Hair health in Ayurveda
What is hair?
Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. The human body, apart from areas of glabrous skin, is covered in follicles which produce thick terminal and fine vellus hair. Most common interest in hair is focused on hair growth, hair types, and hair care, but hair is also an important biomaterial primarily composed of protein, notably alpha-keratin. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair)
In Ayurveda there are 3 bodily doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We have all 3 of the doshas in us but usually 1 or 2 are more prominant and this is how our constitution is decided. All the doshas are made up of their own elements such as ether, air, fire, earth, water.
According to Ayurveda humans have 7 main bodily tissues which are blood, plasma, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and reproductive tissue. They also are made up of their own distinctive elements.
Hair is a byproduct of the bone tissue together with nails and teeth. When bone tissue is imbalanced, it will show in these places. When all the tissues are nourished and balanced, your whole body glows from inside out.
Vata hair- usually dry, brittle, thin and can be either straight or curly;
Pitta hair- oily, mostly straight and soft;
Kapha hair- thick, lustrous, strong and usually wavy;
From time to time we may see some hair issues appearing such as hair loss, dry hair, split ends, overly oily hair, early greying or even baldness.
There can be many reasons behind it. I have listed here a few:
First one to name is chemicals we put on our hair. Most shampoos, conditionesers, hair sprays etc contain very harmful toxins which are poisoning our body inside and out. When you apply something on your scalp, it does not stay there but it will be absorbed by the skin into your body because scalp in also covered in skin. These chemicals has to be digested. If your digestion is not strong enough or if there is an overload of chemicals, you will notice signs of imbalance such as skin disorders, bloating, constipation or diarrhoa etc.
While hairdressers are becoming a nessesity in today's world, we shall not forget that overly processed hair does not make us prettier but instead ill. There have been many debates about cutting the hair and growth. While some hairdressers believe hair can not grow when the ends are broken and dry, the science does not support this belief. Hair grows from root and wether you have split ends or not, it does not stop your hair growing. What does stop this is bleaching your hair and how often you do it. Bleaching is a dangerous activity to the whole body. The scalp is absobing these chemicals into your body and causing sometimes even irreversible damages to your health. The best way to go is Organic dyes such as henna and curry leaf, change bleach to alternative ways to lighten your hair such as clay or reduce your visits to the salon to every 3 months instead of every month. Colouring your hair at home with chemical rich product is a big no no as well.
Cutting hair is not damaging in any way and feel free to step into your local salon any day you like as often as you like to support local small businesses.
Another reason why you might have issues with your hair is your digestive fire (agni). If your agni is weak, it will not be able to deal with the chemicals you put on your hair daily.
Agni can be weakened by many other thing as well such as bad food, not sleeping enough, emotional issues etc. If you already have a weak agni, this heavy use of chemicals will make things worse. Remember, everything you put on you or inside you, every thought you have has to be digested in your stomach.
Bad food such as fast food, too much overly spicy foods and food that has many additives are a big cause for hair loss. These kind of foods damage your hair follicles with excess heat and leave you with baldness or premature greying of hair. This is usually a problem with Pitta type of people with competative personality and hot headeadness.
Not eating on the other hand or eating too much dry food will cause the scalp and hair follicles to dry out and leave you with frizzy and dry hair and you might even see hair falling out in clumps. Vata type of people usually suffer with these problems.
Excess oiliness and thickeness or the hair is associated with Kapha constitution. Kapha type of people do not usually suffer with hair problems but when they do is because they like to indulge in heavy carbs and sweet foods. Although it might seem like not a problem at all, but very thick hair is hard to manage and some people find this stressful.
Weather is something that we can not change but what we can do is change how we deal with it. Hot summer sun is by far the worst you can do to your hair as well as hot blow dry. Wear a light hat which creates a barrier between the sun and your head but do not allow your head to get hot. Windy and cold weather is also damaging and consider keeping yourself inside during this time or wear a hat not to allow your head to get too cold especially if you are a Vata type of person.
In ayurveda the hair care is mostly to do with rejuvenation, because nourised tissues will show health. While there is a lot to do internally, there are also things to do externally. Depending on your constitution and the imabalance, different treatments are applied.
Oils have been used for centuries in hair care either to correct the imbalanced dosha or for daily/weekly nourishment for hair.
Oils such as coconut, argan and jojoba are great for hair because they have the capapility to penetrate deep inside the hair and nourishing the hair from inside.
Other treatments include head pastes, taking herbs internally and mindfullness.
Routines for healthy hair
Use oils to massage your head according to your dosha
apply oil such as coconut into your scalp before washing your hair
Using milk or ghee at least once a month on your scalp as a mask before washing your hair is a good way to bring back moisture and make your hair softer
stimulating the hair follicles daily will strenghten your hair (combing, massage, gentle pulling)
use only natural shampoos and conditioners
do not use chemical products on your head like hair sprays. Alternative is sugar water to keep your hair in one place, but watch our for the bees! This trick was actually introduced to me by one of my oldest friends during teenage years. What a clever trick that was!
do not tie your hair often with synthetic elastic bands
tie your hair up with hair pins for the night
don't wash your hair every day, minimum is every other day and do not wash your hair when there is no oil present
avoid pitta and vata aggravating foods such as take-aways, junk food, very spicy food, alcohol
let your hair dry naturally
Depending on your imbalace there are many Ayurvedic oils and herbs which are formulated to help with more serious hair conditions like alopecia, premature graying and excessive oiliness. If you need any guidance or help, please contact me to discuss. Your body always shows signs when something is not quite right and your job is to notice and deal with it as soon as possible before things get more serious.