You could say that my friend Melanie’s crowning glory is her gorgeous red hair. That is, if the rest of her assets weren’t all gorgeous as well. Anyway, she generously gave up the secret to her soft, shiny locks: Moltobene’s Clay Esthe Pack ($31.99). “Red hair gets coarse as you get older,” she said. “And then using chemical colors just makes matters worse. But with this stuff I never, ever have frizzy hair. It’s revolutionary.”

She’s right, it is. I bought some immediately and I have never seen my hair look this good (and I’m overdue for a trim). It is silky and shiny, but also with plenty of body. This is without a doubt the best hair product I have ever used.

Clay Esthe Pack, which is made by a Japanese company, is used much like a conditioner. After shampooing, you massage the Clay Esthe into your scalp and right through to the tips and leave it on for about five minutes before rinsing off.

To be honest, the first dozen or so ingredients are unimpressive - silicones glyceryls and behentrimonium chloride, an anti-frizzer that can be an irritant. There’s not much wrong with any of them, it’s simply that you will find them in any run-of-the-mill conditioner. The exception is the wonderful squalane, a fast-absorbed moisturizer that is an antioxidant, prevents UV damage, promotes cell growth and is an antibacterial.

So what makes Clay Esthe perform so well? As well as the squalane, credit should go to tanakura clay. This is a Japanese deep-sea clay that is a kind of charcoal produced by sub-marine volcanoes. The Japanese are fond of charcoal cleansers and with good reason. They are fantastic at absorbing dirt and grease, while depositing valuable minerals. The addition of retinyl palmitate will also help exfoliate the scalp.

Field horsetail is another interesting ingredient. It is rich in potassium, silicon and calcium and has historically been used to strengthen finger nails. Saponins and flavanoids (particularly quercetin) also give it the ability to help heal wounds (as used by the ancient Greeks). The thing about quercetin is that it may be a much more of a powerful antioxidant than was previously thought. Cornell University has a new way of measuring antioxidant potency called 'cellular antioxidant activity' (CAA) that tests the antioxidant activities of a compound inside the cell itself. This is an approach that is deemed to be more accurate. Of all the flavenoids, quercetin had the highest CAA value.

Menyantes trifoliata leaf is known colloquially in its native Scotland as bogbean (don't ever let anyone persuade you the Scots are romantic). It seems to be a good free radical scavenger, however and is effective at inhibiting the activity of matrix metalloproteinases-1, 2 and 9. Meanwhile, achillea millefolium (yarrow) is an effective astringent.

Ingredients in Clay Esthe Pack

Water, cetearyl alcohol, cyclomethicone, behentrimonium chloride, dimethicone, squalane, glyceryl stearate, PPG-9 diglyceryl esther, isopropyl alcohol, C-12-18 alkyl dimonium chloride, fragrence, methylparaben, polyethylene, propylparaben, propylene glycol, iron oxides, titanium dioxide sinter, tanakura clay, butylene glycol, hydroxypropylcellulose, sea salt, tocopherol, panthenol, retinyl palmitate, peanut oil, ethylcellulose, hydrolized silk, equisetum arvense extract (field horsetail), nettle extract, birch bark extract, coltsfoot flower extract, menyantes trifoliata leaf extract, rosemary, achillea millefolium extract.