I've really been focusing on my hair over the last few months and have, thankfully, found that good shampoos and treatments - with as few chemicals as possible and with the aim of helping to combat thinning hair - have started to have an effect. I am definitely noticing less hair in the shower drain and I take it as a very good sign that I am now starting to lust after styling products - it means I like my hair again and want to play with it. So when I saw Sebastian Potion 9, I was intrigued by the claims that it was a treatment as well as a styling aid. This could mean that it might contain ingredients that do more good than harm.

On balance, this turned out to be a good guess.  The '9' refers to a line up of botanicals. There is useful wheat protein and macadamia, which is full of fatty acids, as is rose hip. Evening primrose is a source of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), which helps maintain stratum corneum cohesion and reduce transepidermal water loss. Other sources of GLA include borrage, another one of our 9. A few of the botanicals are just so so: such as babassu oil, which is about 70% lipids and is increasingly being used as a substitute for coconut oil.

Although many of the remaining ingredients are benign things, there are a few additions that the 9 will find it had to stand up to. In addition to ubiquitous parabens, there is a controversial ingredient. Octylmethoxycinnamate is a sunscreen that can create biochemical changes that cause mutation and cell death upon exposure to sunlight (which is likely when used as a sunscreen ingredient); immunotoxicity and photoallergic effects; reproductive toxicity that leads to estrogenic effects; organ system toxicity, especially in the liver; and enhanced skin absorption. It should be used with caution by pregnant women and children.

There are also a handful of colorings that attract their fair share of researchers trying to establish which side of the good and evil fence they are on. FD&C Red 40 was once thought to be carcinogenic. These fears appear to be unfounded, although this dye (as a food additive) is associated with hyperactivity in children and it can cause allergic reactions and skin rashes. Annatto has been linked with many cases of food-related allergies, and is the only natural food coloring believed to cause as many allergic-type reactions as artificial food coloring.

Taken as a whole, it isn't that bad. But the 9 really aren't compelling enough to outnumber my doubts. For the time being, I'll stick with John Masters Organics styling gel.

Water (aqua), Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Stearalkonium Chloride, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, PVP, Trimethylsilyamodimethicone, Hydrolized Wheat Protein, Hydrolized Silk, Cetyl Alcohol, Methyl Gluceth 10, Octylmethoxycinnamate, Panthenol, Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia Chinensis), Safflower Oil (Carthamus Tinctorius), Macadamia Ternifolia Nut Oil, Babassu Oil (Orbignya Oleifera), Borage Seed Oil (Borago Officinalis), Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera Biennis), Dog Rose Hip Oil ((Rosa Canina)), Propylene Glycol, Caprilic/Capric Triglyceride, All Spice Extract (Pimenta Dioica), Lemongrass Extract ((cymbopogon schoenanthus)), Hydroxyethylcellulose, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Fragrance (parfum), Annatto (CI 75120), Ext D&C Violet 2 (CI 60730), D&C Orange 4 (CI 15510), FD&C Red 40 (CI 16035), Vegetable Oil.