It all happened so suddenly. For months since my last hair cut, I let my long blonde hair (formerly one of my best features) hang free, proud of its effortless shine and volume. Then one day I noticed a trend: I had taken to hiding it under hats and headbands without fully realizing why. My once bouncy, worry-free strands had transformed into limp, lifeless strings. Even though my hair looked perfectly normal right after a shower and blow dry - BAM - a grease bomb would explode out of nowhere and drown my crown under an oil spill by lunchtime. No matter how many times I shampooed (in one count, three times within a 24-hour period), I kept encountering the same oily streaks. Despite looking and feeling clean elsewhere, I felt ashamed that people might perceive me as dirty.

Something in my routine needed to change - fast. But nothing that I had been doing was out of the ordinary. Besides my old shower standards - Matrix Biolage shampoo and conditioner - the only styling product I had used with consistency was MoroccanOil Hydrating Styling Cream, which I typically restricted to my ends. If my oily hair wasn't the result of product build-up, then perhaps it was a natural perk of straight hair, which is prone to oil slicks migrating from the scalp down the hair shaft. But as I've aged, my skin has gotten drier, so why would my scalp go in the opposite direction? Was an onset of hormones or stress to blame for my scalp's sudden overproduction of sebum?

Whatever the cause, I took two steps to cut the grease. First, I switched to a shampoo comprised of less conditioning and more detergent agents. I scrubbed, lathered, rinsed, and repeated. Although this method helped matters, I didn't want to do permanent damage by way of a persistent barrage of sulfates. What I really wanted was to set my hair clock back to zero and start with a clean slate. John Masters Organics Herbal Cider Hair Clarifier and Color Sealer seemed like the perfect solution. This once-weekly treatment would spare me additional headaches in my decidedly low-maintenance hair regime, while at the same time sealing in my recently "sun-kissed" highlights. Would John Masters return my mane to its former glory?

Nobody can quibble with the ingredients. Apple cider vinegar is a known hair tonic and dandruff treatment. It works by removing the dulling scaly residue from the hair shafts, closing the cuticles, and promoting blood circulation in the tiny capillaries that irrigate the skin. Because the acidity of apple cider vinegar is close to that of natural human hair, it is an excellent alternative to chemical products that balance the hair's pH. In addition to green tea extract, jam-packed with antioxidants that are thought to stimulate hair growth, the formula also contains a handful of herbs that are helpful to hair health. Healing chamomile softens hair and soothes the scalp, while calendula and nettle condition. Rosemary extract is beneficial for all hair types, contributing luster and body. The formula's preservatives - potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate - are some of the gentlest natural paraben alternatives around.

Though it seems counter-intuitive to include oils in a treatment for oily hair, the formula is enhanced by small doses of essential oils. Lemon, in particular, is an effective hair tonic that doubles as a dandruff soldier. Like lemon, lime peel oil has antiviral, antibacterial, and germicidal properties. As the only fragrance components in the formula, these essential oils help mask the solution's putrid vinegar odor once it is rinsed from the hair. This odor is so powerful that my significant other sniffed it from a distance in the bathroom and asked if I was bathing with rotten vegetables. My fully rinsed hair emerged from the shower without a tinge of its former reek, perhaps masked by the conditioner I applied following the treatment.

Besides the distinctive aroma, the solution has the same runny consistency (especially when diluted by the recommended glass of water) and acerbic taste of vinegar. It was hard to prevent a trickle from cascading down my face and sneaking through my lips. Nonetheless, the minimally offensive sensory ordeal ended up being worth it. My hair survived an entire day without feeling weighed down and dirty. Even though I was anxious that the treatment might strip my hair and sap its moisture, the texture of my tresses was just as I had remembered before the raid of the grease police. My bounce is back, and my color got an extra kick. The effects lasted through the next day, when I received a slew of compliments on my 'do. Coincidence?

Ingredients:

Vinegar (apple cider),* aqua (water), chamomilla recutica (chamomile) flower extract,* calendula officinalis (calendula) flower extract,* camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract,* rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf/stem extract,* urtica dioica (nettle) root extract,* potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, citrus medica limonium (lemon) peel oil,* citrus aurantifolia (lime) peel oil*
* NOP Certified Organic