Updated: May 26
When it comes to addressing client's concerns - haircare is a pressing issue. COVID symptoms, stress, poor diet all have a direct impact on the status of our hair.
As with all the custom products I make my clients, I did some extensive research, and a little beauty archaeology.
Think of the beautiful mosaics, paintings and women of ancient past with their free flowing locks – something like Lady Godiva and Guinevere. Or Botticelli’s famous painting of Aphrodite emerging from the waters with her long silky tendrils signifying her youth, beauty and fertility.
So what did women of ancient times do to get that gorgeous voluminous hair? For starters, they did not have access to the hair follicle clogging chemicals, toxins, silicones, and sulfates we do today. Products that contain all of the above mentioned ingredients are not your friends and do contribute to scalp inflammation – and in turn hair loss and lackluster locks.
Let’s dive a little deeper into some ancient, tried and true, hair rituals...
We know today that internal and external health are necessary for beautiful hair. Our indigenous ancestors had a diverse diet that afforded them much needed minerals and vitamins, and ingested and applied some plants that protected their scalps, calmed inflammation, and prevented per-mature graying.
Aloe is one of those amazing plants. Aloe is known as the “Burn Leaf” – apply it to an irritated scalp or sunburned areas to accelerate healing, and it can be taken internally to calm and cool the system (caution: aloe is a powerful laxative and should only be taken short term).
I really enjoy Aubrey Aloe Vera gel (for external use only) that you can find at most health food stores and it only contains two ingredients (sans preservatives and alcohols). I notice you can also easily purchase a whole fresh leaf at Walmart nowadays! Puree the gel found within the leaf to apply topically and/or blend into a smoothie to enjoy internally.
Castor oil is also an accessible oil you may want to stock your arsenal with. I use this in particular to coat and brush onto my lashes and eye brows to encourage growth. The use of castor oil to encourage hair growth goes back to ancient Egypt (even though most royal ancient Egyptians wore wigs and shaved their hair).
Essential oils can help. You just need to be really careful. Use them very sparingly, and dilute them well in a carrier oil (1% to 2% concentration ideal). Lavender, rosemary and clary sage are common place herbs to address hair loss. I also favor cypress, cedarwood and sandalwood that not only boost circulation to the scalp, but reduce inflammation, strengthen and unclog hair follicles to address hair loss, and help regulate oil production (necessary for healthy hair growth). Use a dropper to strategically place along parted hair.
Ancient Asian beauties of Japan and China looked to camellia oil for beautiful hair, which is full of vitamins like A, B, C and E and essential fatty acids that encourage hair growth, and supposedly even recover color from graying hair. Hands down, I believe it does encourage hair growth, which is why it is a star ingredient in hair oils I create, but I have yet to see grey hair return to its former color. Just like most healing oils, you will notice their healing magick with continued/long term use.
Ancients also did not believe in washing their hair as consistently as we do today. Going a week without washing your hair was common – but that does not mean they skimped on haircare.
They looked to oils to keep scalps clean and free of dandruff, and used beautiful herb-smelling powders to soak up excess oil. I lived in France for a month, and this was one of the habits I adopted. I simply don’t wash my hair every day, I try to go at least three days between washings. Bonus, it saves on water. I also use few hot styling tools, the blow dryer, and refrain at all costs putting a brush through my wet hair (causes nothing by breakage and damage). Brush hair once dry and look for natural bore bristles that help distribute hair oils evenly for high shine.
Now this one may sound outlandish at first – but trust me the science is there. Scalp message and exercise to bring blood flow to the scalp aids hair growth and scalp health. This can be done by regular scalp message, or just hanging upside down for a minute or two every day. If you are into yoga, you know how good the Downward Dog, Bhastrika Pranayam, Naadi Shodhan Pranayam, and Kapalbhati Pranayam can feel – well, they also help with hair-loss. In fact, go ahead and YouTube yoga for hair-loss – this is a widely used ancient technique.
Another thing to consider, how do you wear your hair? Pulling your hair up in tight hairstyles will encourage breakage and often lead to receding hair lines. Try alternating hair styles to reduce stress to the scalp and hair follicles.
At night, when I remember, I’ll wear a 100% silk hair turban to cover my locks without using pins, clips, and hair elastics that cause stress to my hair. Not to mention it reduces frizz, and I can take it off in the morning and I’m ready to go (sans styling tools). One of my favorite is from a company that makes theirs hand-made from 100% silk – check out SILKE London. For during the day styles, I'll use gentle hair scrunchies made by slip which are also 100% silk.
Hormones, medications, skin infections, trauma to the scalp, stress and poor dieting also play a large role in the health of your hair and scalp. Each client I work with to address hair loss and building an appropriate hair-care regimen from the inside-out is highly individualized. If you are interested in a consultation, contact Dr. Ashley B. Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more at healthwitch.org.