Being Brainy about Beauty


While I don’t really wear makeup, just some lip gloss and the occasional blush, I know many girls at my school who wear makeup (and sometimes too much!). Makeup is a huge industry, and  in the cosmetic field, the use of chemical resources is prominent in beauty products such as shampoos, eye shadows, and moisturizers.

In shampoos,  Glycol stearate is a thickener added to products like shampoos to give them a pearly appearance. Its sole purpose is to create a pleasant look.  Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surface-active substance which is also in shampoo, but it is also used in skin cleansers. It loosens dirt and oils, making it easier to wash them away. In mascaras, Lecithin, a lipid found naturally in plant and animal cells, is used as an emollient and moisturizing agent. It helps protect the outer layers of the epidermis against dryness and irritation. Titanium dioxide is used to lighten cosmetics such as eye shadow and foundation. Talc is also used in eye shadow and other powdery products for it is an absorbent natural compound.

Other substances added are:

  • agar: similar to algae; used in moisturizers.
  • alcohol SD-40: according to one website: “…a high-grade cosmetic alcohol that acts as an emollient and a vehicle for the other ingredients.”
  • cellulose: used as a thickener for creams and skin lotions
  • mica: a mineral found in toothpaste and other make-up products; creates a shiny, pearly look
  • parabens: used as a preservative in makeup and lotions
  • xanthan: a thickening agent used for texture

With so many different products these days, it’s hard to really know what’s in your products.  I found this very interesting because I did not know that many of the products that I use in my daily routine are based on chemistry. Without these substances the field of cosmetics would not be as advanced as it is today.  While most things in products are designed to help you, always be on the lookout for something trying to con you! For more information, and a longer list of chemicals and other substances in makeup, click the link below!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!


Move Over Monstrous Milk!


I have always hated milk. There’s no way around it. You had to drink it. And I couldn’t. Yes, I was lactose intolerant. I still hate milk, and I most likely always will. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have milk at all, as I could take lactaid, I just prefer not to. Anyway, I was eating something really, really spicy the other day, and I remembered my earlier post, where milk  quells the fire. Click here to read it: So, I ran to the fridge, where I found some milk. But it wasn’t any milk: it was almond milk! I drank it, and it, well, didn’t taste that bad. So I had some more. And some more. Why not take my newfould liking for almond milk and find out more? And that’s exactly what I’ve done:

Breaking down the Food Label:

Calcium : When you think of milk, you think of calcium.  Well, calcium makes up majority of almond milk, too. You can get about 200mg of calcium from drinking just a cup of almond milk! Calcium is important for mineralization and strengthening of our bones, as well as other cellular functions.

Potassium and Sodium:  In almond milk, there are about 180mg of potassium and 150mg of sodium. One article stated, “They have similar chemical structures and perform many special functions in the body. Potassium is necessary for nerve transmission and having insufficient levels of this chemical element leads to different cardiac dysfunctions. Sodium, on the other hand, works against potassium to produce cell membrane charges, which are needed for the transmission of nerve impulses.”

Protein: There is only about one gram of protein in a cup of almond milk, but some protein is better than none! However, regular milk usually contains more protein.

Fat: There is less fat in almond milk than in most other kinds of milk, as there are only unsaturated fats. “The fat content in almond milk ranges from 2.5 to 3.5, which includes Omega 3 fatty acids that can treat arthritis, lower bad cholesterol levels, make people’s moods better, and improve memory.”

Carbohydrates: A website wrote, “You don’t have to worry about consuming too many carbs when drinking a cup of almond milk because it only has around 8g: 1g of fibre plus 7g of sugars.”

Other Minerals and Vitamins: Minerals like selenium, magnesium, and manganese are found in almond milk, as well as vitamin B, vitamin A, vitamin E, and iron.

While the majority of people encourage almond milk, one website shows another, darker side to the sweet almond milk we know. First, almond milk should not be used instead of regular milk for a baby, as they need the creaminess and the protein. In addition, there is more sugar in it. Those with low thyroid functions should not intake a lot of almond milk, as it contains “goitrogenic foods that include broccoli, flax, cabbage, kale, soy and of course almond makes the thyroid to expand while a large consumption of these foods are known to cause goiters specifically when a chemical component contained in the goitrogenic foods creates a barrier to the sufficient intake of iodine by the body.” The only other threat, would should be a little more obvious than the others, is that it contains tree nuts. However, other than these threats, almond milk is a better solution to regular milk, as long as you also eat a balanced diet!

I know I will definitely drink more almond milk, as opposed to not drinking any milk at all!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Popcorn Galore!

I love popcorn! I remember doing a project on popcorn in sixth grade, where I brought in giant bags if popcorn I had made that morning (it was a second period class) so everyone could taste the difference between Jiffy Pop and microwave popcorn. I only got an A- because I didn’t have enough scientific data, but everyone in my class liked it! So, all’s well that ends well!

Anyway, popcorn kernels contain oil and water with starch, surrounded by a hard and strong outer coating. When this is heated, any water tries to escape via steam but cannot, therefore it stays trapped until the got oil and steam make the starch inside the kernel softer.
One article states, “When the popcorn reaches a temperature of 180 °C (356 °F) the pressure inside the kernel is around 135 psi (930 kPa), which is sufficient pressure to rupture the popcorn hull, essentially turning the kernel inside-out.” This pressure is quickly released, making the proteins and starch turn into a foam that cools into the popcorn part that we eat!

I have always hated when a kernel doesn’t pop. The reason? According to one site, ” If the hull has a small crack or otherwise compromised area, pressure will not build within the kernel. As the moisture in the kernel heats and turns to steam, it slowly leaks out of the kernel. These kernels may stay completely intact or will split open before the starch gelatinizes, causing an open but compact kernel.” It can also be due to faulty, uneven heating or low moisture content.

I have always loved eating popcorn, but, when I did my experiment in sixth grade. I didn’t really focus on the chemical properties, or even how popcorn is made! It is just so amazing how we never take it account how something many Americans eat in the movies, at parties, or even as a quick snack! So sit back, relax, and go eat popcorn!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Snow Cool!

Winter is just around the corner, and what’s better than learning about the chemistry behind snowflakes? You’ve probably heard of Snowflake Bentley, and how he photographed different snowflake shapes. We are photographing snowflakes, but there’s more to a snowflake than just the outside. So let’s go outside, into the world of the widely sung about white wonderland!

Snowflakes are a form of water ice. They form in clouds, which are made up of water vapor. At  32° F (0° C) or colder, water turns to ice. Temperature can influence snowflakes, as well as currents, humidity, and dirt and dust particles. The dirt makes the snowflake heavier, which can make it easier to melt.

I found some great information on one website about what snowflake shapes are created when:

  • 32-25° F – Thin hexagonal plates (high clouds)
  • 25-21° F – Needles (middle height clouds)
  • 21-14° F – Hollow columns
  • 14-10° F – Sector plates (hexagons with indentations)
  • 10-3° F – Dendrites (lacy hexagonal shapes) (low clouds)

Colder temperatures produce snowflakes with sharper tips on the sides of the crystals and may lead to branching of the snowflake arms (dendrites). Snowflakes that grow under warmer conditions grow more slowly, resulting in smoother, less intricate shapes. However, not all snowflakes are symmetrical, as many conditions can effect the balance and appearance of a snowflake. Some can be, of course, as its shape represents the order of the water molecules within the snowflake. Based off one site, “Water molecules in the solid state, such as in ice and snow, form weak bonds (called hydrogen bonds) with one another. These ordered arrangements result in the symmetrical, hexagonal shape of the snowflake. During crystallization, the water molecules align themselves to maximize attractive forces and minimize repulsive forces. Consequently, water molecules arrange themselves in predetermined spaces and in a specific arrangement. Water molecules simply arrange themselves to fit the spaces and maintain symmetry.” Basically, hydrogen bonds are formed from water molecules, which are aligned in a symmetrical way. During crystallization, water molecules move into certain spaces to fit.

In chemistry class, we recently discussed quantum numbers. The idea of the fourth quantum number, the spin quantum number, talks about the direction of the electrons within an atom on a given energy level. This means that while the energy levels, the axis, and the orbitals can be the same, the spin will change. This is one of the reasons why no two snowflakes are the same, among other factors like the number of water molecules and the isotope abundance of hydrogen and oxygen. As we cannot individually look at every single snowflake in the world (that would be awesome), there have most likely been identical, or very near to it, snowflakes. However, in your lifetime, you will most likely never see two identical snowflakes. Sorry!

Snow is white, right? Well… Long story short. Our eyes are playing tricks on us, so we see white light being reflected off the snowflake’s many surfaces. Based off one source, ” Even though the light source might not be truly ‘white’ light (e.g., sunlight, fluorescent, and incandescent all have a particular color), the human brain compensates for a light source.” That also explains why polar bears’ fur appears white.

I have always loved snow, from building snowmen to jumping and playing in giant piles of snow. My sister and I would keep the snow as neat as possible, stepping in each other footprints. I remembered learning about Snowflake Bentley in class, and, now that I am older, I might as well learn the chemistry behind snow. It has been really interesting to learn about the different shapes, because I never thought about why snowflakes are always portrayed in only one way. That’s why we would make the paper snowflakes, where you cut out holes using scissors. To make the craft, follow instructions below!



  • copy paper or thicker type of paper if you want.
  • scissors, preferably sharp (safety scissors for younger children are fine, too! 🙂 )
  • glitter and glue (optional)
  • string or tape (optional)
  • nearby garbage to place scraps in


  1. Fold the paper into a square, triangle, or any other shape, so long as it folds evenly. (I personally suggest a triangle shape) It should easily fold 3-4 times.
  2. Carefully cut out holes, triangles, squares, diamonds, etc. out of the paper. You can cut along the edge or in the middle. Get creative!
  3. Unfold it! Voila! You have made your very own snowflake! Feel free to edit as you like.
  4. For extra pizzazz: put some glue on one side of the snowflake and carefully put glitter on it. You may want to put a paper plate or paper towel underneath to catch excess glitter. Lay it out to dry.
  5. You can tape or hang your masterpiece using string or tape. Enjoy!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Turkey Troubles: Don’t Blame the Turkey, Blame the Tryptophan!

With Thanksgiving coming up soon, turkey is often on people’s mind, well maybe not vegetarian’s minds, but the sleepy feeling from Thanksgiving still resonates as a common characteristic. But is it really the turkey?

Yes and no. Turkey contains something called L-tryptophan, an amino acid that creates a feeling of sleepiness. It is used to produce vitamin b and niacin. One website also added that “Tryptophan also can be metabolized into serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters that exert a calming effect and regulates sleep.” Despite these known effects, the L-tryptophan in turkey does not make you drowsy. In order for L-tryptophan to make you sleepy, it has to be taken on an empty stomach, without any other amino acids or proteins present. t Thanksgiving, there is often other food on the table, and turkey contains a lot of protein, a sure sign that turkey is no the cause of the sleepiness. Based off one article, “It’s worth noting that other foods contain as much or more tryptophan than turkey (0.333 g of tryptophan per 100 gram edible portion), including chicken (0.292 g of tryptophan per 100 gram edible portion), pork, and cheese. As with turkey, other amino acids are present in these foods besides tryptophan, so they don’t make you sleepy.” L-tryptophan is carbohydrate rich, and leads to serotonin synthesis, which creates a sleepy feeling. The process is that carbohydrates jump start the pancreas to make insulin, and other amino acids enter muscle cells. Serotonin is then synthesized.

With the holidays coming up, the object is to feel happy when stuffed with lots of good food including turkey, and not avoiding it to make the memories last based off some myth. Now that the truth is out, and the turkey does not actually induce sleep, rather the overstuffing of food into one’s body, everyone can have a happy, and healthy, Thanksgiving! Happy Turkey Day!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!

Not Nice Spice vs. Timely Tranquilizer

Hot, hot, hot! That’s why most people don’t like spice! Not that I love spicy foods, but I can take my fair share. But when enough is enough, there never seems to be anything to put out the fire in my mouth. Water doesn’t help, but one drink readily available for most can stop the fiercest of fiery mouths. That drink is milk.

In certain foods like peppers, there is capsaicin. This also appears in spices like oregano, cinnamon, and cilantro. It is completely odorless, and, according to one article, “A solution that contains only 10 parts per million produces a persistent burning sensation when placed on the tongue.” You can taste it better when there is less of it. The burning flavor comes form a long hydrocarbon tail. It can bind strongly with lipotein receptors. Its fatty tail allows it to move easily through lipid-rich membranes, making the taste fiercer.  Based off what the website said, the compounds have different structures that are very similar. This is the reasoning behind where the burning sensation is. For some peppers, it may be in the mouth, while others in the throat.   The reason for associating the burning sensation for being hot? “The capsaicin key opens a door in the cell membrane that allows calcium ions to flood into the cell. That ultimately triggers a pain signal that is transmitted to the next cell.”  The same thing happens when cells are exposed to heat. That means that  chili and heat burns are similar at the molecular, cellular, and sensory levels.

That still doesn’t explain why water doesn’t help. Capsaicin is insoluble in cold water, but freely soluble in alcohol and vegetable oils. Small amounts alcohol won’t help though, so milk is a better remedy.  “Milk contains casein, a lipophilic (fat-loving) substance that surrounds and washes away the fatty capsaicin molecules in much the same way that soap washes away grease.” But even after you know you can eat spicy foods and still be able to cool yourself down, don’t eat too much! Too much of a good thing is not good at all, and capsaicin is the same!  Capsaicin prevents nerve cells from communicating because it blocks the production of certain neurotransmitters and can even destroy cells! In the past, capsaicin has even been used as a weapon. “The Mayans burned chiles to create a stinging smoke screen, and threw gourds filled with pepper extract in battle.” Today, it is commonly used in pepper spray. It can also be used to relieve pain, after exposure and tolerance to it builds. Some people, if they regularly eat spicy foods, can enjoy it, as endorphins are released after you are comfortable with the taste, making it a pleasant experience.

While I don’t eat spicy foods often, I do love salsa and other spicy things, as long as it isn’t too much in one serving! While I may not get a rush from eating spicy foods, I do enjoy the mouth on fire feeling for a few seconds (and then I just get thirsty!). At least now I know I should drink milk, instead of drinking water!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!


When you were little, you probably had a lot of fun with bubbles. You probably got the most prized to some kind of game or as party fever. But whatever the reason, kids everywhere love bubbles and I am no different. So maybe I don’t put them in my bathtub or always blow them outside whenever I get the chance, but I am very entertained by bubbles. So I figured, why not do a blog post about bubbles!

A bubble is a thin film of soapy water. Bubbles are not just filled with air but they can also be filled with carbon dioxide or other gases. Bubbles have three layers. One layer of water is put between two other layers of soap molecules. According to one article, “Each soap molecule is oriented so that its polar (hydrophilic) head faces the water, while its hydrophobic hydrocarbon tail extends away from the water layer. No matter what shape a bubble has initially, it will try to become a sphere. The sphere is the shape that minimizes the surface area of the structure, which makes it the shape that requires the least energy to achieve.” 

But what happens when two bubbles meet?

Instead of trying to remain spheres,  the two bubbles will try  to become smaller so that their surface area lessens. If the two bubbles are the same size then the quote on quote wall that separates them will be flat. However if the bubbles are different sizes, then a smaller bubble will go into the larger bubble. Eventually, if you combine a bunch of bubbles, the cells will form the shape of a hexagon.

There are many different types of soap that you can use to make bubbles, but probably the best kind of soap would be detergents. “Detergents form bubbles in much the same way as soap, but detergents will form bubbles even in tap water, which contains ions that could prevent soap bubble formation. Soap contains a carboxylate group that reacts with calcium and magnesium ions, while detergents lack that functional group. Glycerin, C3H5(OH)3, extends the life of a bubble by forming weaking hydrogen bonds with water, slowing down its evaporation.” Never thought your childhood pastime contained so much chemistry, huh?

I love bubbles, and I know that you are never too old to play with bubbles. So if you are ever bored, grab some old bubbles or detergent and run outside. Go have fun!


So ta ta for now and I hope to see your chemical reaction soon!