If You Have a Nut Allergy You Might Want to Check Your Shampoo Ingredients

Originally posted here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/you-asked/nut-allergies-and-shampoo

Nut allergies affect about 2% of the Canadian population and can be broken down into tree nut allergies (like almonds or cashews) and peanut allergies (peanuts aren’t actually nuts but legumes). These allergies are caused by ingesting or inhaling certain allergenic nut proteins, not all of which have been identified yet. So, if these proteins were present in oils made from nuts that are used in cosmetics like hand cream or shampoo, one could have a reaction to them.

If you’re allergic to peanuts, that’s likely all you’re allergic to. Numbers vary on the percentage of people allergic to peanuts that have cross-reactivity to other legumes like soy or tree nuts, but it’s not a majority. On the other hand, if you’re allergic to one kind of tree nut, chances are you’re allergic to several. You are likely, however, not allergic to coconut or nutmeg (though it’s a common misconception) as they are not nuts.

Studies have found that contact allergic reactions can occur due to exposure to allergens in cosmetics. But these reactions only occur if the relevant proteins are intact, so in general, the more processed and refined the cosmetic, the smaller the likelihood of a reaction.

Allergens in cosmetics can pop up more than you might expect. Peanut oil is often used under the name arachis hypogaea in shampoos and creams. Tree nut oils in cosmetics are downright common, with almond oilargan oil and shea butter being some common examples. Coconut oil is also growing in popularity lately, with many companies incorporating it into products in order to market them as ‘natural’. Looking in my bathroom I found six products containing peanut, tree nut or coconut oils.

Since every allergy is different it’s really best to evaluate your own situation. If you’re allergic to tree nuts but not coconut, look for coconut-based products. If you’re allergic to tree nuts and coconut, you might have to look for specialty products or make your own. Or, you might check the products you’ve already been using and realize that they contained your allergen, in which case you’re probably good to keep on using them.

How do fake nails work?

Originally posted here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/technology/chemistry-fake-nails

Fake nails come in two major varieties: acrylic and gel. Even this distinction, though, creates an element of confusion since both of these systems actually use acrylic products. All fake nail systems require certain compounds: monomers which, when activated by an initiator molecule, combine to form polymers, as well as catalysts to make the reaction go faster. If you’ve ever had fake nails (or seen someone else’s) you know that they’re pretty strong and durable, a feat all the more impressive when you realize they’re basically hardened goop.

What we call acrylic nails are created using a liquid and powder system. The powder is a mixture of polymers that carry the initiator molecules (often benzoyl peroxide which activates with body heat), and other things like pigments. The liquid contains the monomers that need to combine into polymers in order for the nails to ‘set’. These monomers are commonly ethyl methacrylate (EMA), though they used to be methyl methacrylate (MMA) before it was banned for damaging nail beds and causing finger damage!

The initiator molecules break apart with heat, creating free radicals that can energize the EMA monomers to combine and form long chains. These polymer chains wrap around the bead-like polymers from the powder, hardening and creating the strong fake nails. The ratio of powder to liquidused has a huge impact on the quality of the nail created, as you ideally want a homogenous distribution of polymers, which is only achieved when the powder and liquid are mixed in approximately equal proportions. This sounds pretty easy to do until you remember that nail techniciansonly have a few seconds after mixing these until they harden.

Enter gel nails, the low-odour, non-time-sensitive solution to acrylic nails. First invented in the 1980’s, these variations on fake nails use the basic chemistry of their acrylic forefathers with a few variations.

First, instead of EMA, they often use as their monomer urethane acrylate methacrylate (UAMA) (hence why calling gel nails “non-acrylic” is a misnomer). Second, to surpass the time sensitivenature of heat-activated initiators, they use a photo-activated initiator. These initiators absorb UV light from the little lamps you stick your hand into and use this energy to polymerize the monomers and set the nails. This means that the nail technician can keep reshaping the nails until lightis applied. This polymerization reaction isn’t quite as effective as the heat-activated one, though, so some of the monomers are pre-connected into what are called oligomers.

Gel nails have risen steeply in popularity for use in salons or at home due to their simpler application. Regardless of how you form the nails though, the last steps are almost always to buff off any bumps and paint them,a fun colour or not, before inevitably breaking one of them trying to open a pop can.

Under the Microscope: Eyelashes

Originally posted here: https://mcgill.ca/oss/article/health/under-microscope-eyelashes

Eyelashes exist to keep dust and debris and bugs from entering our eyes, but in our modern day, they have come to be objects of beauty, enhancement and envy. While the Hadza people of Tanzania famously trim their eyelashes for beauty purposes, for most of us, long eyelashes have come to be an object of desire.
Most mammals have eyelashes (and a few birds too!) but they can be troublesome for humans, dogs and horses. There are quite a few conditions that can affect the eyelashes, so I will only name the most interesting ones.
Distichia involves eyelashes growing from parts of the eyelids they are not supposed to (in dogs this includes eyelashes growing underneath the eye since dogs do not have bottom lashes like humans!).
Trichiasis is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the world, and occurs when eyelashes grow towards the cornea, rubbing it and causing infections. This condition is especially common in certain dog breeds, although it can usually be managed through regular trimmings.
Madarosis is characterized by the loss of eyelashes or brows and can be caused by infections like leprosy or HIV, chemo drugs, autoimmune conditions like lupus, or a zinc deficiency.
Of course, you may be unhappy with your eyelashes, although there is nothing medically wrong with them. In that case, you have got some options available to you. There are the fairly common false eyelashes and eyelash extensions, but there is also the semi-permanent option of a lash dip. This procedure will run you upwards of $100, and involved applying a black gel, and sometimes silk extensions, to your lashes that sets and stays for about a month.
If these temporary solutions are not right for you, there is always eyelash transplants. For this, doctors take about 60 follicles of hair from your head and transplant them into your eyelash area. It is done as an outpatient procedure, and only takes 2-3 hours, although it will cost you upwards of $3000. Because these hairs will be head hair, not eyelashes, they will not engage in the normal 7-8 week grow-then-fallout cycle of eyelashes, so you will have to trim and curl them to keep them looking good.
There is an option if you would rather try to grow your own lashes thicker. Bimatoprost (sold under the names Lumigan and Latisse) was originally developed to treat high pressure in the eye, but patients using it reported their eyelashes growing thicker and longer. It is used as an eyedrop that is applied to the base of the lash area, and seems to work quite well, although some patients report the skin around their lashes darkening after use.