Health is top of mind for more consumers than ever and the hair wellness category is no exception. Like the many other industries, consumers want healthy ingredients that are backed by science.
The gut-hair axis
While many consumers are more aware of the impact of gut health on overall health, hair doesn’t typically come to mind in relation to gut health. However, growing research is highlighting the gut-skin axis and the gut-hair axis.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one particular reason why the hair microbiome has gone largely under the radar. One could speculate that hair related products were earlier seen more from a cosmetics/aesthetics point of view as opposed to being used to provide a functional health benefit,” noted Krishna Rajendran, CEO of Karallief, a company that focuses on the research and development of herbal extract ingredients through rigorous science.
He added that lately, as researchers have started to focus on the health impact of microbiomes throughout the body, the hair microbiome is also coming to the forefront.
“The microbiome plays an important role in a wide variety of skin disorders. Not only is the skin microbiome altered, but also surprisingly many skin diseases are accompanied by an altered gut microbiome. The microbiome is a key regulator for the immune system, as it aims to maintain homeostasis by communicating with tissues and organs in a bidirectional manner. Hence, dysbiosis in the skin and/or gut microbiome is associated with an altered immune response, promoting the development of skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne vulgaris, dandruff, and even skin cancer,” noted one study in the journal Microorganisms. The review went on to describe an exhaustive list of common skin conditions with associated dysbiosis in the skin microbiome as well as the current body of evidence on gut microbiome dysbiosis, dietary links, and their interplay with skin conditions.
Balancing the gut microbiome is a fresh frontier, and balancing the skin microbiome is even newer. While research is scarce, the immuno-modulating potential of the gut microbiome on distant organ sites is an expanding research field as scientists focus on botanicals.
“A wide range of herbs can be used to promote healthy hair growth and maintain a healthy hair microbiome,” said Rajendran. Some of the herbs include - Emblica officinalis (amla)ii,iii, Centella asiatica7, Bacopa monnieri (brahmi)iv, Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek)v and Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari)vi. Some of the physician grade hair products contain ingredients like saw palmetto, horsetail, and some source of proanthocyanidins (grape seed extract) or other high antioxidant herbs (green tea, for example), along with the usual roster of nutrients: biotin, iodine, zinc, selenium, B12, folate, pantothenic acid, etc. B vitamins, particularly biotin, is important for hair growth. Biotin deficiency is linked to hair loss.”
Rajendran further explained that many of these herbs have traditionally been used to promote hair health and growth. He said that herbal blends such as Emblica (amla) and Bacopa (brahmi) are becoming popular and there is growing scientific literature tying these herbs to hair growth and thickness.
“There is solid science as well as some solid clinical studies behind the vitamins and minerals cited. The science is a bit softer, but very promising regarding some of the newer or traditional herbal products. There are several recent studies on Emblica officinalis, Bacopa monnieri and Asparagus racemosus that appear to be particularly promising," Rajendran said.
As more consumers fixate on their skin health, it’s only natural that hair health and wellness attracts a share of that attention too.
The so-called ‘Zoom effect’ has impacted over half US consumers, according to a white paper by Lycored, that said spending more time on video calls has caused consumers to think more about their appearance.
The carotenoid supplement brand surveyed 562 people and found that over half the US consumers surveyed said spending more time on video calls made them think more about their image. Their most common concern was the smoothness of their skin (31%), followed by the appearance of their hair (27%).