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Bumble & Bumble Tonic Shampoo and Thickening Conditioner

December 6, 2010 Reviewed by Marta 4 Comments
The other day, Lori asked what we thought of Bumble & Bumble hair care products. There was a time (many years ago and back in the UK) when I used their products – they always had an upmarket, quality ingredients vibe, but I remember always being vaguely disappointed with them. Here at Truth In Aging, Bumble & Bumble hasn’t been on our radar much, so Lori’s comment prompted me to go take a look.

She mentioned that she’s tried the Tonic Shampoo and the Leave in Conditioner, was intrigued by the Quenching line and had tried the Thickening Serum with good results. Tracking down the ingredients without actually buying the products proved frustrating and I failed to turn up anything comprehensive for the Quenching range or the Thickening Serum. I did manage to find information on the Thickening Conditioner, however, and the Tonic Shampoo. Assuming that they are representative of the rest of the brand, I think I’ll pass on Bumble & Bumble.

The way I’d sum up Tonic Shampoo ($20) and Thickening Conditioner ($22) is that for every good ingredient there is one that is not so good. Which, I guess, makes them a wash (sorry, I even made myself groan at that one). Come to think of it, the bad in the conditioner may outweigh the good by two to one.

To be fair, there are some good ideas. The Thickening Conditioner uses silk powder, which will keep the formula lightweight (although some fine-haired reviewers complain that it is too heavy for them) while imparting 18 amino acids and reflecting UV radiation. Hops, of course, are the secret sauce in DIY beer treatments for hair and they contain B vitamins and prenylated flavonoids that are antioxidant.

The inclusion of wheat-based ingredients in the conditioner doesn’t make Bumble & Bumble much of a standout since they are ubiquitous in haircare products as they promote hair strength. However, the Tonic Shampoo has a good formula that is likely to keep dandruff at bay with lemongrass, rosemary and tea tree.

Unfortunately, the shampoo isn’t doing the environment any favors with tetrasodium EDTA, a widespread environmental pollutant. Meanwhile, the conditioner, which has a hazard score of 7 on the Cosmetic Database, has one of my least favorite ingredients, behentrimonium chloride. Used in haircare products as an anti-static, it is a toxic compound and concentrations of .1% and higher have been shown to damage the eyes by causing tissue death of the mucous membranes. It’s also highly flammable and irritating to the skin. There are skin irritation and toxicity issues with cetrimonium chloride, but it should be noted that they are dose dependent. I don’t much like lauramine oxide either. The International Journal of Toxicology reports skin irritation from lauramine oxide and recommends limiting its use to rinse off products at a maximum of 3.7% concentration.

There are several chemical sunscreen ingredients here. Octyl methoxycinnamate can cause mutation and cell death upon exposure to sunlight. On the other hand, it may not easily penetrate and, of course, in a hair conditioner, it is hopefully rinsed away before it can do any damage. Butyl Methoxy Benzoyl Methane is more commonly known as avobenzone. This is a controversial ingredient because it degrades in light and may be toxic if absorbed by the skin. For this reason it is not recommended for children or pregnant women.

There are the usual suspects in the preservative dept.

Ingredients in Tonic Shampoo

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Lauramide DEA, Tea Tree Oil, Rosemary Extract, Hops Extract, Peppermint Extract, Lemongrass Extract, White Nettle Extract, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium HEDTA, Isoceteth 20, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Propylene Glycol, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea, Menthol, Peppermint Oil, FD&C Yellow 6

Ingredients in Thickening Conditioner

Water, Cetearyl Alcohol (Purifed), Cyclomethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Silk Powder (Serica), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch, Aloe Barbadensis Gel (Aloe Vera), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Polyquaternium 11, Cetrimonium Chloride, Dilauryl Acetyl Dimonium Chloride, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, Olealkonium Chloride, Lauramine Oxide, Octyl Methoxycinnamate, Butyl Methoxy Benzoyl Methane, Benzophenone 4, Trisodium HEDTA, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Butylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Fragrance
  • May 29, 2011

    by Laura

    THANK YOU for posting this--it's nearly impossible to get their ingredient list! I have almost entirely sworn off all companies that don't say exactly what is in everything they make on their sites... I was intrigued by the Macadamia Oil line of hair care only to find a lot of goop in it, too--am glad I didn't buy it ( is where I saw it reviewed--another case of a third party telling us the info, not the company)... Jason "Natural" Tea Tree Shampoo used to be awesome then suddenly started making "sulfionate" type words not be "sulfate" ... ugh. Sodium laurel/lauryl and sodium laureth sulfate are both used in labs as ... da da dummmm... skin irritants. The dose isn't actually that unlike what is in shampoo, either. I was looking at it because of the "good" things as my scalp is pretty sensitive and will flake if the SLS culprits are there, not to mention turning a lovely red and sometimes getting flares of petechiae if I dare use something "normal" days in a row. I haven't seen their shampoos--at the time I had my steady (well, ok, so I did buy over a year's supply when it was a BOGO for $7 and it turned out to be more like 2 years' worth) kind... but for conditioners, samy makes an esencia line I had this "get it free" deal for a while back... I got a mandarin and a white nettle horsetail or something kind... anyway, one's 97%, the other 98.3% pure, though that doesn't always mean much. For GENTLE stuff, Free & Clear is what my dermatologist said to use, and sure, no parabens/SLS/etc but... especially since I follow the (doctors') rules and DON'T wash my hair daily--big no-no I can honestly say I learned from Cosmo :P back when I was 10... it wasn't cleaning my hair well enough with the usual light wash, rinse, real wash routine--3 scrubbings and I was still feeling odd. Maybe you have to get used to it.

    I like the smell of the citrus Samy one... the other is really intense but of course I like how it feels in my hair best (can't have it all). I may try their shampoos if they even still exist! Anyway, thanks again for posting this. I got some samples and was sort of like "oh, that's the $20 for 8oz stuff, isn't it?" and yes... yes it is... but now it's $22! $22 for 1 cup? It had better be more than beer... better be giving me a fifty year old special stock wine at that price!

  • December 13, 2010

    by Cyndie

    Pureology is the greatest product for my fine natural curly hair....everytime I try something new, I am disappointed and return to Pureology!!!!

  • December 6, 2010

    by marta

    Sorry Lori. I was disappointed too. The great hair product quest continues....

  • December 6, 2010

    by Lori

    Wow Marta, thank you! I suppose I am naively surprised by all the unwelcome ingredients you uncovered. OK, so I guess those samples I tried will be my only experience with Bumble and Bumble! I have yet to find hair products that safely make me and my hair happy :(

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