Before the trend in organic personal care products, neurosurgeon-turned-entrepreneur Rainier Villanueva had already formulated a shampoo that took on the Pinoy problem of hair fall.
Villanueva obtained his medical degree from the Far Eastern University and took up residency at the AFP Medical Center. While traveling in the west, he noted the growing concern for natural cosmetics as an alternative to synthetic-based products that posed possible health risks.
“I’m also a pharmacist. I wanted to work with herbs that have a cosmetic application. I went into the cosmetic industry because in times of crises, food and personal care products thrive,” he said.
Villanueva pointed out that 70 percent of the falling hair problems were due to the petrolatum-based ingredients in shampoos and hair conditioners. Sulfates or cleansing agents and chemical preservatives such as parabens are harsh and potentially toxic to the body. The hair and scalp conditions are aggravated by chemical treatments and stress.
Young people getting bald
“Before you reach 40, genetics should not influence the state of your hair. Young people are getting bald because of these external factors,” he said.
He observed that women in the Visayas and Mindanao would use lauat (Litsea glutinosae) bark and leaves to revitalize their hair. On the other hand, women from Luzon favored gugo (Entada phaseoloides) for their shampoo.
Villanueva combined lauat or Indian laurel and gugo into a hair-care product called Lauat Hair Treatment Shampoo in 1988. The business started out as a backyard operation. Back then, it was easier to introduce organic products in such outlets as Mercury and SM. At the onset, he observed that Lauat was selling in the upmarket outlets of the drugstores. By word of mouth, people saw the effectivity of the product.
“Based on a study by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), gugo prevents falling hair because it stimulates micro circulation in the blood vessels. The more the blood flows in the scalp, the more nourishment it gets. Lawat contains essential fatty acids. It’s food for the scalp, and rejuvenates the hair follicles. The synergy of these two ingredients make Lauat shampoo effective,” said Villanueva.
Research also shows that the saponin, the chemical compound that gives the soapy lather in lawat, contains anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant elements. Saponin also protects the scalp from free radicals that block the skin cells’ ability to work properly.
In 2005, Villanueva organized a study to substantiate if the regular use of Lauat Hair Treatment Shampoo would control hair fall after frequent usage.
Conducted by Dr. Marielle Favorito, the study was conducted over a five-week period. At the start, the subjects’ fallen hair (what fell after combing using their own shampoos) was kept in ziplock bags. Every week the hair strands that fell after the shampoos were collected.
Every day they reported to the research center to be shampooed using Lauat. Of the 178 subjects who initially joined, 98 respondents completed the five-week tests. The subjects were largely female, between the ages of 10 and 84, most in the 13-29 age group.
In the first shampoo, the average number of hair strands collected was 28.5. Some reported losing only two strands, others as much as 282. The people over 60 reported as having more fallen hair. Men had more falling hair—an average of 45 strands. The female subjects, between the ages of 30 and 39, reported more hair loss.
After the first week of daily shampooing with Lauat, the average number of hair strands accumulated was 14, or a 48 percent decrease. After three weeks of daily use, there was a 73 percent drop. After 28 days, the hair strands gathered were down to 89 percent of initial hair fall.
Eventually, multinational brands came out with their own hair-fall shampoos and conditioners. “We can’t compete with the big companies in terms of advertising. We believe that if you have a good product, the customer will patronize it because it is true to its claims,” says Villanueva.
The doctor-businessman has just formed a company dedicated to the research on the effectivity of plants for cosmetic uses.