This post was last updated on March 27, 2023 by Preethi Sukumaran
Should I use hot water or cold water to wash hair – this is a very common question, especially on a cold winter day
And the internet will give you a bewildering array of conflicting information on the subject. Many articles extol the benefits of washing hair with hot water or at least warm water but other articles warn you against hot water on hair
To help you make a clear informed decision, we will present compelling advice from the Ayurvedic acharyas based on proper references.
You would amazed to know the detail in which the Acharyas have analysed the impact of water on our bodies, both to drink as well as for bath (Snana)
Hot water or cold water ? The Ayurvedic Nuance
A hot water bath, especially on a cold day, gives us great joy & is very good for our health
There is a however a subtle Ayurvedic nuance that all of us should be aware of , when taking hot water baths
Which is – whether we should use hot water or cold water for hair wash ?
The Ayurvedic Rule for Hair Wash ( And the bath itself !)
Here is the Ayurvedic Rule about hot water baths that you should know about
“We should NOT pour hot water on our head or face, while hot water below the neck, on our body , is very good for health “
This rule is very well known traditionally across India, but of late there is a lot of confusion due to internet articles that tell us to wash your hair with hot water or even lukewarm water
And on a cold winter day, it is very tempting to wash our hair with hot water or at least warm water , but it is NOT a good idea. Bearably cool water near to to your body temperature is better for your hair wash
The Authentic Ayurvedic References for cold water & hot water
Let us look at the emphatic Ayurvedic references to support this statement
All of Ayurvedic knowledge today rests on the works of two great ancient sages, Acharyas Charaka & Sushruta ( many other texts are now lost to us)
Here are the original reference verses from the Sushruta Samhita, Cikitsa Sthana, Chapter-24
उष्णेन शिरसः स्नानमहितं चक्षुषः सदा |
शीतेन शिरसः स्नानं चक्षुष्यमिति निर्दिशेत् ||५९||
श्लेष्ममारुतकोपे तु ज्ञात्वा व्याधिबलाबलम् |
काममुष्णं शिरःस्नानं भैषज्यार्थं  समाचरेत् ||६०||
The translation of the above verse :
“Bathing on the head with warm water is always harmful to the eyes, whereas cold water on the head is always beneficial to the eyes In case of diseases of aggravated kapha & vata, a qualified vaidya may assess the strength of the diseases and pour warm water on the head only for medical treatment purposes “
Then we have another authentic reference from the Ashtanga Hridayam, a very important 7th century Ayurvedic text
उष्णाम्बुनाऽधःकायस्य परिषेको बलावहः|
तेनैव तूत्तमाङ्गस्य बलहृत्केशचक्षुषाम्||१७||
The translation of the above verse :
“Pouring warm water below the neck gives strength but the same ( warm water) above the neck results in the loss of strength of hair & eyes “
In very clear terms, the Ayurvedic Acharyas have given us important advise, to AVOID pouring hot water on our head. This is timeless advice, which has also been followed for centuries, across India. So we would do well to heed this instruction
Corollary – water temperature is vital for washing your face too
As we can see clearly from the above references we should avoid washing our face with warm or hot water too. This is again a very common problem that you could face on a cold winter day. But washing the face with warm water will make your skin very dry. If the weather is very cold, then taken warm water , allow it too cool for several minutes and then use it to wash your face
The face, especially the area around the eyes is home to many delicate nerve endings. This is another reason why they texts caution us against pouring warm or hot water on the face.
Cool water – Better for your hair wash & eyes
Many internet articles confuse us , making statements that warm water on the head cleans hair well & removes grease and dirt.
But here is the problem – the Ayurvedic Acharyas have made the connection between hot water on the head and damage to eyesight. They have gone well beyond mere cleansing of the hair
And on the other hand, they assure us that cool water on the head is good for our eyesight
Disadvantages of washing hair with hot water
Using hot water to wash the hair can cause a number of problems to hair and scalp health
Hot water will dry our the scalp by stripping the natural oils and sebum. This can lead to dry scalp and flaking. Hot water can also make the hair dry , brittle and damage hair cuticles.
So it is better to avoid the use of hot water to wash hair and scalp
Tips for hair Wash on a cold, winter day ?
The Ayurvedic rules are easy to follow in warm weather but there are some real concerns about washing hair with cool water in winters
Here are some tips
- Wash your hair when it is sunny outside ( say 7 AM – 10 AM). Avoid washing your hair in the early morning or in the evenings when it is very cold outside
- Use room temperature water to wash your hair. The water from the tap/shower maybe too cold in winter to pour on the head directly. So you can take warm water in a bucket well before your bath, allow it to cool to till it reaches your body’s temperature ( so neither hot nor cold). Then use this water to wash your hair
- Dry your hair really well with a towel after washing your hair ( A hot-air blow dryer is a bad idea for the same reasons as pouring hot water on your head !)
- Apply Rasnadi Choornam on your head after washing your hair. This is a classical ayurvedic herb powder that helps prevent head colds. Do watch this video for more details
- Eat only warm , well-cooked foods on the day of hairwash. And avoid cold foods & beverages
- If possible, drink only boiled and cooled water on the hairwash days.
We hope that you found this Ayurvedic discussion useful. Snana (bath) is a very serious Nitya-Karma (daily activity) in the Ayurvedic texts. And the Acharyas have devoted several verses to extol the benefits of bathing correctly, including the water temperature.
Do consider forwarding these references to someone who may have similar doubts on whether to use hot water or cold water to wash hair !
To dive deeper into this important topic of Ayurvedic Snana, Here is our detailed post on the complete list of do’s & dont’s for the perfect Ayurvedic bath
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