This post was last updated on August 12, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
I received an interesting email today which had me changing the post du jour on the Krya blog. I see today’s post as a follow up to yesterday’s blog post on the nature of pitta dosha and its far reaching effects on skin, hair and health when it goes out of control.
We discussed how differentiated and unique Ayurveda’s approach to solving a common skin problem like acne, pimples and the associated scarring is. Western cosmetics and medicines do not get into the root of this acne and describe the symptoms themselves as the cause.
For example: Acne is caused by greasy / oily skin (which is in itself a symptom)
Instead Ayurveda has clear first principles and guidelines by which it is easy for us to understand the root of a problem. So acne is seen as Ayurveda primarily as a pitta imbalance related skin disorder. This is described by the very nature of pitta dosha which is hot, intense, oily, fast spreading and liquid in nature.
The current Western method of classifying hair:
There is a similar lack of clarity when classifying and diagnosing hair problems. For example, most of us are given 2 classifications of hair: hair that is oily and hair that is dry. In addition in advanced haircare markets, hair is further classified as per nature to be wavy or curly and in addition, African American hair is specially classified as being thick, prone to dryness and curly.
The standard route to caring for these classified hair types is as follows:
Current hair care regimen if you have oily hair:
If you have oily hair, you are asked to refrain from oiling, or suggested to use non-sticky hair oil. You are asked to shampoo your hair very frequently, sometimes every single day, and to apply water based gel / conditioner that does not “weigh” down your hair.
Most importantly you are told that as your hair is already oily in nature, you do not need to use any hair oil. And using this will give your dandruff, make your hair much oilier, and lead to hairfall. You are instead asked to switch entirely to frequent shampooing and use of synthetic conditioner to maintain your hair.
If you are nodding as you are reading this, then Houston, we have a problem. And in this post I am going to explain just why your current hair regimen is not just unhealthy for your hair, but also for your body. In addition your current hair regimen will in the future lead to premature greying, hair thinning and if you are very unlucky, male pattern baldness as well (even if you are a woman).
The hair care regimen of doom for dry hair
Similarly if you have hair that is dry, frizzy, brittle or thinning, you are simply told you have dry hair (stating the obvious anyone?). If you haven’t been brainwashed and asked to despise the traditional Indian hair oiling habit as yet, you would be told that oiling is very bad for your hair, causes dandruff and blocks hair follicles and causes hairfall.
For those of you who haven’t bought this, you are asked to abandon good, old fashioned but works wonderfully Indian base oils like coconut and sesame. Instead you are asked to use olive oil, argan oil, morocco oil, and the list just goes on and on and on.
After having been dismissed as extremely old fashioned by your hair stylist, you are told that your dry, brittle hair will require intensive conditioning and spa treatments. You are put on a 9 – 10 session programme of a toxic, synthetic “serum” and an intensive conditioner, which is nothing more than a fancy version of your regular silicon filled hair conditioner. Alternatively it could get more hairy if you are advised to do a keratin treatment or a deep conditioning treatment. Read here for the horrible damage this can inflict on your hair.
After a few months / years of this, the oiling tapers off, and the synthetics increase. Somewhere in your 30s, you wake up one day to find that your hair is mousy, thin, doesn’t grow and needs a lot of very slick and expensive haircuts and use of a blow dryer to make it look like you have any volume at all.
Now your hair stylist tells you that this is because of pollution in the air, chemicals in your food, and most ironical of them all, because you have been using too many chemicals in your hair!
And if you are frantically nodding and looking aghast as you read this, yes we still have a problem. And you are going to want to sit down as you read the rest of this post.
Ayurveda understands prakriti (body constitution) and does not superficially classify skin or hair types
If you are used to seeing your hair and skin classified superficially and put on bottles of shampoo, serums or conditioners, then Ayurveda is going to put you in a quandary. Ayurveda classifies the person and not her hair, or skin.
By understanding the makeup of a person, Ayurveda is able to have far reaching predictions that span the person’s entire body. We are able to make deep, well thought out and intuitive connections that are predictive in nature enabling us to make corrective suggestions.
I will illustrate with this email we received today:
Diagnosing a person’s prakriti – an example from Krya
“I have naturally straight hair, and it is also fairly thin, without much volume. It is also a bit dry, brittle and also gets tangled very easily. Generally, my scalp (especially the top of my head) becomes oily within 2-3 days of a hair wash, but the bottom length of my hair stays quite dry. So I apply oil on my hair every two days or so. Because of the dryness, I thought Krya’s conditioning range would suit me. What do you think?”
If we followed the Western approach to hair, we would simply conclude that this person has dry hair and suggest the whole gamut of Moroccan oil, Argan oil, serum and a Spa treatment for her – which would really lead her nowhere and to a certain hell of hairfall a few years down the line.
Instead, Ayurveda teaches us to follow clues like a detective and understand the underlying patterns of a person’s prakriti to detect her dosha type and understand the root cause of a disorder.
The email gives the following clues for the trained Ayurvedic mind : a scalp which gets oily every 2 – 3 days, straight, flyaway hair, hair thinning and a lack of volume on the top of the head.
What are the reasons for hairfall, hair thinning and hair greying? Answers from Ayurveda
Charaka Samhita –Chikitsa has a shloka which says this:
“ Tejoniladhau saha keshoboomim dagdhvashu kuryath khalitya narasya
Kinchitu dagdhva palithani kuryadhyareprabatham cha shiro roohanam”
“When high pitta combines with vata, it burns the hair from the roots very rapidly, causing baldness. If the pitta is not that high, it turns hair grey or fully white.”
The first stage of balding hair is hair thinning as the pitta rages like a forest fire supported by the mobility of vata dosha.
So the effects of high pitta dosha on hair can be seen as these 4 stages: Stage 1 – grey hair -> Stage 2 White hair -> Stage 3: Thinning hair and Stage 4: Balding hair
Of course depending upon your diet, regimen, and climate lived in and your prakriti, you may jump through a few stages.
Based on the email of this consumer with clues like scalp oiliness, hair thinning, loss of volume on top, it appears to be a sign of classically high pitta. To confirm this, I have asked a few follow up questions.
Look for these signs for high Pitta if you have hair fall, hair thinning or premature greying
If my diagnosis is right, the consumer will also display these other signs of a strong Pitta dosha:
Skin type: very prone to acne in her youth, quick to develop hot, red, inflammatory skin conditions like prickly heat or a non specific rash. Is generally warm to touch. Redness in skin should be very prominent as displayed by a visible blush when embarrassed. Skin displays an oily sheen even in cold weather especially in places like the forehead and nose.
Body odour and sweat: Moderate to high sweating with strong and slightly offensive odour especially in the summer
Hair quality: Straight, thin, flyaway, with a tendency to appear slightly brownish or reddish in the sun.
Uncomfortable around: extreme heat, finds summer extremely uncomfortable, becomes very red quickly or develops a sunburn / sun tan very quickly
Personality type: can be very focussed, single minded, driven, type A, sticks to a schedule quite easily, is very determined and driven and passionate
The Ayurvedic difference: treating hairfall, hair thinning and premature greying
Through this example, you would have understood just how deep, unique and holistic the Ayurvedic approach is in understanding skin and hair conditions. When we accurately diagnose thinning hair, greying hair as a symptom of high Pitta and not dismiss it as simply dry hair, we are able to offer a richer set of recommendations and solutions.
The focus will shift from providing just a set of products to providing the golden 3 guidelines of Ayurveda – which is a diet, lifestyle and product change to help manage excess pitta.
In yesterday’s post, we described in detail some of the diet and lifestyle recommendations we would offer someone whose pitta dosha is high. The diet recommendations would include reducing pitta aggravating foods like chillies, tamarind, curds, sesame and jaggery. It would also include adding cooling and tridoshic supplements like ghee to the diet. In addition, the regimen changes recommended would have a weekly or bi-weekly abhyanga and pranayama or meditation added to the mix, along with very frequent hair oiling. You can read our post on acne and pitta imbalances for more details on these recommendations.
In addition to the above, I wanted to touch upon a few additional points on managing pitta imbalances.
Abhyanga recommendations – to balance excess pitta
The Abhyanga is one of the cornerstones of external applications in the Ayurvedic Dinacharya and is used extensively in Ayurveda to release excess Pitta, ground excess Vata and stimulate people with excess Kapha.
Do an abhyanga early in the morning
In the case of excess Pitta, an abhyanga works by rapidly reducing excess pitta and releasing it in the form of sweat, and ushna (heat / vapour) through all the orifices of the body. So an important point to be noted is that an abhyanga should be performed as early as possible in the morning (preferably within the first 2 hours of sunrise) in order to give the body a chance to release excess Pitta through the day.
Do not sleep in the afternoon on the day of Abhyanga
The second important point around an abhyanga is that the eyes are an important excretory point to release excess Pitta. If your pitta is high, and you are regularly doing an abhyanga, you will find that your eye is tearing up or there is heat being released from your eyes during the day as vapour. As the eyes are such an important pitta release point, they should be kept open as long as possible. This means that if you are used to an afternoon nap, you must forego it on the day of an abhyanga to allow the excess Pitta to leave your body. If you do not do so, pitta will remain trapped around your eyes causing further problems in your body and vision.
Eat light, easy to digest food
The third important point on the Abhyanga is that if your pitta is high, the abhyanga has worked on it and reduced it so that the body can be restored back to balance. So on the day of the abhyanga, your digestive Agni will be in a delicate and slightly weak position as you have forcibly released excess Pitta from your body. So you must eat very light and easily digestible food on this day and consume cow ghee as well. The day of abhyanga is a day to be vegetarian, eat on time, eat freshly cooked food, and eat light and easy to digest food like Mung dal, rice, etc. The Abhyanga day should not be a day to eat out, eat a buffet or experiment with new cuisines.
Similarly, on abhyanga day, it is advisable to protect yourself from the sun, to reduce or skip your regular exercise, and avoid activities that exhaust or physically tire you out.
Hair oiling – an important part of managing pitta problems like hair thinning, hair fall, premature greying and dryness
Ayurveda recommends hair oiling as a regular complementary hair practice for everyone irrespective of age. Even babies and small children are advised to regularly use hair oil. Ayurveda says that skin, scalp and hair should be coated with oil before washing /cleansing it to protect it from drying out and ensure that the body remains cool. In addition, the practice of regular oleation is said to dislodge deep seated dirt, debris, micro organisms, helps tone the body and retains a healthy, toned and youthful appearance.
If hair oiling is supposed to be done by everyone, it is a much more important practice for those with pitta based hair disorders. So if you have hair thinning, dryness due to excess pitta, premature greying or hair fall related to excess pitta, you should be doing much more oiling and abhyanga to help reduce your excess pitta.
At Krya, we recommend hair oiling atleast 4 times a week to balance pitta disorders, of which atleast twice, the oil is left on without washing on the scalp. This is done to prolong the pitta balance process and continually reduce the excess heat from the body.
Some signs of pitta balancing you may notice with frequent hair oiling
You may begin to notice mildly yellow secretions from the eyes in the morning, especially in the corner of the eyes, after waking up. This is a sign that as the pitta is reducing from the scalp, and eyes, the dirt and sleshma (kapha) in the eyes are being normally discharged by the body.
As you continue oiling your hair, your eyes should start feeling less scratchy, tired or irritable, especially if they have been feeling so due to excess pitta.
If your pitta is very high, in the beginning you may notice increased urinary output or sweating as the pitta is finding its way out through the excretory secretions. You may also find that the oil is fully absorbed by your scalp, feeling quite dry in the morning.
Overall signs of Pitta balance in the body
As you begin following the complete programme to balance pitta, you may notice some other positive signs in your health, which are an indication we are on the right track:
- Bowel movements are rapid, smooth, well formed and resemble a well shaped banana
- Hunger is strong, at the right times
- Food cravings especially for salty, sour foods is controlled
- You are able to maintain an even mood and temperament and control your anger and irritation much more easily
- You are able to switch off at the end of the day and relax
- Your sleep is deep and untroubled and less vivid (in states of excess pitta, dreams can be full of emotions like extreme anger, violence and excitement with sharp, vivid colours)
As we have seen, a judicious combination of diet, regimen and the right products can help balance excess pitta. Let us see some famous herbs recommended by Ayurveda to balance excess pitta next.
Ayurvedic herbs for healthy hair growth and for Pitta disorders like hair thinning, premature greying
Amlaki – Phyllanthus emblica / Indian Gooseberry / Amla / Nellikkai
The Amla is referred to as “Dhatri” or the nurse in Ayurveda due to its efficacy in treating many disorders. The amla is a very powerful tridoshic fruit which can be used in different formulations in different ways to control vata, pitta and kapha. Thus Ayurveda opines that no fruit can be better than amla in granting health. According to Vedic literature, Amla is considered the best of fruits.
Acharya Charaka has mentioned its use in many health disorders. The speciality of Amla is that unlike other souring agents like tamarind, kokum, mango, tomato, it does not aggravate or increase Pitta, but instead it balances Pitta when eaten internally.
A common diet prescribed by us at Krya is to liberally add Amla in place of other souring agents like kokum, tamarind etc in the food. This helps balances Pitta and also brings in the powerful, nutritional benefits of Amla into your cooking. We have tested Amla in many standardised South Indian preparations like Sambhar and Rasam and have found that the addition vastly reduces the pitta nature of these preparations and makes it much more balanced and healthy to eat. (If you would like to do this as well, do write to us for recipe suggestions.)
This is also why the Ayurvedic texts mention that curd should never be eaten daily as a staple because of its Pitta aggravating properties. Instead in the appropriate season, it can be eaten in small quantities along with Amla to balance its high pitta and kapha nature.
We use Amla in the Krya hair oil as a fresh juice which is boiled along with the base oils. It is used in its dried format in the Krya classic hair wash and hair mask. We use Amla for its anti oxidant, hair growth properties and for its beneficial effects in reducing pitta and promoting the growth of dark, naturally coloured black hair. Amla is also used in several of our skin care formulations for its rasayana properties as it helps keep the skin firm, youthful and toned.
Bhringaraja / Kesharanjaka / Suryavallabha / Eclipta alba / Karisalai
Bhringaraja is a famous bitter ayurvedic herb that is used internally to control excess pitta and is a renowned Ayurvedic hair herb. As a pitta balancing herb, it is also considered a netrya herb that helps promote good vision.
Acharya Charaka indicates the use of Bhringaraja for Rakta pitta disorders and Acharya Vagbhatta says that consumption for a specified period of Bhringaraj is essential for the rasayana effect.
The liver is also considered an important seat of Pitta as per Ayurveda. Bhringaraj is used in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha as an excellent hepatoprotective drug and is given in cases of acute jaundice to calm the liver and promote appetite.
How Krya processes fresh organic herbs – an example
At Krya, we are extremely particular and proud of our herb selection, collection and processing methods. Our Bhringaraj for example comes to us from a certified organic farm where it is grown not as a mono culture but as part for healthy crop diversity.
We harvest the plant whole with the roots as is recommended in Ayurveda. We receive it fresh within 2 hours of harvesting and then rinse the entire plant in clean water to remove any dirt or foreign particles. The Bhringaraj is then dried on gentle shade dried heat in our specially constructed solar dryer for 3 days until it loses its moisture but continues to retain its dark green colour. This Bhringaraj goes into our kwathas (cold infusions), kashayas (decoctions) and as churanas (powders) into our hair care products.
For our hair oils, we extract the fresh Swarasa (natural rasa or juice) from the freshly harvested plant and add into to our hair oil mixture to be gently boiled and manually stirred for over 8 hours. This process called the Tila paka process helps transfer the nutritive properties of the Bhringaraj into our base oils.
The Krya Classic hair nourishing system – an important set of products to help with Pitta hair disorders
These 2 herbs we described above are a sample of the 17 different lentils, grains and pure herbs we add into the Krya classic hairwash. We also add 20 different nutritive, pitta reducing growth enhancing herbs into the Krya Classic hair mask. The Krya Classic Hair oil uses 14 different fresh organic herbs, vegetables, fruits, and cold pressed organic oils we use in the Krya Classic hair oil.
We recommend using all 3 Krya Classic hair products (oil, wash and mask) as a system, for a better and more transformative change in hair disorders of excess Pitta.
In addition, to reduce Pitta through the body, we also recommend using the Krya Abhyanga system which comprises of our abhyanga skin oil and a specially formulated ubtan (we have different ubtans for men and women) to moisturise skin, clean it well, trap and remove excess pitta, dislodge deep seated skin debris like dead cells and micro organisms and leave you in a state of dosha balance.
You can explore these products here:
- Krya Abhyanga skin oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha (unisex)
- Krya women’s Ubtan with Lotus Leaf and Lodhra
- Krya Men’s Ubtan
Krya’s other daily use skin care products for Pitta prone prakritis
In addition, if your skin is displaying classic signs of Pitta aggravation, you could also explore Krya’s skin products for pitta prone prakritis here:
- Krya Classic Skin massage oil with Carrot and Winter cherry – can be used every day on your face and body pre bath. Very nourishing, formulated for pitta prone skin and absorbs very quickly ensuring you do not need a post bath moisturiser. Use along with the below 2 skin care products
- Krya Classic face wash with Green Tea and Chamomile – one of our best selling face wash products. Cleanses without stripping skin of oil and over time helps reduce old scars and evens out the complexion. Recommended if you have skin that is oil and breakout prone, but does not develop extremely severe or wide spread acne (can handle 1 – 2 pimples at a time). If you have severe acne, you can try the Krya anti acne face wash instead.
- Krya Classic Face Mask with Rose petals and Guava – complements our Classic face wash for your once a week pick me up routine
- Krya Classic Bodywash with Chamomile and Cassia flower – our very gentle, pitta balancing, non irritating alternative to synthetic soaps as a daily bathing alternative. Does not dry out skin even in harsh winter, and cleanses thoroughly without stripping skin of sebum.
Are you searching for hair styles for thin or fine hair? Try balancing your doshas instead
If there is a well thought out answer to persistent hair problems like poor hair growth, hair thinning, premature greying and other Pitta disorders, then that answer can only be found in Ayurveda. And through this post you would have been able to understand just how rational, deep and non-superficial Ayurveda’s approach is to solving your health, hair and skin issues.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post and also hope you were able to appreciate the difference in approach Krya followed when treating hair and skin problems. If you too are alarmed at your fine and thing hair, rapidly greying hair or hair fall, and would like to consult us, do call us on 075500-89090 or write to us.
Remember, where there is health, there is beauty.