This post was last updated on May 25, 2023 by Preethi Sukumaran
One of the common queries we get at Krya is asking for help with premature greying. Our customers are often indignant and tell us that they have great hair genes. Their parents and grandparents greyed well into their 50s. They are unable to understand why time has not been kind for them.
I too am a victim of premature greying. My hair started to grey when I was in my early 20s. By this time I had experimented so much on my hair, that I thought this greying was inevitable. I vaguely remembered reading something about how premature greying was genetic. My Mum had also begun greying although in her 30s. So I chalked my premature greying down to the effect of genetics and severe experimentation on hair .
Today I have much clearer answers, thanks to Ayurveda, about exactly why greying happens. Funnily, the answers in Allopathy and Western research continue to be vague and merely describe the symptoms without explaining what the actual cause behind premature greying is.
Modern medicine on premature greying:
Modern medicine states that damaged melanocytes are a cause of premature greying. Melanocytes provide both colour and regulate sebum for the hair. As is usually the case with allopathy, causality is not clearly established. So we do not know exactly why these melanocytes get damaged. Stress is speculated to be one factor.
Improper nutrition, hair colouring, excessive use of chemical hair products and hair dryers , and anaemia are other factors behind melanocyte damage. Therapies like radiation therapy and chemotherapy also contribute to melanocyte damage.
Thyroid malfunction is also said to be a cause for premature greying.
Improper diet and stress is often blamed in Allopathy for all hair damage including premature greying. But, there is no clear cut recommendations provided to correct this damage. So people suffering from premature greying eat a widely varied diet. Our customers variously follow raw diets, protein heavy diet, high use of steamed sprouts, and salads, all in the quest to reverse premature greying.
Ayurveda on premature greying:
“Palitya (white hair) and Hariprabha(grey hair) is produced when the scalp is burned gradually by aggravated Pitta or aggravated Pitta with Vata dosha” – Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana
The 3 doshas in the body:
As we know, there are the 3 doshas in the body: pitta, kapha and vata. Each dosha performs important functions in the body . We need a healthy balance of all three doshas for good health and well being. Depending upon our individual nature, environment, geography, genetics, each of us has a unique mixture of the 3 doshas. This unique mixture is our “prakriti” or our constitution.
When our doshas are in the right balance, they are called samya or normal. When our doshas aggravate upwards, it is called vriddhi or increase. As the sum of the 3 doshas always adds to the same number, when there is vriddhi of one dosha, another dosha decreases. This decrease in dosha is called ksaya. Ksaya of a dosha can be Alpa (mild), Madhya (moderate) or Utkrishta (severe), Ayurveda advises therapies ranging from diet control, external application and medicines to bring your body back to a state of balance.
What does Pitta dosha control in the body?
Pitta dosha helps nourish the body by digesting food, and separating nutrients from wastes (Mala). It also produces heat and warmth through the body. Pitta stimulates desire, produces hunger and thirst. The colour & complexion of our skin, our intellect, understanding, courage and our decisiveness are also gifts of Pitta dosha.
Premature greying: sign of aggravated Pitta dosha
Pitta dosha governs colour and complexion of skin and hair. Therefore Pitta aggravation provokes premature greying . This also affects our skin. So skin may develop greater sun sensitivity , break out, or develop prickly heat.
Pitta also governs digestion and our appetite. Aggravated pitta can result in an out of control appetite, where you are hungry much more frequently than normal. Or you could develop frequent diarrhea, with loose and liquid bowel movements.
Pitta governs focus, clarity and our ability to manage anger. When Pitta is high we have anger management issues, and “erupt” often. We are also much more irritable, get stressed easily and are unable to let go.
Having a predominantly Pitta prakriti can itself lead to pitta aggravation. When a Pitta prakriti eats pitta aggravating food, and is in pitta aggravating situations, the dosha imbalances.
If our basic nature is Pitta dominant, we must be aware of this and seek food, practices and behaviours that keep us in balance.
2. Over exposure to the Sun
Ayurveda considers the sun as the source of all Agni in the Universe. Constant harsh sun exposure , especially during mid-day sharply increases Agni in the body. If we do not balance this excess Agni, Pitta dosha aggravates in the body.
Beach holidays are a common way to accumulate excess Agni. Sun tan, dry and aged looking skin , sunburn are immediate effects of this aggravated Pitta dosha . When this is not addressed, it can build up to premature grey hair in time.
3. Undergoing Agni increasing treatments
Commercial tanning beds and skin treatments with uv light can be a cause of aggravated Pitta in the body. When these treatments are done, we are supposed to avoid any additional sun exposure. If we do not follow this and eat pitta aggravating food, the pitta in the body will get aggravated.
Laser treatments for acne, wrinkles and hair removal also has similar Pitta aggravating effects. Similarly radiation based therapy and chemotherapy are also Agni increasing therapies. When these agni increasing therapies are used, you may experience faster premature hair greying .
4. Eating pitta aggravating food
Many consumers tell us they eat a balanced, homemade vegetarian South Indian meal . Yet they experience premature greying, hair thinning and frequent breakouts.
Ayurveda tell us Pitta dosha is aggravated by eating sour, salty and spicy food. We have a much more detailed post on this here. If you are experiencing premature greying we recommend cutting down on tamarind, tomatoes, curd, packaged foods , red and green chillies and vinegar.
5. Irregular and scalp oiling
We have mentioned that Ayurveda is very particular about the care of the eyes, brain and scalp. This is because the eyes are a seat of Pitta. Through Pitta dosha, the eye is able to see, make observations and pass these observations to the brain which then analyses and makes sense of our world.
Ayurveda says that the constant working of the brain and the eyes produce ushna or heat. When this ushna is not released properly from the body, it affects not just the working of the body but also the brain and the eyes.
The brain and the eyes have a high amount of fatty matter or kapha built dhatus. When the heat in these areas builds up and is not released, it can affect these fatty tissues and impair their functioning.
For these reasons, Ayurveda advises generous and frequent oiling of our scalp and hair. The fine srotas and the openings in our head help dissipate heat generated by the eyes and the brain when we give this coating of oil in the scalp. Oil helps soothe the nerves in the brain, nourishes the brain and scalp and also acts as a medium to trap and send out excess heat.
As an additional benefit, this frequent and generous hair oiling helps keep scalp and hair in good health. We cannot overstate the importance of this practice of oiling.
Unfortunately, modern aesthetic trends dictate that our hair is left dry and un-oiled and is instead frequently shampooed with products that have drying and heat increasing synthetics in them. This has a very large effect on the pitta in our body. This is also a practice that is guaranteed to leave the hair dry and under nourished and can also hasten premature greying.
Stress: Reason no. 6 for Pitta dosha to go out of balance
Legend has it that Marie Antoinette’s hair turned white overnight the night before she was guillotined. We do not know the truth behind this legend. But what is true is the effect of grief and stress on our doshas.
Ayurveda chikitsa believes in treating the mind and body and our diet and mental health have a great deal of synchronicity and correlation on our overall health and well being.
Ayurveda opines that whenever we suppress emotions like grief, this in itself imbalances pitta dosha in the body. Apart from grief, “krodha” (anger) is another form of stress. The twin emotions of “shokha” and “krodha” are listed as one of the causes of premature greying.
We have written an extensive post on how stress affects the body earlier. The truth of modern living is that we have a million small stressful things affecting us everyday and sometimes one or two really big issues as well. It is important to deal in a healthy way with the stress that affects us. Ayurveda advocates constantly examining our minds and lives and seeking a state of balance which is unique to ourselves and our circumstances.
To sum up:
Ayurveda believes that premature greying is a trait of pitta going out of balance. In this post we have looked at 6 reasons why Pitta dosha can go out of balance. These are as follows:
- Having a pitta prakriti and aggravating our dosha by choosing pitta aggravating foods and practices
- Over exposure to the Sun
- Undergoing agni increasing treatments
- Eating Pitta aggravating food
- Not oiling the hair and scalp regularly
- High stress that is not addressed or dealt with properly
Any or all of these reasons can give you classic signs of Pitta dosha going out of balance like premature greying, acidity, GERD, Ulcers, frequent stomach upsets, adult acne and high skin sensitivity, cracked heels and palms and fine ,thinning hair. When we address the cause behind these symptoms, we pull the body back to a state of balance and work on the core issue.
We hope this post resonated with you and you were able to get a sense of how deep, holistic and interconnected the science of Ayurveda is. Do write to us with your questions, reflections ad if you would like us to write about a particular subject you are seeking answers or insights to.
Here are some Krya hair and skin products that are suitable to a Pitta based prakriti or to help bring down excess Pitta:
Hair products : Suit straight, slightly oily hair that has a tendency to grey prematurely, is fine or is experiencing Pitta symptoms like thinning:
- Krya Classic Hair Oil with Yellow Eclipta & Indian Gooseberry
- Krya Classic hair mask with Rose Hip & Liquorice
- Krya Classic hair wash with Rose & White Bhringaraj
- Krya Classic hair nourishing system (all 3 above products at a special price)
- Krya festive abhyanga hair wash with Vana Tulsi & Rose
Skin products: suit Pitta prone skin that is normal – oily, sweats well, has a tendency towards body odour, and is sensitive to heat and gets red or inflamed easily when pitta is out of balance . This skin may also experience occasional acne:
- Krya Classic face wash with Green Tea & Chamomile
- Krya Classic face mask with Rose petals & Guava
- Krya Classic Skin Oil with Carrot & Wintercherry
- Krya Classic Body wash with Rosemary & Cassia flower
For acne prone skin, we have the following Krya products:
For skin that is frequently exposed to the sun, we have the following Krya products: