Yacon Root for Hair: Benefits and How to Use It

root powder

 marekuliasz / Getty Images / Design by Hallie Gould

Indigenous to South America, the yacon plant is a root-based fruit that has been used in folk medicine and food for generations. A natural sweetener, the root and leaves of the plant are used to make syrups, powders, and herbal teas believed to support conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Most notably, it is a natural prebiotic due to its high concentration of fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are a great source of fiber and are not easily broken down by the body.

What is Yacon Root?

Yacon root is the prebiotic and antioxidant-rich root of the yacon plant that is often found in the form of powder or syrup. Yacon root promotes a healthy microbiome both in the gut and on the scalp.

Prebiotics and probiotics have gained notoriety for their ability to support the health of the gut microbiome. More recently, skincare has begun to include probiotic ingredients in order to support the skin's microbiome. Finally, the conversation around microbiomes and the ingredients needed to protect it has travelled further north to the skin of the scalp.

Understanding the prebiotic and antioxidant properties of yacon root, its easy to see why some would wonder what benefits this sweet root could have for the hair and scalp. To understand the potential uses of yacon root for the hair, we turned to two dermatologists for their take on this tasty tuber. Read on for the benefits of yacon root and how to use it for your hair.

Meet the Expert

Yacon Root for Hair

Type of ingredient: Prebiotic, antioxidant, and natural anti-fungal treatment.

Main benefits: Promotes a more balanced microbiome on the scalp, strengthens the skin’s protective barrier, prevents dandruff, and minimizes irritation.

Who should use it: In general, yacon root treats the skin of the scalp and all hair types can benefit from improved scalp health. Due to its anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties, it may be most beneficial for those with dandruff or other irritation on the scalp.

How often can you use it: Yacon root can safely be used to treat the scalp and hair daily. Consistency is key to maximize the benefits of this ingredient. Our experts recommend following the instructions of any products that contain yacon root for frequency of use.

Works well with: Emollients and other moisturizing ingredients which can also be beneficial to the skin barrier of the scalp.

Don’t use with: There are no known ingredients that interact with yacon root negatively.

Benefits of Yacon Root for Hair

The skin of the scalp is not that different from the skin on our faces. Though the scalp contains more hair follicles than the rest of our bodies, it has the same needs as skin anywhere else. Understanding and supporting the microbiome of the scalp has become an important part of treating scalp irritation and issues according to both of our experts. Healing the skin barrier and microbiome can prevent and treat issues like dandruff. "It is effective as a scalp treatment or cleansing treatment because it contains saponins, which are natural cleansing agents that also reduce inflammation and eliminate itchiness," Ziering explains. "It can mitigate dandruff, which is often a result of fungal growth or yeast."

Further, a healthy scalp environment can influence the health of the hair as well. "A healthy scalp is crucial for hair growth and for preventing hair loss, so by keeping the scalp microbiome balanced, Yacon Root supports healthy hair growth and prevents the formation of dandruff, which can lead to hair loss," says Engelman. Ziering agrees and adds that there is anecdotal evidence to support that it can create or support the conditions that are most beneficial for scalp health.

  • Fights the flakes of dandruff: Dandruff is typically caused by fungal growth or yeast infecting the scalp. Ziering shares that yacon root is effective as a scalp treatment or cleansing treatment is because it contains saponins, which are natural cleansing agents that can mitigate dandruff.
  • Soothes the scalp and reduces inflammation: Yacon root's antioxidant and antimicrobial properties help to fight other scalp conditions as well. Ziering shares that it functions as a calming agent from other, various forms of aggravation due to atopic dermatitis.
  • Boosts overall scalp health: In reducing inflammation and preventing irritating issues like dandruff, yacon root works to maintain the scalp's health. The prebiotic qualities of yacon promote a more balanced microbiome on the scalp, strengthening the skin’s protective barrier, says Engelman.
  • Eliminates dirt and bacteria: With its anti-inflammatory properties and anti-fungal properties, Ziering says it also can be used as clarifier or cleanser to help eliminate build up on the scalp. He explains that it is effective as a scalp or cleansing treatment is because it contains saponins.
  • Prevents hair loss: "A healthy scalp is crucial for hair growth and for preventing hair loss, so by keeping the scalp microbiome balanced, yacon root supports healthy hair growth and prevents the formation of dandruff, which can lead to hair loss," shares Engelman. Ziering adds that the cleaning nature of yacon root can improve the quality of existing hair, saying "Hair volume will be boosted and strands may appear thicker, fuller and healthier."   
  • Supports new hair growth: While both experts stress that there is little to no evidence to support claims that yacon root can cause new hair growth, both experts agree that it does provide support to the hair growing process through its benefits to the scalp. "It will leave hair and scalp clean and help to ensure that the follicle is open for hair growth," says Ziering. He adds, "While not  not a cure for baldness, there is anecdotal evidence that extracts such as this can help to stimulate the scalp and to create or support the conditions that are most beneficial for scalp health and therefore better hair growth is an accurate statement."

Hair Type Considerations

Both experts agree that yacon root is safe for all hair types and textures, as it has little to no effect on the hair itself. The primary benefits of yacon root are for the scalp and Engelman says it does not have a history of being a particularly irritating ingredient. However, both dermatologists agreed that a dermatologist should be consulted before trying any new treatment or supplement and a patch test should be conducted before using all over your skin or scalp. "If you feel itchiness or irritation after using yacon root, stop using it and consult your doctor," cautions Engelman. "If you have severe dandruff or another scalp condition, you may want to talk with your doctor about treatment options first."

How to Use Yacon Root for Hair

Despite all of the benefits mentioned above, there are not many products that contain yacon root currently available. It is possible to use yacon root for your hair by adding it to existing products or by creating your own treatment, but Ziering recommends using an extract over the root itself. There are many yacon root extracts and powders available for purchase that are significantly easier to work with than the raw root, which would require a great deal of preparation before it could be applied to the hair and scalp.

Yacon root can be used as often as directed by products containing it or up to daily as a treatment as long as no irritation occurs. Ziering says that like with any protocol or treatment, consistency is key to maximize the benefits. He recommends that it be used daily for several months, or a full growth cycle from telegen to anagen, in order to observe the most benefits.

  • Add it to shampoo or conditioner: Some shampoos and conditioners may contain yacon root, but you can also make your own by adding yacon root to your favorite shampoo and conditioner, Ziering suggests. He recommends mixing in about one part extract to three parts shampoo. This could also be done with a rinse out or leave in conditioner.
  • Use it as a pre-shampoo treatment: Ziering recommends creating your own pre-shampoo treatment using yacon root. He recommends using a few teaspoons and a carrier oil (such as almond or coconut oil) mixed with yacon root extract and massaging it into the scalp before shampooing your hair. 
  • Use products that contain yacon root: While there are not many widely available products that contain yacon root, both of our experts recommended the same product: Prose’s Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask. This treatment, designed to be applied to hair before washing, balances the scalp microbiome and promotes healthy hair, says Engelman.
Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask
Prose Pre-Shampoo Scalp Mask $38.00
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FAQ
  • Does yacon root treat dandruff?

    Yacon root is a natural anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory treatment that may help to treat dandruff. Those with dandruff should consult a dermatologist to determine the source of their dandruff before attempting any at-home treatments.

  • Does yacon root prevent hair loss?

    There is no evidence to support that yacon root directly prevents hair loss, however it does provide many benefits to the scalp's health, including treating dandruff, that may help to prevent hair loss.

  • Does yacon root promote new hair growth?

    There is no evidence to support that yacon root directly influences new hair growth. Yacon root supports a healthy scalp microbiome and a scalp environment that is conducive to new growth.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Yan MR, Welch R, Rush EC, Xiang X, Wang X. A sustainable wholesome foodstuff; health effects and potential dietotherapy applications of yacon. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2632.

  2. Cao Y, Ma ZF, Zhang H, Jin Y, Zhang Y, Hayford F. Phytochemical properties and nutrigenomic implications of yacon as a potential source of prebiotic: current evidence and future directions. Foods. 2018;7(4):59.

  3. Cao Y, Ma ZF, Zhang H, Jin Y, Zhang Y, Hayford F. Phytochemical properties and nutrigenomic implications of yacon as a potential source of prebiotic: current evidence and future directions. Foods. 2018;7(4):59.

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