It began when I was about five years old. My mother would take me to the kitchen, sit me on a bar stool and prepare a beauty concoction for my hair in a silverware spoon. She would heat it over a flame (usually on the stove) and when the liquid was hot, but not boiling, she would distribute it over my chocolate brown hair, concentrating on the scalp. I would spend the next 30-40 minutes with a plastic bag wrapped around my head, pretending I was a martian.
The concoction consisted of almond oil, tomato juice and placenta. Yes, placenta -- like afterbirth.
At the time, I didn't realize that what my mom was putting in my hair came from a living thing's uterus. In all honesty, the placenta smelled really good and looked like vegetable oil. The bi-weekly event became a beauty ritual and I've used placenta my whole life because of it. The memory of my mother lathering afterbirth all over my head is akin to other memories of her teaching me how to braid my hair or going to buy my first bra. It was all very normal to me!
At-home beauty treatments have always been popular--who hasn't heard of using oatmeal and honey as an at-home exfoliant or using sugar and lavender oil for a body scrub? It's the placenta that sticks out as the odd ingredient, turning an at-home beauty remedy into something eccentric and foreign. Placenta: who even does that?! However, is it weirder than Tom Cruise putting bird poop on his face or Kate Middleton using bee venom facials? I think not.
According to Kentaro Yoshida, director of the Yoshida Clinic in Japan that specializes in dermatology and author of the book "Placenta Power," the Chinese have been using placenta as a remedy for aging skin and shiny hair for over 2000 years. Yoshida also claims that placenta was employed as a heath treatment in Ancient Egypt and that Marie Antoinette used it as a beauty elixir (that's right, as a drink!)
Whether or not the infamous cake queen used placenta is of no consequence. When you consider that placenta is afterbirth, it doesn't matter if Aphrodite used it to promote her eternal youth, let's be honest: it is still a little gross. However, the health factors and benefits of the gooey substance shouldn't be ignored. Placenta is the organ that forms in the embryo during pregnancy that transfers nutrients and oxygen from the mother's body to the growing baby. The placenta is also vital in the regeneration of cells and the acceleration of growth of the liver.
Products made of the substance are widely available across Asia, though many women keep their own placentas after pregnancy for future use... which probably seems a little odd to most of us. In the United States, you can buy hair treatments made from placenta at beauty supply stores like Ricky's or Sally's.
The one I've always used is 'Hask Placenta No-Rise Instant Hair Repair Treatment,' and is made from cow. That probably sounds a little disgusting, but it works! It really does. Growing up, I had the most beautiful hair; you could definitely tell the difference the placenta treatment made. When I use it now, my hair feels soft and smells really good for days.
I mean, really: if the placenta has already done its natural purposes and it's not being used any more... why not put in it your hair?