If you’ve been on TikTok recently (or probably on your Instagram by now), there’s a chance you’ve seen a few videos with a mysterious-looking plant that people call “nature’s shampoo” or “shampoo ginger.” The videos commonly feature people curiously squeezing a suspiciously-shaped, pine cone-looking plant filled with rich nectar, or people in lush, tropical locales squeezing said plant on their hair to wash it under waterfalls. It all seems pretty magical, which had us curious to learn more.
This special plant is called awapuhi, and it’s trending not only for its looks, but how it can help your hair. So what is awapuhi exactly? It's a species of wild ginger native to Hawaii and Polynesia, shaped like a long pine cone and containing a sweet, ginger smelling mucus-like sap that runs out when it’s squeezed. “Awapuhi is the Hawaiian name for the ginger plant," trichologist Gretchen Friese explains. "Its sap is squeezed from the blossom and is used in shampoos and other beauty products.” Hawaiians have used this special plant for centuries for hair growth and nourishment, and the reason it’s called “nature’s shampoo” is because it actually lathers when mixed with water, and the plant can actually be used directly to wash hair.
Meet the Expert
Gretchen Friese is a Denver, Colorado-based stylist who is the salon director of Foushee Salonspa and a BosleyMD-certified trichologist. She regularly offers her expert insights on all things hair, especially hair loss advice.
Dr. Alexis Parcells, MD, is a skincare specialist and board-certified plastic surgeon based in New Jersey. She is a clinical instructor at RWJ Barnabas Health and best known as a breast surgery expert, though she also is experienced with a range of topics, including hair.
Jennifer M. Wong, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant at Advanced Dermatology, PC in New York City. She has comprehensive experience in medical and cosmetic dermatology for all ages, and her wide-ranging interests allow her to provide patients with attentive, individualized care.
Below, we spoke with skincare specialist and plastic surgeon Dr. Alexis Parcells, MD, dermatology specialist Jennifer M. Wong, PA-C, and Friese to get all the details on how awapuhi can help your hair. Keep scrolling to learn all about awapuhi's benefits and how to use the trending ingredient.
Type of ingredient: A moisturizer and conditioner for hair.
Main benefits: Smooths hair, reduces frizz, and repairs dry, damaged hair.
Who should use it: In general, awapuhi is great for all hair types, but those with coarse, dry, or damaged hair might benefit more from adding it to their routine
How often can you use it: You can use awapuhi daily, including in your shampoos and conditioners
Works well with: Awapuhi works well with other nourishing, hair-building ingredients like keratin.
Don’t use with: Awapuhi doesn’t have any known ingredients that it can’t be used with.
Benefits of Awapuhi for Hair
Awapuhi is known for its ability to add intense shine and softness to hair, as well as its anti-inflammatory benefits. A few main ways the ingredient can help your strands are as follows:
Repairs hair: Awapuhi is known for repairing damaged hair and infusing it with hydration. “Awapuhi helps repair dry and damaged hair,” says Friese.
Is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant ingredient: Studies have shown that awapuhi has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Friese adds, “Its anti-inflammatory properties may help with dandruff as well as nourish the scalp”
Balances moisture: “Awapuhi extract balances moisture for shiny, manageable, and healthy-looking hair," says Parcells.
Protects hair from damage: Wong explains that long-term use can help with protecting hair, and in turn, boost hair growth.
Makes hair soft and silky: While there aren’t specific studies detailing awapuhi’s hair-softening benefits, many blogs and other pieces of anecdotal evidence claim that it makes dry, coarse, and curly hair more soft and manageable.
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts all agree that awapuhi is a great option for all hair types. “All types will benefit, as it cleanses any hair type and brightens hair by removing dulling buildup,” Parcells explains.
If you have coarse, curly, dry, or thick hair, you might get a bit more benefit from the ingredient because of its ability to repair and protect hair from damage. “Dry and damaged hair will definitely benefit from the repairing aspects of awapuhi,” adds Friese. “It is also great for curly hair because curls get a gentle wash and great hydration without roughing up the hair cuticle, which can cause frizz.”
How to Use Awapuhi for Hair
If you can get your hand on an awapuhi plant or you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it grows naturally, you can use it directly on your hair. Simply squeeze the plant to release the sap, then apply it to your hair and wash as normal. You can even do double-duty and use it as a body wash if you want. If your hair has a lot of build-up, you may opt to follow it up with a regular shampoo and conditioner.
But the easiest way to add awapuhi to your hair care routine is to use shampoos, conditioners, leave-ins, and other hair products infused with the extract. “I love the Awapuhi Wild Ginger line from Paul Mitchell," Friese says. "They have conditioning and styling products for all hair types that work very well and smell great.”