‘Gugo,’ The Ancient Filipino Hair Care Ingredient

The Ancient Filipino Secret Ingredient For Strong, Thick, And Nourished Hair

Gugo bark with Gugo shampoo and conditioner bars. Photographed by Erwin Canlas

Found in inland mangroves, forests, and freshwater swamps, a native woody vine grows to be the ultimate hair care ingredient.

When it comes to beauty, Filipino culture has always valued what is “natural.” Generally, learning how to work with nature is something that Filipinos take pride in, making use of the abundant resources from the lush environments of the tropical country. Filipinos have learned how to make sunblock from turmeric paste, and in pre-colonial times, they used stingray skin to scrub the dirt off the body. Nature has always been the star of Filipino beauty regimens, even when it comes to taking care of your crowning glory.

Detail shot of Gugo bark.
Gugo bark. Photographed by Erwin Canlas

Gugo, scientifically known as Entada phaseoloides, is a woody vine native to the Philippines. For centuries, Filipino natives have used its bark to wash their hair by soaking it and rubbing it in water, causing it to foam up like soap or shampoo. In the Philippine regions of Bataan and Samar, Gugo is used as shampoo, an ingredient for hair tonics, a stimulant for hair growth, and as a treatment for wounds, dandruff, and even head lice. Before the Spanish Conquest, lemon grass was also sometimes mixed to act as a perfume in the Gugo shampoo mixture.

These benefits are believed to be caused by the saponins, phenolic compounds, and triterpenes found in the plant. Specifically, saponin is the cause of its soap-like foam, which gives Gugo anti-inflammatory and antibacterial medicinal properties. Aside from being utilized for hair growth, the various parts of Gugo are also used to treat colic, stomachaches, rheumatism, and even cerebral hemorrhage. Its bark, seeds, and vines are rich in pharmacological properties, and it has been medicinally used in Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Although it is an ancient hygienic and medicinal practice, Gugo has found its way into the modern world through innovative products by Filipino scientists. In 1990, Filipina scientist and entrepreneur Carlita Rex Doran won DOST’s Best in Use of Indigenous Materials Award for her Forest Magic cosmetics line, which featured the Philippines’ first Gugo shampoo. This achievement also earned her the name “Gugo Queen,” and encouraged her to continue developing other personal care herbal products. Gugo has also been used in other herbal shampoos, such as Filipino neurosurgeon Dr. Rainier Villanueva’s “Lauat” shampoo, which aims to prevent hair loss.

Centuries-old beauty secrets are preserved and elevated through the rich biodiversity and talented minds of Filipinos. These innovations prove that time and time again, Filipinos will take a page out of their ancestor’s books and embrace “natural” beauty.

Gugo hair care products wrapped in Gugo bark
Gugo hair care products. Photographed by Erwin Canlas

Where To Find Gugo Hair Care Products

Forest Magic

Forest Magic offers a wide variety of Gugo hair products to address different hair concerns. For controlling dandruff and treating thinning hair and scalp disorders, they offer their Gugo Hair Saver Saver Shampoo and Gugo Hair Saver Leave-On Spray Conditioner. Their shampoo also comes in a bar form called “Gugo Shampoo Bar,” which also offers the same hair care benefits. Additionally, they also have their Gugo Hair Conditioner to help recondition dry, brittle, and damaged hair.

Mayumi Organics

Mayumi Organics puts lessening plastic consumption at the forefront of their Gugo hair products. Focused on strengthening and promoting hair growth, their Jasmine and Gugo Shampoo bar comes packaging-free, and their Gugo conditioner comes in 250mL glass bottles. One-liter refills are also available for purchase, to further encourage cutting down plastic consumption.


Katharē’s Gugo Extract Shampoo Bar is a sulfate-free, paraben-free shampoo bar designed to tackle common hair concerns such as hair fall and dandruff while restoring hair shine and luster. Their natural, chemical-free formula is also suitable for all hair types. To pair with their shampoo bar, they also have a conditioner bark named “Gugo Luco.” The conditioner is formulated to address hair fall, enhance scalp health, and provide deep hydration without any residue buildup.

Photographs by Erwin Canlas. Product styling by Riza Rosal.

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