Remember when I quickly popped in from my blogging hiatus to tell you guys that I had been doing all this do-it-yourself hair care. My initial goal was to maximize and optimize my hair growth with topical applications (instead of internal ones after the side effects I got). And that’s what led me to the world of Ayurvedic Hair Care (I think I’m hooked). Since then I’ve made oils, hair glosses and hair teas. It definitely takes some work, but it has helped me to avoid the daunting natural hair care aisle and it’s quite economical. Not only that, but my foray into Ayurvedic Hair Care has amped up my excitement about my hair care.
What is Ayurvedic Hair Care?
The Ayurvedic approach to hair care is a holistic method of caring for hair using natural herbs and oils. It originates from the Indian subcontinent and many of the common herbs are from there as well. The most popular ones are Amla, Aritha, Ashwagandha, Bhringraj, Brahmi, Henna, Hibiscus, Neem, and Shikaikai. These herbs are the backbone of hair oils, hair teas/rinses, hair pastes, and hair masks/glosses. You can incorporate Ayurvedic herbs by purchasing hair products that already contain these ingredients or you can make your own from scratch.
How to Incorporate Ayurveda into Your Hair Regimen?
Using Ayurvedic herbs is the main tenant to following this regimen. My focus is on the topical applications. You can use Hair Pastes, Hair Glosses/Masks, Hair Rinses, Teas, and/or Herbal Oils. Ideally you would want to incorporate one water based application and one oil based herbal infusion to maximize the benefits extracted from the herbs. But honestly incorporating any one element is good too. Scalp Massages are also a very big part of Ayurvedic hair care. It stimulates the scalp promoting blood circulation, which promotes hair growth.
Hair Pastes: This is when you mix the powdered herb with water typically to create a “conditioner” for your hair. Other ingredients can be added to customize the paste but it’s base is water and herb. Depending upon the herb(s) you choose they can strengthen, nourish and/or cleanse the hair strands, scalp and hair follicles. Henna is probably the most popular hair paste in Ayurveda. It strengthens the hair strand and provides a reddish brownish tint to the hair. Henna is the most strengthening of all the pastes. If you choose to use this paste, it should be used sparingly (monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly).
Hair Glosses or Masks: This is essentially a more mild version of the hair paste. It typically uses a smaller quantity of each Ayurvedic herb and uses ingredients either in addition to or in place of water. Typically, you’ll see moisturizing ingredients like conditioner, yogurt, coconut milk, avocado, aloe vera, or bananas — just to name a few options. While these will impart the same benefits of its counterpart, the hair paste, it’s less strengthening and more moisturizing. And again with this option you can add other natural ingredients to customize the hair mask to your hair’s liking.
Hair Teas and Rinses
Teas and Rinses: Teas and Rinses are another way to incorporate the water soluble attributes of the Ayurvedic herbs into your hair regimen. The application is not as messy or time consuming as the hair pastes and masks. (But creating them can be). You infuse the herbs into water or apple cider vinegar. The teas are used as a daily (or every other day) spritz to the hair. And the rinses are washed over the hair during wash day before or after conditioning the hair. If you are using apple cider vinegar, then I would recommend going with the hair rinse as the smell can be overwhelming for the daily use of the tea spritz. And don’t forget to dilute your apple cider vinegar (1:8) with water for regular use.
Herbal Oils: Some Ayurvedic herbs are just better used with an oil because their benefits are better extracted from an oil (over water). Of course just about any herb can be infused with an oil and you will see benefits to your hair from consistent use. You can opt to do a cold or hot infusion. But if you’re using a hot infusion be sure to gently heat the oil (think water baths or double boilers). Herbal Oils are used for hot oil treatments and most importantly scalp massages. Scalp massages are very important in an Ayurvedic hair care routine (possibly the most important element) and should be done often. They can also be added to any hair product you already have.
Commercial Hair Products
Commercial Hair Products: If you take the time to look at the ingredients list on some very popular hair care brands, you’ll notice some Ayurvedic ingredients hanging out. Shea Moisture has neem in most of their products and my recent purchase of The Mane Choice Heavenly Halo Conditioner has Bhringraj. Even if you don’t want the fuss of do-it-yourself, there are many hair care brands that include Ayurveda. I found many on etsy.
How Did I Get Into Ayurvedic Hair Care?
I was looking for natural and holistic ways of maximizing my hair growth while promoting the best quality hair growth at the same time. I started with focusing on specific ingredients that accomplish that and then the next I knew I was knee deep in Ayurvedic herbs. From there my deep dive went even deeper, lol. I also stopped using hair care products with silicones, parabens, mineral oil, and sulfates. This pushed me even more into the DIY realm because a lot of products that stand out to me in the hair care aisle seem to contain one or more of these ingredients. The plan isn’t to be DIY forever, but it’s the most cost effective way to sample ingredients and figure out what my hair likes. That way when I can do a better job of picking hair products to try out.
What have I made so far?
Of course you can totally buy already made hair products that contain ayurvedic and botanical ingredients. But I think it’s more fun to make my own concoctions. I just pick up a few powdered herbs for $2-3 each at my local Indian specialty food grocery store and start experimenting. So far, I’ve made herbal oils, hair teas, hair rinses and hair masks using the ingredients in my collection. Some are better than others. I know for sure I going to continue to incorporate the herbal oils and hair masks. The hair teas and rinses are on a little bit of shaky ground with me because they don’t have a long shelf life. Plus the process for making them is quite involved, but we will see. Either way, once I know for sure that they are really good, I’ll share my recipes with you guys in individual posts.
My Current Collection of Dried Herbs and Why I Like Them
When I search for DIY Ayurvedic hair masks the one herb (other than Henna) that I see most frequently is Amla. It’s actually a fruit called Indian Gooseberry. It plays a big part in hair growth and is loaded with vitamin C, which aids in college formation. When used topically on the scalp, it has been shown to increase the hair follicle count, darken the hair, reduce grey hairs and promote healthy hair growth overall.
This Ayurvedic herb is a great treatment for the scalp. It nourishes the hair follicles keeping them strong, tight and less prone to hair loss when used regularly. And with long term use, you will notice thicker hair strands and stronger more lustrous hair overall. Personally, I would not recommend using it water soluble applications. It was very messy. It doesn’t dissolve as well as other herbs in pastes and hair masks. And it can’t be left sitting in water for too long, which means you can’t make it ahead like I prefer to do with my hair masks. For me brahmi is perfect for an herbal oil infusion used for scalp massages.
This is not Ayurvedic, but I do have it in my herb collection. It’s generally recommended for those with dry hair and it’s most pronounced benefit is that it softens the hair. I haven’t done too much experimentation with this one, but it’s one of the ingredients in my current herbal oil infusion. This herb is very delicate. So don’t boil or simmer it on the stove like you would some more sturdy herbs like rosemary or marshmallow root. Instead, let it steep in warm water after it’s removed from the heat source.
Based on the current influx of content on YouTube, how could I not try out fenugreek seeds? I’m not sure if they are specifically Ayurvedic but it’s uses do originate from the Indian Subcontinent as well. Often mixed with curry leaves, these are the magic beans that will maximize your hair growth. I’m not sure how true that is, but regardless I will be using them in my hair regimen.
They are a high mucilage herb, which means when infused in hot water they create a mucus that is wonderfully slippery. Slip is clutch when you are dealing with tangles. That mucilage is rich in proteins that keep the hair nourished, shiny and silky. It’s also used to remedy dandruff, thinning, shedding and other scalp issues. I so badly wanted to use this as a hair tea to spritz my hair daily. But when I tell you this herb smells like maple syrup, oh.my.goodness! And it’s not in a “mmm, pancakes” kind of way, but in a “who over here has been using maple syrup for lotion?!?” kind of way. Needless to say, I’ll be using this ingredient in my hair masks and possibly my herbal oil.
Again, this is not ayurvedic, but it is a natural ingredient that is good for the hair. I’ve used it to create a hair gel. This is another high mucilage ingredient that when boiled and simmered in water. Flaxseeds get so mucus-y that it becomes a slim ball that can be used for hair gel. It also have benefits that make it quite nourishing to the hair as well, so it’s a win-win.
Hibiscus Flower is used a lot in Ayurvedic hair recipes, but it isn’t specifically Ayurvedic. It creates mucus when infused in hot water, but not as much as fenugreek or other high mucilage herbs. Its super power is that it’s incredibly moisturizing to the hair. If you suffer from dry hair, this should be one of the first thing you gravitate towards. It’s often used to balance out the strength that the hair receives from herbs such as brahmi and amla. But you can also use it as the main ingredient in a hair mask, tea, rinse or oil. I have the cut and sifted flowers, but the powdered form is easier to incorporate into hair masks.
[Please note that some say that this red herb can tint your hair. I haven’t noticed it on my hair, but I feel I should make you aware of it. ]
Again, not Ayurvedic but a natural herb that is rich in silica. Why do we care about silica? Because it promotes the growth of thicker healthier hair. The strongest evidence for the benefits of silica relate to ingesting it. I can’t say for sure whether silica applied topically is as effective as when ingested. But no one has said outright that it’s a no-go and I do see it listed as an ingredient in many natural hair products. (So, you’re telling me there’s a chance…). It may or may not promote growth, but it does strengthen the hair.
This is a moisturizing herb that is good for treating extreme dryness. You’ll get the most out of it by simmering it in water. But you can also allow it to steep in hot water for at least an hour. I would be singing the praises of this herb but for the fact that the hibiscus flower does a better job. However, it’s a decent alternative to hibiscus flower if you fear that its red tint will alter the color of your hair.
Another high mucilage herb that is very moisturizing to the hair. It give the hair great slip for detangling. I like using this in teas and rinses. It pairs well with fenugreek seeds. And possibly because of the slip, it feels more moisturizing on my hair than the licorice root. This sturdy herb needs to be boiled and simmered in water on the stove to see max benefits.
This herb is right up there with fenugreek seeds when it comes to promoting/maximizing hair growth. Rosemary is in over half of the DIY hair growth recipes you’ll encounter on the internet. And several commercial hair products include it on their ingredients list. Using the essential oil is most convenient. But I also like to use the actual herb to include in my hair rinses, teas, and herbal oils.