The highly competitive cosmetics industry is always looking for the “next best ingredient(s)” that can fight the aging process and this led to a sizable increase in the number of anti-aging products on the market. With this is coming an increased number of active ingredients developed for this category; one of these ingredients is stem cell extract.
This is an ingredient that must be assessed carefully, as marketing claims often push the limits of the available science.
Among the plant stem cell extracts that are well supported by science are lilac, grapes and Swiss apples (1).
What are stem cells?
The concept of stem cells originated at the end of the 19th century as a theoretical postulate to account for the ability of certain tissues (blood, skin, etc.) to renew themselves for the lifetime of organisms even though they are comprised of short-lived cells. Stem cells’ isolation and identification happened many years later though.
Stem cells have received a fair share of attention in the public debate — mostly in connection with their potential for biomedical application and therapies. While the promise of organ regeneration have captured our imagination, it has gone almost unnoticed that plant stem cells represent the ultimate origin of much of the food we eat, the oxygen we breathe, as well the fuels we burn. Thus, plant stem cells may be ranked among the most important cells for human well-being.
A stem cell is a generic cell that can make exact copies of itself (daughters) indefinitely. These daughters can remain stem cells or further undergo differentiation (2). Such that a stem cell has the ability to make specialized cells for various tissues in the body, such as heart muscle, skin tissue, and liver tissue.
Plant Stem Cells
Because of their self-renewal functions, stem cells are the most important cells in the skin, as they are the source for continuous regeneration of the epidermis. Stem cell cosmetics are developed based on stem cell technology, which involves using extracts or culture media of stem cells. However, cosmetics containing human stem cells or their extracts have not been released into the market due to legal, ethical, and safety concerns. Meanwhile, plant stem cells, which circumvent these problems, are highly regarded in the cosmetics industry for improving culture technology.
The EU prohibits the use of cells, tissues, or products of human origin in cosmetics; stem cell therapy for anti-aging has not been approved or been deemed safe or effective in USA by the FDA. Furthermore, its use outside of a clinical research trial (which would be listed at www.clinicaltrials.gov) is prohibited. Whereas the Korea Food and Drug Association has allowed the use of sources originating from stem cell media in cosmetics since 2009 (3).
So, any cosmetics marketed as containing stem cells found on US market (should) contain stem cells extracted from plants.
A major difference between animal and plant stem cells is that plant stem cells provide cells for complete organs (branches, leaves, etc.), compared with the animal stem cells, which regenerate cells restricted to one tissue type.
Plants have nowhere to run when times get tough, so they must rely on an inner body plan to generate developmental responses to environmental changes.
Research by many labs in the last decades has uncovered a set of independent stem cell systems that fulfill the specialized needs of plant development and growth in four dimensions. In some long-lived plants, such as trees, plant stem cells remain active over hundreds or even thousands of years, revealing the exquisite precision in the underlying control of proliferation, self-renewal and differentiation.
Plant stem cells in cosmetics
There is some confusion around the term “stem cell” due to the marketing verbiage used by the cosmetic companies. In topical cosmetics the formulations don’t contain stem cells straight out of the plants. They are actually a range of plant stem cell extracts, which are manufactured using a cell culture technology. This technology consists of many and complicated methods that should ensure growth of plant cells, tissues or organs in the environment with a microbe-free nutrient. The plant cell technology allows synthesis of the biologically active substances that exist in plants, but are not commonly available in natural environment or are difficult to obtain by chemical synthesis.
The extracts obtained through this technology from the plant stem cells are currently used for production of both common or professional care cosmetics (4).
Apple stem cell extracts used in hair care
The beneficial apple properties are known for centuries. Apples are cultivated today only for their taste, but earlier the main criterion of the type selection was the “shelf life” of the fruits.
One of such apple-tree types is Uttwiler Spatlauber which is growing in Switzerland. This is a type cultivated solely due to a possible long-time storage of fruits, which remain fresh even for several months. Some trees come from the plant cutting sets planted during the 18th century!!!
The stem cell extracts are made in 2 main steps: first, the tissue material is obtained from apples (collected from a cut surfaces of the apples). Secondly, the material is going through a complicated biotechnological process to make the stem cell extracts that contains certain active ingredients. These are actually the ingredients used in formulations marketed as containing stem cells (5).
Swiss biotech company Mibelle Biochemistry created the product named PhytoCellTecTM Malus Domestica, that is a liposomal formulation (extract) derived from the stem cells of the Uttwiler Spatlauber apples. The company has published in vitro experiments done with hair follicles that showed the ability of the Uttwiler Spatlauber stem cell extract to delaying of the tissue atrophy process (6); this ingredient delays hair aging.
Formulations for healthy hair
We are working with abril et nature one of the leading European laboratories specialized in the research and development of premium hair care products for beauty salons and stylists, to bring their products to our members. Among other high end lines, they produce a “Stem Cell” line that contains stem cell extracts from the same Swiss apple variety, Uttwiler Spatlauber. In addition to the plant cell extracts, the formulations contain other active ingredients, antioxidant oils (from argan, Damascus rose, green tea, black tea and wheat germ) and co-polymers oil-protein, which restore the cortex protein structure.
- Wild, Jennifer, Plastic Surgical Nursing: July/September 2014 – Volume 34 – Issue 3 – p 148–149.
- Thomas Laux, Cell, Vol. 113, 281–283, May 2, 2003.
- Sung Hyun Choi, Jisoo YunSang Mo Kwon, Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, August 2015, Volume 12, Supplement 2, pp 78–83.
- Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica in Drug Research, Vol. 71 No. 5 pp. 701-707, 2014.
- Schmid, F. Zülli, Use of Plant Cell Cultures for a Sustainable Production of Innovative Ingredients, SOFW Journal, 2012.
- Schmid D., Sch¸rch C., Blum P., Belser E., Z¸lli F.: SOFW Journal 5, 30 (2008).
I was born and raised in Romania, and I remember a very popular tradition we had every year on November 30th. This day Romanians celebrate Saint Andrew (Andrei) – who is considered the protector of Romania. In the evening of St. Andrew’s Day, all the family members put wheat seeds to germinate and everybody needs to take care of his/her plant. It is said that the plants that grow the most beautiful and tall will give its owner a good and a healthy year.
The reason I took us back to this tradition was to make a comparison between how taking care of the seeds by feeding them with water and nutrients and how adequate blood flow to the scalp will promote healthy hair growth.
What is healthy hair?
Healthy hair is smooth, glossy, and flexible yet strong, with the ability to withstand shearing forces. The hair gloss depends upon the smooth layering of the cuticle, while the strength depends on the integrity of the cortex, which is made up of 15% hard keratin (skin contains 2% keratin). Some scientific literature defines healthy hair as pigmented hair, which I don’t quite agree with. While non-pigmented (grey) hair is thinner, it was also observed that the adherence of the cuticle scales was more pronounced in the non- pigmented hair, which gives more shine. Furthermore, the non-pigmented hair requires more rupture strength and has a smaller elastic modulus; basically it is stronger than pigmented hair (1). Many people in their 20’s start to have grey hair, which doesn’t necessary mean is not healthy hair. Aging hair is associated with appearance of thinning, frizz, dryness, loss of shine, but these are caused also by the environmental and chemical factors.
Promoting a healthy hair through stimulating blood flow circulation
An often overlooked factor in promoting scalp health and ultimately a healthy hair, is circulation of oxygen and nutrients to your scalp. Hair receives the nutrients it needs to grow via the bloodstream. So it’s as simple as this: increase the supply of blood to your hair follicles and you increase the supply of nutrients to your hair (2). An increase in blood flow also prevents dandruff, psoriasis, and other scalp problems that affect growing healthy, strong hair.
How this actually works: Hair is formed from hair follicles. The lower part of the hair follicle consists of hair papilla, hair matrix, hair shaft, inner root sheath, and outer root sheath. Hair papilla is located in papilla-like projections of the hair follicle’s lower dermis, the source of hair growth, and consists of a number of blood tissues and cells. The matrix wraps around the papilla and provide access for the capillaries with nutrients (3). Therefore, improvement of blood circulation in the scalp can have a very close relationship with healthy hair, and a blood circulation disorder caused by compression of the capillaries is one of the causes of hair loss (4).
Research showed that a reduced nutritive blood flow to the hair follicles might be a significant event in the pathogenesis of early male pattern baldness. In patients with early male pattern baldness, subcutaneous blood flow was 2.6 times lower than the values found in the individuals with normal hair growth (5).
Enhancement of blood circulation makes sure that the hair follicle remains healthy, strong and stimulate hair follicles to enter into hair growth phase (anagen).
How can we increase scalp blood circulation?
When we exercise we sweat. Through sweat, toxins and waste substances are flushed out from the skin pores, opening the pores in the same time. Likewise, when we sweat from our scalp, it helps to unclog the hair follicles, giving enough space for the new hair to grown.
Moderate to high level cardio workout in form of power walking, running, cycling, dance, or any sport is good for your body and hair.
Apparently, breathing exercise (pranayam) and inversion yoga postures like head stand (sirsasana), shoulder stand (sarvangasana), plow pose (halasana), downward facing dog stretch (adhomukha svanasana), and sun salutation (surya namaskar) are considered to be highly beneficial for healthy hair growth. The inversion pose work by increasing blood flow to your scalp and head area, supplying essential ingredients for hair growth. These postures claim to correct hormonal imbalances, which is another cause of hair loss.
Scalp massages with essential oils
The essential oils enter your system through the olfactory system (inhalation) and/or through your skin and reach into the blood where they bind to receptors and change the chemical composition (6).
Ginkgo biloba is a very popular herbal remedy with numerous health benefits. Among them is its role in improving the circulation of blood to the brain and skin and hence increased oxygen supply (7). Others oils that stimulate scalp blood circulation are lavender oil (8), neem oil.
Recently, emu oil has been marketed as a promising hair care ingredient because it stimulates melanogenesis, promotes hair regrowth, nourishes the scalp and hair. This oil has three superior qualities: restores a natural healthy shine, superb moisturizing properties and effective fortifying agent for limp dry hair to eliminate split ends. Because of its chemical structure, emu oil reduces the blood flow resistance in scalp arteries and capillaries (10).
Having colder showers
Higher temperatures does increase blood flow but colder water causes the body to increase capillary size in an attempt to warm you up. Your skin glows afterwards from the increase in blood flow. This is the logic behind the sauna therapy (at least the original Finnish sauna J, when you stay 20 min in the sauna followed by a cold shower and repeat the cycle at least 2 times).
Depending on the hair concerns and type, sometimes we recommend to our Shtrands customers to raise a conditioner or a hair mask with cooler water that helps with increasing the scalp blood circulation as well.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, just shoot me an email at QS@shtrands.com. I answer within 24 hrs.
- Marcella Gabarra et Biomed Biopharm Res., 2015 (12)1: 79-89.
- http://www.nicehair.org/turbo-charge-your circulation#sthash.OVoDoTpS.dpuf
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Many of you heard of “pH balanced” shampoos or even bought some of those, and maybe you wondered what does it mean.
I personally found these labels very confusing for the consumers. As a chemist, the first time I saw the “pH balanced” label I thought that maybe the pH is 7 (what we call neutral or balanced in chemistry). As a second thought I was asking myself: “Balanced to what?” You need to have a reference point.
The reality is there is no standardized value for the pH of a shampoo and pH value varies among different shampoos on the market. A research group in Brazil (2) analyzed 123 shampoos on the market and found pH values anywhere from 3.5 to 9.
To understand better how pH influences the hair, lets first define pH:
What is pH?
Described for the first time by the Danish biochemist Søren Peter Lauritz Sørensen in 1909, pH stands for “power of Hydrogen”(1). The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. It ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic, and a pH greater than 7 is basic (or alkaline). An increased concentration of (negative) hydroxyl ions [OH-] will make a solution more alkaline, where one with increasing concentration of (positive) hydrogen ions [H+] will make it more acidic.
How does the shampoo pH influence my scalp and hair strands?
Shampoos are not cleaning only the scalp they have a strong influence on the hair shaft as well. The pH of the scalp is 5.5 and the hair shaft pH is 3.7 (2).
Any product applied on hair that has pH higher than 3.7 causes an increase of the negative charge on the hair strand which is actually an increase of static electricity and provokes repulsion between hair fibers, causing the “frizziness” effect. Water is more alkaline in nature so when the hair is rinsed, it becomes negatively charged and repels the anionic cleansing agents (surfactants), washing away the residues (2). Furthermore, hair has an increased capacity to absorb water in alkaline environment: water penetrates the cuticles which open up and breaks the hydrogen bond of the keratin molecules, causing increased cuticle removal and breakage (3).
Therefore shampoos with pH higher than 5.5 will induce frizz on normal and dry hair, and will be hard to detangle.
In order to overcome this, the pH of the shampoos is reduced to the “balanced” range (3.5 – 5.5) by addition of mild acidic substances, such as glycolic acid or citric acid. Also the hair shaft negative charges can be reduced by introduction of cationic surfactants.
This is the reason that cationic surfactants are the main components in conditioners and leave-in crèmes.
On the contrary, higher pH in a shampoo can induce the “volumizing” effect to an oily hair.
Many clarifying shampoos (used to remove a lot of buildup on the hair) use alkaline ingredients to swell the hair shaft and allow the surfactants to penetrate more deeply. Persons who use these shampoos need to use also an acidic conditioner to protect the hair shaft by contracting it and keeping the moisture inside (4).
Shampoos for colored, chemically treated hair should be formulated with a lower pH (around 4-4.5) to compensate for the raised cuticles and hair damage. And also persons with curly hair that is usually drier than the straight hair should use shampoos with lower pH.
Because the scalp pH is 5.5 like the rest of the skin, shampoos that target scalp treatments should not have pH higher than 5.5.
Pediatric shampoos have a pH around 7.0 because of the “no-tear” concept and they are not intended to treat scalp.
My hair looked and felt better when I lived in Florida
When travel or move to another location, you might have observed that your hair feels and look different, even when you use the same shampoo. That is because the water in different areas has different hardness. Hard water (which has a higher dissolved mineral content) is more alkaline (higher pH) than softer water and so the difference in hair behavior. Well water from areas that have a lot of limestone is often hard. Water that comes from lakes and rainwater is often devoid of minerals, making it soft. Adding some lemon juice and vinegar in your rinse water (to decrease the pH) are often helpful to deal with hard water issues.
- Acidic ingredients will harden and contract the hair, while alkali ingredients expand and soften the hair shaft, making it more prone to frizz and breakage.
- Enough of moisture and oil in the hair are signs of good healthy growth, which can get affected when the acidity is disturbed (5).
- In general, it is better to use shampoos with pH lower than 5.5 and avoid the use of clarifying shampoos as much as possible.
- There is no such thing as “the best shampoo” on the market. Each person should look for the “suitable shampoo” for her/him, as we all have different hair types, textures, concerns, daily activities, and live in different environments.
- Gavazzoni Dias MFR, de Almeida AM, Cecato PMR, Adriano AR, Pichler J. The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality? International Journal of Trichology. 2014;6(3):95-99.
- Robbins CR. The physical properties and cosmetic behavior of hair. In: Robbins CR, editor. Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. 5th ed. New York: Springer-Verlag; 2012
- Bouillon C, Wilkinson J. The science of Hair Care, Ed. Taylor & Francis, London, 2005, 92-139.
The fact that solar radiation can alter the appearance of hair is becoming more and more conscious to the mind of cosmetic consumers. In response to this, cosmetic products are tending to be more than just a concept in trying to protect the hair from those photo-induced changes.
There is also some confusion around SPF and how this translates to hair and the actual damages the rays have on our hair.
So, good to know that:
- SPF is a standard measuring factor applied to the skin ONLY. There is no Hair-SPF and the hair products that have a SPF on the package are just sending you erroneous and confusing messages.
- Some hair products show a SPF but you will see below “for scalp”; it is referring to protecting the scalp, not the hair strands.
- Effects of UVR on hair are different than those on skin.
Chronic Effects of UVR on skin and bald scalp
Terrestrial solar UVR ranges from approximately 280 to 400 nm: UVB (280-320 nm) typically induces erythema and direct DNA, whereas UVA (320-400 nm) is associated with tanning and photoaging (1). UVA also generates excess reactive oxygen species that indirectly damage DNA. (2,3). So, photocarcinogenesis and photoaging are the most two important chronic effects of UVR on the skin and bald scalp. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) has become a worldwide standard for measuring efficacy of sunscreen products in shielding the sun’s UVR.
The SPF is defined as the ratio of the UVR dose that induces the first perceptible erythema (sunburn) on sunscreen-protected skin to the UVR dose that induces the same erythema on unprotected skin. (4).
Effects of UVR on hair fibers
Contrary to the skin, the hair will not send a message of pain because of UVR overexposure; the results are rather seen after cumulating solar radiation over several weeks.
As hair is nonliving, it cannot be sunburned or undergo photocarcinogenesis; however, UV and visible radiation are very damaging to the cosmetic value of the hair. The hair will noticeably be less manageable, weaker, more brittle and will have developed more split ends (5).
Photochemical impairment of the hair includes degradation and loss of hair proteins as well as degradation of hair pigment. UVB radiation is responsible for hair protein loss and UVA radiation is responsible for hair color changes. Moreover, a study showed that acute Telogen Effluvium (sudden increase in hair loss) from prolonged UVR exposure could occur (6).
UV exposure involves considerable changes in the structure of keratin including the photo-oxidation of amino acids, sterol and fatty acids, resulting in rupture of sulphur bridges inside the hair fiber and on the surface of the cuticle, decomposition of lipids, and degradation of the pigment (melanin).
The worst effect of sunlight on hair is cystine oxidation to cysteic acid, which modifies its mechanical properties (7,8).
The natural photoprotection in hair is melanin; the degradation of the melanin by visible and UVR in the hair shaft is called photobleaching. This phenomenon is especially pronounced in blonde hair, which lightens dramatically in the summer, but also results in permanent changes in the hair shaft internal amino acids and external lipids.
Un-pigmented hair, such as gray and white hair, is more susceptible to UV damage than pigmented hair. Also, the rate of cystine disulfide bond breakage is greater for un-pigmented than pigmented hair. This means that one of the best sources of photo-protection is hair dye.
White un-pigmented hair looses more mechanical strength after UV radiation than semi-permanently or permanent dyed brown hair. The permanent hair dye acts as a passive photo filter reducing the hair fiber protein damage by attenuating the incident light. The darker the hair color the more photo-protection imparted by the dye (9). In the same time, the hair color of the artificially dyed hair is also sensitive to sun exposure, resulting in faded and dull colors.
UV filters used in hair formulations
There are many chemicals used in hair care products in order to decrease the damage of sun exposure. They are used to protect the mechanical integrity of the hair shaft or to protect the hair color, especially for hair that has been dyed. Among these, most popular are benzophenones (for UVA-UVB), phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid (UV-B), butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (UV-A), octyl dimethyl para-aminobenzoic acid PABA (UV-B).
Among these, the benzophenones have the best protection ability both on color and morphology, but there are also most unstable chemicals in formulations (10).
Most hair care products with UV filters on the market today are formulated with ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, also called octyl methoxycinnamate or octinoxate. There are also some polymeric filters, such as the polymeric organosiloxanes, which protect the artificial hair color from fading (11).
- Divya R. Sambandan and Desiree Ratner, Sunscreens: An Overview and Update, J Am Acad Dermatol 2011;64:748-58
- Dahle J, Kvam E. Induction of delayed mutations and chromosomal instability in fibroblasts after UVA-, UVB-, and X-radiation. Cancer Res 2003; 63:1464-9.
- Marrot L, Meunier JR. Skin DNA photodamage and its biological consequences. J Am Acad Dermatol 2008; 58:S139-48.
- Reinau, U. Osterwalder, E. Stockfleth and C. Surber, Meaning and Implication of the Sun Protection Factor, British Journal of Dermatology 2005.
- Dubief, C. Experiments with hair photodegradation. Cosm.Toil.107, 95-102 (1992).
- Trüeb RM (2003) Is androgenetic alopecia a photo-aggravated dermatosis? Dermatology 207: 343-348.
- Fernández et al. / Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology 106 (2012) 101–106
- Habe, T., Tanji, N., Inoue, S., Okamoto, M., Tokunaga, S. and Tanamachi, H. (2011), ToF-SIMS characterization of the lipid layer on the hair surface. I: the damage caused by chemical treatments and UV radiation. Surf. Interface Anal., 43: 410–412.
- Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, Hair, sun, regulation, and beauty, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 13, 1—2.
- Bernhardt et al., UV filters for hair protection, International Journal of Cosmetic Science 15,181-199 (1993).
- Maillan, UV Protection of artificially colored hair using a leve-in formulation, International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2002, 24, 117-122.
I often hear people complaining about how their dry scalp causing them dandruff and wanted to be clear about a fact: dandruff is NOT caused by dry scalp, rather by too much oil.
What is dandruff?
Unlike classical seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is a non-inflammatory condition of the scalp that is characterized by scaling and is considered to be a form of mild seborrheic dermatitis. Dandruff is a common scalp disorder affecting almost half of the post-puberty population regardless of ethnicity and gender. Dandruff occurs when the flakes are large and are accompanied by itching and inflammation.
Although the etiology of dandruff is complex, multifactorial and not fully understood there is a general consensus that it is predicated by the following main factors:
- yeast of the genus Malassezia;
- sebum production;
- various environmental and genetic factors (episodes tending to be worse in early spring and winter, sensitivity to oleic acid).
The levels of Malassezia species on a dandruff-afflicted scalp are more than twice the levels on a normal scalp. Sebum is implicated because the yeast uses it as a feedstock, it multiplies and dandruff appears; so basically oily skin is heaven for this yeast-like fungus.
What is dry scalp?
Well, dry scalp is just dry skin on your head. Unlike dandruff, dry scalp is characterized by small, white flakes of scalp. It can be caused by severe dehydration and over-shedding of the scalp, using poor quality shampoo and conditioner which are stripping your scalp of it’s natural oils, over-washing your hair, washing your hair with hot water, or change in the seasons. Sometimes small flakes can appear as a consequence of building up styling products (certain resins can cause that) or medications like Rogaine. All these can cause flaking and can be easily mistaken for dandruff.
It’s important to understand whether you truly have dandruff or just dry scalp. Then you can decide how to best take care of your scalp; because a healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp.
- Frederik Manuel and S. Ranganathan (2011), A New Postulate on Two Stages of Dandruff: A Clinical Perspective, Int J Trichology. 2011 Jan-Jun; 3(1): 3–6.
- Park HK, Ha M-H, Park S-G, Kim MN, Kim BJ, Kim W (2012) Characterization of the Fungal Microbiota (Mycobiome) in Healthy and Dandruff-Afflicted Human Scalps. PLoS ONE 7(2).