Can plant stem cells grow more hair? Episode 84

Perry kicks of the episode by telling he wants to go beauty spelunking in the Salt Caves of Norridge.

The place is actually called Galos Caves and it was built in Chicago because the Midwest has a low iodine content in the air. According to the company, the technology of building salt-iodine caves is based on the Black Sea salt, crystallized in natural conditions. The sea microclimate created inside the caves becomes an oasis of peace and relaxation for citizens of many countries. Since 2000, the Everet Company has been building Galos caves in Poland. This summer, the first salt-iodine cave in the U.S. was built according to very strict technological rules.

So what are the benefits they claim?Well, they say…Visiting salt-iodine caves helps to cure:

  • Respiratory system diseases
  • Digestive system diseases
  • Cardiovascular system diseases
  • Dermatological problems
  • Nervous system dysfunctions
  • Rheumatic diseases
  • Inflammation of the upper respiratory system
  • Sinus problems

They also say that the list of advantages of salt baths is long. Thanks to their unique healing attributes, sea salt cleans skin; helps to remove dirt and dull skin cells. Strengthens small blood vessels preventing them from breaking, regulates acid-alkaline balance, improves blood circulation and infection immunity, removes swelling and protects skin with its antydioxant attributes.What strikes me most about this is that they are not regulated in what they can say. Or maybe they just make the claims correctly. They say it “helps to cure” which is different than “it cures”.

Improbable Products

Which of these tattoo products is fake? Listen to the show for the answer.

  • The macrophage tattoo removal cream that “eats” the ink out of your skin.
  • The “Birthmark” tattoo lets you fake common skin disfigurations.
  • The “scratch and sniff” temporary tattoo that’s made with scented ink.

Can plant stems cure baldness?

Tyler asks…My question is related to the use of plant stem cells being used in hair care products to promote hair growth. What results could someone expect to see when using products exploring this technology? Can you slow down cycle of hair loss and potentially grow new hair?

In the email that accompanied his audio question Tyler went on to say the following: “I’m using Eufora’s Thickening Collection and have seen a difference but wondering how effective this could be long term and if it’s worth the investment. I “bought in” to the story of Eufora’s system because it claims to be more natural.”

What does Eufora claim?
So, let’s take a look at this Eurfora product starting with an assessment of their claims. It’s the same approach that we use when we do our “Claim to Fame”segment. It’s important to understand EXACTLY what the company is claiming because sometimes they will imply one thing without expressly saying it. that means you might be tricked into buying a product becuase you think it’s supposed to do something that it doesn’t even really promise.

Eufora say a LOT. Let’s summarize the key claims…
“works to revitalize the health of the hair follicle and scalp…bringing back the look and feel of healthy, beautiful hair.”

You’ll notice they qualify the claim with weasel words like “works to” and “look and feel.” That’s different than saying it grows hair or reduces hair loss.

But there’s more…Eufora “combines our ProAmino Peptide ComplexTM and Aloe Stem Cells. These two breakthrough technologies work together to provide an optimum healthy scalp environment needed to support hair growth.”

Again look at the wording…”work to provide optimum healthy scalp environment needed to support hair growth.” The list goes on…

Helps stimulate hair follicle and scalp (Stimulate to do what? And to what degree?)
Helps prevent follicle atrophy and anchor the hair bulb to scalp (I think this is the most direct claim they make.)

Butyl Avocadate helps regulate 5-Alpha Reductase and sebum production (a leading cause of premature hair loss.)

Since Tyler asked specifically about plant stem cells, it’s worth noting that product contains Aloe Stem Cells which they claim “Promotes oxygen to the scalp to reduce follicle asphyxia.”
Having said all that let’s look at the specific technologies used in Euphoria’s Thickening Collection to see if there’s evidence that it can really promote hair growth/do what they say it does.

Does Euphora provide evidence?
They don’t – there are no references to studies that the company has done to prove their product works. Essentially they’re just asking you to take their word for it. That’s not surprising considering that Euphora is a small salon company. For the most part, small companies such as this don’t have the resources to do their own research. They typically do not even develop their own technologies – they’re probably just using something given to them by a supplier.

Support for hair loss claims requires extensive clinical testing which takes a significant research and development budget. If you see these kinds of claims coming from a Procter & Gamble or a Unilever (companies that have deep pockets to support that kind of research and who know their claims have to stand up to extreme scrutiny) then I would be less skeptical. But small companies can make these kinds of claims because for the most part they fly under the radar and are less likely to be challenged by consumers or other companies or even regulatory agencies.

There are of course exceptions where smaller companies can have differentiating technology.
Could be a start up biotech company with people from the research community. That doesn’t appear to be the case with Euphora because the company was started by a hair stylist. They may be licensing technology from a third-party which could be some outside research lab that has done all the proper work. If that’s the case I would expect to see something in the published literature documenting the technology or perhaps a patent to protect the intellectual property. There doesn’t appear to be any of that in this case.

Since Euphora didn’t provide any evidence, we looked to the scientific literature to see what we could find about their key ingredients. Let’s look at the aloe stem cells first.

Evidence for aloe vera stem cells
Stem cells are hot right now because of the recent advances in understanding the biology of how they work. We’ve talked about this in a previous show – in the future there may be incredible breakthroughs in anti-aging based on our own stem cells. But the question in this case is do aloe vera stem cells reduce hair loss by oxygenating the follicles to prevent asphyxia.

In short the answer is “no.” First, a review of the technical literature fails to show any evidence for aloe stems cells promoting dermal oxygenation or impacting hair growth. Furthermore, we couldn’t even find any references to this idea of “follicular asphyxia” being the cause of hair loss. There seems to be this misconception that the root of the hair gets “choked” by sebum or something which prevents it from getting enough oxygen but that’s not how the biology actually works. So unless there are studies out there someplace that we missed this idea of aloe stem cells preventing hair loss is just a myth. But what about the other key ingredient in the product – butyl avocadoate?

Evidence for Butyl Avocadoate
Euphoria talks about using butyl avocadoate to reduce premature hair loss by “regulating 5-Alpha Reductase and sebum production.” The idea here is this: the enzyme 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone to a related compound called dihydrotestosterone or DHT. DHT has been shown to shrink the follicles and cause hair loss. So, if you can reduce the 5-alpha reductase you should be able to reduce hair loss. There are drugs that can do this, finasteride is an example. Typically that’s given orally but there are studies showing it can be effective when applied topically, at least on rats. So is there evidence that butyl avocadoate has this drug functionality? I couldn’t find anything in the published literature. I did find one study on the website for the supplier that makes this stuff. It was a small study (27 people).

This study indicates that butyl avocadoate does reduce sebum production (although there was no control used in the study so it’s really hard to tell if the reduction in sebum just resulted from washing the scalp.) Regardless, all the study showed was less oil on the surface of the skin it did NOT measure any factors related to hair growth. So the only evidence for this ingredient doesn’t even support the primary claim.

The Beauty Brains bottom line
Tyler asked what you can expect to see from this technology. The answer is…we can’t find any evidence that this product will do anything to your hair beyond reducing hair loss from breakage (which any good shampoo/conditioner will do.) As always though, we’ll gladly change our minds if the company can provide legitimate evidence showing their product really does stop hair loss or increase hair growth. Just show us the data.