Beeswax, honey and venom have all played a starring role in skincare and makeup products, but now a more obscure bee-related ingredient is setting the beauty world abuzz. Propolis, a botanical resin mixture used by bees to seal crevices and inhibit bacterial growth inside their hives, was recently shown to promote hair regrowth in initial studies. According to research scientists at the Hokkaido University in Japan, the sticky substance, applied topically, could become a key component in reversing hair loss and even creating new follicles in humans. In fact, this is just one of the many uses for topical propolis, which was even utilized by ancient Greeks to heal abscesses.

While propolis has been known for its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities, researchers also discovered that the number of cells responsible for hair growth increased after coming into contact with propolis. They attribute the extra strands to the compound’s natural anti-inflammatory properties, which allow for follicles to grow hair healthily. 

Further research is currently underway, but we’re not surprised to see propolis already making its way into hair products. It’s a purported strand-strengthening ingredient in both Iden’s Bee Nourished Shampoo and Apivita’s Propoline shampoo, while Savannah Bee’s Royal Jelly and Propolis Conditioner is infused with the substance to promote a healthy scalp. 

Unlike other follicle boosting ingredients—such as minoxodil (in Rogaine) or bimatoprost (in Latisse)—propolis is completely natural. But according to New York City-based trichologist David Kingsley, PhD, propolis shouldn’t be considered as a natural alternative to these ingredients for every receding hairline. Propolis’ anti-inflammatory properties might work for hair-loss conditions in which inflammation is a cause. But, he says, “genetic hair loss wouldn’t benefit, since it’s triggered by hormonal sensitivities.” That said, Kingsley still believes that propolis products are worth a try. “Successful treatments for hair thinning usually combine various products, since they have additive and synergetic benefits,” he adds. Since it may be too early to assess propolis’ success rate, this could be a case of: Can’t hurt; might help. 

Sources:

  1. Hokkaido University study
  2. Ancient uses of propolis
  3. Iden Bee
  4. Apivita Women's Tonic Shampoo for Thinning Hair
  5. Savannah Bee