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It isn’t every woman who stops off at the hair salon on the way to giving birth, as Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge apparently did. But then most mothers-to-be aren’t being hounded by the paparazzi. Anyway, if you covet a Kate-like coif, her stylist, Rossano Feretti, recommends Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Oil ($69) and InStyle magazine immediately gushed that it has a “unique antioxidant-packed formula.”
Perhaps InStyle and I have a different definition of antioxidant. There are eight ingredients in Shu Uemura Essence Absolue. The only possible contender amongst them is camellia kissi seed oil. A Japanese shrub, camellia kissi’s seeds seem to be fairly commonly used as a hair oil and in moisturizers. The makers of such things claim the seeds to be rich in fatty acids. However, I couldn’t find any independent information to corroborate this even after searching on camellia kissi and omega, oleic, linoleic and so on, nor did I turn up any other information on its professed antioxidant properties.
The other ingredients include two silicones, which dominate the formula. These are most certainly not antioxidants and do nothing more than coat the hair shaft for superficial slip and shine. Then there’s a common chemical sunscreen filter, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, also known as octinoxate. While it is potentially useful to protect Kate’s tresses from the blazing English sun, this sunscreen isn't very stable. When octinoxate is exposed to sunlight, it is converted into a less UV absorbent form.
Essence Absolue may not be teeming with antioxidants, but it is brimming over with perfumes. There are four perfume ingredients (and don’t forget there are only eight ingredients in total), some of them controversial. Butylphenyl methylpropional is a fragrance that is listed by The European Cosmetics Directive as an “allergenic” substance. Hydroxycitronellal is an irritant approved for use at a maximum concentration of 1%. Plus there’s hexyl cinnamal and unidentified “parfum.”
At nearly $70, I rate Shu Uemura Essence Absolue as a complete waste of money, despite the supposedly royal endorsement.
Ingredients: Cyclopentsiloxane, Dimethiconol, Camellia Kissi/Camellia Kissi Seed Oil, Ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Parfum/Fragrance