Time takes a perverse toll on hair. Strands that were once carefree and full of life become brittle, coarse, and limp. For some, it’s a gradual process that begins with a few sporadic grays and ends in a dried up desert, with split ends blowing in the wind like tumbleweeds. For others, it’s as if one day the hairs collectively roll over and play dead (though technically-speaking, they were dead all along). According to a national study, less than two in ten women ages 35-54 describe their hair as "healthy". You can’t escape the effects of aging, and if you’ve started the vicious cycle of coloring your hair, those effects grow exponentially. But Finesse’s new ReVitality hair care line hopes to lend some help in setting back your hair’s clock.

When I first heard about ReVitality, I assumed that Finesse - a budget-friendly fixture on drugstore shelves for the past three decades - was merely staging a reinvention tour (a la Madonna). But after taking a closer look at the ingredients, I was rather impressed with Finesse’s new line and surprised by how many popular anti-aging actives popped out from the list. They were ingredients I’ve seen many times before...in skin care products. Could their powers be equally effective on the hair? I put a trio of ReVitality products - Hydrate & Recover Shampoo/Conditioner and Stimulate & Repair Scalp Balm - to the test.

At the time of this writing, Finesse’s ReVitality ingredient lists were nowhere to be found online. So, I set to work transcribing the ingredients from the back of the bottles. In comparing the formulas for ReVitality shampoo and conditioner to those of the original products (Moisturizing, in particular), I realized that nearly all of the ingredients remain, though shuffled around in varying amounts. One cluster in particular, however, makes its debut in the ReVitality range. This anti-aging complex includes collagen, silk amino acids, tocopheryl acetate, retinyl palmitate, ubiquinone (CoQ10), and sodium ascorbyl phosphate.

Hydrolyzed from pure silk fibers, silk amino acids have such a low molecular weight that they can penetrate the hair shaft, providing moisture, adding softness, and repairing structure. Another relatively small molecule, CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant - naturally produced by the body - which declines with age. CoQ10 has performed well against cell damage from oxidative stress in many trials, and one study found that CoQ10 can stimulate age-relevant hair keratins (structural proteins) in the roots, thus enhancing the health of the hair follicles. The triple threat of vitamins - tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), retinyl palmitate (vitamin A), and sodium ascorbyl phosphate (a vitamin C derivative) - act as rejuvenating antioxidants.

The rest of the components in the shampoo and conditioner are the same run-of-the-mill cleansers, conditioners, silicones, and fillers that you’ll find in many of Finesse’s formulas. Some good ones are cetrimonium chloride, which helps prevent static and build-up, and hydrolized soy protein, which adds shine and silkiness. You probably know that collagen acts as an essential support structure for skin, giving it elasticity. So what’s this protein doing in a hair product? Collagen supplements are said to increase hair suppleness and tensile strength; however, collagen in a topical rinse-out preparation probably won’t get absorbed by the hair, thus making its inclusion in the formula more useful for selling products than for benefiting hair.

Not surprisingly for a mainstream drugstore brand, Finesse’s shampoo is marred by ammonium lauryl sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate, both close chemical cousins of sodium lauryl sulfate. There is an irrefutable link between sulfates and contact dermatitis, so those with sensitive skin may experience dryness and itching where the shampoo had contact. Combined with cocamide MEA (a potential carrier of carcinogenic nitrosamines), irritating sodium hydroxide, and several possibly toxic PEGs such as PEG-5 cocamide, the harsh sulfates make Finesse’s shampoo hard to recommend.

However, the scalp balm, and even the conditioner (to a lesser extent), are a different story. Though I liked the way my hair looked after shampooing and conditioning with Finesse ReVitality, it was the application of the scalp balm that really stood out. This invigorating pre-shampoo treatment is enriched with jojoba seed oil, niacin (vitamin B3), and the same anti-aging complex as the other formulas. My scalp was woken up by the creamy balm’s menthol, and my roots emerged from the treatment feeling healthier. After following with the ReVitality shampoo/conditioner and blow-drying, I’d venture to say my tresses have never looked so soft since childhood, before I started making regular appointments for “sun-kissing” with my colorist.

All priced under $5, the three ReVitality products I tested are good buys as far as drugstore brands go. Each formula builds upon the tried-and-true originals in the Finesse line, giving fans of its products in the ‘80s hope for their aging tresses today. Though sinister ingredients occasionally crop up (most often in the shampoo), the products do a good job of updating the basic Finesse formula for an older generation. Enriched with anti-agers that have been proven to work for skin care and may contribute similar benefits in hair care, the ReVitality line shows promise for strands that have seen better, younger days.

Finesse Hydrate and Recover Conditioner Ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Cetrimonium Chloride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethiconol, TEA Dodecylbenzene Sulfonate, Silk Amino Acids, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Sodium PCA, Tocopheryl Acetate, Collagen, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ubiquinone (Co-Q10), Quaternium 18, Fragrance (Parfum), Potassium Chloride, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, DMDM Hydrantoin, Methylchloroisothiazolinone,  Methylisothiazolinone.

Finesse Hydrate and Recover Shampoo Ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamide MEA, PEG-5 Cocamide, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Dimethiconol, TEA Dodecylbenzene Sulfonate, Glycerin, Amodimethicone, C11 15 Pareth 7, Laureth 9, Trideceth 12, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Silk Amino Acids, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Collagen, Ubiquinone (Co-Q10), Sodium PCA, Fragrance (Parfum), Carbomer, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Mica (CI 77019), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), PEG 45M, PPG 9, Ammonium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, DMDM Hydrantoin,  Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methlisothiazolinone.

Finesse Stimulate and Repair Scalp Balm:
Water (Aqua), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Quaternium 18, Glyceryl Monostearate, Glycerin, PEG 40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Niacin, Silk Amino Acids, Hydrolized Soy Protein, Ubiquinone (Co-Q10), Collagen, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Menthol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 20, Disodium EDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methlisothiazolinone, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance.