Desi women are renowned for their dark, lustrous locks. Unfortunately, desi hair also falls prey to the drying effects of summer, namely, UV damage; chlorine from swimming pools; and air-conditioned places.
As summer draws to a close, hair repair is not solely the purvey of Caucasian women, desi women should also adapt a regime that revitalises to the scalp and restores integrity of the hair from root to tip.
This blog explores how products, which rely on natural and organic ingredients work with coarser hair. I focused on these types of products because there is an overall beauty movement towards products that rely increasingly on raw, natural elements, rather than preservative-laden potions that are raising concerns about long term health impact. I also discovered a series of products that will help aunties reclaim their mane. Unfortunately, in mass media these specialised products are not demonstrated on desi hair, and this blog aims to correct that state of affairs.
THE BEGINNING IS THE ROOT WHICH LEADS US TO THE END
Earlier this year I had long locks which cascaded down my back. I received many compliments but none of them allayed my scalp discomfort. I noted that within a day and half of washing my hair, my scalp would feel itchy, and after washing my hair, the roots would feel heavy, while the rest of my hair bounced. The effect was that of a flattened triangle. At times, I would scratch my scalp frequently in a effort to relieve the heaviness and itchiness. I concluded that since my hair was so long and heavy that it must be the cause of my scalp discomfort.
Once I cut my hair and donated it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program my scalp discomfort did not subside, and I became frustrated. I noted that when I brushed my hair, and lifted my hair from the scalp that it felt great but the feeling did not last.
One day while browsing downtown, I entered the Aveda store on McGill College and was intrigued by the pramāsana™ products whose focus is scalp care. pramāsana™ draws on the Ayurvedic sciences to treat and balance the scalp. The scalp is separate from the hair, and requires its own care in order to encourage healthy hair growth.
The concept made sense to me because as a yogini I get sweaty several times a week, and my scalp is often soaked. Further, when I shampoo, condition and style my hair, some of the products are bound to stick to the scalp, no matter how thoroughly I rinse. If the scalp environment is congested and lying under layers of dead flakes and product, how could I expect to feel comfortable? Conceptually, it is like dry flaky legs in winter. You scratch, and dead cells accumulate under your fingertips, and there is no relief until you exfoliate your legs, and apply cream.
Surprisingly, even though the pramāsana™ line has three products, using all three once a week, only requires four minutes and the impact lasts for seven days. I always start with massaging my scalp with the Exfoliating Scalp Brush which is designed to knead the head and loosen the dead skin cells.
I make sure to massage the top of my head, the sides and then I put my head down and do the underside. I am equal parts fascinated and repulsed by the dead flakes that appear along my hairline after a minute of continuous massage.
Once the “gunk” is loose, I apply the Purifying Scalp Cleanser. Its shape is reminiscent of that of a Lepage glue bottle, so the nozzle is precise and nestles perfectly amongst the stands.
I always hold the bottle perpendicular to the scalp, start at the hairline, and drag the nozzle along from hairline to neck, never losing contact with the scalp. I repeat this exercise at several points around the head, and then with the pads of my fingers I massage in the cleanser for two minutes. It feels tingly, froths slightly, and imparts a soft herbal scent. The combination of seaweed extract and salicylic acid really teach the “gunk” who is boss of the scalp!
I then shampoo and condition my hair, and am amazed at how quickly it all washes out. There is no heaviness and the real treat is the Protective Scalp Concentrate. It is packaged in a medicine bottle and the product, which includes ginger root extract, caffeine, rosemary, green tea leaf extract, is dispensed with a dropper.
As with the Purifying Scalp Cleanser, I apply it at several spots on my scalp and then massage it in for a minute. The Concentrate is absorbed rapidly, and leaves my scalp relaxed and light. It does not interfere with my subsequent styling.
What struck me is that these three small steps leave my hair with a natural volume that lasts for two days. Obviously, regular work outs can fell the mightiest of hairdos but these products left my hair overall lighter and my scalp comfortable for a full week. I no longer have itchy fits and my hair is bouncier. I am no longer a walking flattened pyramid.
Scalp care is as important as hair care because the beginning is the root which leads to the end.
NATURAL, ORGANIC SHAMPOOS AND CONDITIONERS – DO THEY CUT THE GREASE AND RESTORE THE PEACE?
Coarse hair needs hydrating care, and as with all types of hair two sets of shampoo and conditioner are needed to avoid product build up.
Kérastase is a renowned for being a brand that turns straw into silk, and its Aura Botanica line, continues the tradition albeit with a silicone-free, and coconut-, argan oil -and-sugar infused approach, that gently cleanses the hair using natural surfectants. The exclusion of silicone is an important development, because this ingredient ensures that products impart a smooth feel and add lustre. On the other hand, silicone can prevent moisturising ingredients from nourishing the strands thus leaving them dry and brittle. Aura Botanica’s use of 96-97% naturally-derived formulae is impressive, as is the fact that it is 99% biodegradable.
The scent of sweet orange essence in the Bain Micellaire is subtle and dissipates quickly, so people who are sensitive to scent should also be open to trying this product.
The Bain’s soft lather removes the oil and dirt without stripping the hair. My short-to medium hair length only requires a nickel’s worth of product and I liked how my strands felt free afterwards. The extra treat came with the Soin Fondamental, its twin, which like the Bain is infused with argan and coconut oils. A nickel is all I needed to coat my strands from mid-shaft to tip. I then tied my hair up for three minutes, conducted other shower business, and then rinsed out the Soin.
My naturally coarse hair was left feeling light and bouncy. I let it air dry a few times and was impressed by how my hair looked smooth and glossy, and was frizz-free. Aura Botanica builds a wonderful case to focus on hair care products that rely on oils and sugars, rather than silicones to create a lustrous mane.
The complementary shampoo-conditioner duo, that is also silicone-free, 95% natural origin, and infused with ingredients such as quinoa husk and honey (shampoo) and coconut oil and kaolin clay (conditioner), is the R.A.W. Biolage Nourish duo. R.A.W. stands for Real, Authentic Wholesome, and after several uses, I am sold. Aside from the environmentally-friendly process whereby the plastic is 100% packaged, and like Aura, the products are 99% biodegradable, these products also left my hair feeling fresh and my strands were hydrated.
The shampoo looks and feels like honey, yet it is not sticky. It lathers gently and I liked how after I rinsed out it my hair felt revived.
The Conditioner is thick, and is more of a treatment, so I left it in for five minutes. I really appreciated how it quickly rinsed-out and when I let my hair air dry, it was soft and lush.
Both Aura Botanica and R.A.W. Biolage transformed my hair from straw to silk, and demonstrate that natural, organic ingredients suit desi hair perfectly.
MASQUES CAN BE OILS
I shampoo my hair thrice a week because I work out six times a week, and I sweat a lot. After using Aura Botanica and R.A.W. Biolage, my third washing consists of applying Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse® prior to my yoga class, and then washing with the L’Occitane Aromachologie Revitalizing Fresh Shampoo.
Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse® is renowned for hydrating the skin and leaving it silky. However this multi-purpose dry oil, which is composed of Macadamia, Hazelnut, Borrage, Almond, Camellia and St. John’s Wort oils, also hydrates the hair.
Since I practise Moksha yoga and the room temperature rises to 42 degrees, it creates the perfect sauna for a hair treatment. I tapped several drops of the oil in the palms of my hands and then massaged them into my hair, starting a few centimetres away from the scalp. I tied my hair in a knot and went to class.
I am pleased to report that during class the oil did not seep from my hair into my eyes and I did not develop any pimples along the hairline. I noted afterwards that my hair was quite soggy and I was worried that even with a good shampooing session, it would be limp.
After a week of styling and sweating a clarifying shampoo is a must for the hair, and L’Occitane Aromachologie Revitalizing Fresh Shampoo is a wonderful option for dry-haired types, and allayed my worry.
I like that it thoroughly removes the oil and sweat, using a mix of mint, thyme, grapefruit, cedar and lavender essential oils, with plant-based vinegar. My hair smells a touch herbal afterwards but most importantly it feels clarified, and is not squeaking for mercy.
The combination of these oil-based products delivers the effects of a masque without the heaviness. The fact that I can combine exercise with a hair masque, and then wash without the need for conditioner is both a time-saver and a game changer. The natural oils imbue hair care with efficiency and effectiveness.
A SPECIAL NOTE FOR AUNTIES
I am lucky that I inherited my mother’s hair and she sometimes remarks that my hair actually belongs to her. I have also heard her lament that her hair is thinning, and it is sad. Thinning hair affects both the young and old but it is rarely discussed, especially amongst desi circles. It is usually dismissed as a part of life, and a vanity that is unsuitable for women of certain age. I say bollocks to this attitude because every woman, regardless of age or ethnicity, has the right to enjoy her beauty.
Thinning can be due to age, medicine or diet, and conventional products might not be effective because the basic health of the person is compromised. Watching my mom try to build volume with loads of hairspray where she once possessed a crown inspired me to research hair care for aunties.
I was thrilled to learn about KerMax™ products which focus on hair thickening and state that they are “Drug-free, safe for all women; all ethnicities and hair types“. The system which includes a Volumizing Shampoo and Volumizing Conditioner, mousses and serum, claim to work within seven days and contain “… peptide amino acids, fruit stem cells and botanical extracts“.
The drug-free and safety aspects are key for many aunties because let’s face it, our aunties are getting older and medication is a part of their lives. At times the medications negatively impact their manes.
My mother has been using the products for three weeks, and I have watched her like a hawk. Mom likes the shampoo and conditioner because they are soft and are not perfumed. She easily adapted the Essential Day Foam into her hair care routine, and after two weeks I noticed more volume at the roots, as in she did not shellac her hair to the heavens and it had body.
After the third week, I looked at her part, which had been sadly widening, and noted that it narrowed considerably. I said nothing to my mother and she came to me and asked how her hair looked. She was tapping her part, and it was not tap of lamentation, rather it was a tap of hope. Mom loves that this line of products is helping her to recover some of her lost mane.
If you are looking to invest in your mane, remember to spoil the aunties too!
Scalp care and hair care are two distinct types of treatments that complement each other to create a lustrous mane within a month and thus putting summer’s dryness safely in the past.
Scalp care should be done at least once a week, and the keys are exfoliating the scalp and cleansing it. A cleansed scalp permits hair to have bounce and it can have an impact that lasts several days.
Hair care should involve shampooing and conditioning no more than thrice a week, and that should be subject to the level of activity and sweat. Remember, if you are not active, then a twice a week is sufficient. Squeaky clean hair is a sign of dryness and over care – not healthy hair. In this step, desi women should not shy away from organic and natural products, because they possess the heft and gravitas necessary to care for coarse strands.
Finally, our moms have given us hair but it does not necessarily mean that what works for us works for them. Thinning hair could be the result of medicine or other health issues which means that a different hair care path must be followed to restore the mane.
After all the mane is the main thing.