The instant results of chemical-based shampoos is almost addictive – one wash, and your hair resembles that from a commercial. However, when it comes to Ayurvedic hair products – and by this we mean the real deal sans any chemicals, opinion is still divided regarding their efficacy.
“The feel of using chemical products is certainly much better, with respect to fragrance and immediate effects,” says Dr Sharad Kulkarni, in-house expert at brand Kama Ayurveda. “However, while the high levels of chemicals and synthetic materials may give instant results, over a period of time they tend to damage the hair, and even the skin.”
Agrees Dr Akanksha Kotibhaskar, Ayurvedic Consultant with Forest Essentials, who says, “Synthetic substances present in chemical-based shampoos and conditioners cause excessive dryness, which makes the hair brittle and leads to breakage. The natural oil from the scalp and hair gets stripped off due to the harsh chemicals, leading to premature greying and frizziness.”
In contrast, they opine that the natural ingredients and herbs in Ayurvedic shampoos and conditioners not only cleanse the hair and scalp gently, but also have a curative effect in the long run. According to experts at Ayurvedic beauty brand Biotique, “Ayurvedic hair products are made with natural plant and vegetable extract that are aimed at solving specific concerns.” They state that chemical-based products can only control the conditions symptomatically, but not offer a long-term cure.
Of course, it’s not all that simple as it looks. The dosha (bodily humor or bio-energy centre in Ayurvedic medicine) and season also play important roles in deciding what product would work for you. As Dr Kulkarni explains, “I prefer selecting herbal products with respect to the dosha of the individual, and according to the season, which we term Rutu/Ritu (season) Charya (regimen to maintain a healthy life). There is also a possibility that the dosha may turn aggressive in a given season or because of an imbalance in the hair, mind, body or skin. All these factors need to be kept in mind.”
Only a trained specialist or Ayurvedician can prescribe the correct products, but Dr. Kotibhaskar states that the current formulations are more holistically created and are clinically backed to cure different concerns. “For example, bhringraj controls hair thinning and promotes hair growth, mulethi conditions and strengthens the hair, amla (Indian gooseberry) prevents premature aging, and lotus extract is an excellent conditioning agent. Therefore, Ayurvedic Haircare products can be selected on the basis of a particular concern and the key ingredients as well,” she adds.
That said, the results can sometimes take a tad longer than what one may be used. While the effects also depend on one’s diet, the results intensify gradually with each successive use. “I would call it a subtle, positive effect that adds up over time,” says Dr Kulkarni, adding, “It is a stable, longer effect unlike chemical-based products that can give you faster and noticeable results but at the cost of harming the hair in the long run.”
The mane can also sometimes get too dry after using Ayurvedic products, but Dr Kotibhaskar explains, “This is because Ayurvedic shampoos that are not formulated with pure ingredients contain plant substances like tannins. They lack the sufficient natural conditioning agents, leading to dryness. Always select products carefully, and supplement this with oil massage for nourishment and conditioning.”
If you don’t have the time for a leisurely head massage before the wash, Dr Kulkarni suggests applying a few drops of oil to wet hair post the wash.
Lastly, some ingredients work better for certain conditions, but as a general rule of thumb, remember that dry hair is best cured with oils such as sesame, almond and coconut; oily hair can be treated with triphala; amla and aloe vera work wonders on damaged hair; and ingredients like neem, hibiscus and methi (fenugreek).