’s a seemingly innocuous error on the Paula’s Choice website, and it’s been there for more than 3 years.

Some wonder if a specific group of peptides – copper peptides (also known as copper gluconate) – are finally the anti-aging answer everyone’s been looking for.

Copper gluconate is not a copper peptide. It’s a relatively small error, but I’m seeing this article sourced and this error has spread. It’d be like if Anthony Bourdain misspoke and said rosé was a type of bourbon…and then a lot of people bought rosé and called themselves Bourbon Lovers. While rosé and bourbon may both be delicious, they are distinct, separate things. One is a wine made from grapes and the other is spirit made from grains.

Most recently it showed up in an article on Popsugar about copper peptides, I was quoted in this article and reached out to its author and let her know about the error and it has since been corrected.

OK, so why isn’t copper gluconate a peptide?

Paula’s Choice gets the definition, mostly correct.

Copper peptides combine the element copper with three amino acids.

There’s a minor error in this as well, and it’s to do with the number of amino acids. A copper peptide is simply a peptide with a strong affinity for copper. There are copper peptides with four amino acids, for example.

As it’s most basic definition, a peptide must contain at least one nitrogen atom. Peptides are made up of amino acids, and amino acids contain an amine group – which is based around a nitrogen.

If we look at copper gluconate, we’ll see that it’s made up of copper associated with gluconic acid. Copper does not contain nitrogen, and neither does gluconic acid.

The chemical formula copper gluconate is C12H22CuO14. This means there are 12 carbons, 22 hydrogens, 1 copper, and 14 oxygens. No nitrogen.

If we look at a copper peptide, GHK-Cu, we’ll see that it’s chemical formula is C14H22CuN6O4. This means it has 14 carbons, 22 hydrogens, 1 copper, 6 nitrogens, and 4 oxygens.

Now just the presence of nitrogens in GHK-Cu doesn’t make it a peptide, but we know for it in order to be a peptide it has to have at least one nitrogen. Hence, copper gluconate can’t be a copper peptide.

I reached out to Nathan Rivas (now at Drunk Elephant) and at the time of Paula’s Choice and he was aware of the mistake, but wasn’t able to fix it.

I get that Paula’s Choice is now a much larger company with investors and many moving parts, but the core values of Paula Begoun was to educate her community on cosmetics, without marketing, and in an unbiased manner.

Each member of The Research Team is personally trained by Paula to honestly and scientifically analyze thousands of product formulations. The team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin.

Every one of the 20 books I’ve written on cosmetics, including the current edition of my book Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, fulfills my commitment to help women understand when product claims are lying or telling the truth.

This ethos was and has been an inspiration to me, from when I was younger and suffering from acne and seeking out her advice, to when I began researching and working within the cosmetic industry.

I do believe it’s a genuine mistake, but it does have repercussions. Some people have been misinformed, and at its worst may have spent money on a product that they would not have purchased otherwise.

Canadian La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen Ingredients

If you follow my Instagram you’ll know that I’ve been on a bit of a sunscreen bender. I’ve been trying to find a replacement for the Ombrelle Complete Kids SPF 50+. While I like that it has the modern UVA sunscreen filter Mexoryl SX, its cheap price and local availability…the texture leaves me wanting. It is thick, has a slight white-cast, becomes very shiny throughout the day because of its high glycerin content.

I was recently sampled a bottle of the Anthelios Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF 60 and loved the invisible finish as well as its Mexoryl SX and XL content. I ended up gifting it though, because its high price meant it would not be a product I’d likely to repurchase. I found myself rationing it and probably not using enough to get the protection on the label.

I wanted to see if there were other sunscreens in La Roche Posay’s Anthelios line that had a similar finish but was more affordable. Oddly though, the Canadian La Roche Posay website doesn’t list the ingredients for their sunscreens! So, I headed to my local Shopper’s Drug Mart and took some photos. I’ve transcribed the ingredients here for your reference as well 🙂

The Anthelios XL Melt-In Cream SPF 45 in 100 mL size is not on the Canadian La Roche Posay website, but was available in the Shopper Drug Mart when I visited. The photo I have here is old, the packaging has been updated to match the Anthelios XL Melt-In Cream SPF 60. I’m not sure if this means  it is being discontinued or not.

I’ll be posting a review of the products that I tried shortly, as I’m still in the process of testing one (The Anthelios Mineral Tinted Anti-Aging Primer SPF 50 for the curious!)

Mexoryl SX and XL are two patented sunscreens that are only used in the L’Oreal family of brands which includes La Roche Posay and Garnier Ombrelle. They are similar to Tinosorb S and M, but not the same. They tend to offer better UVA protection, as well as greater photostability, and less skin penetration. 

Anthelios Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF 50 For Body, 125 mL


Active Ingredients

Homosalate 10%, Oxybenzone 6%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 5%, Avobenzone 3%, Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) 2%

Other Ingredients

Aqua, Cyclopentasiloxane, Alcohol Denat., Cyclohexasiloxane, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Silica, Dicaprylyl Ether, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Dimethicone, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Nylon-12, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Caprylyl Glycol, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Disodium EDTA, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Dodecene, Isostearyl Alcohol, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, PEG-8 Laurate, Phenoxyethanol, Poloxamer 407, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Tocopherol. (Code F.I.L.: C182364/1)


Anthelios Mineral Tinted Anti-Aging Primer SPF 50, 40 mL


Active Ingredients

Titanium Dioxide 25%

Non Medicinal Ingredients

Dimethicone, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Talc, Triethylhexanoin, Isohexadecane, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Aluminum Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Aluminum Stearate, Alumina, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cassia Alata Leaf Extract, Diethylhexyl Syringylidenemalonate, Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 / Iron Oxides, Laureth-4, Maltodextrin, PEG-8 Laurate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Silica Silylate, Tocopherol, Aqua. (Code F.I.L.: C179435/3)


Anthelios Dermo-Kids Lotion SPF 50, 150 mL


Active Ingredients

Titanium Dioxide 5.85%, Octisalate 5%, Drometrizole Trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL) 4.5%, Avobenzone 3%, Octocrylene 2.5%, Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) 1.5%


Aqua, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Alcohol Denat., Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Isododecane, Propylene Glycol, Dimethicone, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Glycerin, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Synthetic Wax, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Caprylyl Glycol, Cellulose Gum, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dodecene, Glycine Soja Oil, Isostearyl Alcohol, Pentasodium Ethylenediamine Tetramethylene Phosphonate, Poloxamer 407, Silica, Tocopherol, Triethanolamine. (Code F.I.L.: C171811/1)


Anthelios Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF 60, 50 mL


Active Ingredients

Homosalate 10%, Oxybenzone 6%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 5%, Avobenzone 3%, Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) 2%


Aqua, Cyclopentasiloxane, Alcohol Denat., Cyclohexasiloxane, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Silica, Dicaprylyl Ether, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Dimethicone, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Nylon-12, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Caprylyl Glycol, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Disodium EDTA, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Dodecene, Isostearyl Alcohol, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, PEG-8 Laurate, Phenoxyethanol, Poloxamer 407, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Tocopherol. (Code F.I.L.: C182364/1)


Anthelios Targeted Protection Stick SPF 60, 9 g


Active Ingredients

Octocrylene 10%, Titanium Dioxide 6.25%, Avobenzone 3%, Drometrizole Trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL) 2%


Ricinus Communis, Isopropyl Palmitate, Polyethylene, Isohexadecane, Ozokerite, Theobroma Cacao, Butyrospermum Parkii, Dimethicone, Glycine Soja, Tocopherol. (Code F.I.L. C24262/1C)


Anthelios XL Melt-In Cream SPF 60, 100 mL


Active Ingredients

Octocrylene 10%, Titanium Dioxide 4.15%, Avobenzone 3.5%, Drometrizole Trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL) 3%, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid (Mexoryl SX) 3%


Aqua, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Cyclopentasiloxane, Triethanolamine, Isopropyl Palmitate, Stearic Acid, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Dimethicone, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aluminum Hydroxide, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycine Soja, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Methylparaben, PEG-100 Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Propylparaben, Stearyl Alcohol, Tocopherol. (Code F.I.L.: C15709/2C)

Anthelios XL Melt-In Cream SPF 45, 100 mL


Active Ingredients

Octocrylene 10%, Avobenzone 3.5%, Titanium Dioxide 3.3%, Drometrizole Trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL) 3%, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid (Mexoryl SX) 2%


Aqua, Propylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Isopropyl Palmitate, Triethanolamine, Stearic Acid, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Dimethicone, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Aluminum Hydroxide, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Methylparaben, Carbomer, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Glycine Soja, Tocopherol, Propylparaben. (Code F.IL.: K17514/3)

Anthelios Lightweight Lotion SPF 60, 100 mL


Active Ingredients

Homosalate 10%, Octocrylene 7%, Octisalate 5%, Avobenzone 4%, Drometrizole Trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL) 2.5%, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid (Mexoryl SX) 0.5%


Aqua, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Dimethicone, Propylene Glycol, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Silica, Synthetic Wax, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Polyacrylate, Triethanolamine, Stearic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Palmitic Acid, PEG-8 Laurate, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol, Disodium EDTA. (Code F.I.L.: K158295/6)


Anthelios Lightweight Lotion SPF 30, 100 mL


Active Ingredients

Homosalate 10%, Octocrylene 5.5%, Octisalate 5%, Avobenzone 3%, Drometrizole Trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL) 2.5%, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid (Mexoryl SX) 0.5%


Aqua, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Dimethicone, Propylene Glycol, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Silica, Synthetic Wax, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Polyacrylate, Triethanolamine, Stearic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Palmitic Acid, PEG-8 Laurate, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol, Disodium EDTA. (Code F.I.L.: K158303/4)


Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra-Fluid Lotion SPF 50, 50 mL


Active Ingredient

Titanium Dioxide 11%

Non Medicinal Ingredients

Aqua, Isododecane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dimethicone, Undecane, Triethylhexanoin, Isohexadecane, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Nylon-12, Caprylyl Methicone, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Phenethyl Benzoate, Silica, Tridecane, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Talc, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Aluminum Stearate, Pentylene Glycol, Alumina, Aluminum Hydroxide, Benzoic Acid, C9-15 Fluoroalcohol Phosphate, Caprylyl Glycol, Cassia Alata Leaf Extract, Diethylhexyl Syringylidenemalonate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499, Magnesium Sulfate, Maltodextrin, PEG-8 Laurate, PEG-9, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Propylene Carbonate, Propylene Glycol, Stearic Acid, Tocopherol. (Code F.I.L.: K50867/4)


Anthelios Mist SPF 50, 155 g


Active Ingredients

Homosalate 10%, Oxybenzone 6%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 5%, Avobenzone 3%, Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) 2%


Butane, Aqua, Cyclopentasiloxane, Alcohol Denat., Cyclohexasiloxane, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Silica, Dicaprylyl Ether, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Dimethicone, Caprylyl Glycol, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Disodium EDTA, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Dodecene, Glycerin, Isostearyl Alcohol, Lauryl PEG/PPG-18/18 Methicone, Nylon-12, PEG-8 Laurate, Phenoxyethanol, Poloxamer 407, Poly C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Tocopherol, Triethanolamine. (Code F.I.L. C182096/1)

KindofStephen around the Interwebs

This blog isn’t the only place that you’ll find me!

I had the chance to hang out at Soko Glam’s office with Charlotte Cho. We chatted about skincare, the future of K-Beauty, and she made sure that I pour my milk in before my coffee!

As you may or may not know, I’m a regular contributor on Soko Glam‘s The Klog


Here are the direct links to my three latest articles on The Klog

The Best Natural Ingredients For Acne
Why Asian Sunscreens Work Better
How Air Pollution Affects Our Skin

I’ve also been interviewed for the following articles

Wendy Rose Gould‘s article on Popsugar

What Are Copper Peptides: This Unexpected Skin Care Ingredient Might Be the Answer to Fighting Wrinkles

Tracy E. Robey‘s articles on Racked

Max Clinic Cirmage Lifting Stick: Can This Viral K-Beauty Product Really Erase Wrinkles?

Oil Washing Could Be the Solution to Your Hair Woes

I’ve also been mentioned a couple of times by The Snailcast podcast by Tracy of Fanserviced, Jude of Fifty Shades of Snail, Chel of Holy Snails, and Cat of Snow White and the Asian Pear!

and finally, K-Beauty retailer OhLolly featured an interview with me! 🙂

I hope you take the time and check out some of the links, and I also hope you keep in mind that these articles may not be as in-depth as the posts on KindofStephen.com, I have been working on tailoring my writing style to appeal to different audiences – I’d appreciate your feedback!


What lies beneath the “SCIENCE!”

OK, this post is going to be a bit more personal – because frankly this is something that’s been on my mind for quite some time and I think really needs to be discussed.

There’s a big problem in science-based beauty writing – especially from retailers, and I think it boils down to one big issue: Bias.

Science writing has always been difficult. It’s the translation of an experiment or analysis that’s very specific, distilled down to its essential point, and then presented in a way that will attract clicks.

“Moon leaf extract treats acne” is a much more appealing story than “Moon leaf extract reduces ratings on an acne severity grading scale compared to a placebo…in this study on Japanese people…but there was no effect on the Caucasian people in the study…it might also be due to changes in the weather – we don’t know. This is a preliminary study and another group should replicate it to validate our results. P.S. Our moon leaf extract may have been contaminated.”

You tend to lose all the nuances of a study once you summarise it into a single sentence. Often those nuances are important. This is something I worry about when writing for other websites and when I’m quoted in articles. Editors want clean and strong facts, and readers or customers want definitive and clear advice. Now add on to this the issue of bias, when most of us sit down to write we have a goal or idea and, we consciously or not, tend to focus on research that supports it. Writing a piece on green tea? I may read the supportive studies more closely or dismiss and be overly nitpicky with the studies that showed negative or no effect. Promoting a product that contains green tea? That bias presumably becomes stronger.

We’re humans, it’s hard to be impartial. I’m biased, I certainly have conscious ones and I definitely have unconscious ones. Do I like niacinamide based on its research? Or have I spent more time reading about niacinamide because I’ve been told it was well-researched? Do I favour my own formulations over others and do I lose out on improving my own formulations because of this bias?

Cosmetic research as a whole is neither vigorous nor impartial. It’s often funded by the manufacturer or a brand that is promoting its use. Most research on cosmetic ingredients extends to a single study – that will never be replicated. Most cosmetic research isn’t even done on humans – it’s performed on cells, on models, on animals, on plates of plastic. Most cosmetic products are studied in isolation.

It’s really difficult to take this loose, ephemeral, wishy-washy data and give a hard answer – that is unless you’re comfortable leaving out the gaps in the data, confounds, and specific conditions in the study, and unfortunately some science-based writers and retailers are. I get it – it’s not a great feeling to have someone reach out to you for advice and give them an answer that is at its core a long winded sigh of ‘Mayyybbbbeeeeeee’. That I can sympathise with, I can’t sympathise with people or companies who misconstrue or occlude information to position themselves as an expert or to sell a product.

I’m considering taking “skincare expert” out of my headline because I don’t think I am one – I’ve been told an “expert” just needs to know 1% more than the population, but I don’t think that’s enough. I think “expert” implies someone that has answers – and answers I do not have. What I do have is results from other people’s research, an opinion, and a desire to share both.

I want to be very clear: I know there are many writers out there that do seek out research, are curious, do their best to read it, understand it, and explain it to their readers. I also understand that not everyone has journal access or a relevant background. To them, I say get in touch with me – and I will help you get access to the paper and explain concepts. My issue is with the writers and companies who do have access, who twist and misconstrue, who leave out information that doesn’t support their view, those who are satisfied without questioning their conclusions, who write too confidently, who are OK with presenting a question as a fact, and who should know better.

So to my fellow writers, these are my suggestions to help our readers and customers make better beauty and skincare decisions

Clear and functional sources

Be proud of your sources, don’t source-puke a long list of unclickable, poorly formatted text in the hopes that people will be daunted and just trust what you wrote. Don’t just link to the journal’s homepage or a textbook. Take the effort and help people find where you found your information.

We live in the age of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), it’s a permanent link that will always point to that resource – even if it gets moved to a new location. Use them! Or at least stick to a style guide for your sources, the ACS style guide is commonly used.


Source and quote material that is relevant to your topic. Don’t source tangential things to try to make your writing look more researched. Was the experiment performed on humans? If not, you should point that out. Was it performed on humans, or animals, or cells? Was it a review of other research?

Often results from experiments on cells or animals are presented in a way to make us expect the same results when applied to our skin. Unfortunately, these results don’t always predict the results we can expect on humans. These types of studies can be useful in discovering how or why an ingredient works the way it does or if it’s possible for an ingredient to work – but they can’t replace results observed on actual people.

A review of ethanol’s effects on liver cells has been presented as evidence that ethanol applied onto the skin will cause the same damage – while there is a possible mechanism, that study isn’t strong evidence. Our skin acts as a barrier, ethanol evaporates quickly, other skin components like hyaluronic acid may reduce the effect, and human skin cells may respond differently than liver cells – these are just some factors that can change ethanol’s effect when put on our skin – but aren’t often mentioned.

Scrutinize yourself

We all make mistakes and we don’t all have editors or peers who can double-check our work. Saying something that isn’t common knowledge or you’re unsure of? Take a quick hop into Google and confirm it, otherwise, you might mischaracterize copper gluconate as a copper peptide.

If you’re citing research, read it! Finding a line that supports your point and skipping the rest of the paper is irresponsible, can be misleading to your readers, and most of all you’ve done yourself a disservice by missing out on some valuable knowledge.

Search broadly

Research is not an easter egg hunt. Searching for “Vitamin C+ Hyperpigmentation” won’t give you an unbiased and complete result. Because of the way paper abstracts and titles are written, searching for “Vitamin C + Hyperpigmentation” will likely only return results where Vitamin C was found to have a positive effect on hyperpigmentation. 

Instead try a broader search like “Vitamin C + Cosmetic”, “Vitamin C + Topical”, or “Vitamin C + Skin”.

Stop “SCIENCING!” the shit out of things

It is absolutely OK to not know something, or to not have an answer, or to have an opinion that isn’t researched. You can be honest with your readers and customers, I think they’ll appreciate that. Your opinions as a person or brand are valuable – as long as they’re transparent. Don’t use science as a veil, science is a process of discovery and learning – not a marketing angle or sales tactic.

“It’s important to keep in mind as you study chemistry or any other science that scientific theories are not laws of nature and can never be absolutely proven. There’s always the chance that a new experiment might give results that can’t be explained by present theory. All a theory can do is to represent the best explanation that we can come up with at the present time. If new experiments uncover results that present theories can’t explain, the theories will have to be modified or perhaps even replaced.”

— John E. McMurry, Chemistry (7th Edition)

Be honest

I think this is something that I can improve on as well. I will try to make it clear when I’m unsure about something and when I come across research that doesn’t “prove my point”.

Along those lines, I’d also like to thank you, the reader,  for your wonderful questions. There are often times when I get a new insight from a question, or it makes me realise that there’s a gap in my understanding.  I would love to give you answers to all of your questions, but I don’t have them. Sometimes I can only show you a map, but I can’t mark out the path. My broad advice is to let go of the notion of a “perfect routine” or “perfect product”. While the search for the perfect routine or skin care product isn’t a mythical quest – we’re not there yet. We don’t even know for sure if it’s better to apply a moisturiser before or after sunscreen – we have some educated guesses, but no strong proof! We’re even further from an answer that would apply to all sunscreen and all moisturiser combinations.

Skincare, as it is now, is a field of ‘maybes’. Maybe some of those expensive and rare botanical extracts have amazing anti-ageing effects and maybe it’s just the glycerin in your lotion that’s making your skin glow. Many skincare questions don’t have real answers yet and there’s even less information on whether or not an ingredient is better than another.

You should think about what your ‘evidence filter’ is set to. Is skincare fun and exciting for you? Do you have the budget and time to try newer and more novel ingredients? Then set your filter wider, enjoy the cornucopia of beautiful and fun products out there. Enjoy the process of applying them to your skin, of searching for them, of reading about other people’s experiences with them.

If that’s not what you want, then set your filter tighter, use ingredients that have more research on them – like a sunscreen with strong UVA and UVB protection and prescription retinoids. Take fewer risks and spend your money on skincare that has been shown to work for most people. You may be missing out on some truly effective ingredients, but you’re also avoiding ingredients that are just marketing.

In the long-run who will benefit more from their skincare routine? The person that seeks out the many novel and exciting products, or the one that picks the few researched and qualified products?

We just don’t know.