I’m blessed/cursed with a ridiculous amount of curly hair, which has made me hyper attentive to hair products and their ingredients. Thankfully Brazil has no shortage of creams, oils and elixirs. While I can find products with familiar ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter and argan oil, I’m interested in learning more about the local products I haven’t seen before. Here are eight different ingredients I’ve seen on labels here.
By now many non-Brazilians are familiar with this Amazonian berry in its juice or sorbet form. It’s been highly promoted as a superfood so it should come as no surprise that it’s made its way into hair care. Among its many health properties, açaí has vitamins B1, B2, B3, as well as Vitamin E and amino acids, which all work to strengthen hair and stimulate growth.
This is a palm also found in the Amazon. Its fruit produces seeds rich in emollients and are made into a butter. There are a number of sustainabile co-operatives in the northern states of Pará and Amazonas employing entire communities to produce the butter, with the added benefit of creating an economic incentive to preserve the Amazon jungle. Containing a high concentration of fatty acids, it’s touted as a way to repair damaged hair and control volume.
Of all the ingredients on this list, jaborandi seems to be the most ubiquitous in Brazil. The plant is a small tree or bush that grows in the north, particularly in Maranhão. Its leaves have long been used in traditional indigenous medicine to treat a long list of ailments such as glaucoma, laryngitis, alopecia, acne and more. Beauty supply stores sell jaborandi oil to treat dandruff, strengthen hair and stimulate growth.
Copaíba oil has historically been used by indigenous groups for its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, after noticing animals rubbing their wounds against the tree. Able to live up to 400 years, the tree is found in the Amazon and Central West regions of Brazil. Its oil has many, many uses, such as to cure gastritis, Athlete’s foot, urinary tract infections and even HPV. For hair, it is an effective treatment for dandruff, and its emollient properties help promote shine and softness.
Known in English as cassava or yuca, this starchy, B-vitmain and mineral-rich root is a staple in Brazilian cuisine. In the beauty industry, its leaf extract is used in hair products to give shine and nourish strands. The white inside part of the root can be used to cleanse the scalp, strengthen hair and fight dandruff.
Related to cacao, this delicious fruit from the Amazon is often made into juice, ice cream and other desserts. The seed butter has a high capacity to absorb water, making it an excellent moisturizer for dry hair. Its high content of fatty acids helps to stabilize emulsions, thereby enriching conditioners and masques. It also absorbs UVA /UVB rays, making it a natural protection from the sun.
This is another Amazonian palm tree found in wet areas in central and northern Brazil. Its pulp is made into sweets and its juice is fermented to make “wine.” Its oil is rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid also found in olive oil. It is considered the richest natural source of beta carotene, with five times the amount found in carrots. Like cupuaçu, it serves as a natural solar filter. In hair care, buriti oil acts to restore life and protect damaged strands, preserve hair color and add shine.
This oil doesn’t come from a plant, but rather from beef bone marrow! Rich in minerals, proteins and collagen, it strengthens, restores and hydrates hair. It’s also used in straightening treatments to protect hair from damage. For those squeamish at the idea of using bone marrow, a number of companies have started using a vegetable-based substitute derived from bamboo. Tamires from Cabelo Crespo offers up her grandmother’s recipe to repair her hair.