Phyllanthus emblica (Indian gooseberry) is one of those ingredients that potion makers seem to be catching on to. It recently showed up in the new vitamin C cream from Enpointe. It may have the ability to regulate melanin production in the skin, reducing age spots and preventing photoaging and sun damage. For the first time, I believe, I recently came across it in a hair care product - it is the key ingredient in Neil George's Intense Repair Mask ($38).

In traditional medicine, this ingredient was thought to have cooling, astringent and drying properties, and was used to stimulate hair growth by nourishing the hair and scalp and even preventing prematurely graying hair. The high tannin content of phyllanthus emblica was also used as a dye in inks and hair oils.

This berry is a good ingredient (it is also an antioxidant), but here in Neil George's hair mask it is a lonely little botanical amongst a boatload of chemicals.

Some of them are unfamiliar and I had a devil of a time trying to track down PEG 3 dioleylamidoethylmonium methosulfate. Searches simply threw up products by, guess who, Neil George (and Paul Mitchell). Eventually, I found that combined with propylene glycol it goes by the name of Incroquat HO-80PG. It seems to be a chemical formula that "enhances the conditioning effects of polyquaterniums. So now we know. Kinda.

Most of the rest of the ingredients are faux friends that impart superficial qualities of softness and shine such as silicones and things that were developed originally as a fabric conditioners.

One of these is Stearalkonium chloride. It us often labeled as a toxin, although there are studies that showed that it is safe and non-toxic at the concentrations typically used in cosmetic products (0.1 to 5%). At higher concentrations (25% solution), it has been shown to be a skin and eye irritant in animal studies. However, according to the Cosmetics Database, stearalkonium chloride is a low hazard ingredient that raises concerns regarding organ system toxicity and irritation. One or more animal studies show sense organ effects at very low doses when used around eyes, mouth and lips, as well as skin irritation at moderate doses. The combo of quaternium 91 and cetrimonium methosulfate is another fabric softener and hair detangler.

It is too depressing to go through the rest of the ingredients as they include several more irritants, such as behentrimonium chloride, the neurotoxin phenoxyethanol and potentially carcinogenic (although this is probably dose dependent) linalool. I feel rather sorry for that little gooseberry.


Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, PEG 3 Dioleylamidoethylmonium Methosulfate, PEG 3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, PEG/PPG 15/15 Dimethicone, Amodimethicone, Aminopropyl Phenyl Trimethicone, Stearalkonium Chloride, Emblica Officinalis Oil, Polyquaternium 7, Polyquaternium 11, Quaternium 91, Cetrimonium Methosulfate, Polyquaternium 37, Propylene Glycol, Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, PPG 1 Trideceth 6, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride, PEG 7M, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance (Parfum), D Limonene, Linalool