A ramble through alternative chemistry

For many years I used to have a small patch of weeping scalp, but when I came to Cambridge I went to Ray’s barber shop in All Saints’ Passage – he was about 75 and got his politics from the Daily Mail but was otherwise an entertaining talker (you didn’t try to stop him). He told me that the patch was because I was an academic and I used my left brain more so I have this patch on my right scalp. I kept listening. So the way to get rid of it was Dead Sea Spa Magik Mineral Shampoo. It’s not cheap, but it’s not outrageous so I bought a bottle. And for whatever reason the patch disappeared and hasn’t come back.

I haven’t done a single blind trial on me and I couldn’t easily do a double blind one so it may be the placebo. However it works and I can just about afford it (I save by leaving longer times between haircuts…). Sadly Ray has upped shop…

Today I had to renew it and went to a well known supplier of food and neutraceuticals. Ever since reading Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science I now believe that almost all are worthless. (I used to believe antioxidants were useful but he showed from the literature that there were no proven benefits.)

So what’s in this Dead Sea stuff? I assumed it was a simple shampoo with masses of KCl and MgSO4 or something. Here goes:

  • Harmonized water (TM) (Aqua Maris Sal) which I take to mean water from the Dead Sea. I do not know how it is harmonized or what that means. Maybe it’s homeopathic and you dilute with ultra concentrated salt solution.
  • Sodium Coceth sulfate. Never heard of it but WP gives:
    “Sodium Coceth Sulfate is a semisynthetic detergent-like compound derived from fatty acids obtained from coconut oil, modified using ethylene oxide (oxirane). It is a milder foaming agent found in baby cleansers, gels, and cleaners.” Well, since I am supported to know all about polyethylenoxide this is useful knowledge.
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine. Not sure what OSCAR/OPSIN would make of this name (I’ll have more on that later). I guess it’s coconut oil treated with a betaine. Yup, I was right (see WP). I don’t think OPSIN would get that yet but I expect Pubchem does. Look for yourself.
  • Sodium beeswax (sic). I guessed this was saponification of beeswax and found:

    This derivative of Beeswax is derived through the saponficiation process, which involves the hydrolyzation of Beeswax in the presence of sodium in order to create soaps. It serves as a natural emulsifier and provides the same skin-caring properties as Cera Flava (Beeswax).

    I hope they have some hydroxide ions as well otherwise it could be quite fun.

  • Zinc pyrithione. This is a well-characterized pure compound with a beautiful structure (5-coordinate Zn). WP says it’s antifungal and antidandruff so I just wonder whether that should be where I go next.
  • Lauryl Pyrrlidone. It should be Lauryl pyrrolidone of course and for those of you – like me – who stop counting at capric acid it’s easier for OPSIN as 1-dodecylpyrrolidin-2-one.
  • Sodium chloride. Wonder where they get that?
  • Xanthum gum
  • Fragrances, plants extracts, etc.

Ah, at the bottom it explains “harmonized”:

“Special de-ionised water with pure Dead Sea Minerals: Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Sodium as Bromides, Chlorides and Sulphates”

Isn’t the idea of specially deionising water and stuffing it full of concentrated salts enormous fun!

So, determining to get out as fast as possible and whizzing past the shelves that BadScience rightly attacks my eye was suddenly caught by
Since Daniel (to be explained later) has been improving OPSIN out of all recognition I can do this in my head and get MeSO2Me. It’s a solid (tablets). Never heard of it as a pharmaceutical. So when I get to the counter I ask what MSM does. The assistant looks it up and it cures arthritis, anxiety, and much else including with worms+parasites. (I can believe that – it looks as if it could be unpleasant although WP’s verdict is mostly harmless and probably worthless). Further information: “Active ingredient: sulfur”.

Oh dear. The Victorians used to give children brimstone (native sulfur). So I asked did they sell sulfur (they might). No, she said, but would I like some chondroitin sulfate..

Thanks I said, but no. I get my Sulfur in Calcium Sulfate from the water company – and they throw it in for free, every day.

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One Response to A ramble through alternative chemistry

  1. HolfordWatch says:

    MSM is a ‘nutraceutical’ that is beloved by CAMsters and Woosters everywhere. The claims with which I am most familiar are those for joint problems or (believe it or not) allergic reactions: the underlying purported mechanism of action is quieting inflammatory responses.
    I know that your last was semi-tongue in cheek but I am unclear as to the bio-availability of calcium etc. in hard water. The last time that I looked it up it seemed to be rather less than had previously been assumed (without getting into the issue of temperature of the water and decreasing solubility of the solids).

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