This post was last updated on August 12, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
Rupert Baxter, that quintessential suspicious secretary in PG Wodehouse’s Blanding’s Castle series was often said to be generally suspicious of everything and everyone. I often find myself invoking my inner Baxter when I read beauty product labels, especially those proclaiming to be completely natural.
As you are aware, we make excellent Ayurvedic first principle based skin and hair oils at Krya. We have spoken about how Ayurvedic manufacturing has incorporated many sophisticated oil processing techniques that are designed to fractionate the oil, change its viscosity and improve its spreadability and dispersion of plant actives by the use of different manufacturing techniques.
None of the Ayurvedic manufacturing techniques use solvents, manufacturing chemicals or anything synthetic. Instead, a carefully thought through series of different methods like infusions, tinctures, over night soaking, the use of fats of different viscosity, slow cooking and stirring at different speeds, are all used to make emulsions, creams, pastes and herb infused oils.
While it is true that the Ayurvedic processing techniques cannot give an infinitely wide range of textures and formats, many standard formats like creams, pastes, and oils of varying viscosity can all be achieved.
The desperate attempt to appear natural : consumer product scams
There is rightfully a growing wave of concern around the toxic load on our skin, hair and bodies. This concern has lead to several small but significant changes in the consumer products industry like the visible reduction in the use of sulphate surfactants like SLS and SLeS, and the promised phasing out of ingredients like Triclosan.
But with these good developments have come in what may be best described as dubious developments. There is a rapid substitution being followed in the consumer product industry where consumer hated ingredients like SLS or SLeS are being replaced by another class of surfactants which are little known and have not yet been studied for their possible ill effects on the human body or the environment.
Along with ingredient substitution, another growing disturbing trend I am seeing is the mis-labelling of ingredients, making them appear much more natural than what they really are.
Does a chemical ingredient’s origin make it natural? – Light Liquid Paraffin in hair oils and moisturizing products
Here is an inherent contradiction all of us have to live with: we all appreciate the benefits of using oil, but many of us dislike the texture and experience of using oil.
This dislike has prompted consumer products companies to find ways of making an oil, which is inherently viscous and sticky, “non sticky” and like water. This has lead to the use of Liquid Paraffin derived “non sticky oils” in hair care where 60 – 90% of the content is light liquid paraffin, a derivative of petrolatum.
Light Liquid Paraffin is derived from Petrolatum which is indeed natural, but it is of mineral origin. LLP is odourless and colourless and is non sticky, so when it is used on skin and hair it feels light and dry. However, petrolatum and its derivatives are occlusive and comedogenic on the skin – so consistent use clogs the skin and scalp, and can trap dirt and dead cells in the skin triggering cystic acne.
Also unlike vegetable oils which are considered an “Anupana” or medium to transmit the nutrient active of the herbs infused in them, liquid paraffin does not penetrate the skin barrier. Therefore the properties of the herbs cannot be utilised by the body.
Therefore in Light Liquid Paraffin we have an ingredient of mineral origin which does not penetrate skin, can trap dirt and trigger acne, and which cannot transmit the plant actives into the body. Using products with this ingredient does not help our skin or scalp, however pleasant it may seem while using the product.
Does a chemical ingredient’s origin make it natural? – Caprylic Capric Triglycerides in moisturizing products
Another way of making oil less sticky is to not use a vegetable oil at in the base. Instead, many formulations are appearing where the ester of glycerol and fractionated coconut oil is used as a base, and herb extracts and essential oils are added to this base.
Caprylic Capric triglyceride is one such ingredient. This is a lab derived ester made by the esterification of glycerol and either coconut or palm oil derived fatty acids. Esters are present in nature and are responsible for many of the aromas we experience like the fragrance and flavour we get when we bite into a ripe apple. However, they are rarely present in an isolated form, and have to be extracted or synthesised in a lab.
The esterification process has been deliberately employed in the case of Caprylic Capric triglyceride. First the fatty acids of coconut or palm oil has to be isolated and extracted, and it is then subjected to the esterification reaction with glycerol to produce this chemical ingredient.
Caprylic capric triglyceride looks like oil, but it is completely non greasy and has a dry, almost powdery texture on skin. It is a favourite ingredient in many skin and hair care products and is specifically used for the way it feels on application.
But, here is something you should keep in mind: Caprylic Capric Triglyceride like many esters used in personal care products is NOT natural. It may be derived from molecules which have been extracted from coconut or palm oil. However, it is not a naturally occurring ingredient and is produced via a chemical reaction in a lab. More importantly, while coconut oil or even palm oil is good for skin and hair, having been used for millennia, their synthetic derivatives have never been tested extensively for use on human beings. We also do not know how these isolates compound or react when discharged into the atmosphere or even how stable they are.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, no research has been done on whether this ester is a good Anupana, or even if it is absorbed into skin or if it disperses plant actives.
Making an Ayurvedic oil: and how we avoid the use of synthetics like Caprylic Capric Triglyceride
We have spoken often with pride about the Krya oil making process. We frequently speak about this because our oils are an integral part of our skin and hair care offerings. If there is one health giving practice that works immediately, it is the application of oil on your scalp and skin, whether it is to balance your doshas in your weekly abhyanga or to improve the quality and health of your hair.
There are 2 key differences between genuine Ayurvedic oils and synthetic oils with suspect ingredients like the 2 we have discussed above.
- Sneha Kalpana Paka (Oil cooking) technique: A genuine Ayurvedic oil is“paka” oil where the oil is “cooked” to incorporate various herb extracts, decoctions, juices and pastes. The cooking of the oil can take place either via direct heat or through solar heat.
- When the oil is cooked on direct heat, the temperature is kept as low as possible, and the final oil mixture which contains different kinds of juices, extractions, tinctures and pastes) needs to be continuously and gently stored. The combination of heat, manual stirring and use of different kinds of herb extract methods (water based infusion, boiled decoction, paste), transfers the plants actives from the herbs into the oil.
- The solar heat process sis generally used when delicate herbs or flowers are infused into oil (like flower petals) where the use of high heat can alter the fragrance and plant actives. In solar cooking method, the oil is infused for atleast 1 mandala (48 days) in a vessel made out of a particular material (bronze, eeyam, etc). As the temperature increase in this method is not as high as direct heating, the oil has to be infused longer to extract the plant actives efficiently.
- The result of the Ayurvedic oil paka technique is an oil whose properties have been transformed by the process Even if we started with a relatively viscous oil like sesame or Coconut, the Paka process makes the oil lighter, more nutrient dense, alters its colour and aroma and makes it much easier for the skin / scalp to absorb both the oil and the herb actives.
- An Ayurvedic oil is always made using a particular proportion of herb extracts, pastes and oils
- The oil is usually only 25 – 40% of the base volume of the mixture. The balance consists of fresh juices, herb decoctions and a paste made from the herbs.
- The oil is cooked until all the water in this solution evaporates leaving behind only the transformed oil and the solids from the herb paste. This usually takes anywhere between 5 – 9 hours of steady boiling.
- The final oil that is achieved is highly concentrated and potent containing the actives of all the herb extracts which were added into the oil mixture.
Making the Krya conditioning hair oil: a quick update
For Formulation Tuesday today, I have chosen to speak about skin and hair care oils and moisturizing products and to illustrate how genuine Ayurvedic oil is different in its manufacturing and ingredients in general.
As a part of this, I also wanted to share with you in brief, how we make the Krya conditioning hair oil – we made our newest batch this Saturday.
Who is this oil designed for?
The Krya conditioning oil is designed for vata prakriti skin and scalp. Vata prakriti skin and scalp tends to be inherently dry and usually drinks up or soaks up oil and moisture with gratitude. This kind of hair is usually inherently dry or frizzy. Winter or low humidity environments can cause dry dandruff or flaking in this kind of hair.
If this hair is excessively shampooed or chemically treated, it tends to increase frizziness, split ends and hair breakage.
We have 2 kinds of hair oils for Vata prakriti hair. The first is the Krya conditioning hair oil. The second is the Krya harmony hair oil, which is to be used if you are mentally stressed, or work for long hours with uncertain timings and tight deadlines.
The Krya harmony hair oil works on soothing the brain and reliving vata caused by mental stress. The Krya conditioning hair oil works on physically balancing vata dosha in your scalp by using herbs and oils that nourish and nurture the scalp.
What goes into the Krya conditioning hair oil?
The Krya Conditioning hair oil is formulated using herbs that are very high on soothing a dry and irritated scalp and also help tame “frizzy” and vata aggravated hair. 16 nutrient dense herbs and 4 cold pressed and organic vegetable oils are used to make the Krya conditioning hair oil.
Herbs like Daucus carota (carrot), Lagenaria siceraria (Bottle Gourd), Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), and Moringa oleifera (Moringa) are used to improve the texture and health of hair and improve its gloss and smoothness. Herbs like Acacia katechu (Khadira), Phyllanthus embellicus (Amla) and Eclipta alba (Bhringaraj) are used to soothe the scalp and improve its health and therefore improve hair growth.
Herbs like Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha), Murraya koenigii (Curry Leaf), Terminalia Chebulia (Haritaki) and Terminalia embelica (Vibhitaki) are used to promote hair growth, rejuvenate the scalp and hair and normalise the dosha balance so that the entire hair system becomes healthy.
Ayurveda ranks the extraction method of each herb and also assigns different nutritive values to Swarasa (fresh expelled juice), Kwathas (Infusions), Kashayas (decoction) and Kalpa (herb paste). Depending upon the bio actives in each herb, we are advised to follow the above 4 methods to extract a herb’s actives.
Every Krya oil has a high volume of potent plant actives going into the oil mixture. For example, in the Krya conditioning hair oil, 25% of the oil mixture is fresh Swarasa (cold pressed plant juice). Swarasas are considered very nutritious and of high potency in Ayurveda, and addition of this to an Ayurvedic oil greatly improves its efficacy. In the Krya conditioning hair oil, we use fresh Swarasa of Carrot, Bottle gourd, Amla and Bhringaraj, all grown organically.
Woody herbs and tubers have tightly bound actives within the plant. So it is recommended in Ayurveda to coarsely crush the herbs, soak them in water and then boil the mixture for a particular duration (either until water evaporates to ½ its volume or ¼ its volume). The Kashaya preparation and boiling process takes 12 hours (before the oil boiling starts). The process followed and the time taken both ensure we are able to successfully extract actives even from woody and hard herbs like Khadira, Ashwagandha and Liquorice to ensure that the final oil is rich in their actives.
To sum up:
So there you have it: that is the Krya Tuesday formulation update for this week. We have discussed how we work on the Krya conditioning hair oil; a product that is much loved for its hair texture improving, scalp healing and hair growth improving properties. The Krya Conditioning hair oil is to be used along with the Krya Conditioning hair wash and the Krya conditioning hair mask. Together these 3 products form the Krya conditioning hair hydrating system.
Our ongoing Formulation Tuesday series is designed to give you a glimpse into how we think about, research and work on our product formulations. We believe that it is imperative for companies to be transparent both about their products and their manufacturing process. This, we believe, helps consumers make better choices for themselves and be more involved in what enters their home, is applied on themselves and is released into the soil and water.
Information helps us all make better choices. We hope you found this post both interesting and relevant to read.