When I set out to try Philip B. Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo, I had higher than usual expectations. Not just because the price tag on Philip B.'s newest anti-aging shampoo ($140 for 12 oz.) was as lofty as its regal name. Nor because the ingredients numbered over 55. But my expectations were further lifted by the fact that Philip B. has a proven track record on Truth in Aging (as evidenced by his tendency to show up on our Five Best shampoo and Five Best for shine lists). It's also no secret that we often consult with Philip B.'s Blended Beauty recipe book when concocting our own DIY potions. So did Philip B. live up to his hair-repairing reputation?

If my healthy, bouncy locks have anything to say about it, the answer is a resounding "YES." But I should probably back up and explain how the Russian Amber shampoo has rescued my humidity-ravaged hair...and made me a believer in miracle potions. The consistency of this shampoo is unlike any other hair product I've come across. It looks like caramel sauce and feels like putty. Even the smell is exotic, evoking a complex whiff of warm musk and powder.

Though the pot of putty comes with a mini spatula, I found it easier to dip my fingers right in and spread the strange substance through my scalp- and spreading is not something that it does naturally. As it works up a lather, however, it gradually works its way down the hair shaft to the tips. Like a magic trick, the once-solid gunk evolves from a sticky honey-like liquor to a rich, detangling foam. Throughout this process, it seems to coat each strand with conditioning suds and transform the texture of the hair underneath.

More "blow and go" than curler-clad, I am not the type to spend hours coiffing my hair. I rarely wear hair accessories and even more rarely dedicate part of my day to a curling or flat iron. So I put Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo to the ultimate test, letting my hair air-dry on an oppressively humid day. Hours later, my hair was not only full of life and body, but the individual strands of hair were perfectly separated and the formerly split ends were sealed. I encountered the same staggering results after a blow dry, and after following up the shampoo with various high- and low-end conditioners. Russian Amber is an indomitable force to be reckoned with.

What makes up this force is far from saintly. The first few ingredients should strike fear into the hearts of the sensitive-skinned. While sodium laureth sulfate can make your scalp itch and your eyes sting, artificial fragrance and benzyl benzoate can irritate those with perfume allergies. Other pitfalls to watch out for are chlorphenesin (a contact dermatitis culprit), benzaldehyde (a possibly toxic masking agent), and phenoxyethanol (an omnipresent but risky preservative). The good news is that Russian Amber is a rinse-off product. So, irritants and other evils go down the drain to swim with the fish rather than skin into your skin.

Whatever negligible damage Philip B. does to the ecosystem he offsets with a proud ban on parabens and phthalates and a minimal carbon footprint. The better part of Russian Amber's formula is composed of cutting-edge nutrients and hair helpers. A high concentration of L-Amino Acids works to repair hair at a cellular level, fortifying cell membranes and enhancing elasticity. The lightweight emollient shea butter gives hair a silky feel and glossy finish, while the reparative vitamin B5 seals the hair cuticle. In addition to lipid-packed pure grape seed oil, there is a bevy of antioxidant-rich botanical extracts from burdock, chamomile, nettle, rosemary, and sage. The combination of these components translates to an instant fix for dry, damaged, or just plain dull hair.

I'd have a hard time justifying an expenditure upwards of $100 on any cosmetic, let alone a hair product that accomplishes the same thing as a system of styling goop and gizmos. But just as you don't wear a newly purchased designer dud every day, you can set this shampoo aside for special occasions- when you don't just want, but need your hair to look perfect. On the other days, an inferior product can fill in, like a second string player that just gets you through the game. Considering the long-term benefits of its ingredients, Philip B.'s luxurious multi-tasking shampoo may be a worthy investment in the health of your hair. In the short-term, at least, my hair is proof that this imperial potion is worth its weight in gold.


Water/Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Fragrance/Parfum, Benzyl Benzoate, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Disteareth-75 IPDI, PEG-150 Distearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamide MEA, Decyl Glucoside, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, PCA, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Proline, Threonine, Isoleucine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, PEG-7 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Chlorphenesin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)/Butyrospermum Parkii, Caramel, Phytantriol, Panthenol, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Arctium Lappa Root Extract/Arctium Lappa, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract/Chamomilla Recutita, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract/Urtica Dioica, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract/Rosmarinus Officinalis, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract/Salvia Officinalis, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil/Vitis Vinifera, Styrax Benzoin Resin Oil/Styrax Benzoin, Citric Acid, Benzoic Acid, Cinnamic Acid, Benzaldehyde, Vanillin, Coniferyl Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Coumarin, Hydroxycitronellal, Linalool, Citronellol, Yellow 5/CI 19140