Silicon and Proteins in Bamboo Extract: Claims Versus Reality
Bamboo is a hardy, woody grass plant that grows very quickly, and may thus be harvested in a sustainable manner. The young shoots are edible, and it provides a major component of a panda bear's diet. It is positively loaded with silicon, a substance that is believed to strengthen hair as well as contribute significantly to the health of the skin and fingernails. Bamboo also contains substantial amounts of protein, which helps retain moisture in the hair shaft and assists in filling in and temporarily smoothing out the ruffled, roughened hair cuticle of damaged hair.
Silicon probably functions best to stimulate skin collagen production and produce thick, shiny hair when consumed as a trace mineral in a well-balanced, healthy diet. Proteins work well when applied to the surface of the hair, but there is nothing particularly special about the proteins in bamboo extract; any protein-containing conditioner will do the same job as one with bamboo extract.
Pay no attention to cosmetics company ads that proclaim bamboo extract's ability to regrow hair over thinning or balding patches. There is no actual evidence to support such claims. Some eyelash serums contain bamboo extract; they help eyelashes stick around longer by keeping them soft, but cannot magically regrow permanently missing lashes.
Note that silicones, ingredients that natural cosmetics companies have a tendency to treat like the plague, are actually derived from silicon.
Hair Care Products Containing Bamboo
As long as the consumer doesn't expect too much, hair products with bamboo in them can provide visible conditioning benefits. Carol's Daughter Monoi Repairing Hair Mask offers the presence of bamboo water, and is best for over-processed or otherwise damaged hair. Folia Naturals markets a hair and scalp stimulator with bamboo; as previously stated, consumers can safely ignore the claim concerning hair loss. The Alterna Bamboo Smooth line is lightweight yet effective, making it an attractive choice for those with fine, limp locks. The relatively inexpensive, cutely-named Boo hair care line is available in some supermarkets and other mass market retailers; its products contain a decent amount of bamboo extract.
A big selling point for Garnier Herbashine Color Creme is its inclusion of bamboo extract; conditioning ingredients are indeed somewhat helpful in minimizing damage from hair dye, but keep in mind that continually coloring the hair will cause a certain amount of damage no matter what beneficial ingredients are included in the dye product.
In the final analysis, there is no reason to avoid hair care products with bamboo in them; but don't seek them out as though they are the most effective ones on the market or the only ones that can provide certain distinct benefits for the hair.
The same goes for skin care products, which are starting to include bamboo as a much ballyhooed natural ingredient. Bamboo has been present in bath products for some time, according to Ruth Winter's Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients. It is also available in skin scrubs such as C.O. Bigelow Rice & Bamboo Gentle Microdermabrasion. The present push to market bamboo as a skin care panacea in luxury product lines such as Amore Pacific and drugstore items like Nivea Touch of Happiness Body Wash will probably steadily continue, but there's no need to feel your skin is really missing out on a miracle ingredient if you decide to skip such cosmetics entirely.
- "Beauty Reporter," Allure, August 2010, p. 58; and Dec. 2010, p. 48.
- Begoun, Paula, Don't Go Shopping For Hair-Care Products Without Me, Renton, WA: Beginning Press, 2004.
- "Health Benefits of Silicon," organicfacts.net.
- Langston, Patrick, " Untangling the label on hair dye," The Vancouver Sun, Nov. 12, 2010.
- Schaffner, Liana, "Tried and True," Skin Solutions, Allure, March 2010.
- Winter, Ruth, A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009.
- Zhen-ji Li, Pang Lin, Jian-yuan He, Zhi-wei Yang, and Yi-ming Lin, "Silicon's organic pool and biological cycle in moso bamboo community of Wuyishan Biosphere Reserve," J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2006 November; 7(11): 849-857.