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Fermented hair care hits the shampoo shelf: What you need to know and is it worth the hype? | 1340 KGFW

Fermented hair care hits the shampoo shelf: What you need to know and is it worth the hype? | 1340 KGFW

RuslanDashinsky/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Since the pandemic, concerns about personal health have been at the forefront of consumers’ minds. One of the concerns that has surfaced is gut health and the microbiome, with sales of products like probiotics, greens powder and digestive sodas (such as Poppi and Olipop) seeing a surge.

But the conversation about microbiome health isn’t limited to the gut. That same interest has spilled over into beauty, with brands touting the importance of maintaining a healthy skin microbiome to prevent premature aging and acne. The Rootist, a new hair care line launched in April, is introducing fermented ingredients as the next wave of innovation in the shampoo aisle, promising “anchored, active roots, a hydrated, balanced scalp, and strong, healthy hair.”

Clare Hennigan, Principal Analyst – Beauty & Personal Care at Mintel, says these brands have already captured consumer interest.

“In hair care, between 2022 and 2023, the number of products that have microbiomes in the product descriptions actually increased by 52.3%,” Hennigan told ABC News. “We’re really seeing, especially in hair care, the momentum and the growing demand for microbiome-enabled hair care solutions.”

But what exactly are these fermented ingredients, how do brands claim they work, and are they worth the hype?

What are fermented ingredients and how can they help maintain and balance the microbiome?

Simply put, fermented ingredients are bacteria, says Dr. Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

“If you leave something long enough, things grow out of it. One of the things that grows is bacteria,” Gohara told ABC News.

However, not all bacteria are bad, for example yogurt and kombucha, which are created through fermentation.

The Rootist says it’s this fermentation process that allows their products to be “easily recognized and received by the roots, scalp, and hair.” Just like the skin and gut, the scalp has its own bacteria and types of fungi that make up its microbiome. According to Gohara, the premise here is that the fermented ingredients in products like The Rootist’s help feed the bacteria on our scalp, which in turn supports the health of our already existing scalp microbiome.

And maintaining a balanced scalp microbiome is crucial to keeping hair healthy, says Dr. Jeannette Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Conditions like dandruff or acne can be influenced by the microbiome.

“If our microbiome is not in balance or if the microbiome is not functioning properly, we need to create an environment on the scalp and on the facial skin where they can exist,” Graf told ABC News.

“Just think of it like a garden, and the soil is the scalp. If the soil is healthy, the plants and the flowers will bloom,” Gohara explained. “If the scalp is damaged or inflamed or irritated, it’s less healthy soil, right? And that in turn leads to a less healthy, bountiful garden.”

Are they worth the hype?

While fermented hair care ingredients may theoretically benefit the scalp microbiome, the bottom line is that more research still needs to be done.

“There’s a lot of new ingredient technologies being developed in the personal care space,” Graf said. “So there’s research being done by these biotech companies — and good ones. But that’s where most of the research and literature is being published.”

“We can safely say that the product will at least support a healthy scalp microbiome,” added Gohara, who draws a line at the claim that these products will lead to increased hair growth. “It means that in me, regardless of my biological potential as a 48-year-old woman right now, if I use this, my hair will grow as optimally as it biologically would right now.”

While experts say there is still research to be done, Hennigan says the industry is completely focused on fermented hair.

“This is a signal for broader industry trends where we will see how we can really personalize our products, specific to perhaps our own microbiome, to better meet our specific needs,” said Hennigan.

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