(The folks at Jan Marini posted a comment to this post and rather than leaving it where not all readers will see it, I've added their additions in red to this original post. I'm grateful to them for contacting me and clarifying several bits of information that I got wrong.)
Hold on to your ringlets, boys and girls. This product is poised to be weirder than Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Shikakai Conditioning Hair Rinse (but for entirely different reasons)!
A rep from Jan Marini asked if I'd be interested in trying the company's new product called Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner. I don't have to tell you how difficult it is to say no to free products. I looked up the ingredients, found nothing that violated my no-silicone-or-polyquat 11 rules, and told the rep I'd be happy to try the product and share my experience with you nice people.
Here are the ingredients, by the way:
Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Spirolac (7á-Acetylthio-3-oxo-17á-pregn-4-ene-21,17-carbolactone), Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate Ester, Steareth-100, Steareth-2, Mannan, Xanthan Gum, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben,Propylparaben, Retinol, Panthetine, Kiwi Fragrance (Parfum), Zinc PCA, Myristoyl Tetrapeptide-12, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Japanese Green Tea Extract, Hydrolyzed Oat Protein, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Niacinamide
Perhaps you stopped to pause at "Spirolac." I know I did. I had no idea what it was, and although it sounded like spirulina, which is a health food supplement, a quick look around the Interwebs told me that the last place I'd find Spirolac was in a health food store.
In a nutshell, Spirolac is spironolactone, which has been linked to cancer, according to Jan Marini's product specs. Spironolactone, primarily a blood-pressure medicine and a diuretic, is also prescribed for women who suffer from hair loss. According to Hair Site, Spironolactone "works as an antiandrogen by decreasing the production of testosterone by the adrenal glands and by preventing DHT from binding to its androgenic receptor. Some have suggested that Spironolactone can bond to the hair follicles before DHT can bind to the receptor." For this reason, it is not prescribed for men, although it is used topically to treat male-pattern baldness. It is a common component in hormone therapy for male-to-female transsexual and transgender people.
Okay, so we've got a product here that contains a topical application (something that's best used to treat male pattern baldness) of a substance that the company warns might give you cancer. Hmmm. An auspicious beginning.
When the rep wrote me, she stated: "I’d like to introduce you to a recent Jan Marini product release that immediately and dramatically improves the appearance of aging, thinning and environmentally and chemically damaged hair, and gives it renewed body and bounce! Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner, already a favorite of Hollywood hairstylists and their clients, immediately makes the hair softer and more manageable. Over time, the hair will appear significantly thicker, fuller, lusher and dense and results will become progressively more pronounced.
Marini Hair features the same proprietary peptide ingredient contained in our hugely popular cosmetic eyelash enhancement product, Marini Lash Eyelash Conditioner."
Is the "proprietary peptide ingredient" Spirulac? Nothing in my research refers to either Spirulac or Spironolactone as peptides. But tetrapeptide-12 and pentapeptide-17 are peptides. And from what I can find about peptides, they're nice additions to skin care products (they stimulate cell metabolism and protect against UVB damage) but they won't stimulate hair growth. More on this in a moment. (Jan Marini says: "Actually, peptides perform multiple functions, including hair and lash enhancement to promote the appearance of lusher, fuller, thicker hair and lashes.")
And maybe that's okay, because Jan Marini Revitalizing Conditioner isn't necessarily promising to stimulate hair growth. It is only saying that it will make hair "thicker, fuller, lusher and dense."
This is where product copy gets really fun. I know because I used to write it. There are distinct and specific boundaries that personal care product claims must stay within in order for them to meet FDA labeling regulations for cosmetics. You'll notice that no cosmetic ever says it will absolutely cure something -- that's because it can't and technically, only a drug can cure something. So, cosmetic companies have to be careful about their claims. (Things are a little different for the class of products called cosmeceuticals, but we don't have time to talk about that now.)
But wait. There's more.
Jan Marini debuted a mascara called Marini Lash (which is what the rep referenced in her email to me) in 2005 and it was met with tons of accolades because it promised to make lashes lusher -- and apparently delivered on that promise. It used peptides that an early study showed to stimulate hair growth at the follicle. Hence, eyelash hair would ostensibly grow thicker and fuller. (I have not tried this mascara, mostly because, as you can see at Amazon, it sells for anywhere between $68 to $105 dollars. Working girls like me will stick with the L'Oreal Lash Out, thanks ever so. For a good review and highly scientific explanation of how Marini Lash works, visit FutureDerm.com. Let me know if it makes any sense to you if you are of a scientific bent.) ( From Jan Marini: "While we do make a Marini Mascara with the same proprietary peptide ingredient found in Marini Lash, the product that we sent you and which was reviewed was indeed Marini Lash, a clear-liquid lash enhancement product that is applied like an eyeliner.")
But here's the thing: the original formula of Marini Lash had to be taken off the market , and many believe it was because the subsequent studies of its primary ingredient -- a drug called latanoprost -- could not duplicate the initial findings of it as an eyelash growth stimulator. (From Jan Marini: "Peptides were not in the original formula. The key ingredient was “bimatoprost,” not "latanoprost".)
Um, I thought it was the peptides that made the hair grow? Nope, I guess not. I'm so confused.
Well, so as not to disappoint customers who were clamoring for the stuff -- which may or may not have actually made their lashes thicker and lusher -- the company put out a new version of it, sans the latanoprost. That's probably when the Spirolac was substituted. (From Jan Marini: "Marini Lash never contained Spirolac. Marini Hair contains Spirolac. Rather, the new Marini Lash contains a proprietary peptide blend, which in combination with other essential factors, produces extraordinary eyelash and brow enhancement.")
And here's another piece of weirdness: the rep's email said what I've disclosed above, but the the product bottle itself makes NO CLAIMS WHATSOEVER. I mean none. Every other product I've ever used on my hair addresses somewhere on the bottle or jar what I might expect from it. Luster, fullness, body, shine, elimination of life's little toxicities, whatever. But this one says nothing. The box that the bottle came in reads exactly the same as the bottle. The little insert that came in the box, however, says this:
Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner is a remarkable formula that targets thinning and aging hair. Now you can experience vibrant, lusher, fuller and younger looking hair.
Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner is not intended to stop, prevent, cure, relieve, reverse or reduce hair loss or to promote the growth of hair.
Isn't it funny that both claim and disclaimer are on an insert and not on the product itself? I don't want to accuse Jan Marini of anything underhanded, but the placement of that information raises some questions, in my mind. The box and bottle both say "patent pending" so maybe there are some issues caught up in that process.
The rep said she hoped I would use the product for 3 months to experience the full effects of it. I haven't done that, but I have used it for about a month, fairly religiously. I don't see much going on but I am so skeptical, I doubt I'll continue using it. I mean, the product doesn't claim to do anything, it costs a fortune, and an insert tells me my hair will be lusher and fuller but that I shouldn't expect a reduction in hair loss or the growth of new hair.
So, then, isn't this just a volumizing conditioner?
I do want to say that Jan Marini is highly respected and has been around since 1994. I don't believe the company is trying to be sneaky. More than likely, they encountered some resistance from the FDA and have had to reposition the product, and as as result, the mixed messages compromise the product's identity and allure. As you can see from the website, Ms. Marini, the founder, has a lot of celebrity endorsements (and all from people who look pretty damn good). Jan Marini Skin Research makes products that address the usual skin care problems, such as acne and rosacea. (It also markets a line of professional and clinical products that are available only by prescription.) The company's products are sold through distributors in more than 80 countries worldwide and directly to physicians and licensed skin care professionals. Major competitors are Clarins, Estee Lauder, and Kiehl's -- so we're looking at a very upscale product line here.
I also want to say a genuine "thank you" to the rep who sent this product to me. I'm not being sarcastic. As an author, I know what it's like to send out my "product" (at my expense) to a reviewer who may ultimately trash it publicly. It's a nasty fact of life that when you open yourself up to public scrutiny, you expose yourself to potential humiliation and criticism as well as appreciation and applause. I appreciate this opportunity to review the product and am flattered that the company took a risk on me.
I could have been polite and just said that it was a cool product and that you should buy it. But that wouldn't have been honest. And I'm not saying the product is bad -- as a conditioner, it's certainly fine. And as a weird product, it most certainly qualifies.