ReBlog: Are Botanical/Herbal Extracts Really Just Pixie Dust???

Happy Sunday everyone! Here is an article I felt was worthy of re-blogging. I came across it on The Beauty Brains, who's site is near and dear to my someone who enjoys the technicalities of hair care and products. Anywho, I've blogged several times about not falling prey to deceptive marketing practices and labeling when it comes to things for our hair. Don't be taken in or swayed by buzzwords, rare exotic oils (that are in truth, last on the ingredient list), and miracle claims. Read up on your products, and always keep Jc's rule of the first five ingredients in the forefront of your mind when you do.


Are Botanical/Herbal Extracts in Hair Products Really Effective?

Kusanagi’s question…I’m considering getting a “Twist Defining Cream” and it has a bunch of extracts listed near the top of the list. Are they delivering the promise of the product or are they just pixie dust? I note they aren’t listed as “Active Ingredients” but “Key Ingredients”. Your site has been so helpful. I give thanks to Kwan Yin for the Beauty Brains!
Post image for Are Botanical/Herbal Extracts in Hair Products Really Effective?
The Right Brain responds:
I think the best way to answer it is to look at what the product is supposed to do and then assess whether the natural extracts in the formula help it perform that function or not.
Based on the ingredients that you gave us (which I’ve listed below) I’m guessing that this is the “As I Am” Twist cream. Here’s what their website has to say about the product:
“Shiny smoothness, (and lots of it), is what you’ll get when you twist with this one-of-a-kind rich creamy styler. Made especially for highly textured hair with nurturing natural oils, plus an organic extract that provides the ultimate in moisturization. There’s even a wondrous organic compound blended in that works to block DHT and stimulate healthy hair growth.”
So to summarize, they are saying the three key functions of this product are to help:
  • Give you a twisty style
  • Smooth and moisturize hair
  • Stimulate hair growth by blocking DHT.
The last claim is the most outrageous. There are a lot of products that talk about blocking DHT but there’s no evidence that this is effective in restoring hair growth. If it were it would be a drug product so it doesn’t matter whether the ingredients are botanicals or not.
The second claim is more plausible. Natural oils can be highly effective smoothing and moisturizing agents, especially in a leave on product. Both coconut oil and shea butter are excellent refatting agents for hair and we’ve blogged many times about how coconut oil can penetrate into the cortex and strengthen hair.
The first claim about hair styling is plausible but doesn’t require naturalingredients, it requires waxy materials or even styling polymers. Looking at the ingredient list we see that the formula includes Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Behenyl Alcohol, and Glyceryl Stearate which will help hold the hair in place because of their thick, waxy consistency. But even though these may be sourced from coconut oil these are clearly not “botanical extracts.”
You can also look at it this way: there are approximately 2 dozen ingredients In this formula. Of those ingredients I would say about eight of them are could be considered “botanical extracts.” Of those probably only five are contributing any functionality to the formula. I’m being a bit generous here because I’m guessing the coconut and shea are doing most of the moisturizing and not the castor oil, sunflower oil or the Amla.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

I would say that the botanical ingredients in this formula are more functional than the pixie dust used by many companies but without knowing the exact concentration at which they are used it’s difficult to say whether or not they are essential to the formula. If you like the way the product works for you and you can afford it, I say go for it. But if you find that it is too expensive, there are plenty of other styling products that can give you these benefits without expensive “botanicals.”

As I Am Twist Defining Cream Ingredients

Aqueous (Water, Aqua Purificada, Purified) Extracts: Cocos Nucifera (Coconut)¹ and Phyllanthus Emblica (Amla)¹ and Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine)¹ and Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root¹, Glycerin¹, Acetamide MEA, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil1, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil¹, Triethanolamine, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil¹, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)¹, Carbomer, Phytosterols², Disodium Ethylene Dicocamide PEG-15 Disulfate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Behenyl Alcohol¹, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Trideceth-12, TBHQ, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance/Parfum, Limonene.