Do natural ingredients do anything for hair?

Charlotte says…I was researching the purpose of the various components and found that comfrey helps prevent tangles, chamomile helps with shine, and witch hazel balances hydration and reduces frizz. Also, the first ingredient has to be the largest by volume, right? That’s ginseng (right after water) which is supposed to help with shine and strength. Don’t these ingredients play a role in the effect on hair as well? Let me know if there’s something I’m not considering.

The Beauty Brains respond:

I’ll let you in on a little secret of the cosmetic industry. Most of the “natural” sounding ingredients are used at extremely low levels, are put in formulas for claims purposes only, and are not expected to have ANY impact on the function of the formula. I know this might be difficult to believe but it is the truth. We even have a term in the industry for these raw materials “Claims Ingredients”.

But let’s begin with your question of concentration.

Ingredient concentration

While it is a rule in the cosmetic industry that ingredients with a concentration higher than 1% are required to be listed in order, the
 ingredient listing you gave is not a legal one. They are not following the rules in the way they list their ingredients. The first ingredient should be Water. Calling something an “Aqueous Infusion of…” is improper labeling. Since it is produced by a small company they will be able to get away with breaking the labeling rules for a short while (or longer) but they are simply tricking you. I guarantee you that Water is the number one concentration ingredient in the formula.

Effective ingredients

I have no doubt that you found information while researching that says Comfrey helps prevent tangles or chamomile helps with shine. But I can guarantee that the resources in which you found the information about those benefits being conferred by the natural ingredients were not science based. More likely they are the production of some raw material or finished product marketing group. They sound like great benefits but they really aren’t doing anything.

To give you an idea, Chamomile extract is typically sold to cosmetic manufacturers as a 1% solution. That means in a 3 ounce sample (~100 g) of the raw material, only 1 g comes from the chamomile plant. But it gets even worse. When formulators create a shampoo or conditioner with this raw material, they typically use less than 0.1%. So, if you were using an 8 ounce bottle of shampoo (~226 g) there is only 0.0023
g of actual Chamomile plant in the bottle.

It’s difficult to picture, but 0.0023 grams would be about the equivalent of putting a single drop of chamomile in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Even if the chamomile would have any ability to affect the shine (which isn’t proven scientifically) there just isn’t enough in the formula to have any noticeable effect.

We could do a similar exercise with the Comfrey extract and the Witch Hazel. These are just claims ingredients.

One other thing that I didn’t mention was that since these ingredients are included in a formula with surfactants, there are additional forces that will wash them away preventing them from even staying on the hair. And if there is any hope that they will work they must be left behind on the hair.

I hope that helps you better understand the formulas. There really is nothing special about the natural ingredients in this formula and they are not having any effect on the final results. If the formulator forgot to put them in there, you wouldn’t notice any difference.