A couple of years ago, Marta mused about quinoa, the South American wonder grain that is severely undervalued, considering how healthy it is. Now there's a cosmetic ingredient manufacturer that is marketing it as a solution for damaged hair and so it seemed worth taking a look to see if this venerable grain is reaching a drug store near you.

According to research, quinoa is native to the Andes Mountains where it has been eaten for thousands of years. In fact, quinoa means “mother grain” in the Inca language. And rightfully so; this food was and still is a dietary staple for many people in South America. It is a good source of amino acids and in comparison to other grains, it is low in sodium and high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc.

Because it can be grown almost anywhere in the world under varying conditions and is chock full of vitamins A, B2 and E, quinoa has been selected by the Food and Agriculture Organization as one of the leading crops that promises worldwide food security.

In addition to the general good it can do for your body, there is talk that quinoa may actually directly benefit your skin and hair. The high levels of magnesium promote skin elasticity and regenerate skin cells, while vitamin B2 (riboflavin) builds up connective tissues and is integral to cell reparation.

But is there any evidence? I couldn’t find any scientific studies that have been conducted that support quinoa’s skin and hair improving claims, but I don’t think the idea is farfetched at all. And I did come across a few websites that discussed quinoa in the context of cosmetics, one of them being CareFair.com. They have published an article that claims when quinoa is applied to the skin correctly, you benefit from anti-aging and anti-dehydrating properties. The website also offers an interesting recipe for a DIY quinoa facial mask, which seems worth a shot. And while plenty of people are allergic to wheat and other grains, most people won’t have an issue with quinoa irritating their skin, as it is usually non-reactive due to its lack of gluten.

Another article reports that when applied to the hair and scalp, quinoa binds hair to the shaft and repairs deep within it. However, this information and everything else in the article comes straight from a marketing manager trying to promote a new Tri-K shampoo called Quinoa Pro EX. Not only that, but the company hasn’t even performed consumer tests on quinoa yet – all of their research comes from “in house tests on mannequin heads.”

Quinoa Pro EX isn’t the only quinoa-based product out there. In terms of hair products, there is something called PhytoSpecific Moisturizing Styling Balm with Quinoa Oil out on the market. Though I haven’t been able to find any definitive numbers in terms of how much quinoa is needed to actually affect your hair, you should consider that quinoa is listed as the 12th ingredient in this particular shampoo. Plus, it contains the controversial Phenoxyethanol.

At first, Davies Gate Quinoa Shampoo seems great because the star ingredient is 4th on the list. But numbers 2 and 3 are Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, which can cause epidermal changes and various other worrisome effects. The shampoo also contains DMDM Hydantoin, a paraben that releases formaldehyde. And finally, if you can believe this product contains even more ingredients you need to be weary of, watch out for the PEG-150 Distearate that is in it, a substance that has been linked to cancer. I’m certain that this shampoo is not worth any of the benefits you may reap from the quinoa.

In terms of products for your skin, StyleCaster listed Cowshed Quinoa Hydrating Daily Moisturizer as one if its top 5 moisturizers for dry skin. While all of the components look safe, quinoa doesn’t even make an appearance in the top ten ingredients.

All in all, we haven’t had much luck with quinoa-based products here at TIA. Marta reviewed and rejected Lluvia Camu C Serum because of its overpowering scent. She wasn’t convinced by Mama Mio’s Zap Cellulite Shrink to Fit Cream, either, which boasted quinoa as being a cell and enzyme blocker. However, there was no supporting evidence for the claim.

So while it looks like quinoa may be up and coming in the beauty industry, you may have to wait awhile before a product comes out that is worth buying.

PhytoSpecific Moisturizing Styling Balm ($24)

Water (Aqua), Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Hydrogenated Microcristalline Wax, PEG 6 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteth 20, Steareth 20, Phenyltrimethicone, Glycerin, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Wax, Chenopodium Quinoa Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Extract, Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Extract, Oriza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Fragrance (Parfum) (Parfum), Propylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Parabens (Ethyl, Butyl), Hexamidine Diisethionate, FD&C Yellow 5 (CI 19140)

Davies Gate Quinoa Shampoo ($15)

Purified water (aqua), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Chenopodium Quinoa Extract, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Soyamidopropalkonium Chloride, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, PEG-150 Distearate, Panthenol (Vit. B5), Triethyl Citrate, Polyquaternium-10, Dimethy Lauramine Oleate, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, DMDM Hydantoin, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate FD&C Yellow 5 (19140), Yellow 6 (15985) and Fragrance (Parfum)

Cowshed Quinoa Hydrating Daily Moisturizer ($42)

aqua, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, ***glycerine (vegetable), stearic acid, *aloe barbadensis (***aloe vera) leaf extract, *glycine soja (soya) oil, ***tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), *chenopodium quinoa (quinoa) seed oil, phenoxyethanol, citric acid, ***butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, ***theobroma cacao (cocoa) butter, *cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil, *lavandula angustifolia (***lavender) oil, *pelargonium graveolens (***geranium bourbon) oil, *rosa centifolia (rose absolute) flower oil, *salvia sclarea (***clary sage) oil, *rubus idaeus (raspberry) seed oil, panthenol, *anthemis nobilis (chamomile) flower oil, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, benzyl alcohol, magnesium nitrate, magnesium chloride, disodium EDTA. **citronellol, **geraniol, **linalool. *natural pure essential oils, **potential allergens, ***certified organic ingredients

No ParabensNo PetrochemicalsNo SulphatesNo Artificial Colours Suitable for Vegetarians.