Padma Lakshmi PanteneWhen the Nature Fusion haircare collection was launched earlier this year with the face of  Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, it was heralded as Pantene going natural.  "We think that consumers who enjoy natural ingredients also deserve high-quality performance, so we're thrilled to be able to offer women a hair-care collection that actually does what it promises," Craig Bahner, vp and general manager of P&G North American hair care, said in a statement. And about time you might say. But how natural is Nature Fusion?

Pantene's makes a big hullabaloo about cassia, so you might well be curious as to what it is. Some kind of plant, you would guess. And you'd be right. But after that things get as murky as your rinse off water.

Cassia seems to be taxonomist's trash can for all sorts of tree species - no one seems to even know how many. Pantene helpfully narrows things down by specifying that the star of the show in Nature Fusion is cassia tora. However, it turns out that this is not included in the list of sub-species identified in Wikipedia and a specific search on cassia tora throws up only a couple of references - from which we learn that it is an organic fungicide and a treatment for flatulence.

The ingredients list also has cassia hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride and I found an academic paper submitted by Procter & Gamble saying that this is a galactomannan (a kind of carbohydrate or polysaccaride). Lab rats will probably find the rest of the story rather exciting. The galactomannan is an energy reserve and a significant component of the cassia endosperm's cell walls, an effective physical barrier that offers support and strength to the cell. What P&G did was to isolate this galactomannan thingy and found that it could be made into a polymer, or large molecule. Polymers are used in shampoo as protective shields that are deposited on the hair shaft to protect it from friction from brushes and combs.

So there you have it. Somehow, it all seems a long way from seed to laboratory to shampoo bottle. Can this really be called a botanical shampoo when all we are left with is a molecule? Actually, it must be noted that Pantene Nature Fusion also has bamboo, grape seed and avocado oil. On the other hand, there are the usual suspects in the preservative department and the well-known irritant sodium laureth sulfate (although gentler than its sister, sodium lauryl sulfate). Well, it's a start I suppose.

Ingredients in Nature Fusion shampoo


Water , Sodium Laureth Sulfate , Cocamidopropyl Betaine , Sodium Chloride , Cocamide MEA , Cassia Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride , Cassia Tora Seed , Cassia Obtusifolia Seed , Bambusa Vulgaris Shoot Extract , Grape Seed Extract - Vitis Vinifera , Avocado Oil - Persea Gratissima , Panthenol , Panthenyl Ethyl Ether , Citric Acid , Corn Starch , Sugar Cane , Dimethiconol , Fragrance , Sodium Benzoate , Disodium EDTA , PEG-7M , Methylchloroisothiazolinone , Methylisothiazolinone , Sodium Citrate , Sodium Xylenesulfonate , Yellow 10 , Red 33 , Blue 1