This post was last updated on August 12, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
Are you looking for a good, wholesome Ayurvedic hair care routine? Have you been spending a lot of money and time researching the best shampoos, serums, conditioners only to find that your hair is dull, listless , oily with poor hair growth?
Here is a detailed post explaining why you should switch out of a synthetic shampoo and conditioner and how an authentic, simple 3 step Ayurvedic hair care routine can help you. Read on.
Traditional skin and haircare depended solely on Herbs
In the beginning we only had herbs!
Civilisation as we know it has been around for thousands of years. In these many thousand years, despite the invention of soaps, these were never used to cleanse skin or hair. You can read about the history of soap in our earlier post. Soaps were prized for their ability to clean and to launder linen and were always considered extremely harsh and unfit for personal use. If you believe modern technology has changed and soaps are gentler, you might be mistaken. Read this post on what goes into a baby soap to know more.
Indian civilisation which records many firsts including the discovery of the zero, advanced mathematical and astronomical progress, high progress in surgery, medicine and hygiene, never used a synthetic soap and a shampoo for either laundry or personal use. This is despite the fact that the procedure to make a lye based soap has been around for at least 5000 years and would have been easy to make and accessible across India.
We instead used a rich variety of herbs for different kinds of cleansing in India. In India cleaning was multifaceted: we cleansed our person, our laundry, our floors and even our air using herbal smoke. Many of the herbs used were also edible and could be used to solve dis-eases. This meant that we only used extremely safe, tried and tested herbs that could be eaten.
This obviously meant that we were not harming our body, our hair or our skin. This also meant that we did not pollute the soil, water or the earth in our quest to clean and care for ourselves.
How the synthetic shampoo was born (& the dawn of hair problems):
The harmonious situation we described in the previous paragraph came to an end when Hans Schwarzkopf, a German, invented the first liquid shampoo in 1927. Initially a liquid shampoo was simply a watery soap. This made the preparation strongly alkaline and extremely harsh on hair. So in 20 years, shampoo formulations “evolved” to use synthetic surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate.
Little did we know when we all agreed to this change that we were merely substituting hair roughness and damage for far more insidious long term side effects like dermatitis, with SLS. You can read much more about how much damage SLS and SLeS do to hair, skin and the earth here & here.
The fallouts of using a synthetic shampoo
Many of us have come to appreciate the feeling of using a synthetic shampoo. A shampoo and a conditioner give the hair an instant feeling of smoothness. There is no external serration or roughness when we wash or comb our hair.
However, with repeated washing, we notice that the sebum secretion in the hair either becomes excessive or very poor. So as a result we suffer from either extremely oily hair or very dry scalp and hair with constant itching and flaking. There is also a slowing down in hair growth. We may also notice hair breakage, frizziness and hair thinning.
Why is it that our hair quality worsens so much internally , but the external appearance and smoothness is maintained when we use a synthetic shampoo?
Synthetic shampoos target & disturb natural scalp sebum
The surfactants in a synthetic shampoo dry out the secretions of your scalp’s sebaceous glands. Sebum, produced by our scalp is not a simple oil. It is a complex mixture of triglycerides, waxy esters, and metabolic secretions of fats along with squalene. This mixture of substances forms sebum and this helps lubricate our skin and hair.
Depending on the weather and temperature, sebum changes in structure. For e.g.: In rainy weather, there is a greater production of fat based cells which act as a waterproof layer for skin and hair.
This intelligent, skin and hair protecting secretion is mercilessly stripped dry whenever we use a synthetic surfactant based shampoo or a soap on our skin. The harsh detergent in the shampoo does not have the ability to remove only excess sebum. Instead it completely strips hair of the sebaceous secretion forcing the sebaceous glands to repeatedly waste energy re-producing the sebum.
Natural sebum in the right quantity gives hair a healthy sheen. It gives the right amount of oily coating to the hair to ensure that hair does not build up static, or go dry and frizzy. It maintains the synergistic bacteria on our skin and scalp by giving them nutritive substances. It keeps hair strands healthy and does not allow hair to go dry thereby facilitating hair growth and health. Most importantly: as the sebum composition is decided by the body using intelligence, it is able to anticipate the needs of the body and vary its composition accordingly.
Synthetic shampoos replace natural sebum with plasticizers and silicone based conditioners
The consistent use of synthetic shampoo tampers with the natural production of sebum and alters how much is produced, by either drying out the sebaceous glands or excessively increasing sebum. This means that without this sebum and with the excessively harsh detergents in the shampoo, the hair is bound to go completely dry and get damaged.
To ensure that the hair does not look too dry or damaged, a shampoo uses silicone based hair coating substances in the shampoo.
Dimethicone: PolyDimethylSiloxane (PDMS) (a silicone used in moisturising skin care and shampoos)
A typical example of this kind of silicone is Dimethicone, which is found across many leading shampoo brands. Dimethicone is an industrial emulsifier found in putty, certain food brands and across skin and hair care products, in heat resistant tiles, in herbicides and hydraulic fluids. Dimethicone is an emulsifier and provides a smooth coating on skin and hair, which is why it is so favoured in the cosmetic industry.
Dimethicone when applied on hair forms a synthetic plastic like coating with a reflective shine. This coats over breaks in the hair’s cuticles and gives us a smooth gliding effect. This makes us believe that our hair is much healthier and well maintained than what it actually is.
The important thing to note here is that our hair is still damaged. Dimethicone is only forming a layer over the damage preventing us from observing the damage.
Concerns in the use of silicones in skin and hair care products
When used on hair, silicones can aggravate the sebaceous glands, stimulating aggressive sebum production. This can create a breeding ground for fungal attacks on the scalp leading to seborrheic dermatitis or stubborn fungal dandruff.
Silicones can interfere with the natural function of the skin and scalp by preventing temperature regulation and the interaction of the skin and the scalp with the environment. In skin, silicones can also lead to breakouts and acne as the plasticky coating can trap dirt and bacteria close to the skin.
The secret to Indian hair : the wholesome Ayurvedic hair routine
A few paragraphs before, we made the statement that in the beginning we all used herbs to cleanse ourselves. And this has worked pretty well until the last 50 years for all of us, especially Indians.
Indians discovered synthetic shampoos quite late in the day (around the mid 1990s) and synthetic conditioners even later (for the last 15 years). This explains in part why Indian hair was so prized over the world for its health, texture, length and colour. Until today, Indian hair is exported across the globe to make wigs and human hair extensions for the rest of the world which has suffered from hair damage from a much longer use of synthetic hair products.
The secret behind healthy Indian hair was simple: We followed the wholesome Ayurvedic hair care routine.
Ayurvedic hair care routine Step 1 : Hair Oil
Ayurveda recommends generous and frequent oiling of hair with a herb infused oil made from a specific combination of herbs chosen for the hair concern at hand, in a base of sesame and coconut oil. This hair oiling is good for us for several reasons. Apart from supporting the sebaceous glands, assisting the scalp’s nutrition and naturally conditioning and strengthening hair, hair oiling also helps cool the scalp and the eyes and helps balance pitta dosha in the body. When pitta dosha goes out of control, our hair starts to thin down, goes grey and loses its natural colour.
Hair oiling is an extremely important part of Ayurvedic hair care. Hair is never supposed to be left “dry” in Ayurveda as the body is always generating excess heat in the form of the brain and the eye’s activity. This excess heat is released through the scalp which means that hair is constantly subjected to internal heat. When this internal heat is left unchecked, hair can go dry, brittle and lose its colour and strength.
No matter what our age, Ayurvedic head oiling should be done regularly and frequently , according to Ayurveda. We must oil the head 4-5 times a week and leave it on. We must also coat the hair with oil before we wash the hair , once or twice a week. This oil coating must not be done overnight. It should be done 1-2 hours before hairwash. when done this way, it protects the hair from getting excessively dry during wash.
Ayurvedic hair care routine Step 2: Hair Wash Choornam
The second part to cleansing and maintaining your hair is to use the right combination of Ayurvedic herbs to wash your hair. An ayurvedic hair wash choornam is formulated very differently from a synthetic shampoo.
A synthetic shampoo mainly has 3 kinds of ingredients: a detergent to clean hair, silicones to coat hair and hide the damage caused by the detergent and colours and fragrances to trick you into thinking the shampoo is a luxurious and safe product to use.
A natural hairwash like Krya’s range of hairwashes on the other hand have many different kinds of herbs to perform different functions: release excess heat, gently remove excess oil and dirt, restore the acid mantle of hair, improve hair growth, and clean the srotas (minor skin openings) in the scalp well so that the scalp is able to perform all its normal functions. All these functions are achieved using edible grains and lentils and carefully chosen, hair improving herbs.
Here is a video that explains how an ayurvedic hair wash is different from a synthetic shampoo and also how to use it effectively on hair.
A video demo of How to use an Ayurvedic Hair Choornam to wash hair
Ayurvedic hair care routine Step 3 : Hair Lepa (Mask)
The third part of a good Ayurvedic haircare routine is the weekly or fortnightly use of an Ayurvedic Hair Lepa or Mask. An Ayurvedic hair lepa is designed to deep clean the fine Srotas / follicles of the scalp. The product helps unclog the srotas, release dead cells and debris, and prepare the scalp to receive nourishment better in the form of hair oils. The Lepa also helps improve dosha balance on the scalp.
The cleanliness, flexibility and health of the srotas determines the amount of nourishment the scalp is able to absorb. For many of us due to habits like not oiling the hair and the excessive use of synthetic shampoos and conditioners, the Srotas are stiff and clogged. This impairs heat exchange, traps heat within the scalp and also causes build up on the scalp.
The Ayurvedic Hair Lepa should be used once a week, or atleast once a fortnight. This is especially useful when there is strong persistent fungal dandruff, slow impaired hair growth due to chemical damage or hard water, or when hair is recovering after an illness. In these cases, the use of the Hair Lepa regularly jump starts the health of the scalp. Hair Lepa is also useful when we begin oiling after a long break. In this case, the srotas are extremely stiff and are unable to pass nourishment properly into the scalp. So the use of the hair oil along with the Mask helps improve Srota health.
Before you begin an Ayurvedic hair care routine
An Ayurvedic hair care routine is shorter and simpler compared to synthetic hair care products. But the products are very different from what we are used to. The products are much more raw and earthy looking and on first glance may seem rougher or coarser than synthetics.
This is very far from the truth. Synthetics only look gentle. But as we discovered earlier in this article, they are full of dangerous toxins and are also extremely damaging to hair structure.
The second question on your mind could be whether this is going to be difficult to transition to. It is not more difficult, but it definitely needs a mindset change.
We are used to not oiling our hair and depending almost solely on a shampoo. So the new regime of depending upon an oil, washing less and also using a Mask could seem hard. But , we have seen consistently that sticking to these routine gives tangible results. so it is worth sticking to.
What can you expect in the short term? In the short term you may struggle with this transition. Ayurvedic hair wash choornams are not as harshly cleansing as shampoos. Ayurvedic hair oils come with a herbal aroma. And you may struggle to fit in the Ayurvedic Hair Lepa into your routine. Everyone struggles with the transition in the short term.
But in the long term, this routine works. Stick to it with patience and perseverance.
How to choose the right Krya Hair care routine for your hair
The Krya hair care products are formulated by hair concerns. we suggest picking the hair care regimen that most closely matches your concern. If you have a mix of concerns, use a mix of 2 systems.
- For an oily scalp and mild premature greying, choose from the Krya Classic hair range
- For dry frizzy hair prone to split ends, choose from the Krya conditioning hair range
- For hairfall due to high stress, insomnia and anxiety, choose from the Krya Anti stress Range
- For oily, sticky dandruff, choose from the Krya anti dandruff range
- For chemically damaged hair or extensive hard water damage choose from the Krya Damage repair hair range
- For hairfall after long illness or due to long term medication like fertility treatment, choose from the Krya Intense hair range.
Is your Ayurvedic Hair care routine working? How to evaluate
The Ayurvedic hair care routine is different from a synthetic hair routine. The routine works in the long term to correct hair damage, repair the cuticular hair structure and trigger high quality hair growth. But initially it can be frustrating as you get the hang of using the products.
Many Krya users report missing (atleast initially) the cues from synthetic shampoos like foam, immediate hair smoothness after using serum or conditioner, and similar cues. So we made this list to explain what you should look for to understand that your new regimen is working well for you.
Depending upon your body’s state of health, your hair could experience these stages one at a time or several at a time. The time taken to cross each stage again depends on your health. For hair issues like hair thinning, poor hair growth or intensive hair fall, we recommend adding a regular Abhyanga programme and also suggest diet changes to balance the dosha aggravation in the body. These should be taken seriously and followed diligently for good results.
Short – Medium term – 1 – 4 months: (Usually in month 0 people are still getting the hang of using the products correctly)
- Balanced sebum production: hair and scalp stays “cleaner” much longer and needs to be washed less frequently.
- Sufficient sebum production (related to above) : Hair does not feel dry or break at the tips as sufficient sebum is produced in the scalp to coat the entire hair strand
- Scalp feels clean and healthy without any visible breaks, flaking or boils
- Hair tangles and breaks less and generates less static
- Hair is smoother and easier to comb.
- Hair reflects light better without any styling products or conditioners used – especially in sunlight. This means that your scalp is producing sufficient sebum and that your hair strands have no or minimal cuticular damage.
Medium to long term – 4 – 9 months
- Visible reduction in split ends despite growth in length
- Hair is able to grow longer – this usually is achieved when scalp is healthy and there is sufficient growth medium for hair to extend in length. This is also achieved when sebum production is sufficient and balanced – when there is too little sebum, hair length is poor and split ends are high as there is not enough sebum to maintain a long strand without damage.
- Hair elasticity improves – so there is less breakage when you tug, braid, pull or handle your hair.
- New hair that grows is thicker and blacker
Long term plus – 9 months and higher:
- Hair growth is healthier, thicker and longer
- There is a visible slowing down in hair greying
- There is a filling of hair in previously thinning areas like the crown of the head and the forehead
Do look for these signs of hair improvement when you switch to any of the Krya hair systems. These are ways to monitor the progress in your hair and give you confidence you are on the right track, despite the initial difficulties in switching to a natural system.
We hope this post resonated with you and you were able to get a sense of how deep, holistic and well thought out genuinely natural products based on Ayurveda are. We also hope we gave you a sufficient sense of horror and disgust at how poorly thought through, bad for hair health and bad for the environment synthetic personal care products can be.
With the abundance that nature provides us, and the fantastic solid framework that Ayurveda provides us, we do not need to resort to synthetics to care for ourselves and our families. Do write to us with your questions, reflections and if you would like us to write about a particular subject you are seeking answers or insights to.
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