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The Krya Hair Colour project – part 1

A Krya natural hair colour is one of our top enquiries, after our enquiries on repairing damaged hair and growing strong hair. While we have been talking about the dangers of chemical dyes and hair colours sometime now, we decided only early this year that we would launch an alternative.

The rich variety of hair colour nature gives us

We have been pretty quick off the block for most of our new product launches, and our lab-launch time today has been quite compressed given our past history of sometimes taking over a year to commercially launch a formulation. Our hair colour project has been one of our post challenging projects for a variety of reasons, and many of these have to do with how predictable synthetic dyes are and therefore consumer expectation on the hair colour experience.
We spoke about how hair treatments like hair colour and hair smoothening are extremely damaging to the hair on the Krya blog last week. But here’s a small recap:
Synthetic colour related damage to your hair:
Forceful lifting of the cuticle:
Hair colours attack the inner core of the hair, and the cuticle is the first barrier to the entry of hair colour into your hair. To penetrate the hair shaft, the hair colour alters the pH of hair from its natural acidic state to an alkaline level. At this alkaline level, the cuticle is forcefully lifted up exposing the inner sections of hair, and the hair colour penetrates through into the hair shaft.
Stripping hair of its existing colour
In order to achieve evenness of colour, synthetic hair colours start by stripping hair of all its colour.  Bleaching agents like peroxide break down the hair’s natural colour pigment and bleach hair.  With the protective cuticle now being lifted up and your hair’s natural colour being broken down, your hair’s texture will now be unhealthy, dry and straw like.
2 ways in which Synthetic colours damage hair

  • Because of the unnatural way in which synthetic hair colours work, hair is forced into 2 states: The first is the prolonged, and forceful lifting up of the cuticle in order to allow the hair colour to penetrate deep into the hair’s shaft. This damages the cuticle and reduces its elasticity – so hair becomes extremely dry and dull.
  • By penetrating deep into the hair’s shaft, the colour also forms micro perforations in the hair’s structure leading to greater porosity of the hair. By bleaching the hair before depositing colour on it, the synthetic colour also interferes with the hair’s natural pigments and fatty acid layer – this makes the hair dull, brittle and rough in texture.


Hair that has been chemically damaged becomes extremely rough, dry & brittle

A natural history of hair colouring:
The ancient Egyptian city of Tell-El-Amarna (orAmarna in short), was built as the capital of Pharaoh Akhenaton, considered the “heretic Pharaoh” as he preached Monotheism and tried to promote a new religion based on a single God, the Sun God,  abandoning ancient Egypt’s multiple god based religion. Amarna was abandoned shortly after the Pharaoh’s death in 1332 BC.
Archeologist Jolanda Bos has analyzed a selection of 100 recently excavated skulls from the cemetery at Amarna. 28 of those skulls still had hair, include one woman whose hair had nearly 70 extensions forming an elaborate hair style.
The skulls had different hair textures and hair colours and styles including 3 strand braids, stylized rings and coils around the ears. The hair texture ranged from extremely curly black hair to straight hair that was wavy with a dark brown colour. Most interestingly, the excavation also found a skull with gray hair that had been dyed with Henna and had Henna’s characteristic orange red shade still remaining after several thousand years.
Henna was even used by an aging powerful Pharaoh like Ramses 2 to maintain an impression of youth and vigor.
Colours from nature:
Ancient India used dye derived from 3 sources for hair and textile dyeing – plant parts, insects and animal parts and metals and minerals. In our posts we will discuss a few plant based natural dyes.
The Kamala tree:
Mallotus philippensis is a south East Asian tree growing in moderate to high rainfall areas. The fruit contains reddish brown glandular hair like strands which are used in Ayurvedic medicine. These “hair strands” are a strong digestive and purgative and release a golden red dye called “Kamala dye” which is used to dye wool and silk. Kamala dye is also added as an anti oxidant in ghee and vegetable oils to prevent rancidity. It is a strongly vermicidal herb.
Mallotes resized

The rich red fruits of the Kamala tree – used to dye delicate fabric like silk

In ancient times, the Kamala tree was called “Kampilla” indicating its origin from the Kampilla country, the North western province. In ancient literature, the plant is described as “red bodied” containing red tinctorial matter in the form of grainy powders (rakta churana). The dyes prepared from this plant were described as “rocanika” and “candra” (pleasing), and was used particularly to dye silk fabric.
“Kumkuma “– Saffron:
Kumkuma was a popular dye drug in the post Vedic period. The Mahabharata records a particular community of people called the “Jaguda” who were engaged to cultivate the Kumkuma plant. The Arthashastra notes that the Kumkuma plant is generally cultivated under royal patronage for its valuable flowers that were prized for both their dyeing and cosmetic properties. Kumkuma grew in 2 provinces in India, and the Kumkuma from Kashmir was prized for its red filaments and dye.

Stamens of Crocus sativus (Saffron) – prized in cuisine and beauty

The bright red colour produced by this flower was considered both durable (“dhira”), and economical and pleasing.
Haridra – Turmeric
Yellow dye was principally produced from plants in ancient India, and turmeric was the most important source of yellow dye in India. The Chinese traveler I-Tsing, who visited Indian in the 7th century, has noted many recipes for obtaining yellow dye based on his experiences in India.

The auspicious , golden yellow Haridra

Haridra is described as an extremely auspicious and highly beneficial plant in Indian literature. The yellow dye produced by the rhizome is described as bright (pinga, kanchani), pleasing (rocani), and producing deep colour to fabric (dirgharaga).
Haritaki (Chebulic myrobalan):
We have spoken about Haritaki earlier on the Krya blog. It forms one of the 3 great myrobalans in India, and has many internal and external applications in Ayurveda.  We use Haritaki extensively in our skin and hair formulations, and it goes into our Triphala , the Ayurvedic anti bacterial cleansing formulation that we use across many of our products for safe and effective cleansing.
Haritaki was traditionally used in ancient times as a hair dye to impart a dark almost black colour to hair along with other plant based dyes, and was also used a hair conditioning and growth promoting and cleansing herb.
In the Krya Lab – Some challenges while developing a natural colour
Being a vegan and cruelty free company
While many many substances exist in nature to impart colour, at Krya, being a vegan and cruelty free company, we use only plants in our products. In the world of hair colours and dyes that immediately excludes us from using Insect based dyes like “Laksha” which have been used since ancient times in India to both dye fabric and also in cosmetic applications like hair colour and colour cosmetics.
Laksha generally breeds on plants like Manjishta, Palash and Khadira (which are themselves natural dye producing plants), and produces a resinous substance which is described as “Krishna “(dark) and “Rakta (red) and can give permanent tints to fabric.
The use of a natural mordant / additive that is gentle on hair
Many natural colours also require the use of mordents and fixers to give a lasting shade. In fabric dyeing, mordants like alum are often used to “fix” colour. Fabrics also undergo special treatments over many weeks – for example, Chebulic myrobalan dyed fabric is soaked in buffalo milk for a few days to help deepen colour and produce a longer lasting shade.
Certain herbs are also used as additives or auxiliary dyes to brighten colour or slightly change the shade.
Obviously in developing a natural colour, we have to take into account how these mordants can affect hair health, and use auxiliary colour promoters that aid hair health and hair growth and work fast.
Obtaining an even shade
One of the greatest challenges in developing a natural colour has to do with how safe the process is compared to a synthetic hair colour. As we have discussed earlier, a synthetic hair colour works by first bleaching hair with a chemical like peroxide. After hair is completely stripped of colour, the desired colour is then injected into each hair strand.
This chemical process ensures that all hair strands get an even coating of colour, which gives synthetic hair an even finish.
As we do not follow this pre-bleaching process in natural hair colours, hair tends to get unevenly coloured depending upon the split between grey and black hair. Those with roughly even amount of grey and black hair may develop hair that has 2 shades of colour.
Our challenge at Krya is how we can overcome this and offer a colour that does not make such a demarcation between grey and black hair.
Natural vs synthetic colour -evenness challenge

Synthetic vs natural dyes – notice how even the black is in the synthetic dye

Maintaining hair health and hair condition while colouring it:
We discussed how synthetic colours strip hair of both its pigment and an essential layer of fatty acids and artificially lift up the cuticle. All of these make the hair dryer than what it is. But even naturally, hair that grays has a slightly different structure compared to hair that still has its natural pigment intact. Grey hair tends to be wirier and thick, so it feels much coarser compared to hair that has not begun to age. It therefore tends to be a little more unmanageable and frizzy compared to normal hair.
Also as hair ages, the sebum secretion to the hair reduces, and it becomes finer. So grey hair tends to be much drier, breaks easier and is less manageable.
While developing our hair colour, this is one of our priorities. So our colours have been developed using a rich range of natural conditioning herbs and plant butters to coat and maintain hair health. Also, our hair colour range is being developed with a series of protective and nourishing hair masks and a special set of hair washes and oils that boost hair health and texture.
To conclude
This is the first in many many posts we intend to write about the chemistry of hair colour, the dangers behind synthetic hair colours and dyes, and how the power of plants can be harnessed to give us healthy and toxin free beauty and nourishment.
The Krya Hair Damage Repair system:
The Krya Hair Damage Repair System consists of Oil, a Hair Wash and a Hair Mask for chemically damaged hair, of which the Hair Oil is now available.
Severely chemically treated hair becomes extremely porous because of multiple injuries to the hair cuticle. Synthetic colours also permanently damage the hair shaft as they lift the cuticular structure and inject chemicals like PPD inside the hair shaft to ensure the hair colour stays longer without getting washed out.
Chemically damaged hair also contains a layer of toxins on the scalp as this kind of hair is regularly coated with synthetic conditioners and treatments to artificially smoothen it and “condition” it externally.
Because of the permanent nature of the damage wrought by chemical treatments, we have to ensure that the existing hair is conditioned and boosted with moisture so that it is more manageable and new growth is stimulated with better nourishment being given to new hair growth to ensure the hair is stronger. The regenerative capacity of hair of course depends upon the body’s state of health and the food being eaten.
Our Hair oil for severely damaged hair uses a whole host of powerful herbs. Some of them like Liquorice and Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba) work on the cuticular structure and provide moisture and nourishment to smoothen and condition hair. Others like parsley, marigold and thyme contain anti oxidants that stimulate collagen production to promote the growth of stronger hair. Flaxseed’s fatty acids and anti oxidants remove dead cells and toxins from the scalp, and lemongrass balances sebum production ensuring the scalp produces the right amount of oil for the hair.
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srinivas krishnaswamy
srinivas krishnaswamy

Srinivas is Krya's Co-Founder. He brings in a unique perspective to Krya with his dual Masters in Physics & Management.

At Krya, Srinivas is motivated by the challenges of crafting the company's DNA - products that delight consumers, manufacturing excellence, a winning team and sustainable profitable growth.

He is deeply committed to defining the first principles of Dharmic Entrepreneurship in order to build a world class organisation rooted in Indian Knowledge Systems.

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