Hair loss has become a modern-day problem. The hair that was tended with so much love and care has become a subject of grief. Today we have thousands of hair products and tools in the market, but ironically hair issues are at its peak. The new research doesn’t seem to be helping as it should be. Something is going wrong, and we need to identify what the real problem is.
I have been through a lot of hair troubles. And I am to blame for it. In my late teens, I battered my abundant and shiny hair with many synthetic chemicals. I really tested its resilience, I colored them, I bleached them, I never oiled them, washed them every day and to maintain the ruining hair I used even more chemicals. I did recover my senses, but a little late. I had lost a lot of my hair, and there was not much shine left. I then started researching and practising traditional ways of hair care. The good news is, ever since I began implementing them, the progress is looking very promising, and my hair will most likely return to its former glory. As they say, ‘better late than never’.
The traditional Indian health care is based on ayurvedic principles. Since the advent of ayurveda, the very wise vaidyas or ayurvedic doctors have formulated hundreds of recipes for skin and hair care.
The ancient Indian texts have depicted women with luxurious tresses, and it seems as if it was natural to have thick and long hair. If you go back 30 to 40 years, it is evident from the photos that women did have abundant and shiny hair, neatly plaited and adorned with flowers. I was just born then, and to my regret, I missed the era of glorious hair. Now I only hear stories from older women, who very fondly talk about their thick and long tresses.
Although there are many things to blame for hair loss – like the pollution, food, and stress – the primary reason is we are burying our ancient knowledge and practices. The precious knowledge that was shared from generation to generation to nourish and tend the hair is being ignored and abandoned. And the result is hair loss, itchy scalp, splits, loss of shine and limp hair.
So what do you do to get back the hair that our previous generations had? The solution is really simple. Do what your grandparents and great-grandparents did – Practice traditional hair care rituals to enhance and maintain the natural beauty of your hair.
Let’s take a look at the traditional hair practices for thick, long, beautiful hair…
If there was just one thing you can to do for your hair — Oil Massage Your Hair. Oiling hair is the most important ritual in traditional hair care. It is ‘the’ secret to long, thick, shiny tresses.
Oil massage brings with it the essential nutrients through increased circulation. As little as 5 minutes of head massage can make a significant difference in the health of your hair. The pure plant oil seeps into your scalp and nourishes your hair follicles, which are the bedrock of your hair.
Massaging with your fingers soothes your scalp and exfoliates the hair follicles, which may be clogged by dead skin and flakes.
Which oil to use? You can use any oil of your choice. Most popular oils used in Indian head massage are coconut oil, mustard oil and sesame oil. You can also make your own oil by infusing hair nourishing herbs such as amla, brahmi, dried hibiscus, marigold, and rosemary.
The ritual is to apply oil to your hair before washing it. Leave the oil for at least an hour, or better, overnight. Wash hair well with a natural cleanser. And let your hair air dry.
Homemade Amla & Coconut oil: Take 200ml of coconut oil and add 20 grams of dried amla pieces (or amla powder). Store in a glass jar and leave to infuse for 2 to 3 weeks. For the amla nutrients to incorporate with the oil, shake the jar once a day. You can either filter it or leave the amla pieces sitting in the oil. Here’s step by step on how to make amla oil.
Initially, when I started to oil my hair, I noticed a lot of hair coming out. It made me worry at first, but in few weeks time, I noticed new hair sprouting out to replace the fallen ones. So the hair coming off at the start were simply the weak hair, which would have fallen out very soon anyway. Oiling your hair regularly will make your hair strong and free of split ends. The exfoliation that occurs while massaging will get rid of dead skin and keep your scalp dandruff free.
But if you still think head massage is not working for you and causing more hair to fall out, there’s another way out. Use wooden hair brush or comb to stimulate your scalp. It is more gentle and will preserve your falling hair as well as promote new hair growth.
Before the advent of commercial shampoos, people used natural ingredients such as soap nut (reetha), shikakai, amla, hibiscus flowers, kali mitti or black mud, fenugreek seeds, lemon peels, orange peels, lentil flours and henna powder to wash their hair.
Reetha and shikakai homemade shampoo use to be the most popular hair cleanser once upon a time. This shampoo is free from synthetic ingredients like sulfate, parabens, and other additives. It is mild, having naturally low pH and will not strip the natural oils from your hair. It is an excellent alternative for people who are allergic to sulfates and parabens in the commercial shampoo.
Reetha and shikakai contains natural surfactants called saponins, a natural cleaning agent. Reetha is a natural softer, and shikakai acts as a detangler. Amla strengthens the hair follicles and conditions the hair. The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of reetha, shikakai and amla help to maintain a healthy scalp.
The home-made reetha and shikakai shampoo has no model or a film star to sell it, and it doesn’t need any advertising. This shampoo has been used by people for many centuries and with no side effects and habitat damage. And this is enough testimonial of its goodness.
Another great alternative is lentil shampoo: You can use either chickpea flour (besan), mung bean flour or black gram flour(urad). Take about 3 to 4 tablespoon of lentil flour and make a paste with water, or combine it with above said reetha and shikakai shampoo. Lentil flour is particularly beneficial to get rid of the oil.
You can also use castile soap to wash your hair. It’s made with oil and lye and can be used as a shampoo, body wash, laundry soap and general cleaning soap.
If your hair is dry and frizzy, apply a leave-in conditioner like DIY flaxseed gel or almond oil after shampoo. Take a pea size amount in the palm of your hand and rub through the lower third of your hair, avoiding the scalp and leave-in. This will make your hair soft, shiny and smooth, even without a blower dryer.
Henna has been used since antiquities to colour grey hair, dye skin and fingernail, paint body art, and repel insects. My grandmother had a henna shrub in her garden. She would grind the leaves into a fine paste and then apply it to her hair. I remember most of the time it was just the pure paste. My grandmother lived up to 85, and even in her last years, she had long, reasonably thick and henna-dyed hair.
Traditionally henna was the main ingredients in most of the hair pack. Henna makes hair stronger, shinier, and you will notice less hair falling out. It also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and helps in scalp problems.
To enhance henna’s colouring and nourishing properties, you can add herbs such as brahmi, bhringraj, hibiscus, neem, amla and fenugreek seeds. Henna gives hair reddish, brownish or orangish tint depending on the area it is grown, how long you leave it on, or other ingredients you add.
Note: Most of the henna you get in the market is contaminated with synthetic dyes and other harmful chemicals. So when buying henna make sure it is pure and free from additives.
You may also like: How to Use Henna to Colour Your Hair (Ditch the Hair Dyes)
In olden days, men and women walked long distances and toiled for their day-to-day tasks like washing, fetching water, cleaning and farming chores. This hard work was probably another reason for their abundant hair and good health. (PCOS, thyroid and autoimmune conditions were unheard of 20-30 years ago).
Today we spend most of our time sitting at our desks. Desk work and no play makes us and our hair dull. When we exercise, we sweat, and toxins are flushed through pores of our skin, giving us a fresh and radiant skin.
Likewise, when we sweat from our scalp, it helps in opening the clogged pores, and this gives room for new growth to come up easily. Moreover, exercise increases blood circulation throughout your body, including the scalp. Increased blood circulation allows for more nutrients to reach the follicles, which is important to maintain healthy growth.
Moderate exercise like taking stairs instead of the lift, cycling to work, brisk walking, running, dancing, Zumba, yoga, and other day-to-day modification or moderate workout can make a big difference. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate level physical activity on most days of the week.
Follow the above rituals, and you will get beautiful hair. However, there is one problem. If you just tick the boxes, it’s not going to work. You got to love doing every ritual. It cannot be just any other chore. Ideally speaking all tasks must be done with utmost love and respect..
Do you have any traditional hair wisdom to share?