Do L’Oreal products really thicken hair? Episode 79

L’Oreal has a number of products that claim to actually thicken your hair. This week Randy and I take a look how these products work and which ones provide the best value.

Claim to Fame: Fructus Full & Plush Ends Plumper

This is the segment of the showgram where we look at popular personal care product claims and tell you what the claim really means, how it can be true, and whether or not it means the product is worth spending more money on. This week we’re looking at a hair thickening claim that used across several L’Oreal products most notably on Garnier Fructis “Full & Plush Ends Plumper.”

What is the claim?

We always start by reviewing the exact language of the claim because sometimes a claim implies something but doesn’t really say it. So here are the exact claims from this Fructus product:

  • Our first targeted treatment with Fibra-Cylane and pomegranate that plumps wispy ends for a fuller look.
  • PLUMPS thinned-out ENDS*
  • …penetrates and plumps hair for a full, voluptuous look.
  • Instantly the LOOK OF MORE HAIR*
  • Hair feels FULLER & looks THICKER*
  • Touchably SOFT & PLUSH*
  • *Garnier Fructis Full & Plush System of Shampoo, Conditioner & Ends Plumper treatment.

How can the claim be true?

First let’s point out that some of these claims can be supported by almost any conventional styling product. Any product that leaves a significant coating on the hair (especially true of mousses, gels, putties, and so forth) can be said to make hair “feel fuller.” And any product that helps lock your style in place (like a hairspray) can say that it instantly gives you the “look of more hair.” So to some extent this sounds like the same old marketing speak. Claims like this can easily be supported by a salon test that shows when you style your hair and lock it in place your hair style has more volume.

But, some of their other claims refer to penetrating hair and thickening individual fibers which is NOT something you can achieve by coating hair with conventional products. So to understand how they might support those claims we need to take a closer look at their special technology which they call “Fibra-Cylane.” By reviewing their ingredient lists and looking at their patents, it appears that Fibra-Cylane is an ingredient called aminopropyl triethoxysilane.

According to L’Oreal, this ingredient works like this:

“It penetrates the hair shaft, expands and strengthens the hair…”

“it’s…Similar to the silica gel used to fill cracks in car windshields, the technology is also inspired by wrinkle fillers for the skin…”

“…Filloxane’s small molecules slip through hair cuticles, attracted like magnets to proteins inside the fiber. They bind to the hair proteins as well as to each other, forming a rigid, stable network that adds volume to naturally thin or aging hair”

The idea appears to be based on what is called “sol gel” technology which involves converting a solution into a solid gel. This chemistry is used in glass coatings to fill in cracks. Here’s a link to a video by one of the researchers who worked on the technology which features a petri dish demo of how it works. Although, she admits that it’s not a very realistic demo because it uses a highly concentrated solution. But still it’s interesting. Based on looking at the hair tresses in the video it looks like the material helps hair fibers hold their shape but without a heavy crust. It’s easy to imagine how they could support these “volumizing” claims if that’s how it works.

L’Oreal makes several mentions of how Fibra-Cylane penetrates hair. If the molecule is small enough this could be true and there are test methods that have documented silicone penetration into hair. For example, this 1995 paper talks show how silicones can penetrate through the cuticle and intro the cortex using an analtyical procedure known as scanning time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy (TOF-SIMS).

Should this claim persuade you to buy the product?

There SEEMS to be something significant here, but I couldn’t find any clear evidence of how well this stuff works compared to conventional technologies. There are a number of patents related to using aminopropyl triethoxysilane on hair but I couldn’t find anything like “this stuff thickens hair fibers by 39%” which is the kind of evidence I’d like to see. There was a paper presented at one of the technical symposiums titled “3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane: A new compound stemming from sol-gel chemistry provides thin hair fiber with more volume” but I haven’t been able to track down a copy to see if it provides more details.

So, it seems that L’Oreal may have some unique technology that can thicken hair from within but it’s tough to say for sure. The good news is, it’s relatively easy for you to try it for yourself. The bad news is that it can be confusing because L’Oreal uses this technology in no less than 6 different brands. AND, the prices varies wildly so you have to be careful which product you buy so you don’t get over-charged. Let’s take a look at each one so you can pick the one that’s best for you. For each brand we’ll tell you which product uses this technology, what they call the technology, the ingredients in the product, and the cost per ounce.

Interesting side note:  look at all the different words L’Oreal has for “volume” across their hair care brands:

  • Fructis has normal sounding “Volume Extend” collection
  • For L’Oréal Professionnel there’s the “Série Expert Vol-u-me-try”
  • Kerastase has the “VOLUM-I-FIQUE” and the “Vol-u-mor-phose” collections.
  • Kerastase also has “DEN-SI-FI-QUE” line and the“DEN-SI-MOR-PHOSE” mousse
  • And finally their Vichy brand has a “NEOGENIC REDENSIFYING SHAMPOO.”

All these are different ways of saying it looks like you have more hair. Wow.

Ok, now let’s talk about the specific products. Again, in case you weren’t aware, these are ALL L’Oreal brands.

Garnier Fructis Full & Plush Ends Plumper Amplifying leave in serum

Technology name: Fibra-Cylane.

Comments: Obviously we’ve already talked about this one. As we said the technology is called “Fibra-Cylane.” As you can see from the ingredient list (which we’ll post in the show notes) it does contain aminopropyl triethoxysilane but it appears to use a lower level and it contains a good slug of a traditional styling polymer. So even if this one does thicken your hair that may be overwhelmed by the feeling of a crusty styling coating. However, it’s also the cheapest product in the line at just over $1.00 per ounce.


Cost: $5.49/5oz = $1.10/oz

Biolage by Matrix Advanced FiberStrong Fortifying Cream

Technology name: Intra-Cylane (with Bamboo)

Comments: This one uses Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane in a cream base but it appears to be at a higher level. So at $3.25/oz you’ll pay a little more but you may get more of the active agent.

Ingredients: Aqua / Water / Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, Cetyl Esters, Amodimethicone, Parfum / Fragrance, Behentrimonium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Trideceth-6, Benzyl Alcohol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Cetrimonium Chloride, Linalool, 2-Oleamido-1,3-Octadecanediol, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Limonene, Geraniol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Bambusa Vulgaris Extract.

Cost: $22/6.8oz = $3.25/oz

Vichy Dercos Instant Filler

Technology name: Filloxane

Comments: Vichy calls the technology “Filloxane” because it “fills in” your hair. Get it? It’s the purest version basically just a solution of aminopropyl triethoxysilane in water. It’s $3.25/oz which is only slightly more expensive than the Matrix version so if you want to try it without the cream base, this is a great option.

Ingredients: Aqua, Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, Lactic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicytate, Citronellol, Hexyl Cinnamate, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Limonene, Linalool, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Parfum (Fragrance).

Cost: $14/4.3 oz = $3.25/oz

L’Oreal Paris Advanced Haircare Volume Filler Fiber Amplifying Concentrate In-Shower Treatment

Technology name: Filloxane

Comments: Here they also use the name “Filloxane” for the technology. It’s also the same basic formula as the Vichy version except it has some castor oil to thicken it up and it sells for a few cents more.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Fragrance, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Linalool, Limonene, Citronellol, Geraniol

Cost: $5.59/1.5 oz = $3.72/oz

L’Oreal Professional Volumetry Anti-gravity Serum Booster

Technology name: Intra-Cylane

Comments: Just like Matrix they call the technology Intra-Cylane. It’s appears to be the exact same formula base as the L’Oreal Paris product but it sells for about $10 per oz which is almost three times the price. So stay away from this one!

Ingredients: Water, Aminopropyl Triethoxysilane, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Phenoxyethanol, Limonene., Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Geraniol, CItral, Benzyl Alcohol, Parfum

Cost: $6/0.6 oz = $10/oz

Kérastase Resistance Volumorphose Volume Expansion Treatment

Technology name: Intra-Cylane

Comments: Again we see the “Intra-Cylane” name used but the Kerastase name is what will really cost you. This one sells for $20/oz which is ridiculous! I think they may have discontinued this because I could only find it on reseller sites and not L’oreal’s actual website.

Cost: 30-0.66 oz vials/$400 = $20/oz.

So, there you have it, a complete run down on L’Oreal products with “sol-gel” technology.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

L’Oreal may have some unique technology that can thicken hair from within. However, even though the technology appears to be heavily protected by patents it’s difficult to say how well this works compared to conventional products. In fact, some of the claims L’Oreal makes can be achieved with standard formulas. This good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to try it out for yourself IF you know what to look for.

(Here’s the link to the Gawker article on the Food Babe vs. the Science Babe that we talked about.)