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The science behind hair oiling – and why it is essential for hair and body health

This post was last updated on August 18, 2020 by srinivas krishnaswamy

“Jalasiktasya vardhante yathaa mole ankurastharoh
Thadha dhatu vivriddhirhi snehasiktasya jaayathe” – Sushruta Samhita
“Just like a plant sprouts new and tender leaves by the regular supply of water to its roots,
so also the tissues of the human body grow with a freshness and luxuriance by oil application on the skin and hair. “
I cannot stress enough on the importance of the Abyanga in maintaining good health as per traditional wisdom. An abhyanga is recommended atleast once a week to stimulate the cells, remove ama and toxins from the cells, improve micro circulation and restore overall balance to the body.
From a cosmetic point of view, a regular abhyangam (head and body) delays the onset of wrinkles, keeps the body firm and supple, helps stimulate the growth of hair and delays graying of hair.
“Srotovibandha Mokshaardham
Bala Pushtyardhamevacha”
The objective of the abhyangam is two fold: By the penetrative action of the oils on the skin, grime and dirt is removed from deep within the skin and the subtle passages or the srotas are cleaned. This helps the srotas do their work better and they are able to carry nutrition deep into the tissues, nourishing the whole body. Some oils also penetrate and nourish the skin and the tissues themselves supporting their function. Through the regular practice of oiling, the body is given strength, muscle development and firmness.
Please note: that certain special conditions like diabetes are treated differently in Ayurveda. The above description is for a normal individual who may require minor corrections and modifications in their diet and lifestyle.
Why is hair oiling so essential in Ayurveda:
The eyes are considered a seat of pitta (besides the liver which is also an important pitta point). By their activity and by the signals they send to the brain, the eyes and the brain generate heat or pitta in the body, which needs to be controlled so that they can function normally.
Traditional medicine therefore recommends regular oiling to cool the eyes and the brain (and therefore the rest of the body). As we have discussed before, when pitta is vitiated in the body, certain changes happen to the body.
Excess pitta leads to premature graying, weakens the digestive agni leading to frequent diarrhea or loose motion, and can cause diseases of pitta like jaundice, high fevers, inflamed skin, dermatitis with itchy skin, etc.
In order to bring down the pitta, regular oiling of the areas which generate pitta like the head are a must. Through frequent use of oil in this area, new hair growth is encouraged, the hair grows deep rooted, strong and firm, does not break easily and grows longer and more thicker and luxuriantly.
 What is in my non sticky hair oil / body massage oil and why isn’t my hair growing?
We had recently written about an independent research conducted to test claims of popular hair oils in the market. A consumer panel had tested various brands of hair oils offered by reputed companies and had found that contrary to what they said in their advertising, most of these oils contained 60 – 92% by weight of simple Liquid Paraffin or Mineral Oil.
batman and robin
Mineral Oil is ubiquitous in cosmetic formulations of body oils, baby oils and hair oils in India. It is used extensively across moisturizers, sunscreens, lotions, body oils, baby oils and hair oils as it is colourless, has a thick consistency and is neutral in its colour and odour and is therefore able to easily take in a synthetic fragrance and colour and other additives.
Any vegetable oil worth its salt is much more difficult to work with – depending on its seasonality and the way it is grown, its colour varies every time, it comes with its own standard odour and it does not work easily with added fragrances or colours – plus the additives in these products can independently react with vegetable oils altering colour. Obviously, being an agricultural crop, a vegetable oil cannot come in standardized prices and the prices will vary depending upon how the season has been. For all of these reasons, standard synthetic moisturizing products usually stay away from the use of vegetable oils and use them only in miniscule quantities.
Mineral oil – and concerns behind applying this on your skin and hair
A study published by the American Journal of Dermatology found that moisturizing creams containing mineral oil were tumorigenic when applied topically to UVB pretreated high risk mice. These creams increased the rate at which tumors form.
Occupational exposure to mineral oils may occur among workers in automobile manufacturing, airplanes, steel products, screws, pipes and transformers, brass and aluminium production, engine repair, copper mining, and newspaper and commercial printing.
The National Cancer Institute says that occupational exposure to untreated or lightly treated mineral oils is strongly associated with an increased risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer, particularly of the scrotum.
Mineral Oil – Forming an occlusive barrier on skin
Contrary to the claims of most mineral oil using hair oils and skin moisturizing products, mineral oil does NOT penetrate skin. Its molecular size is too big to slip into the skin’s pores. So what it does do is form a barrier layer on skin preventing transepidermal water loss through evaporation. While this may be useful in a few cases, for most of us, this means that the skin’s normal function is interrupted by this barrier layer. Plus , it does not work with the skin like vegetable oils do by penetrating it, cleansing it or nourishing it any manner.
How are Krya’s hair and skin oils processed? And how are they different from mineral oil based products?
Krya follows several important ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita, Sahasrayogam, Saranghadhara Samhita and Bhaisajya Ratnavalli to understand what classical Ayurvedic medicine prescribes is the right way to manufacture ayurvedic oils for skin and hair. We also take inspiration from the kind of herbs suggested by the texts to work with different skin and hair types. However, our formulations are unique and are not the classical formulations from the text. We have developed our formulations through extensive research and understanding of new age hair and skin problems like hair damage due to synthetic colour, etc.
the krya hair oil range
The 2 most important differences between a genuine Ayurvedic oil like Krya’s and a standard synthetic hair or skin oil that uses Mineral oil is the process followed and the selection and quantity used of base oils and herbs.
Sneha kalpana / paka method followed at Krya:
Sneha kalpana is a prescribed pharmaceutical process followed in Indian traditional medicine to prepare medicated oils or ghees from kalka (herbal pastes), Kwathas (infusions), Kashayas (deocotions) and Swarasa ( self expressed fresh herb juice) taken in specific proportions and heated in a particular way along with a mixture of oils or ghee. This method has been outlined in order to extract the active principles of each herb in the medium in which it best expresses its active ingredients.
Sneha Kalpana is a unique extraction process followed in Ayurveda. Through this process, the formulator aims to transfer aqueous and lipid soluble active principles of all the herbs and other raw material used into the oil.
So a genuine ayurvedic or a Siddha based oil will always use 3 components to make a herb enriched oil –

  • Water based herb extracts like kwathas (mild infusions), kashayas (steeped , boiled and reduced decocotions) and swarasas (self expressed juices from fresh plant parts)
  • Thick granular herbal pastes or kalpam that are cooked in oil to extract the oil loving active principles
  • Base oils

Specific instructions are given to prepare each kwatha, kashaya and swarasa, and this depends upon the freshness of the material used, and the plant part it comes from – in general soft plant parts use less water, are reduced much less and milder heat is applied. So flower kwathas, like hibiscus flower kwatha, for example, would steep the herb in hot water without any reduction for a specified amount of time to extract the active principles.
A bark or root based kashayam may use much more water and the decoction may be reduced to half or one fourth its original volume.
Depending upon the condition to be treated, different base oils are used in ayurvedic formulations. At Krya, we use a wide range of cold pressed, organically grown that have been manually pressed and extracted, thus retaining their potency and vigour. We use sesame oil , coconut oil, apricot oil, tamanu oil and kokum butter in our formulations.
As the Sneha or the oil cooks, Classical Ayurveda says that the oil processing follows 6 pakas or stages – at each stage the oil accumulates more and more fat soluble actives from the herbs in it. The oil is usually ready to be taken off the fire for further processing mid way through the “paka” (cooking) – if the oil is allowed to cross this stage and reach the final stage, the oil has a much reduced level of anti oxidants and other substances like tocopherols. This is crucial when making oils in our factory, as the paka stages come very rapidly, and it is important to keep a close watch on the oils to ensure there is no loss.
Difference between medicated Sneha kalapana oil and the pure base oil
The process of Sneha Kalapana alters the very nature of the base oil. Gingelly oil is often used across Krya’s formulations because of its vata reducing nature and also because it does not aggravate kapha. Gingelly oil is considered a very good base oil for most skin and hair conditions, so many traditional formulations use this oil.
This oil is usually considered extremely strong, heavy and sticky to use on skin, but when processed in the Sneha kalpana method, the oil becomes much more lighter, less sticky and is able to easily penetrate skin and hair without leaving a lot of oil or residue behind.
This however in no way means that an ayurvedic oil is as light as a mineral oil based product – it is not. However, it is much much lighter and more penetrative compared to the base oils themselves.
Krya’s Ayurveda inspired herb oils prepared using Sneha Kalpana method:

  1. Hair Oils
    1. Processed using traditional hair nourishing herbs like Amla (Indian Gooseberry), Bhringaraj *Eclipta alba), special native greens like Balloon vine, Dwarf Copperleaf, Brahmi, Guava Leaf and Lemon eucalyptus
    2. We also use special hair and scalp health enhancing herbs and flowers like Black cumin seed, Carrots, Bottle gourd, Chamomile, Rosemary, Thyme, Hibiscus flower, Neem leaf, Krishna Tulasi, Ram Tulasi , Vana Tulasi, Moringa and Curry Leaves
    3. All the herbs we use in our oils are either organically cultivated or wild harvested and are free from synthetics, pesticides and fertilizers.
    4. Our herbs are processed in our cold pressed, manually extracted, full of goodness base oils of coconut, sesame, apricot, tamanu and kokum butter
    5. The oil processing is done on gentle heat and takes upto 8 – 10 hours of gentle manual stirring per batch. The oils then steep for 7 more days in aromatic herbs before they are bottled and packed.

BeFunky Collage

2. Skin Oils

  • Processed using traditional, skin health enhancing and regenerative herbs like Ashwagandha (Winter cherry), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Moringa, Liquorice, etc
  • As per the Ayurvedic tradition, all of Krya’s skin oils are processed with warming herbs like cumin, ajwain and dried ginger to ensure the body’s kapha and mucous level does not increase with the oil application. This is especially important when making skin oils for babies, as babies are generally high in kapha dosha, so the oil should not further vitiate this kapha.
  • All the herbs we use in our oils are either organically cultivated or wild harvested and are free from synthetics, pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Our herbs are processed in our cold pressed, manually extracted, full of goodness base oils of coconut, sesame, apricot, tamanu and kokum butter
  • The oil processing is done on gentle heat and takes upto 8 – 10 hours of gentle manual stirring per batch. The oils then steep for 7 more days in aromatic herbs before they are bottled and packed.

If you haven’t begun this wonderful traditional, health giving practice as yet, do make a start today with one of Krya’s authentic, nourishing skin and hair oils.


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Preethi Sukumaran
Preethi Sukumaran

Preethi is deeply committed to the formal study and application of the timeless principles of right living as laid down in the Ayurvedic canon. At Krya, her synthesis of ayurvedic principles with botanical expertise drives R&D & Product development.

We have over 100 proprietary formulations in the market today which are trusted and loved by our consumers.

Preethi is also deeply passionate about building Krya based on the Indic principle that Dharma leads to Artha ; we call this "Dharmic Entrepreneurship". She works with the Krya team on establishing Krya as one of the most trusted wellness brands in the categories we operate in.

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