I knew that I could get a bamboo-fiber towel, bamboo serving utensils, and even order bamboo as part of my Chinese takeout, but I was really surprised to see it make an appearance at my neighborhood beauty product shop. But is it really all that versatile? With so many ways to use, eat, and consume bamboo, I had to find out how it fit into my beauty regimen.
What It Is:
You may think of bamboo as a strictly Asian plant, but it’s actually found on every continent except Europe and Antarctica. Most people are familiar with Bambusa vulgaris, or “common bamboo,” but there are more 1,400 species. And it’s actually classified as a grass.
What It’s Used For:
There are literally hundreds of uses for bamboo. You’ve likely come across it as a simple houseplant – it requires little water and sunlight, making it perfect for black thumbs. Because of the plant’s strength and quick growth cycle (it can grow up to 39 inches per day), bamboo has quickly become the darling of sustainable design. It’s used in construction because it’s as strong as steel and increasingly in environmentally-friendly projects like clothing, flooring, and kitchen accessories.
What It Does:
As many applications as bamboo has in our everyday life, it’s just as versatile in our beauty routines. “Bamboo is all about strength,” says Michael Shaun Corby, Creative Director of Alterna Professional Haircare. I found plenty of bamboo products to use on my hair and skin, and even makeup that utilizes bamboo silk. “Bamboo fortifies the hair with nourishing minerals and vitamins and also increases flexibility so there’s less breakage,” says Corby. Skin-wise, the Asian-inspired beauty brand, AmorePacific, uses bamboo sap for instant and long-term hydration, its ability to help the skin heal itself, and to boost cell turnover. As a makeup ingredient, bamboo helps absorb oil and adds protective minerals to the skin.
Bamboo is a potent ingredient, so while it’s typically in the top half of ingredients, it doesn’t need to be used in large quantities to reap its rewards, says Corby. Many companies that infuse bamboo into their products are natural or organic beauty pioneers, but if you’re looking for a certified product, check the label to ensure it’s truly organic.
Who Should Use It:
Bamboo is safe for everyone to use and there are no known allergies to it. It also gets the thumbs up from the Environmental Working Group because it’s a rapidly growing plant, and, when properly harvested, is left intact in the soil so that it can continue growing.
Where to Find It:
I’m a big fan of Alterna and was really excited to find that their newest collection, Bamboo Abundant Volume, would be perfect for my fine, flat hair. (Alterna’s Bamboo collection doesn’t use parabens, phthalates, or mineral oil.) The Uplifting Root Blast (pictured at left) quickly became my favorite. For a boost, I targeted the nozzle at my roots and massaged the spray into my hair, which gave me natural-looking body. (But learn from my mistake: Hold the can at least six inches from your head so you don’t suffer from product overload.)
I haven’t worn powder for years, mostly because I’m afraid that it will make my skin look dry and like my makeup is caked on. But Physicians Formula Bamboo Wear Bamboo Silk Powder stopped shine without making me look like a creature from the dead. The pressed powder had an almost undetectable amount of sheen so my skin was glowy, not matte. Another cool feature of this line is the reusable bamboo compact (pictured at left) and bamboo-handled brush. You buy the powder separately and pop it into the compact when it’s time for a refill. Planet-saving powder!
As someone who deals with uber-dry skin, I loved adding AmorePacific’s Moisture Bound Rejuvenating Serum (pictured at left) to my nightly skin care routine. The luxe formula isn’t like a traditional serum; it’s silky – creamy, almost – and that tight, parched feeling instantly faded from my skin. The scent was pretty divine, too. It’s an ideal substitute for a heavier night creams for those of us with normal-to-oily skin types. And this water-free serum uses bamboo sap that’s harvested in May and June, when it’s most abundant.
top photo of bamboo: Wikipedia