MC Wonders says: John Frieda has a new product out called “7 Day Volume In-Shower Treatment“. They claim this rinse-out gel will create fullness that lasts 3-5 shampoos. The marketing claim about this new technology/approach to volume is hard to resist, but based on the ingredients, do you think it’s even possible or would I be rinsing money straight down the drain and unnecessarily adding a step to my already long shower routine?
Beauty Brains responds:
This question is similar to the one we answered about L’Oreal’s hair thickening products but Frieda uses different technology and has different claims so I think this is worth a look. Let’s start by looking some of the key claims and what they mean.
What are the claims?
In case you didn’t realize, John Frieda is owned by Kao, a very large Japanese cosmetic company. They’re not as large as Procter & Gamble or Unilever but there certainly big enough that they’ve done their homework and you know they’ve researched their products and have solid claim support. So let’s look at what they say about this volumizing product.
- Texturally transforms fine hair— Ok, so it somehow changes the texture of your hair. Is that really meaningful? Not really, any ingredient that can deposit on the hair and change the way it feels could be said to change the texture.
- [leaves hair] full even after multiple washes. Is this an important claim? It depends on quantification. HOW MUCH fuller does it make your hair? There’s a bit of weasel wording here because it’s only claiming to “LEAVE” hair full. That sounds like it just doesn’t take away any volume. It’s not even directly claiming to add volume. And HOW MANY washes does it last through? Multiple could mean 2 which is not a very compelling claim. If multiple means 20, that’s a different story.
- This lightweight semi-permanent treatment establishes a base for volumized styling, enabling her to achieve a look previously viewed unattainable. “Establishes a base for volumized styling” doesn’t mean much at all. The idea of being able to “achieve a look previously viewed unattainable” sounds like puffery to me.
- The treatment works by penetrating into each fiber and amplifying each hair strand for lift that lasts through multiple washes. We talked about this in Episode 79.
- Volume that outlasts your shampoo. That seems to be setting the bar fairly low. It’s just another way of saying it lasts through more than 1 shampooing, I guess.
How does the product work?
Looking at the ingredient list you’ll see several standard styling polymers like POLYQUATERNIUM-37 and VP/VA COPOLYMER. These are used in many, many hair styling products. But there is one ingredient that’s not quite as commonly used and that’s Polyimide-1.
WATER, ISODECYL NEOPENTANOATE, PVP, POLYQUATERNIUM-37, VP/VA COPOLYMER, CETYL ALCOHOL, POLYIMIDE-1, BENZYL ALCOHOL, HYDROXYPROPYL METHYLCELLULOSE, FRAGRANCE, SILICONE QUATERNIUM-18, TRIDECETH-6, MALIC ACID, TRIDECETH-12, GLYCINE, STEARTRIMONIUM CHLORIDE, GLYCERIN, HYDROLYZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN PG-PROPYL SILANETRIOL, ALCOHOL DENAT., AMP-ISOSTEAROYL HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN, HYDROLYZED KERATIN, METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE, METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE, GREEN 3.
Polyimide-1 is the official INCI name but it’s short hand for it’s much longer, more descriptive chemical name: ”isobutylene/dimethylaminopropyl maleimide/ethoxylated maleimide/maleic acid copolymer.” You’ll also hear it referred to by its tradename which is Aquaflex XL-30.
This material is an amphoteric polymer (which means it can have either a positive or negative charge, depending on the pH.) According to Aqualon it has “unique film properties that has demonstrated benefit in curling, volume boosting and durable hold on hair, and tightening on skin. In addition, in hair care, when used with typical thickeners, Aquaflex XL-30 polymer provides synergistic high-humidity curl retention.”
It’s known for giving hair the power of long-lasting curl, body and texture without a heavy after-feel. So this is an effective polymer but it’s not technology that’s exclusive to Frieda. We’ve seen this used in other brands, although not very many mainstream products. Here are a few examples:
- Orlando Pita Volumizing and Thickening Hair Mist
- Samy Fat Hair “0” Calories Amplifying Mousse
- Bosley Volumizing & Thickening Nourishing Leave-in
- Jessicurl products
A variety of brands use this technology in a number of different product formats. A “mist”, mousse, leave in liquid, etc. Price points vary.
Let’s take a look at how the product is used.
The instructions tell you to first shampoo and condition your hair and then while you’re still in the shower apply a generous amount of this product and let it sit on your hair for 3 to 5 minutes before rinsing.
Now here’s the important part: next you have to blow dry your hair. Why is that so important? Because the heat of the blowdryer essentially melts the polymer and distributes it more evenly across the hair shaft. It also helps it bond to the hair better. Also the blowdry stop creates more volume in your hair. So if you’re not a fan of blowdrying this product is probably not for you.
Finally the instructions say to “Allow 2-3 washes before your next treatment.” “Allow” is strange language. So it sounds like this lasts 2-3 washings. That may be 7 days for some people but only a day or two for others!
So far everything you said is rather theoretical so let’s take a look and see if there is any proof of how this product works.
Is there any proof the product really works?
It would be really unusual to find any published data on a product like this. There’s no patented technology that would show up in the technical literature and there’s nothing that unique about it that the company would really want to crow about. So we have to look to some of the supplier literature to see if they have published anything about this. We did find a couple of pieces of information that help explain the volumizing affects and how well it lasts through shampoos.
Proof it provides volume but not washability
The first is an article that’s really more about methods of measuring hair volume but polyamide-1 is one of the ingredients they screened. This study helps provide a data point but it’s more about showing how difficult it is to measure hair volume in a meaningful way.
So essentially all this means is that if you put this stuff on hair and shape the hair to give it more volume then the ingredient will help maintain that hair shape and therefore maintain your volume. There’s no evidence it works by getting inside the hair, rather it appears to work as a traditional styling agent. Of course traditional styling agents just wash out so what’s more interesting about this technology is that it stays in your hair. Let’s talk about that.
Will it last through multiple washings?
We couldn’t find any published data proving the durability of this polymer but there are two other data points that help make the case. First there’s the information in the supplier literature that talks about it lasting through multiple washings. Even though the company doesn’t provide their data, we know Aqualon is a reliable source so it’s reasonable to assume they’ve got something to back this up.
The reason I’m not too concerned about this is very simple. The claim itself isn’t very impactful. Here’s what I mean by that. If they claimed that the product tripled the volume of the hair and maintained 100% of that increase for a week then I would be impressed and would to see very specific data. But all they’re really saying is it gives you some fullness and it lasts up to seven days depending on how often you shampoo. For that to be true all they really have to prove is that some residue remains on your hair through a couple of shampoo cycles. And in fact we found a patent that demonstrates these kinds of compositions can last through 5 shampoo cycles.
They did a test where they applied the product and then shampooed the tresses every day for 5 days and showed residual effect (smoothness and shine). Of course, these are very small effects and they’re measured on tresses which allow you to take very small measurements. This doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be able to perceive this stuff is still on your hair after 5 washes.
Interestingly this patent shows these compositions can also give hair LESS volume if flat ironed.
So what’s the bottom line here?
John Frieda is using a polymer that can bind to the hair and increase volume to SOME extent. Plus, the technology can stay on your hair though multiple shampoos. It’s not unreasonably priced (about $8 or $9) so if this benefit appeals to you there’s no reason not to try it. If you don’t like the way it feels you can quickly wash it out. I think this is one of those products where individual results will vary greatly. If you have the type of hair that’s very sensitive to having a residue on it and that residue can give you the texture that you get from that residue gives you the type of volume feel that you like then you’ll really like this product.
But for some people that residue won’t be sufficient to really have much of an impact on their volume. Unfortunately there’s no way to predict how well this will work for any given individual, but the good news is the products not that expensive so just give it a try.
Measurements of hair volume by laser stereometry, JSCC March 2009 issue.