The global hair care industry today is a multibillion-dollar one and understandably for a good reason. As one of the most important elements determining someone’s physical appearance, hair is a feature that everyone wants the best of. Few things enhance one’s beauty as much as a full head of thick, lustrous hair, and men and women around the world constantly seek the best products to enhance the appearance and health of their hair.
However, owing to various causes such as a poor diet, environmental factors, hormonal imbalance or stress, we often end up suffering from conditions like hair fall, premature greying, or thinning. Moreover, many commercial hair care products use a lot of chemicals that damage not only the hair but also, potentially, the body’s nervous and endocrine systems. And the products we buy to treat our damaged hair often have only a superficial effect and leave the underlying causes unanswered.
This is where the Ayurvedic treatment process is beneficial to combat hair fall and hair loss. Ayurveda intrinsically involves a holistic approach to healing. Not only are the treatments and products used 100% natural, but they are also designed to address the root cause of the problem – which often originates in underlying problems deep within your body. This holds true whether you choose a topical solution for hair damage or a more general approach to heal your body.
One of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda is that the health of the body’s digestive fire (Agni) determines the type of nourishment that the body’s tissues and organs receive. This, in turn, depends mainly on the kind of food we eat and the quality of the environment we are living in. Moreover, given how closely interlinked our bodily systems and tissues are, hair health can also depend on factors apart from digestive strength, including stress levels, hereditary factors, personality traits and the overall quality of life. This is why Ayurvedic hair care focuses largely on rejuvenation (Rasayana), which involves deeply nourishing the body at a cellular level to promote healing and regeneration.
The 5000-year-old practices of Ayurveda have been tested over time and hold a deep relevance even today. There are many excellent ayurvedic medicines for hair fall and hair damage that address the internal root causes and help you acquire the thick, lustrous hair you seek. This article provides you with an introduction to the different types of Ayurvedic hair remedies and helps you select the perfect hair care option for yourself.
In the Ayurvedic view of the body, your hair health reflects the unique combination of three doshas – Vata, pitta, and Kapha – in your body. Given that we all have each of these three doshas in our system, it is extremely likely that your hair will reflect characteristics of more than one dosha. It is, in fact, highly uncommon to find someone whose hair is exclusively Vata-type, pitta-type or Kapha-type. Here are the typical characteristics of each of these three hair types – you can refer to these and determine which characteristics best match your own hair. Ayurvedic hair loss solutions like Neelibringadi Keram, Kesini Oil and Virgin coconut oil contain essential nourishing ingredients like Bhringaraja, Brahmi, Amla and Neelini that help provide holistic hair care and act as natural remedies to combat baldness, dandruff, dry hair, split-ends and hair loss.
Vata-type hair – Healthy Vata-type hair is relatively thin in volume but tends to be coarse in texture. It grows rapidly and is usually curly, straight or somewhere in between. Owing to its rebellious nature, it can often be difficult to tame and style as you wish.
Pitta-type hair – Healthy pitta-type hair tends to be moderately thick, soft in texture, and straight in appearance. While it is easy to style, individual strands tend to be fine.
Kapha-type hair – Healthy Kapha-type hair is coarse in texture and tends to be very full and thick in volume. It is usually curly in appearance. This is typically considered as the most desirable type of hair.
When determining the ways in which your hair health has deteriorated, it is essential to keep in mind what your natural hair type is based on long-term patterns that you observed before your hair started getting damaged. In addition, it is important to remember that Ayurvedic treatment is not about altering one’s hair type but about encouraging one’s natural hair type to be in its best and healthiest state. It is not possible or desirable for us all to transform into Kapha-hair types – Ayurveda helps restore our hair to its natural health and encourages us to make the most of our unique, innate beauty in the process.
Chronic stress plays a very important role in hair health, particularly for Vata and pitta doshas. Our body’s response to sources of stress is wired to maximize our chances of survival in the face of danger. When we encounter stress, resources are reallocated throughout the body –our heart rate goes up, our brain and muscles consume more energy, and less nutrition is available for our immune and digestive systems. This is part of the body’s defence mechanism and has no long-term effects as long as the body encounters stress infrequently and is allowed ample time to return to its equilibrium state. However, when we experience frequent stressful situations, the stress response ends up inhibiting many bodily functions by depriving them of nutrients. In particular, bone tissue is at risk because the body’s stress response tends to pace up the activity of the cells that break down bone cells. As a consequence, the bone structure – and by extension, the hair and nails – are at risk of malnutrition and damage.
Imbalances in hair health are quite common and occur for a variety of reasons. In Ayurveda, these imbalances are regarded as symptoms of deeper health conditions. Since the hair is closely interlinked with the teeth, nails, and bone structure, any ill health in these body parts also manifests as hair damage. The hair is also closely impacted by the health of the nervous system and the digestive system. This is where Ayurveda is superior to conventional treatments, as it stresses on providing the right nourishment and care to the body as a whole rather than superficially treating the hair alone.
A Vata imbalance leads to dry, lifeless hair that is frizzy, falls out in clumps, develops split ends, and is difficult to grow out. Such hair is also extremely prone to breakage and generates static electricity when brushed. Controlling the Vata dosha requires you to be highly disciplined about your daily routine, including regular mealtimes with an early dinner time so that your food has enough time to be digested overnight.
For those with Vata dosha, regular Ayurvedic oil massage (abhyanga) is extremely important to maintain overall health. You should ideally perform abhyanga at least once a week, if not twice. Use the oil to massage all over your body in long, vigorous strokes and leave it on for several minutes before washing off in lukewarm water. It is also important to oil your hair regularly and generously, around three to four times a week. Keep the oil in your hair for at least twenty minutes by wrapping it in towels soaked in warm water. Afterward, wash off the oil with a gentle shampoo that is as free of chemicals as possible. Sesame oil or almond oil works best for massaging Vata hair types. You should also cut down on your consumption of tea, coffee, and caffeinated soft drinks.
An excess of pitta tends to overheat the hair follicles, which leads to premature greying, thinning of hair, and baldness. The overheating of the follicles also leads to hot-headedness or a short temper in the individual. It is important to take good care of the pitta dosha from an early age so as to avoid facing the ill effects later in life.
Pitta dosha can be countered by keeping the head and body cool. An excellent way to do this is by massaging the head and scalp with coconut oil, which has natural cooling properties. You should also drink lots of water every day so as to keep your mind and body cool and hydrated. One effective remedy to pacify pitta dosha is the application of Amalaki paste. This helps to cool down the head and protect the natural color of the hair while keeping hair loss in check and also stimulating the elimination of toxins. To apply this paste, simply mix 1/3 cup Amalaki with water or yogurt to form a smooth paste. Apply it to the scalp and hair with a small brush by parting the hair bit by bit and applying the paste to each section. Cover your hair with a shower cap and let it sit for at least half an hour before rinsing out with lukewarm water.
An excess of Kapha in the hair leads to excessive heaviness and oiliness in the hair. Kapha hair types normally require the least maintenance out of all the three doshas, as the hair is naturally long and thick and is not usually subject to premature greying or thinning. However, an excess of Kapha in the body could trigger excessive oiliness in the scalp – this, in turn, makes the scalp more vulnerable to the accumulation of dirt and infections.
Given its tendency to become oily, Kapha hair needs to be washed regularly to keep the oil in check. It is also useful to do a weekly head massage with mustard or olive oil. Since Kapha hair is quite prone to dandruff, it is important to invest in a high-quality herbal hair cleanser to clean the scalp thoroughly. For instance, Triphala powder can be mixed with water to create a potent hair rinse that you can rub into the scalp and hair twice a week for cleanliness.
What we eat has a direct impact on our bodily and mental health. Ayurveda strongly advocates a diet filled with wholesome, freshly prepared foods that are rich in nutrients and is free of preservatives and excess sugar as possible.
Diet plays an extremely important role in treating Vata imbalance. If you are looking to pacify your Vata dosha, it is important to consume freshly cooked foods made from wholesome ingredients and which are mostly soft in texture and served hot. Such foods are typically seasoned with a number of spices and are rich in fat and protein. These foods serve to lubricate and nourish the bodily tissues, preserving body warmth and moisture, thereby calming the Vata dosha. Some important dishes to include are high-quality oils, ghee, warm fluids, berries and melons, yogurt, coconut, buttermilk, and avocado.
To pacify your pitta dosha, it is important to consume a diet full of fresh foods, both cooked and raw, which have energizing and cooling properties and are high in carbohydrates. Such foods help to reduce the excess oil and liquid in the body and calm the digestive inflammation that pitta dosha tends to cause. Some of the important foods to incorporate into your pitta-pacifying diet are raw fruits and vegetables, cooling oils, milk, grains, and cooling spices such as fennel, cumin, and coriander.
In order to pacify the Kapha dosha, you should adopt a diet that includes freshly prepared foods which are easy to digest, lightly spiced, and served hot or warm. Such foods help to calm Kapha dosha by maintaining heat and moisture levels, aiding in healthy digestive and elimination activities, and regulating the mucous production. In general, try to eat light meals that are not excessively oily and drink plenty of fluids with your food.
Stress and anxiety are caused due to many reasons. It's mainly because of the lifestyle we are following. A simple way to start managing your stress is by adopting the following five-step renewal process to mitigate the impact of excessive stress.
1. Slow down
This might seem impossible given the fast-paced world we live in, but it is absolutely crucial to slow down and start becoming more mindful about our lives if we are to combat stress. It will not happen easily but start by taking a few minutes out every day to be immersed in thought and quiet reflection. The more you gain control over the way your mind is running, the better you will be able to curb overthinking and stress.
2. Practise self-care
Having a dedicated self-care routine is crucial to restore emotional balance and ward off the ill-effects of stress. It helps to reaffirm our priority towards ourselves and our wellbeing even amidst the rush of daily life. Things, like getting adequate sleep and taking walks outdoors, can go a long way in restoring our internal balance and helping us feel more energized. Ayurveda also recommends practicing abhyanga (oil massage) to rejuvenate the body and mind. You can also benefit from taking warm baths or practicing Nasya (placing oil in the nasal passages to boost mental clarity and relieve stress).
Alternatively, you could take some time out from your hectic work schedule and enrol yourself at an Ayurvedic Resort in Kerala to undergo specific ayurvedic massages that help relieve stress and promote circulation within your body.
There are a number of massage therapies for restoring the strength in your hair:
Shirodhara involves gently letting medicinal oil or liquids drip on your forehead from a container hung from the ceiling as you lie in a horizontal position. Shirodhara can greatly reduce greying of hair, stimulate sound sleep and cure a wide range of health conditions.
Shirovasti, unlike Shirodhara requires the person to be seated in an upright position. A special head-gear is placed on the head and medicinal oil is poured into the cap. This oil is kept for a period of 45 minutes after which it is drained. Shirovasti greatly helps is reducing stress and nourishes the roots of the hair.
Shiro lepam (also known as Thala Pothichil) is a form of Ayurvedic treatment in which medicinal paste is applied to the head region and is left covered/bandaged for a certain period of time. This treatment helps prevent premature greying of hair and helps relieve stress.
Shirobhyanga involves massaging the head neck and shoulders using special ayurvedic medicinal oils that help in nourishing the hair, relaxing the mind and releasing tension in the upper half of the body.
3. Commit to a routine
Ayurveda strongly recommends that those suffering from excess stress stick to a daily routine. Human physiology is strongly influenced by regularity, and fixed sleeping and eating habits can go a long way in restoring balance into our lives and reducing our tendency to stress out. Even if your routine is not extremely rigid, having a schedule creates reference points for your nervous system throughout the day, enabling your body tissues to feel at ease as you do familiar things at the same time each day. Start by waking up at a fixed time every day and then gradually adjust your work/study patterns to be more regular as well. Having a regular exercise routine is also extremely beneficial, as exercise helps to release tension, improve circulation, and improve the body’s ability to rejuvenate itself.
4. Quieten the Mind-Body Organism
The world around us is full of stressful situations, and Ayurveda recommends that we take steps to quieten ourselves so that our body systems react less aggressively to such situations. Activities like pranayama and yoga help calm the nervous system while also celebrating the body’s natural responses. Pranayama is the practice of yogic breathing exercises to flush toxins out of the body and strengthening the mental disposition. Yoga helps to bring about overall physical and mental wellbeing, and Ayurveda even lays out different yoga routines to satisfy Vata, pitta, and Kapha doshas. Meditation is also an excellent way to stimulate passive awareness and to rewire the brain to become more resilient to stress.
5. Eat a suitable, supporting diet
In our busy lifestyles, we often tend to rely on sugary, processed or oily foods for quick bursts of energy. However, in order to reduce stress and to boost our body’s ability to function normally in stressful situations, it is important to pick a diet full of freshly prepared, wholesome foods with high nutrient value. Whole grains, leafy vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy should all be included in a balanced diet. If you cannot always cook all your own meals, soups and stews with plenty of vegetables are excellent make-ahead options for nutritious meals.
Ayurveda encourages both topical and systemic methods of treating the hair. Topical methods include activities that directly nourish the hair and scalp, such as oiling. On the other hand, systemic treatments include activities that nourish the body as a whole to rejuvenate the hair from within, such as dietary changes. The following tips will help you create an appropriate daily hair care routine so as to rejuvenate your natural hair and help it look its best.
Set aside time at least twice a week for a thorough head massage with oil. Choose an oil as per your dosha type, or opt for a neutral oil such as coconut or sesame oil. Remember to leave the oil on for several minutes so as to allow the goodness of the oil to be absorbed by the scalp.
Avoid heating and styling tools as much as possible, as this damage your hair to a very high degree. Allow your hair to dry naturally and avoid any tight hairstyles.
Brush your hair carefully with a wide-toothed wooden comb and avoid tugging at your hair, especially right after you have washed it.
Certain Ayurvedic herbal supplements can be taken as a remedy to restore internal tissue balance and thus improve hair health. Choose herbal tablets containing ingredients such as Brahmi, Bhringaraj, Amalaki, licorice, and hibiscus flower. You can also take Triphala tablets as a deeply rejuvenating option for the hair. Most of these tablets can be taken either before going to sleep or after meals. Another rejuvenating supplement to take is Chyavanprash. It helps to cool the body system and nourish the digestive system to optimize energy and vitality.
Adopt stress-relieving practices such as yoga and pranayama into your lifestyle. These help to improve circulation, boost muscle activity, and restore mental balance. Meditation also helps to enhance mental clarity and improve your sense of wellbeing. Other practices you can adopt for a healthier lifestyle include Sheetali Pranayama (cooling breath) and Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).
Carve out time each day for an appropriate exercise regime. Exercise not only helps you stay in shape but also stimulates blood circulation and muscle functioning, thereby boosting overall health and improving the hair and nails as well.
Remember to always spare time to do things you enjoy. Amidst the stressful modern life, taking out time to read a book, take a walk or spend time with a loved one can keep you calm and restore your mental equilibrium. This, in turn, will help tone down your body’s response to stressful situations and thus allow your hair to be more nourished and less prone to damage.
In closing, healthy hair needn't be chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A few regular and simple self care routine summarised below can help restore the lustre and your confidence:
In the modern-day world, stress may seem like an inescapable part of life. Work, education, family, and multiple other responsibilities mean that most adults are suffering from stress on a daily basis, which in turn leads to hazardous health effects. Ayurveda teaches us how to manage tension to lead a healthy life by adopting practices that restore the balance of bodily elements. Visit the Kerala Ayurveda ayurvedic hair and skin care products page to start your journey towards hair you can be proud of.
About Dr. Anjali Jayantrao Raichur
Dr. Anjali Raichur (BAMS, PGCPCK) is a holistic medicine expert specializing in Panchakarma who has been sharing her expertise with Kerala Ayurveda for almost a decade. Over the years, Dr. Anjali has successfully treated a wide gamut of skin and joint-related disorders like Psoriasis, hair loss, arthritis, UTI, etc. and has been actively involved in treating male and female infertility issues. “The beauty of Ayurveda lies in the fact that it not only treats the diseased one but also restores the health of a healthy person”, she says.