Say hello to beautiful hair, #straighouttaSL
If there’s one thing on which all women unanimously agree, it’s the fact that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. This is evident by the skip in our step after a blow-dry; the strut out the salon after a new hairdo; and by the way we feel so great upon realizing it’s a GHD (Good Hair Day)! It’s also why we use valuable morning hours to curl and straighten our locks to perfection. Let’s face it: Great hair is a major confidence booster!
But, if there’s one other thing we agree on, it’s the fact that be it a new cut or hair treatment, a trip to the salon slashes our paycheck in half. (Yup, hair makes us go from lit to broke in double quick time.) While trims and hair colouring may be unavoidable, we can cut down on conditioning treatments because (here comes the good news!) home-grown herbs can act as marvelous substitutes, with hefty servings of nutrients that your hair will love. An even better advantage? Using them costs, basically, nothing!
There’s a reason for kicking things off with this miracle worker: Name any hair problem and aloe vera will be there to save the day, thanks to its hydrating and moisturizing properties. If blow drying or using a straightener is part of your go-to routine, aloe will be just what you need to provide your parched tresses some much-needed relief. The anti-fungal and anti-pruritic properties in this plant also help battle dandruff, itchiness and other scalp irritations.
Want to grow out your locks to Rapunzel-esque lengths? Aloe vera saves the day again. Whether it’s hair loss, a thinning hairline, or weak hair cells that prevent you from adding on a few inches, the natural enzymes in this plant will make all your mane dreams come true! Aloe also helps maintain excess oil or sebum production AKA build up (a mix of oil and other dirt) on the scalp, which avoids blockage of pores that may result in impeded hair growth.
How To: Applying the gel straight from the plant (snap the stalks to access) onto scalp works as an amazing pre-shampoo treatment. Or be one step ahead by mixing your fave hair oil and coconut milk with the aloe vera gel (straight from the plant or the store) for the best moisturizing goodness.
Remember when your mom used to force you to eat mallung on a daily basis, claiming it helped grow long and silky hair? Well, she wasn’t fibbing. Centella AKA gotu kola is a Lankan staple food, but did you know that the uses of this tiny perennial range from being a stress reliever to an anti-depressant to a remedy for hair loss?
According to a study published by the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Studies (IJPS), centella has a positive effect on issues surrounding venous insufficiency i.e. inadequate blood flow through veins. Now, here’s how that’s related to your hair. Hair follicles require a strong flow of oxygenated blood to keep healthy; but if the veins running in your scalp don’t carry enough blood, it can lead to the weakening of hair follicles, which in turn can lead to an increase in hair loss. (Hello, plugged drains!) Gotu kola helps hair by strengthening the veins that feed it.
Aside, from venous insufficiency, the Mayo Clinic found that hair loss can also be equated with emotional stress and anxiety. One of the most efficient counterattacks? You got it: gotu kola. According to another study by the IJPS, centella has anti-depressant properties, settling the neurochemicals in your brain that typically cause you to stress eat and trigger panic attacks. By cutting out the stress, you cut out the hair loss, and slay every day like it’s your best one yet.
How to: a) Including some mallung into your diet is a definite win-win situation. It’s easy to find and make, and is super delish. (Since it’s a perennial, growing it in your garden is totally NBD too.)
b) A mixture of centella and aloe vera makes a fab hair mask. If that isn’t your style, a gotu kola hair oil works just as great.
Uluhaal, as it is known in Sinhala, is a whiz in the hair department. Fenugreek contains protein and niacin, commonly known as vitamin B3. Out of the two nutrients, niacin is capable of thinning blood and dilating dermal blood vessels, which in turn improves blood circulation towards the scalp area. The improved circulation is vital for healthy hair, because blood delivers necessary nutrients and oxygen to hair follicles.
Further, niacinamide, a derivative of niacin, is also known to induce keratin production, which is no bad thing! Human hair is composed almost entirely of keratin, and waning keratin levels directly point to frizzy, thin and weak hair. Sure, a keratin treatment from your stylist will work wonders, but isn’t it so much better to go about it the natural way? It’s easy, sitting in your kitchen and it will save you major bucks because, as we know all too well, a salon-style keratin treatment costs a small fortune!
How To: a) Making a paste out of fenugreek and olive oil, coconut oil or milk only takes a few minutes, but gives back years to your hair.
b) Infusing fenugreek into an oil of your preference takes time (at least a week or two), but it’s less messy than a mask and great for on-the-go nutrient hits.
Another natural cure for hair and scalp problems is the evergreen kohomba. Found everywhere on this sunny isle, kohomba AKA neem, has 35 biologically active ingredients and so plays a huge part in Ayurvedic practices. Containing an extraordinary amount of antioxidants, neem prevents damage to the scalp by free radicals. Further, its regenerative properties promote healthy hair follicles and so, in turn kick-starts hair growth.
Being exposed to the scorching tropical sun is no joke. Luckily, among its active ingredients, kohomba contains several fatty acids – linoleic, oleic and stearic – which provide deep conditioning to starving tresses.
In addition, among its many medicinal properties, neem is popularly known for its anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory functions. This comes in handy against the microorganism candida, which is typically the cause of vaginal yeast infections that can also lead to dandruff…which is great, because scalp-snow is a no-go! Adding to its extensive list of savior duties, kohomba is also astringent in nature, and so soothes any heat-related outies that pop up.
How To: a) Neem oil, available over the counter, blended with your fave hair oil and a few drops of essential oils (neem has an unbearably pungent odor) can be applied, pre-shower.
b) A concoction of neem, turmeric (a universal antiseptic) and an oil of your choice makes a great (but typically messy) hair mask.
c) Infusing neem and turmeric into water by boiling them together makes a potent hair soak.
This article was originally published as ‘Lankan Herbs To The Rescue’ in the August 2017 Confidence issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more beauty and skin advice, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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