Jason Natural Products is one of the rare companies that have focused on pure and natural products (over 200 of them!) for skin, body, hair and oral health for a very long time. They launched as far back as 1959! In the meantime, they became part of the Hain Group which includes Celestial Seasoning as well as the cosmetic brands, Orjene Organics, Queen Helene, Zia Natural Skincare Natumi®, Avalon Organics® and others. In a strange way, Jason’s long history may be the central explanation for both what is good and bad in the Vitamin E with A & C Shampoo Body Enhancing.

Let’s start with what is good to get it over with. The 16fl oz. recyclable bottle can be found in many health shops (where I presume the strength of the parent company portfolio of products guarantees Jason the best positions on the best shelves. It is also seriously cheap; Truth in Aging bought at retail at full price (during an unplanned and desperate overnight trip) for $9.95, but we since found it online for less than $5.75!

Anyway, Truth in Aging is not, mainly, about value, it is about quality. Jason’s Vitamin E with A & C Shampoo Body Enhancing has this kind of golden color, smell and light consistency that reminds one of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. The main ingredients are mostly of botanical origins calendula officinalis (marigold) flower extract, anthemis nobilis (chamomile), equisetum arvense (horsetail),  and aloe Vera alongside proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is actually even better for what it does not have, namely lauryl/laureth sulfates, cocamide DEA/MEA and parabens, things we too often find in shampoos.

Let’s now move to what is less good about Jason’s Vitamin E with A & C Shampoo Body Enhancing. First, there are some serious doubters about the “organic” credentials of Jason. Some people even want to sue the company. Consumer associations claim that Jason sometimes includes 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogen that often results from the manufacturing process of PEG, polyethylene, oxynol and ingredients ending with "eth". I could not find any of this in the shampoo but, while the FDA has never set a limit for 1,4 dioxane content, the fact that some Jason eye creams are reported by the Organic Consumer Association as contaminated makes me suspicious that they lack the kind of quality control I want to see in a company that claims to sell safe products.

Some organic cosmetic companies competing against Jason are brought up a lawsuit against a number of players including Hains Celestial (Jason Nautrals and Avalon Ogranics brands), Levlad (Nature’s Gate) and the certification bodies OASIS and Ecocert, back in April 2008.  In the original lawsuit the accusers asked that the companies cease to market products with organic in the product name unless they meet USDA National Organic Program specifications, which it believes represents consumers’ expectations of the term organic. They claim that “the defendants ‘organic’ products are composed of conventional rather than organic cleansing and moisturizing ingredients, with organic ingredients or extracts added for and ‘organic greenwash’”.

Intrigued by these claims, I tried to look a bit closer at the ingredients listed. As always in America, one is not told the percentage that each ingredient represents in the final product so it is a bit difficult to know what is what. I was nevertheless pulled up by a couple of things.

First, some ingredients are followed by an asterisk describing them as “certified organic”. This begs the question as to what is the origin of the vast majority that do not get the asterisk. This includes most of the chemicals but also includes the purified water, how could the latter not be organic? Where does it come from?. Whatever the merits of the lawsuit mentioned above, I understand the logic of the accusers. This product is not what is says.

Second, the non organic ingredients are not totally convincing. They are mostly useless, but two could raise real concerns. In the mostly useless category, I would include biotin, the largest non-organic ingredient in Jason’s Vitamin E with A & C Shampoo Body Enhancing shampoo. Quoting form Truth in Aging’s ingredient directory, “Because biotin is a necessary component to the growth and formation of cells, fatty acids and fats, a deficiency of the vitamin often leads to heart problems, skin rash and hair loss. For this reason, many believe that is has the ability to encourage hair growth. In actuality, not one scientific study has yet to prove this particular function, and topical application of Biotin is most likely ineffective considering the fact that it cannot penetrate the skin. Thus far, studies have mostly demonstrated its ability to make the hair more pliable and easy to comb." Again in the mostly useless category, I would, controversially include panthenol. This is a pro-vitamin. It is great for healing the skin but has only one obvious effect on hair: it holds water for a few minutes so that combing immediately after the shampoo does not break the hair and that is it.

The next two ingredients are on the worry list. Coco betaine, apparently important in Jason’s shampoo (high up in the list), works as a surfactant, foaming agent, viscocity increasing agent, emulsifier and conditioner. However, it has been shown to cause allergic reactions in some individuals. This is most likely a result of the manufacturing byproducts amidoamine and dimethylaminopropylamine, two impurities commonly associated with skin sensitization and irritation.  Sodium benzoate is a controversial ingredient because of its potential to interact with ascorbic acid (a vitamin C derivative), which is in the Jason shampoo and benzene, a known carcinogen. According to the International Programme on Chemical Safety, Sodium benzoate is not a toxin or carcinogen on its own, and large amounts of this ingredient would have to be consumed, not applied topically, for adverse effects to be seen. “In mice studies where the animals were fed sodium benzoate, no adverse effects were reported, and the mice’s life expectancies were not shortened, nor was their health affected in any way” (WiseGeek.com). It does sound to me like more research is needed there: if we do not know that it kills, we still do not know that it does not kill. This is what policy wonks call “the precautionary principle”.

I kept for the end the most negative thing to report about Jason’s Vitamin E with A & C Shampoo Body Enhancing for the end: the shampoo does not really seem to work. We left it in our guest bathroom and asked various people to try it. Most are like me and noted that the first wash never produces any lather and sometimes one has to wait for the third application before a proper foam forms. It is to be expected that natural shampoo do not foam as well as the chemical bombs found in drug stores. At least, it suggests that something is happening between the first and the third application, but it is not clear whether it washes gently (as some good shampoos do from the first go) or whether it needed to remove all dirt - and with it all natural oils - before it could foam normally. I strongly suspect the latter because my hair was always left very dry after cleaning it, there is nothing “gentle” about Jason’s Vitamin E with A & C Shampoo Body Enhancing. The “nourishing” claim is not happening and the “body enhancing” one neither. One of my guest was embarrassed to ask, but still put her head out of the bathroom door especially to ask for a conditioner after using this shampoo.

In conclusion, a not entirely organic or entirely safe shampoo that does not seem to really wash or feed the hair may have been cheap and incurred only a small loss of money but I still would not repeat the experience.

Aqua (Purified Water), Calendula Officinalis (Marigold) Flower Extract*, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail Extract)*, Aloe Barbadensis Gel (Aloe Vera)*, Biotin, Cocamidoporopyl Betaine, Natural Tocopherol (Vit. E), Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C), Retinyl Palmitate (Vit. A), Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, DL-Panthenol, Ehtyl Panthenol and Panthenyl Hydroxypropyl Steardimonium Chloride, Linoleic and Linolenic Acid (Vit.F), Lavendula Intermidia Leaf/Flower/Stem Extract*, Polyquaternium-7, Cetyl Glucoside, Oxybenzone, Cyclopentasiloxane and Dimethicone, Citric Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Essential Oil Blend.