A good head massage keeps the nervous system healthy. Applying oil to hair and massaging is one of the ways to improve hair strength, and hair quality, according to Ayurvedic principles. Apart from this, applying hair oil has several other benefits including calmness of mind, sleep improvement, headache remedy, helps people suffering from baldness, prevents premature greying of hair, stress, insomnia and other diseases associated with nervous system.
The scalp and hair can be massaged with warm oil, preferably infused with hair-nourishing herbs. Ayurvedic oils meant for hair and scalp massage usually include one or more hair-friendly herbs to derive the benefit of massage. The herbs are generally slow-cooked in carrier oil and strained, and kept ready for use.
Although there are plenty of choices when it comes to hair oils, choosing the one that suits your hair type and body condition is what Ayurveda focuses on.
Hair types, time and application of hair oils
You are said to fall under Vata hair type if your hair is thin, dry, frizzy and prone to split ends. If you have thin and fine hair, which is prone to premature greying, then you have pitta hair type. Those with Kapha hair will have hair that is thick and oily.
Almond oil with sesame oil as the base is said to be good for those with vata hair type, as both the oils are very nourishing for the scalp and helps reduce stiffness in the scalp.
For the pitta hair types, a cooling coconut oil may be the ideal choice, as coconut is pitta-pacifying and can retard hair issues associated with aggravation of pitta dosha.
For those with kapha hair, sesame or olive oil are good choices, as olive oil has purifying properties that help keep pores open.
It is said that head massage or hair oil application done at evening time is most beneficial. When you divide the day time into three parts, evening time is dominated by vata dosha. However, if sesame oil is applied in the evening, it will calm down vata dosha. Coconut oil is best applied in the mornings, as it has the tendency to increase kapha/vata when applied at night.
To improve the quality of hair and to promote hair growth and prevent early greys and split hairs, it is better to apply hair oil at night and take a warm water head bath on next day morning. But, applying hair oil on the day after bath is not desirable as the hair may attract dust and grime when you go out in the sun. For better hair growth, oil can be applied to scalp, hair root and length of the hair. It is good to warm up the oil a little before applying as it helps in better absorption.
Benefits of hair oils
Sesame oil is the preferred base of oil for almost all massage oils in ancient traditional Ayurveda, and is the ideal choice for hair. The reason being that those using sesame oil regularly, do not suffer from headache, greying of hair, baldness, dandruff or hair fall. Hair becomes black, longer, deep-rooted and regular use of sesame oil helps in getting sound sleep too. Follow up sesame oil massage with lukewarm water bath after a few hours. In fact, sesame oil is also safe for massaging babies, as it helps induce deep relaxation and relieves headache. Further, it has antibacterial and antifungal properties and protects hair from damaging effects of chlorine.
Coconut oil is largely used on the scalp and hair in India as it prevents dandruff when massaged on dry scalp. It nourishes damaged hair and is also acts as a conditioner. People living in hot climate can especially use coconut oil for hair, as it is an excellent coolant. Also for people with pitta dominant condition, application of coconut oil helps. However, being a coolant in nature, coconut oil when applied to hair by people in colder regions, it increases kapha, especially in people prone to cold, cough, allergies, asthma etc. Now, having said this, if you still want to stick on to coconut oil for hair, despite being a kapha/vata hair type and living in cold weather conditions, mix a teaspoon of black pepper powder to 100ml of oil, heat it for five minutes, filter it and use it when lukewarm.
Almond is used in Ayurveda to particularly treat vata-predominant hair (thin, dry and frizzy hair). Due to its rich vitamin E, calcium and magnesium content, it is used by itself as oil for direct massage on hair, or used as carrier oil for other ayurvedic oils, to add luster, shine and strength. It also controls hair loss.
Some popular herbs used in ayurvedic hair oils are:
Amla is very effective hair oil for most hair problems and helps relieve headache, dizziness and other pitta related conditions. Most ayurvedic oils contain amla as a major ingredient, prepared in sesame oil base. It is also used with coconut oil as carrier oil as coconut conditions hair and is excellent for protection against sun damage.
Bhringraj, also known as Eclipta alba or false daisy, holds a solid place in ayurvedic hair remedies, and no wonder its name by itself translate to “king of tresses”. It is often mixed with sesame or coconut oil and used as scalp massage and for hair dressing. Bhringraj has high protein and stimulates hair growth and restores black shine of hair.
Also known as Gotu Kola or Indian pennywort, it is used to prevent premature hair loss and to increase thickness and volume of hair. Brahmi oil is made by mixing it with sesame oil or other carrier oils, and is applied to hair and scalp. Brahmi helps in calming down the mind and nervous system apart from nourishing the locks.
Neem Seed Oil
Neem seed oil has been used in India for cosmetic and medicinal purposes for years. Apart from being rich in vitamin E, it is also rich in essential fatty acids, has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. However, when used alone, neem oil tends to solidify in room temperature and is usually combined with olive oil as carrier oil for ease of application. It enriches hair and stimulates growth and prevents dandruff.
These are some of the best oils recommended by Ayurveda for regular use. However, for specific hair conditions like alopecia or baldness, you should contact an ayurvedic expert and get specific advice for your hair condition.