my MUA reviews: hair products

Post-cleansing pre-styling Magic Potion gunk of various descriptions: see also (old reviews) conditioners, many of which can be used as leave-in detanglers and do a little towards hair-grooming, in a pseudo-naturals loose louche sort of way. I rarely use a hairdryer, because I’m so environmentally-conscious and such a paragon of virtue that I am aware of every ounce of unnecessarily used a.k.a. wasted wattage. Well, no, not really… Sorry. I’m lazy, and not very coordinated first thing in the morning. Work colleagues should already consider themselves mightily privileged indeed that I ensure I’m clean and vaguely fragrant before entering their presence…

Styling hair in days of yore has included Aveda Brilliant damage control spray (more or less a very light leave-in conditioner) and their Phomollient mousse (amazing rapture-inducing stuff). Hairdressers have used assorted other pre-style and post-style things–serums, glosses, finishers, and so on. It’s wonderful to sit through the whole performance. You know, treating it as live entertainment; like theatre, the circus, opera, street artistes, cabaret, and any other exciting action-packed and interactive show.

Current Magic Potion: John Masters Organics Shine On. (I haven’t reviewed it on MUA yet, though have done here.)

For everyday purposes, the styling process runs as follows:

  1. wash and condition hair, finishing with that all-important final cool rinse
  2. with hair back–normal position, going down back–wring out water using towel, then wrap hair in towel. In all my years I’ve still not mastered this properly, so do please add comments on cunning towel tricks. Current approach is to wrap hair so it looks like I’m a modern-day nun, like so–
    –then twist the end (with hair inside, usually sticking out), raise it up, and tuck it underneath rest of towel at forehead.
    This usually falls to the side, perches precariously, and will fall down at some point over the next few minutes.
  3. Swear as towel(s) fall(s) off.
  4. Realise that’s probably a good thing, with hindsight and approaching things philosophically. All part of the morning waking-up process.  Getting some air into and out of the old lungs.
  5. Meanwhile… moisturise and sunscreen face and body, deodorise and scent the self, trim wayward facial hair, apply industrial shears to toenails, etc. I may have lied about some of that too: I’m not that organized and methodical first thing in the morning.
  6. Remove towel. Hair should be towel-dry: not dry, but not wet either. Apply Magic Potion of choice. Comb through hair. Apply more or other Potion to wherever it’s needed: wispy bits, frizzy bits, ends of hair.
  7. Run hands through hair.
  8. Twist hair very loosely into some form of knot/bun, and wrap with cloth. Scrunchy, one of those wide fabric head-bands, or in the case of most of mine, elderly tights (the thick kind, not the pantyhose/sheers variety) that have been recycled as same. Or, indeed, any fabric. Or old pants (knickers, underpants).
  9. Make coffee and breakfast. Consume both.
  10. Unwrap hair and fling it around. Pull to straighten out frizzier bits, then scrunch hair around a bit (someone once told me this keeps the wavy bits nicely wavy, rather than having alternating sections of straightness and curliness on the same strand, which results in weirdness. Ex. that sort of slightly mulleted poodle-look with curly hair on top. Of an accidental variety–we’re not talking the weirdness that people deliberately inflicted on themselves (sorry: had other do to them, and paid them to do so) in the 1980s. Or, indeed, in some more benighted parts of this fair continent, up to the present day.

Styling Products -Aubrey Organics – B-5 Design Gel  rated 4 of 5 gingerrama on 2/9/2011 2:55:00 PM

Original intention: not actually as a styling/design gel, but to use mainly for frizz control and wave enhancement (two sides of the same coin), exactly as I was using Phytodéfrisant. B-5 works, on my hair, almost as well. Can be used right down to the roots: neither drying nor greasifying. It also has detangling and moisturising qualities, good conditioning at the hair ends–they actually look healthier, like in everyone’s marketing claims–some bodifying, and leaves hair smooth, shiny, and beautifully soft. Think classic Timotei adverts, running through spring meadows while swooshing hair around, all in soft focus. Waking up with that fresh-washed bouncy feeling the day *after* you’ve washed your hair–and the next too.
Hair here, for reference: fine, thick/dense, bra-strap length, slightly wavy. Hair normal-dry, washed every 2-3 days, untreated in any way, and left to air-dry naturally. Not by serious decision, I do have a hairdryer but in the daily battle for early morning priorities, 99 times out of 100 it loses out to coffee.
Dry scalp, normal-dry skin, needs care with products as sensitive i.e. fragile and irritable skin, plus occasional eczema. B-5 fine: no irritation, no tell-tale breakouts on upper back, and no triggering or exacerbation of eczema.
The B-5’s texture is somewhere between liquid and gel; needs to be well shaken before use to mix up the water, aloe vera, and gum. Same scent as the GPB conditioner–if you love it, worth knowing; hate it, ditto. Aside from the gloopy gellid base, main useful ingredients would be the panthenol, biotin, and above all the horsetail (acting somewhat like silicones do). I use about 3 quarter-sized splodges, on long hair.
Application: wash hair, towel dry, then apply this stuff. I use two blobs, one for ends and underside of hair, the second distributed approximately all over. Run hands through hair gently–the B-5 helps a lot with manageability–comb through, then leave hair to dry (and attend to coffee). I’ve had no issues with white flakes or crunchiness.
Packaging: 3 lippies, and that’s being nice. Recyclable plastic slightly squeezable bottle, flip-top cap. Fine and usable, well worth 4.5 lippies, though I’d prefer a fully squeezy tube. But Aubrey, Aubrey, when are you going to hire someone do something about labels, a.k.a. heinous crimes against design, style, and heck any kind of aesthetics? There’s a line between retro and ugly, and that line was crossed so long ago that it’s barely visible over the horizon. Weleda look quite cool and chic in comparison.
Other cons (may just be me):
(1) I use a lot more of this than I did with Phytodéfrisant, using it up faster. Also, it started to go off before I had finished the bottle, thus losing about 20%. Someone with shorter hair using less of it would find a bottle lasted longer, but then again, if it started going off after the same length of time after opening, they might well lose a higher %age of product.
(2) Hair dries more slowly with this than with Phytodéfrisant.
(3) Can’t use B-5 on every wash, a break is needed (mabe every couple of weeks?). Hair started to dry out and frizz again at the ends; might be protein excess. I experimented with a return to Phytodéfrisant: all well.
Cruelty-free and vegan. Contains various organic ingredients, worth knowing in case that’s important to you.* Costs around CAD12-15 for 237 ml.
Phytodéfrisant, for comparison: pretty “green” too, and not a case of greenwashing or bandwagon-jumping, cruelty-free, sustainable production, recycling, decent ethical practices. One minus: CAD27-33 for 150 ml. Pluses: fragrance-free, less is needed so tube lasts longer, lasts for at least 2 years before going off (tried and tested), and available in different sizes of tub, including a good trial/travel mini. Minus: that mini is about the same price as a full bottle of B-5.
INGREDIENTS: Deionized Water, Organic Aloe Vera, Panthenol (Vitamin B-5), Organic Gum Arabic, Tragacanth Gum, Organic Rosa Mosqueta Rose Hip Seed Oil, Inositol, Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids-Cysteine, Para-Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA), Horse Chestnut Extract, Coltsfoot Extract, Horsetail Extract, Nettle Extract, Linoleic Acid (Vitamin F), Biotin, Organic Orange Oil, Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids-Methionine, Organic Balsam Oil, Aubrey’s Preservative: (Citrus Seed Extract, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E)
* I’m easy on this issue. But I’m not allergic to plastics, toxins, chemicals, science, people in lab coats, pragmatism, empiricism, scepticism, reason, research, and good old-fashioned Common Sense. Given that I have what I’d consider more serious and immediate allergies to worry about. Though there’s some intersection and common ground as I often happen to choose, as with the B-5, the same products for other environmental and ethical reasons.

Styling Products -Phyto – Phytodefrisant  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 2/24/2010 2:08:00 AM

Phytodéfrisant Botanical Hair Relaxing Balm is a fine clear odourless gel-like substance. Used for two purposes here (on fine, thick, slightly wavy, untreated/virgin hair):
(1) if blowdrying–which I sometimes do a little, not till fully dry, on the curlier bits underneath, and/or trying to get out the house without wet hair in rain… maybe twice a month maximum through the winer. One of the best styling products I’ve ever used (the other is the cheap-as-chips Boots Expert Heat Protection Straightening Balm), and the only good one without silicones I’ve met.
(2) regularly, after every wash: to defrizz. My hair is a mix of straight and wavy. With this stuff, no frizzy bits, and the curliest hair just goes nicely wavy and slightly volumised.
Very little is needed. Doesn’t build up on hair, or feel crusty or coated, nor make it drier or greasier than normal. Hair just feels good, nice, with swing and bounce. Other factors here: using Phytojoba shampoo and Avalon Organics grapeseed & olive fragrance-free conditioner; eating mainly vegetarian; not colouring or otherwise treating hair, not using any other styling etc. products or apparatus, and almost always air-drying hair.
The nearest cheaper alternative I’ve found is Aubrey Organics B-5 gel; very nearly as good; but scented, drying if used without a break, greater quantity needed per application, and it went off before I’d finished the bottle. Worth a try, but after my fling I’m back to loyalty. [I briefly–early 2011–lowered this rating, now back up to a 5.]
Phyto is a good ethical company, cruelty-free etc. Recyclable aluminium stand-up tube with plastic flip-top cap. Pricey: CAD24.00 for 100 ml or the better deal of CAD28.00 for 150 ml–Sephora prices as in 10/2009 to 02/2010– but even the smaller tube will last (conservatively, pessimistically) a good year.
INGREDIENTS: Althea Officinalis Root Extract (Plant Mucilage)*, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract,* Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Allium Sativum (Garlic) Bulb Extract*, Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract*, Ferula Assa Foetida Root Extract*, Propylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Methylisothiazolinone
* = botanical/plant origin 

Treatments -Phyto – Phyto 7  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 7/1/2009 3:29:00 PM

(UPDATED 06/2010) Phyto 7 is a sort of cream-serum, and more or less odourless. (If yours smells, it’s old stock: return it to seller.) Slippy but not greasy, no silicone, easy to use and sinks straight in. Packaging: small aluminium tube, with flip-top cap. A leave-in conditioner, can be used for three purposes:
(1) as a leave-in conditioner. Apply to well-towel-dried hair, a dab rubbed between hands and applied to the ends and lengths of hair. I avoid the scalp; can grease it up. If you’ve squeezed out too much, apply more to hair ends. Do make sure hair is drier, as per instructions: when I first tried this stuff out, on damper hair, I used up more and hair dried sticky, dulled, and slightly tangled.
(2) Use as a top-up conditioner, especially applied to hair ends. Again, on towel-dried hair (after washing, using a regular conditioner, rinsing out, drying).
(3) Also good in between washes, applied to dry hair. I do this more or less daily.
Hair here is more or less normal, untreated, long, fine (strands) and thick/dense (no. & concentration of strands), slightly wavy. Can get drier ends.
Results here: hair is in good condition, wavy rather than frizzy. Used as a leave-in, it’s deliciously lightweight whilst detangling superbly; I’ve been alternating the Phyto 7 with Aubreys Organics GPB conditioner (using this every 10-14 days). Current shampoo: Phytojoba (winter) or (summer 2010) a 50:50 mix of Phytojoba and Everyday Shea Unscented Moisturizing Body Wash alternating with the latter alone.
Bonus: has a similar effect on my hair to Phytodéfrisant, in terms of detangling, smoothing, and defrizzing. So it doubles up with the Phytodéfrisant’s job: good news if you’re traveling and packing light. Alas, this doesn’t mean you can substitute the cheaper Phytodéfrisant for Phyto 7 as a leave-in: tried, doesn’t work, leaves hair sticky and dry…
Phyto 7 seems to work well on quite a range of drier hair types, and greater quantities could be used as a leave-in (but that would be rather expensive). Phyto 9 suggested for very dry hair; tried it out, too oily on my hair.
It is, however, expensive: EUR 16.00-19.00 for 50 ml in Dublin; EUR 9.00-12.00 online (plus shipping); GBP 13.00 or so; USD 18.00-26.00. On the other hand, not much is needed per wash. Good company ethics, and has been the case for a long time so not bandwaggon-jumping greenwashing here (no animal testing, active environmental research, plant-based and sustainable materials where possible, recyclable packaging).
INGREDIENTS: Althea officinalis root extract, Lecithin (Soya), Prunus armeniaca (Apricot) kernel oil, Glycerin (from palm oil), Arctium majus (Burdock) root extract, Calendula officinalis (Calendula) flower extract, Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) leaf extract, Salix alba (Willow) leaf extract, Salvia officinalis (Sage) leaf extract, Propylene Glycol, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Sodium Benzoate.

Treatments -Giovanni – Direct Leave in Conditioner  rated 3 of 5 gingerrama on 4/18/2009 4:48:00 PM

UPDATED: JULY 2009. Used this since mid-March; now no longer as seriously dried out hair. Currently using Phyto’s Phytobaume and their Phyto 7 on lengths & ends afterwards.
For the first month (to time of writing of original reviews): outstanding, fabulous – I avoid using “HG” – mix of scepticism and superstition – and wouldn’t before a good year or so. Really good.
[June update]: Needs to be alternated with another conditioner about every 3rd or 4th wash, otherwise hair dries out. So it’s very very very nearly perfect – but not quite. Also, starting to dislike the smell.
[original and unadulterated review] I met the Direct through other reviews here and raves on the Hair Board, so my thanks to fellow MUAers. Have used it both as a leave-in and as a rinse-out. Works for both: I’m particularly impressed with performance as a leave-in, which makes my life easier / better / a few minutes lazier during the week. Minimal formula: the main actives seem to be soy protein (like Aubrey Organics’ lovely GPB), panthenol, good old coconut-oil derivatived cetyl alcohol; and yarrow, mallow, and horsetail – old-fashioned moisturising stuff. Plus various herbal oils said to be good for scalp (nettle, rosemary, sage, birch). Nothing dramatic, and how well it works would have a lot to do with the balance of ingredients within the whole. However it does it, it works. Best leave-in I’ve used since Aveda discontinued Curessence (*sigh*), and since I last used Nexxus stuff.
Hair here: untreated, more or less normal, fine strands but lots of them, slightly wavy, a little below shoulder-length. Prone to upset: needs a conditioner that’s potent enough to detangle the thickness, but not too rich otherwise individual strands get weighed down and greasiness ensues. And hair stuff must smell fairly nice. Got corrupted by Aveda’s gorgeous smells; other vaguely natural ones are fine by my nose too, loathe the artificial phoney scents in so much haircare.
Whichever way I’m using the Direct, it’s after shampoo + rinse + squeeze out water with towel. Head upside down, making sure to get the hair length and little near the roots (but some, and massaging the scalp well). It was suprising how little was needed: about a dime/20 euro-cent/20p blob for the length, another for the rest. If using as a rinse-out, I find I use a bit more (then leave for about a minute max., then rinse out); if as a leave-in, slightly less, then running it through with fingers then a wide-toothed comb. Texture: easy to use – neither too runny/liquid nor too thick. Smells OK – mild, clean, slightly herbal. Sinks in fast, and there’s few strands down the shower drain: both good signs.
I usually air-dry hair; hair is left smooth, shiny, bouncy, completely tangle-free. Stays that way for 2-3 days, which is about right for my hair: Lavera Basis dried it out, and that was 4 days between washes – could have gone even longer, that dry; Aveda Brilliant lovely for a day then greased up. And these were the most successful of my recent conditioner experiments… Hair still nicely detangled the morning after, manageable, feels strong, a good stretch and “ping” to it. Mmm.
Cheap as chips in North America (something around 7-8 USD); GBP 8.00; EUR 11.00. 250 ml bottle. Looks like the bottle will last a good while, given how little is needed. So as not to be doing straight protein all the time (my hair gets a bit dry that way), alternating with Urtekram Camomile Conditioner (approx. every third wash).
INGREDIENTS: Aqua (purified water) with *rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) oil, *nettle (Uritica dioica) oil, *thyme (Thymus vulagris) oil, birch leaf (Butela alba) oil, *chamomile (Anthemis nobilus flower) oil, *clary (Salvia sclarea), *lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), *coltsfoot leaf (Tussilago farfara), *yarrow (Achillea millefolium) oil, *mallow (Malva sylvestris), *horsetail (Equistetum arvense) oil, *soybean protein (Glycine soja), cetyl alcohol (plant derived), tocopherol (vitamin E), panthenol (pro vitamin B5), trace minerals, citric acid (corn), sodium hydroxymethyglycinate, grapefruit seed (citrus derived), fragrance from essential oils.
* = organic

Treatments -Weleda – Rosemary Hair Lotion  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 7/29/2008 9:46:00 AM

Excellent stuff, and much better than the Oil version (discontinued in the UK and Ireland, and to the best of my knowledge discontinued as no longer being produced … though this Lotion isn’t, staying strong for the moment!). This is a solution of rosemary oil, stonecrop/wall pepper and horseradish extracts, and rosemary and lavender essential oils (full ingredients at end of review). That’s about it. According to Weleda, positive results have something to do with sulphur and silica in said herbs. Hmmm. I have no idea whether or not this is (a) true, (b) proven, (c) provable, or (d) generally useful and applicable; but this stuff is working well on this individual’s particular head and hair, however it’s doing it.
I have found the Lotion to be useful in the following ways:
(1) As a pre-wash: turn head upside-down, dampen hair, put 2-3 drops of the Lotion in palm of hand, rub hands together, and apply to scalp, massaging gently. Leave for a couple of minutes while washing face and rest of self, then rinse out. Shampoo as normal.
(2) Adding one drop (just one – it’s intensive) to conditioner, and mixing that in palm of hand before applying to hair in the usual way. Leaves hair even more beauteous, shiny, smooth, and detangled than usual. I’m also using the Weleda Rosemary & Ginger Conditioner; hair thus also smells lush afterwards. Mind you, if you don’t like rosemary, that might be a problem.
(3) On the rare occasion that I blow-dry my hair – just the underside, if it’s going frizzy with dampness or rain – I smear through a drop of the Lotion first, in the areas to be dried, as a heat-protection treatment.
Admittedly this is not a proper controlled experiment, and there are of course other factors to be taken into account, but… my hair and scalp are in an excellent state. I had used the Weleda Rosemary stuff ages ago when scalp was dry and flaky, and went back to it recently when getting a bit of scaly eczema (entirely stress-related). Recommended. The Weleda Rosemary stuff is recommended, that is (i.e. this and the Rosemary & Ginger range), not eczema or stress.
Comes in a slighty clunky dark glass bottle, with dropper-top. This isn’t ideal for the shower, but the best way to keep such an essential-oily solution, and so far I’ve never broken one of these bottles (touch wood) despite dropping them a few times – they’re pretty solid, and bounce well on a rubber shower-mat. Contents could probably be decanted into a dark plastic container, but ensure you have a dropper! Fairly easy to get hold of in health food stores etc. in the UK and Ireland; costs EUR 9.95 / GBP 5.95 / USD ??? Lasts months and months. Probably a good year or so.
INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Alcohol, Horseradish (Cochlearia Armoracia) Extract, Wall Pepper (Sedum Acre) Extract, Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) Oil, Fragrance (Parfum: natural essential oils of Lavender, Rosemary), Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol.
NB Just so you’re warned: Some of the oils in the formula are common irritants, i.e. they have been known to cause irritation in a good number of individuals (particularly lavender, limonene, linalool, and geraniol). This is a question of probability, not a matter of definite guaranteed result. It does not mean that they *will* irritate you, nor even that, if you are generally more irritable, you’ll be irritated; irritability is a more complex thing and varies from individual to individual. The product’s formulation should also be taken into account (and so how ingredients interact within it). Ex. I have “sensitive” skin (thin, fragile, easily irritated and damaged) and occasional eczematic tendencies, am not OK with some ingredients, can’t stand horseradish in its edible sauce form, but am fine with the Lotion.

Treatments -Aveda – Brilliant Damage Control Spray  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 8/24/2007 5:43:00 PM

Aha! Brilliant thing, this.
Heat-protecting styling potion with no silicones and with the most gorgeous smell. I do usually leave my hair to dry naturally – it’s happier and healthier that way.* But I’ll often dry the underside at the back, where it goes madly curly and grows perpendicular and slightly upwards out of the scalp; happy with the curl, but drying it at the root to pull it down and prevent really weird cowlick. This stuff does live up to its name – I can dry the under-hair every day and it does not dry out, split, and so on.
I have to agree with previous reviewers on the name “damage control” being rather misleading. One could go further into scientific provability, correct linguistic usage, and marketing mind-games with feminine psychology and sympathetic-magic based fallacies. But semantics and sophistry tend to lead to lawyers.
I thought this would also work as a replacement for the lovely Curessence leave-in detangling spray conditioner (now RIP). But it doesn’t: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE THIS AS A STAND-ALONE LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER. It leaves hair dry, tangled, sticky, dull – you name the bad thing that hair oughtn’t to be, this stuff does it.
Good stuff on this particular hair (fine but thick, slightly dry, and shortish), but more of an extra than a basic everyday necessity; I can see this bottle lasting a good year or so, simply because I won’t be using it much.
As with any product, it might work on some people and not on others, as variety is the spice of life, so try before you buy. Aveda do mini/travel sizes of many of their products. If your nearest salon doesn’t have the one you’d like to try, they’re (in my experience) usually happy to give you a sample to try at home. The process can be helped along by buying some small thing that you know will be useful (can’t go wrong with another lipstick, surely…their lovely lip glazes, for instance…)
INGREDIENTS: aqueous extracts: chamomile flower, calendula flower, camellia oleifera leaf extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, polyquaternium-16, polyquaternium-10 (from plant fibre), hydrolyzed wheat protein, hydrolyzed wheat starch, cocamidopropyl pg-dimonium chloride phosphate (from coconut oil), peg-40 hydrogenated castor oil, soybean il, oryzanol (from rice), tocopherol (from soy), panthenol, pvp, maltodextrin, fragrance, geraniol, linalool, benzyl benzoate, citronellol, eugenol, hydroxycitronellal, limonene, amyl cinnamal, sodium gluconate, potassium sorbate, chlorphenesin, phenoxyethanol.
* Also, I like feeling smug about it when flattered by hairdressers, compensating for their tutting because of the scarcity of my visits. That’s due to my mortal terror of said professionals, their trays of mysterious instruments of torture, and insistence that I take off my glasses when having hair cut so I can’t see what they’re doing and then they dry the hair in a way that only sits put without glasses. Grrr.

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