I have always suspected that behind Carol's Daughter there isn't some folksy lady whipping up natural products in her kitchenette in Brooklyn, but a marketing genius. Lisa, whose mom was called Carol and who got into the potion business because she was inspired by her Nana's hair pomade, looks in her publicity shots like a cross between Oprah and Martha Stewart with her comfy cardies and mixing bowls full of all-natural homemade shampoo. It's the kind of image that makes unkind snoops like me want to see if all is as it seems.

Much to even my own surprise, Carol's Daughter failed at my first sniff test. I had innocently thought that the name of a product such as Mimosa Hair Honey ($15.50) would be a reasonable clue as to the contents. But no, there is neither honey nor mimosa in Mimosa Hair Honey. You will not find any vanilla in Black Vanilla Leave-in Conditioner ($11.50). Other names, such as Tui and Khoret Amen, seem to exist only in the world of Carol's Daughter and don't bear any relation to the contents. After comparing names with ingredients on half a dozen shampoos and conditioners, I was relieved to find that Rosemary Mint Herbal Shampoo ($12.50) does contain essential oils of both.

Eventually, I began to understand why Carol's Daughter comes up with all these names. All the products are essentially the same. No, really. Carol's Daughter's conditioners all have the same set of ingredients. According to Sephora (the ingredients aren't listed on the company's own website), the contents of Black Vanilla Leave-in Conditioner and Tui Leave-in Conditioner are identical:

Lavender Extract, Rosemary Extract, Nettles Extract, Rose Flower Extract, Sage Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Delphinium Consolida Flower Extract, Clover Extract, Vodka, Ceteth-20 Glycerin, Water, Sodium PCA, Fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin And Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tetradibutyl Pentaerithrityl.

Khoret Amen's is almost identical, in that it has all of the above and some ylang-ylang and clary oils thrown in. Moving on to shampoos, Tui Herbal Shampoo looks a lot like Rosemary and Mint, except for the Rosemary and Mint.

Still, perhaps you can never have too much of a good thing. To be fair, all of those extracts are known to be good for hair health. However, I'm not sure what Nana would make of sodium magnesium silicate, which is used in cement and for muffler repair (although the CIR says tests demonstrated it not to be irritating when used in cosmetics). DMDM Hydantoin is sometimes considered dangerous because of its toxic formaldehyde component, although the percentage is so small that it has been approved safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. If I was Nana, I'd be turning in my grave at iodoproynyl butylcarbamate. It can cause irritation or an allergic reaction on sensitive skin. a Danish study published in the April 2006 issue of Contact Dermatitis found that it can be a toxicant, cause contact dermatitis and have immune effects. Phenoxyethanol is suspected of being a neurotoxin as well as an irritant.