We take extra steps to take care of our skin and hair. We purchase expensive shampoos, creams, and other elaborate products on the market to keep our appearance looking healthy and beautiful. But understanding Ayurvedic hair care goes beyond the external upkeep of our tresses. It touches on the deeper understanding of our body and mind as a whole, and how caring for our deeper needs actually does reflect in our hair.
Specifically, Ayurvedic hair care requires understanding the importance of nourishing the ashti dhatu and how the doshas impact the hair.
Ashti Dhatu and Your Hair
Each tissue (or dhatu) in the body will reflect the different strengths and weaknesses involved in the functions of many elements of one’s health, but for the sake of hair care, we’ll focus specifically on the tissue related to hair care: ashti dhatu.
The hair is a direct extension of asthi dhatu, the tissues of the body that help to maintain and grow the bones. Asthi dhatu is also responsible for the nails, as both the hair and nails are physiological reflections of one’s bone health, and are made up of a series of proteins and keratinized tissues that extend directly from the tissue.
The state of the hair can also be directed to the healthiness of our skin and scalp. The root of the hair is held mostly in the epidermis of the skin and, and partially in the dermis. The root of the hair is directly connected to various capillaries (blood and nutrition sources), sebaceous glands (oil and sweat), and nerve endings. The shaft of the hair is comprised of three parts and layers: the medulla, which is soft and contains thousands of transparent cells; the cortex, which houses melanin and keratinized cells (this is where the strength of the hair lies); and the outermost layer, the transparent cuticle, being the ultimate reflection of what most others will see in our hair. The cuticle is where we would see the shininess (or dullness, if one is imbalanced) of one’s hair.
The Doshas and Your Hair
Understanding the metabolic function and tissue relativity in regards to Ayurvedic hair care, we can now start to magnify issues and features related to hair and the Doshas: excessive amounts of hair, a lack of hair, dryness, dehydration, oiliness, split ends. A lot of these actions of the hair are shown more predominantly in the specific individual and their prakruti and vikruti.
Vata hair will often be fine, wavy or straight, light in weight, and lighter in color. Vata dosha often have difficulties in the circulation of nutrients in the body resulting in dry scalp (which will then result in dry hair), thinning hair, premature and patchy hair loss, slow growth, early greying and split ends.
Pitta hair often deems more thickness than Vata hair, has a stronger root and shaft, varies in color (although many Pitta people often have “vibrant” hair colors), and there is plenty of it. Pitta issues relating to the hair and scalp often stem from overheating, especially in relation to the blood (which directly provides nutrients to hair follicles). Pitta types can experience dermatitis of the scalp, including itchiness, dryness, dandruff, and reddening as well as balding, premature thinning, and early greying.
Because Kapha is seated strongly in the asthi dhatu, its reflection in the hair is often the most dominant and illuminated. Kapha hair is often thick, abundant, curly, dark, lustrous, shiny, and bouncy. However, when out of balance, Kapha hair and the scalp often look heavy, dull, oily, and greasy, and the hair can become frizzy and grow in excess.
Ayurvedic Hair Care Explained
Ayurvedic physician Dr. Savitha Suri states that taking an Ayurvedic route when treating hair care “gives you a complete health treatment, which works on the complete body system… and that the benefit is forever.” Whereas following more allopathic routes “are based on the concept of sudden and instantaneous relief… but the origin of the disease is not eliminated… and there comes the probability in the future for the origin to be worse.” [Ayurveda Life: The Book of Ayurveda Top Tips]
Unfortunately sometimes Doshas can reflect issues in hair that are directly connected to another Dosha as well: A Vata individual could resemble symptoms related more closely to those of a Kapha imbalance, or a Pitta individual might suddenly exhibit features of dry and brittle hair (a more Vata imbalance).
Following the Ayurvedic path when treating and caring for the hair begins with addressing issues related to agni of the asthi dhatu and it’s direct relation to the Doshas. This can be achieved by:
- Exercise which is best suited for your Dosha
- Adjusting your diet to be more suitable for your specific Dosha
- Maintaining a diet that is richer in proteins and vitamins like iron
- Identifying and eliminating the causes of any dis-ease or illness which is causing the imbalance
- Managing stress more efficiently
- Washing the hair and scalp with shampoo that is free of chemicals, and is infused with Shikakai
- Toning and nourishing the tissues with rasayanas like Chyawanprash
- Using Ayurvedic herbs for hair care
Ultimately, Ayurvedic hair care is about achieving health in the body and mind. Improvements to hair health and appearance will result from consistently caring for your Agni and your Doshas.
Ceanna Saatsaz, LME, CAP, LPH