Indian Haircare - better than West
Indian Civilisation is over 5000 years old. Perhaps, because of that, Indians practised some sound haircare methods. I am impressed by the fact that Draupadi had the guts to swear by her hair and keep that promise after 13 long years. Even if the epic is taken as fiction, the poet had the gumption to make a character swear by hair. I have not come across any other similar story so far.
Such ancient ‘secrets’ of haircare are not with us now. Perhaps they got a bit damaged, diluted or distorted a lot down the ages. Still, the traditional Indian way of hair keeping is safe and sound.
Who am I to say this?
Swapna Hair Enricher is my pastime invention of 1991. It can control hairloss and dandruff simultaneously. It also promotes growth. I have also used Cosmetic products after 1969 for nearly 12 years with zero benefit [ My Doctor told me that for my hereditary hairloss, there is no remedy in Dermatology. So I felt compelled to use Cosmetic products with the hope that something may at least work partly. They did not]
Swapna owes its strength to some comments in old traditional therapies
The Traditional Haircare
The traditional Indian Hair Care, as I know it around 1960, was to oil the hair daily. It could be pure Vegetable Oil / Sesame / Coconut Oil. In Tamil Nad, people used to take Oil bath on Fridays. Excess Oil used to be removed with Skikkakai, Aritha, Besan powder or such natural products.
This was basically a safe and sound procedure to retain the hair in a natural way. Why?
Core body inputs for the Hair
The hair comes out of the slits in the skin. The body provides some nutrients to the hair roots. Sebum Glands / oil joins the hair strands at a level above the roots. Then there is sweat / water glands adjacent to every hair root. Nutrients, oil and sweat are the only 3 basic items for the scalp and the hair
This basic provision has remained the same since civilisation started. In traditional haircare, none of them is disturbed in any way.
Oil is the only external input which may seep through the skin and keep it emollient. Cleaning was done with natural, safe and mild products. There was no scope / limited scope for pollution / entry of the solid cleaners to the hair roots.
Oil bath / wash served to provide a light Oil coat to the skin
The body’s temperature is 98.6F. In Indian Summer, the outside temperature is above 105 for over 2 months in many parts of India. To lower its impact on the head, we need oil on the head. The non reactive, saturated oil like Coconut acts as a barrier between the harsh Summer Sunlight / UV light. That is, the oil helps the head. Hair is also a protective cover to the scalp from Sunlight.
Let me now take a different path
Dermatology - Hair
I went through many Dermatology books between 1993 to 1998 to assess Swapna critically and improve it further. The Magazines referred included Nature, Exocet, New Scientist, Vogue, Indian film magazines and Women’s era. That is, my academic research was fairly long and adequate
Drawbacks of the Western haircare
The comments are based on my study of some Cosmetic formulations, numerous hair products advertised and their claims / emphasised need, the endless advices on the net for use of some extra feed or another to better the hair and the statements of some buyers of Swapna outside of India. This is my overview and not specific to any product or individual claim. It is to be understood that many of the Cosmetic Claims lack proof.
The Western haircare practices are self destructive exercises. Sellers invent fresh excuses to sell a product, even if there is no need and the intended use is meaningless or questionable
1. The core item of need for the hair are the nutrients provided by the body, as said earlier.
Shampoo penetrates upto the roots and can wash out the nutrients. This is an undesirable risk, given the present limitations in Cure in Dermatology. The safety of Shampoo has never been deeply researched. Does our skin glow with the daily baths? Does our auto becomes fresh with a shampoo? We all say No to such questions but mutely say “yes’ to a detergent solution / shampoo for hair
A cleaner has been elevated to the level of a Deity. Shampoo also washes out Sebum, the second core input for hair. So all the hollow shouts about balanced diet, Vitamins, Proteins, dryness, roughness and strength become meaningless with 2 out of the three core items getting washed out routinely
Natural products based hair cleaners like Shikkakai, Haritha or Besan powders are more functional and safer than Shampoo. They are solids and cannot penetrate to the roots.
1b] Faulty Chemical - One formulation mistake
The fatty acids in Coconut oil are Palmitic, Stearic, Myristic and Lauric Acids. Around 1960 and for over 2 decades afterwards, hair oils / haircare items in the West, had Iso Myristic Acid as a supposedly beneficial component.
The claims and suppositions were later found to be untrue / questionable. Usage of Iso Myristic Acid was stopped. But who paid for the folly ? The Public of course.[Lack of Historical data does not help them / make up some fancy assumptions and fail finally]
2. In the West, people do not seem to use Oil. With routine removal of Sebum with Shampoo, Oil becomes necessary to keep the skin, soft and smooth. The cold can make the skin, crack. We see it on the lips and toes. Would that not happen on the scalp. That is, the base is uncared / not adjusted for the climatic change
The poorly lubricated hair and skin is tested for its resistance capacity, not at body temperature but above 105 * F [ when we run to the Doctor] with thermal aids - curls, levellers and what not
3. Chemical expertise
It is an unwanted and baseless assumption that all the hair products are tested by ‘regulating authorities’ for safety. They are not. For example, FDA does not test any OTC / Over the Counter products
Hair Dyes, Perming, Conditioners / Quarternary Ammonium salts, Cyclo Methicone, Detergents and so on are powerful chemicals. The intended action is ‘chemical’. Wrong use / misuse or even nominal excess use can be risky. The hair may get damaged gradually
In normal traditional Indian haircare, there was no place for all these risky practices. Hair was not lost due to unwanted abuse and misuse of hair
To sum up, the traditional Indian hair practices, as I knew them in 1960, is better and safer for the hair for above fancy methods / notions
Think and decide for yourself.
My background[I hold a Master’s degree in [Organic] Chemistry. Further I have done the post graduate course in Business Administration from IIM, Ahmedabad. I was a total hereditary baldy by 1980. With Swapna, I gained several new black hair at my bald frontal area. I was nearly 50 when I referred to the Dermatology books.
The over all impression that I got was that Hair is a subject of minor importance in Dermatology. The Research was poor / limited. As hair is not a health issue, the funds may be limited.
Perhaps, if only Dermatology had a base of historical data like Ayurveda / Indian traditional practices, they could look into some unexplored but promising areas.
I got no new inputs to improve Swapna. However I got the conviction that my approach is sound. That also meant a lot. To know the limitations in Dermatology, refer ‘hair cures’ note]