Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Most of us go to great lengths to get amazing hair: We’ll take supplements to boost thickness, try any and all products to amp up shine, and spend hours in the salon chair getting fitted with extensions to enjoy new levels of volume and length. This latest craze coming out of Brazil, however, takes the cake for inventiveness, with women going above and beyond in the pursuit of longer hair.
Called shampoo bomba, this method finds Brazilian women adding something called Monovin-A — a pet-store product that’s injected into horses to improve the thickness and sheen of their manes — into their shampooing routine. Enterprising Brazilian bloggers found they could get a similar effect by adding it to their regular shampoo and washing with the concoction two to three times per week. They report varied results: Some found one and a half inches of new growth per month. (The standard is a half-inch.)
Horse hair treatments are nothing new in the beauty world, but using a horse injectable seems much more hardcore than switching out your Pantene for Mane & Tail. It raises the question: What's in this stuff? According to our research, Monovin-A is a concentrate of 2,000,000 IU (international units, the measurement used for vitamins) of pure vitamin A. In a standard beauty product formulation, 5,000 IU may be the norm, usually containing a multitude of other follicle-supporting ingredients. Vitamin A has been used for years in your everyday hair products, it's role to increase overall hair health and boost strength and shine. However, an excess of the vitamin has actually been linked to hair loss. Is this a potential case of too much of a good thing, then?
Keep reading for the expert take on this trend.
Photo Courtesy of Pioneira
Expert trichologist Elizabeth Cunnane-Phillips of the Philip Kingsley Institute says the idea that more is better doesn't apply here. “While we can have deficiencies [in nutrients and vitamins], excess is equally not as good." She’s seen cases of hair loss caused by excessive vitamin A and says it can even affect our overall health as well. “It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, so if you are using it collectively it’s going to store [in your body]." Even topically, at this uncontrolled level the danger of vitamin absorption through the scalp is possible.
All potential side effects considered, we wanted to know if the shampoo bomba fanatics were on to something. "I’ve never seen data or scenarios where someone who is in good health and growing hair with no concerns could influence their growth by 50% or 75%,” says Cunnane-Phillips. “The reality is that your rate of hair growth is a predetermined genetic part of your story.” Problem is, much of the time, you’re not growing your hair at an optimal level (due to diet, heat styling, environmental stresses), so technically, improvements to this rate of growth can be made. “Someone could anecdotally say that their hair did improve, but maybe it was because they weren’t at optimal growth before.”
She points to our hair growth cycle, the three phases of growing, shedding, and resting that your hair is continuously going through. “It all comes down to the amount of time your hair stays in the growth phase. That can be as short as two years and as long as seven. If you have 100,000-plus hairs that are in growth for seven years you are going to gain length, but if your hair only stays in growth for two or three years, you’re going to max out at a certain point.”
Unfortunately, it’s just the luck of the genetic draw that you can’t grow your hair past your shoulders while your friend's is flowing freely down to her knees. “That is just something we can’t control,” says Cunnane-Phillips.
Bottom line: Of course there are changes you can make to ensure your hair is growing optimally, but they don’t involve getting experimental with equine ingredients. With some bloggers reporting after effects like hair loss, it’s a risky hair move to take — and one that doesn't have a ton of factual support. Take it from Cunnane-Phillips, there are far safer ways to get your hair into an optimal growing position: “[You need to] take several things into consideration: your general health, your lifestyle stressors, and your diet,” she notes. “While you can physically manipulate the fiber that is there, are you creating the underlying fundamentals to grow it well?”
Yeah, we think we'll be leaving Monovin-A exclusively to our four-legged friends.
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