On my desk I have a duo from the new Kerastase Age Premium range designed for aging, thinning hair. Someone went to a lot of trouble to hand deliver the shampoo (Bain Substantif) and conditioner (Masque Substantif) in a pretty package. So I apologize for what is about to come next. I won't be using the new Kerastase Age Premium range and here is why not.

I admit to being a bit picky about my beauty products, even rinse off ones. Still, I've been known (and admonished by some readers for it) to overlook the odd paraben and even phenoxyethanol if the good significantly outweighs the bad. With these Kerastase Age Premium products, I find it difficult to make allowances for a big bunch of chemicals on the basis of what amounts to two rather puny actives.

One of these is what Kerastase (owned by L'Oreal) calls a calcium derivative is calcium pantothenate. This is the salt of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) andis often used as a dietary supplement because, as a salt, it’s more effectively absorbed by the body. The cosmetic industry first began incorporating this ingredient when several studies showed a deficiency of pantothenic acid to cause hair loss and skin irritation. And use it, it does. Some form of B5, usually appearing as panthenol, is in most shampoos going.

The second active is pomegranate. Punica granatum extract is indeed an antioxidant and protects from sun damage, but it appears only in the Masque and towards the very end of the ingredients list. Now Kerastase says there is a third active, vitamin F plus ceramides. I'm not sure that I really know what vitamin F is. Linoleic acid used to be classified as vitamin F until general scientific wisdom reclassified it as a fatty acid. Perhaps the ingredient safflower glucoside is meant to account for this.

Going back to the big bunch of chemicals, to be fair it should be said that most of them are regarded as gentle and non-irritating. A few are borderline. For instance, there are six sulfates in the shampoo. Although these are all gentler than sodium lauryl sulfate, they are still regarded with suspicion by some. In Germany, a product cannot be labeled ‘natural’ if it contains any members of the sulfate family (lauryl, laureth, magnesium or ammonium).

I'm not keen on the inclusion of ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, a sunscreen ingredient. It has been known to produce excess reactive oxygen species that can interfere with cellular signaling, cause mutations, and lead to cell death. Meanwhile, sodium benzoate has been associated with destroying DNA by a British scientist. Butyphenyl methylpropional is a fragrance additive that is considered an allergan in Europe.

Nor do I like sodium hydroxide, a known irritant with links to cancer. And behentrimonium chloride is one of the ingredients that I try to stay away from as it can damage the eyes at concentrations as low as .1%. Linalool is a bit dodgy as well. Linalool gradually breaks down when in contact with oxygen, forming an oxidized by-product that may cause allergic reactions such as eczema in susceptible individuals. Between 5-7% of patients undergoing patch testing in Sweden were found to be allergic to the oxidized form of linalool.

Still, on the bright side, there are no parabens.

Ingredients in Kerastase Bain Substantif

Water, sodium laureth sulfate, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, glycerin, glycol distearate, cocamide MPA, sodium chloride, sodium laureth-8 sulfate, hexylene glycol, sodium benzoate, magnesium laureth-8 sulfate, magnesium laureth sulfate, sodium oleth sulfate, hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, polyquaternium-30, calcium pantothenate, salicylic acid, carbomer, PEG-55 propylene glycol oleate, propylene glycol, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, magnesium oleth sulfate, hexyl cinnemal, tocopherol, linalool, isopropanolamine, limonene, hydroxycitronellal, benzyl salicylate, butyphenyl methylpropional, 2-oleamido 1,3 octadecanediol, safflower glucoside, benzyl alcohol, sodium hydroxide, citric acid, fragrance C8808/1

Ingredients in Kerastase Masque Substantif

Water, hydroxypropyl starch phosphate, quaternium-87, stearyl alcohol, behentrimonium chloride, isononyl isononanoate, cetyl esters, caprylyl glycol, mica, candelilla wax, phenoxyethanol, calcium pantothenate, sodium hyaluronate, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, CI 77891/titanium dioxide, hexyl cinnemal, linalool, limonene, hydroxycitronellal, sodium hydroxide, benzyl salicylate, butyphenyl methylpropional, punica granatum fruit extract, 2-oleamido 1-3 octadecanediol, safflower glucoside, benzyl alcohol, fragrance C39914/1