Many years ago, while I was on set in Los Angeles, I was chatting up the make-up artist trying to get her insider secrets and must-haves.  At that moment, her new favorite thing was a conditioning shampoo called Wen.  She was raving about how it had improved her hair - made it soft and shiny - and all her make-up artist/hairstylist friends were also loving it. Not too far from my hotel was the small and homey salon of Chaz Dean – the stylist behind Wen. I decided to stop by and pick up a bottle. Chaz Dean himself helped me choose the right version for my dry curly hair. Low and behold, after just the first use, my hair was much softer and moisturized. My curls looked great! For a while, whenever I was in LA for work, I’d stop by the salon and pick up a bottle.

And then after some time, it eventually fell out of rotation. For no specific reason, I simply moved on to other things and basically never looked back.  Recently while flipping through the channels I came across an infomercial with Chaz and his Wen line of products. It was late night and I fell into that infomercial trance. I was on the verge of ordering but in true TIA fashion, before I did, I wanted to know what’s actually in these products that are touted as all-natural. What I found was quite interesting.

First of all, the Guthy-Renker TV Offer of Wen only comes in one version, the Sweet Almond Mint. When you buy from Chaz’s salon (even online) there are several varieties depending on your hair needs. But regardless of that, the Sweet Almond Mint version on television and the one from the salon are actually different formulations.  While it’s true that this non-foaming shampoo is free of sulfates and harsh detergents, it’s definitely not a completely innocent formulation. And the one from TV is, in fact, a little bit worse.

Let me break it down for you. At the bottom of both ingredient lists you’ll find METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE and METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE, both with a cosmetics database moderate hazard rating of 6. However, if you go down a little further on the TV version you also find LIMONENE, a parfuming agent with another 6 cosmetic database rating. The television version also has some other fillers that the salon version doesn’t, like butylene glycol  (1 rating), and polysorbate 60 (4-6 rating, depending on how much is used). And while the first four ingredients of the salon version are all nourishing - water, aloe vera gel, Glycerin, chamomile extract - the first four ingredients of the TV version seem mostly like things that keep costs down - water (aqua), glycerin, cetyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol.  I can’t help but think that Guthy-Renker has a pretty stiff profit to cost margin, and they simply reformulated the product to make it cheaper to manufacture.

Annoyed by all of this, and in an effort to keep my shower free of chemicals, I decided not to order. A few weeks later, however, on a trip home to Florida, I discovered that my mom, in her own infomercial trance (and the encouragement of her friend who’s addicted), did order it.

I decided to use the TV version during my stay, and I must say, the reformulated TV version still did a really nice job on my hair, which had been incredibly dry and unmanageable. Once again, after the first use, my hair was noticeably more moisturized. The $29.95 TV offer is for a 12 oz bottle and comes with other products - a styling cream, treatment mask, texturizing stick, and wide tooth comb – all of which I thoroughly enjoyed during my time in extra humid Florida. And while I still wouldn’t order it, I would consider the slightly better salon version ($28.00 for 16 oz and no extra products) and sacrificing my chemical-free zone just a tad… for awesome hair, can you blame a girl?

Sweet almond mint from TV

Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hydrolyzed Wheat, Protein, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Polysorbate 60 (4-6), PEG-60 Almond Glycerides (3-6), Amodimethicone, Citric Acid, Menthol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance (Parfum, Limonene (6).

Sweet almond mint from Chaz Dean (I put the Database ratings next to all the suspect looking ingredients):

Water, Aloe Vera Gel, Glycerin, Chamomile Extract, Cherry bark Extract, Calendula Extract, Rosemary Extract, Behentrimonium Chloride (1), Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine (1), Cetyl Alcohol, Emulsifying Wax, Panthenol, Trimethylsilylamodimethicone (0), Hydrolized Whole Wheat Protein, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides (3-6), Menthol, Essential Oils, Methylchloroisothiazolinone (6), Methylisothiazolinone(6), Fragrance