This post was last updated on August 12, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
Oily scalp or scalp greasiness is a common problem that affects many Indians. So we often get emails and social media messages from those eagerly searching for a natural options for oily scalp treatment. A majority of these people are looking for and assume that a natural Shampoo would solve their problem. They are extremely surprised when we recommend the Krya Classic Hair Oil or the Krya Classic Plus Hair Oil.
Why do we recommend using a Hair oil on already oily scalp? And why does it work so well? Is there an Ayurvedic secret we are missing out on?
Hair Oiling has received a lot of negative press in recent years
Hair oiling as a habit has received a lot of negative press from a wide spectrum of influencers like dermatologists ,trichologists , hair stylists ,beauty bloggers and fashion magazines. All of them reinforce the myth that oil = greasy scalp . So a greasy scalp must never be oiled. In fact these influencers will tell you to dry out the greasy scalp by frequent or daily shampooing. This is not a useful treatment for oily scalp.
In fact, in many people aggressive hair washing and cleansing, especially with harsh chemical shampoos produces the opposite effect. Hair becomes more greasy, necessitating MORE frequent washing.
Mineral Oil based Hair Oils are the main culprit
One of the reasons for this incorrect assumption about hair oils is that 99% of the commercial hair oils sold in the market today are actually petroleum based and absolutely not suitable for scalp and hair application.
Commercially available hair oils , sold as “non sticky” or “light hair oils” , use mineral oil as the main ingredient, sometimes upto 90% of the product volume. Mineral oil is a by-product of the petroleum refining process and is also known as paraffin or light liquid paraffin. Mineral oil has zero hair nourishment properties and it is not good for scalp or hair unlike actual vegetable oils like coconut oil or sesame oil. So when this petroleum based hair oil is applied , your scalp is unable to absorb it and it just sits there , attracting dust and dirt during the course of your day and leaves you feeling greasy. Naturally this is not a pleasant experience. You can read more about the shockingly high percentage of mineral oil in hair oil brands in a study by consumer voice magazine available on the website of the ministry of consumer affairs here.
A proper Ayurvedic hair oil made from a base of nourishing vegetable oils like coconut oil into which several beneficial herbs like Amla , Bhringraj, Curry leaf , Brahmi , Neeli ( Indigo), Haritaki, Vibhitaki, Yasthimadhu , Guduchi etc have been extracted is highly beneficial for your scalp and hair , is well absorbed and will actually solve the problem of greasiness. This is the exact formulation template for an authentic Ayurvedic hair oil as given in the Susruta Samhita, one of the two primary Ayurvedic texts.
Read on to understand the Ayurvedic principles that explain the genesis of the oily scalp problem and the benefits of a good Ayurvedic hair oil.
What is the root cause of Oily Scalp as per Ayurveda ?
Ayurveda tells us that high amounts of sweat and flowing greasiness are both signs of Pitta dosha. When a particular organ system displays such signs, the first possibility is that pitta dosha is aggravated, which could be due to diet , lifestyle habits or certain high-stress life stages. The other possibility is that the person has a dominant pitta prakriti by birth and is predisposed to pitta dosha aggravation.
What is Pitta Dosha?
All human beings are born with a unique combination of the three doshas which are Vata , Pitta & Kapha. These 3 doshas are in turn created by a specific combination of two of the five fundamental elements i.e space, air , fire , earth & water.
Pitta dosha is created when Fire (Agni) and Water (Jal) elements are combined. With this information we can now have a better understanding of the nature and behaviour of Pitta dosha.
Acharya Vagbhata, the author of the important 7th Century textbook , Ashtanga Hridayam defines Pitta dosha as :
“Pittam sasneha teekshno-ushna laghu vishram saram dravam”
This translates as:
Pitta is slightly oily (sasneha), teekshna (intense), ushna (hot), laghu (light), vishram (has a strong / offensive odour), saram (flows) and dravam (has a liquid property).
An important feature of the three doshas is that they are naturally present in various organs of the body , which is called their “seat” . Each dosha is supposed to be present at a specific level in each of its “seats”. When we say that a dosha is aggravated , it means that either it is increased beyond its normal level or it is pushed to a organ which is not a natural seat.
One of the seats of Pitta dosha is “sweda” or sweat. Therefore, when we have smelly sweat, greasiness in the scalp with foul odour, and the feeling of hotness and warmth we are experiencing the signs of pitta dosha overload.Pitta aggravation also leads to other scalp and hair issues like premature greying, hair thinning, etc.
Hence when the scalp and hair exhibit greasiness, premature greying, and hair thinning, the correct Ayurvedic treatment is to pacify pitta with suitable herbs. A great format to deliver these herbs effectively to the scalp is a Hair Oil formulated for this purpose. Therefore, at Krya, when someone comes to us with an oily scalp and wants treatment products for this condition, we suggest using a Pitta pacifying hair oil, a Pitta pacifying Hair Lepa / Mask and a Pitta pacifying Hair cleanser for the condition.
Pitta balance in Ayurveda: Herbs that have opposing properties
Ayurvedic herbs that have the fundamental tastes (rasa) of Kashaya (astringent), tikta (bitter) and madhura (sweet) help balance Pitta dosha. They have the exact complement of properties opposite to pitta and therefore are pacifying and help treat aggravated Pitta dosha very effectively.
In a typical pitta-balancing hair oil formulation we use the following cohorts of herbs
- Haritaki and Bibhitaki which have kashaya rasa
- Nimba, Kalmegh, which have tikta rasa
- Guduchi, Yashti madhu, Amla, Coconut Milk and oils like Narikela (coconut), Kokum butter which have Madhura rasa.
These herbs chosen in the formulation are then carefully extracted in both water and oil and then cooked in the base oils as per the classical Tila Paka Veedhi method to manufacture the final hair oil. When the oils are cooked in this process, they are fundamentally transformed and are able to penetrate the fine channels in your scalp when you apply it , transporting the herbs into your scalp and the roots of your hair.
As you can clearly see here , a proper Ayurvedic oil is vastly different from a commercial hair oil made from petroleum derived mineral oil.
We must remember that an Ayurvedic hair oil is not just any oil. It is a specifically formulated, specially prepared oil that carries certain Rasas (tastes), and gunas (properties) that are designed to combat the signs of aggravation you are experiencing.
The benefits of using a Krya hair oil that balances aggravated Pitta dosha
When we manufacture a pitta-pacifying hair oil like the Krya classic hair oil or the Krya classic-plus hair oil using the groups of herbs mentioned above, we get a oil with the following Shareera gunas (physical properties)
- Guru (heavy) to balance the laghutva (lightness of Pitta dosha)
- Slightly thick and viscous to balance the flowing nature of Pitta dosha.
- Hima (cooling) nature to balance Ushna (heat of Pitta dosha)
- Madhura, Tikta and Kashaya rasa (sweet, bitter and astringent taste) to balance the Amla, Lavana and Katu rasa (Sour, salty and pungent taste) of Pitta dosha. Kashaya and Tikta rasa help balance Pitta and control the oily scalp problem , arrests further graying. Madhura rasa helps balance Pitta and improves hair growth, working on hair thinning as well.
When Pitta is aggravated it gives rise to mano gunas of krodha (anger), egoism, pride, and jealousy. Therefore by regular daily application of a pitta-shamana oil also help work on these excessively Rajasic Mano gunas. Conversely, over indulging in feelings of jealousy, anger, ego and pride can trigger Shareera Gunas of Pitta dosha resulting in problems like scalp greasiness, premature greying and hair thinning. Spiritual sadhana is key to control Mano gunas – read more about this here.
Since Ayurveda always analyzes the correct root causes and treats it holistically, when you apply a correct hair oil for premature graying or hair thinning, you also get a wide range of other health benefits like improved eyesight , cheerful & well nourished sense organs and deeper sleep. You can read about the wide range of health benefits of daily hair oiling here & here
Shampoos aggravate and further worsen the oily scalp problem
A shampoo uses chemical surfactants to bind and remove oil and dirt from your hair. Both SLS and Sulphate-free shampoos use surfactants that aggressively clean your hair and scalp, stripping it dry of oil and sebum. So on the day when you use the Shampoo, your scalp will feel clean and dry but due to excessive removal of sebum, your scalp will compensate and produce more sebum the next day. This will again make your scalp oily, which is made worse if you also have pitta-dosha aggravation.
So merely using a shampoo, even a sulfate-free shampoo, will lock you in a vicious cycle of dry scalp – oily scalp. In time the scalp will also start flaking due to excessive dryness from shampoo usage. Please read more about how shampoos can damage hair and irritate scalp here and here.
Ayurvedic treatment for Oily scalp : a holistic and complete solution
Oily scalp, scalp greasiness, high sweat, and high scalp odour, hair thinning and premature graying are all signs of pitta dosha aggravation. When you have pitta aggravation on the scalp, using the correct pitta balancing Ayurvedic hair oil will help you and NOT hinder your scalp (even though this sounds contrarian).
However, if you use hair oils which are made with mineral oil , your problem will not be solved and the fine channels of the scalp will further get clogged. If you use plain vegetable oils which have similar properties as Pitta dosha, like sesame oil which is Ushna ( heating) in nature , this will further aggravate Pitta dosha. If you use plain coconut oil into which pitta-pacifying herbs have not been added, this will also not resolve the condition.
The correct Ayurvedic hair oil along with a gentle herb hair wash powder will pacify scalp level pitta dosha, nourish your hair from the roots, arrest premature greying and hair thinning and of course give you a clean , non-greasy healthy scalp. So the oily scalp treatment given by Ayurveda addresses the root causes, is holistic and gives you many other important health benefit. As with all ayurvedic solutions, for a deeper workaround of the problem, the Ahara (food) must also be balanced to work on aggravated Pitta dosha. Read more about this here and here.
Krya Hair Oils & hair care : Oily scalp treatment
Krya has 2 Hair care ranges that help balance out of control Pitta dosha, bring it to balance and improve the condition of the scalp and hair.
The Krya Classic Range: is formulated for moderate Pitta balance and is an excellent oily scalp treatment system. This is usually a good option if you are dealing with scalp greasiness, sweat, and high odour, and you have the makings of a premature greying problem. If you have very high premature greying or high hair thinning, this product range may be too mild for you. Read on for what can help you in this case.
A classic Ayurvedic oil, formulated in Ayurvedic Tila paka veedhi using 34 ayurvedic herbs and 7 cold pressed organic base oils including Himalayan Apricot oil and Tamanu Oil. The oil is formulated with hair growth promoting herbs like Kamala, Draksha, Vatama, Godhuma, Narikela, Ksheeratumbi, etc. The oil also contains Keshya ranjana (hair colour improving) herbs to improve premature greying like Bhringaraj, Neeli, Japa flower, Althenera, etc. The product uses potent Pitta balancing herbs like Bhuiamla, Nimba, Vetiver, Mushta, etc. Regular use of the hair oil balances scalp oiliness and Pitta aggravation, reduces premature greying and improves hair quality and growth. Additionally regular uses of the product helps cool and nourish the eyes also.
This is a 42 herb formulation that helps cleanse and unclog the scalp, and balance Pitta build up in the head region. Using a Krya hair mask is best done once a week / once a fortnight as a part of a healthy hair care regimen. The Krya Classic hair Mask helps deep cleanse scalp, remove sebum plugs and prepare the scalp to receive balanced nourishment from the hair oil. It also helps further balance Pitta dosha, condition hair and improve the texture, and shine of hair.
This is a 29 herb formulation that uses mild, non irritating plant surfactants like Arishtaka, Desert date, plant adsorbents that help effectively remove grease without irritating the scalp like Mung bean , Heritage Rice and Albizia leaf. The formula then uses classical Pitta balancing herbs like Amla, Hibiscus leaf, Neem , Badam gond. Herbs that have an astringent and highly cleansing action on the scalp like Manjishta, Khadira, are also used. Deodorizing herbs like Mushta, Rose, Vetiver help remove Pitta aggravation based malodour and cool the scalp. Herbs like Vana tulasi, Sweetflag, help disinfect the scalp. Finally Bala, Bhringaraj, etc help promote healthy scalp and hair system.
All 3 products can also be bought as a part of the Krya Classic hair system. This system is an excellent treatment for oily scalp.
The Krya Classic Plus Hair care range:
This hair care range is formulated for very high Pitta aggravation. Here we typically see high premature greying, a tendency towards hair thinning, along with high sweat , scalp greasiness and an odoriferous scalp. We currently have 2 products in this range:
A classic Ayurvedic oil, formulated in Ayurvedic Tila paka veedhi using 34 ayurvedic herbs and 5 cold pressed organic base oils including Kokum butter and Karanja Oil. The oil is formulated with sweet, dhatu building and hair thinning reducing herbs like Gokshura, Tila bheeja, Narikela, Kushmanda and Ksheeratumbi. The oil also contains Keshya ranjana (hair colour improving) herbs to improve premature greying like Manjishta, Bhringaraj, Neeli, Japa flower, Althenera, Vibhitaki, etc. The product uses potent Pitta balancing herbs like Jatamansi, Amla, Bhringaraj, etc.
In addition, the formula includes Vata Balancing herbs to improve hair thickness, deep rootedness of hair like Brahmi, Bala, Methika, etc. The product also includes herbs like Kushta, Kutuja, Tulasi, etc to effectively sanitise the scalp and keep down growth of fungal micro organisms. Regular use of the hair oil balances improve premature greying, reduces hair thinning, improves hair growth and scalp health. Additionally regular uses of the product helps cool and nourish the eyes also.
This is a 30 herb formulation that works on aggressively out of balance Pitta dosha in the scalp and hair. The formula uses mild, non irritating plant surfactants like Arishtaka, Shikakai and Desert date that cleanse without irritating the scalp or inflaming the sebaceous glands. The formula also uses lentils for grease adsorption – their action is very mild yet surprisingly effective at containing scalp greasiness.
The formula then uses classical Pitta balancing herbs like Kalmegh, Amla, Hibiscus leaf, Neem , Badam gond. To work on premature greying, we use Keshya ranjana herbs like Rosemary, Curry Leaf, etc. Deodorizing herbs like Mushta, Rose, Vetiver help remove Pitta aggravation based malodour and cool the scalp. Herbs like Rama tulasi, Sweetflag, Kutuja bark, and Kushta help disinfect the scalp and keep down growth of harmful micro organisms. Finally Guduchi, Bala, Bhringaraj, Urad bean etc help promote healthy scalp and hair system.
To sum up: treatment of oily scalp in Ayurveda
Many times the holistic wisdom and deep rooted advice Ayurveda offers seems contrarian to all our new age fads and trends. Whether it is the the question of avoiding dairy, or adding certain Nitya rasayanas like ghee to diet, importance of eating on time, or healing an oily scalp, Ayurveda offers very specific advice that actually works (despite how contrarian it sounds).
In this post we saw the ideal way Ayurveda approaches oily scalp treatment. we saw how, contrary to the modern notion of over washing and rinsing out residual sebum from the scalp, Ayurveda instead goes to the root cause. we look at exactly what in the body’s causing the imbalance. and we attempt to correct it and bring it back to balance with Ahara, Dinacharya, ritucharya and the right use of the right hair care products.
This approach gives us a more effective and permanent solution to the problem.
If you too want to try our oily scalp treatment line of products or want help choosing the right hair or skin acre products for yourself, please call us or send us an email.