Ayurveda has become the new wave in the natural hair community. So, if you are ready to start your Ayurvedic journey and begin infusing your oils, but not sure where to start. Well, today we are going to dive deep to find the best oils to use for your hair and can deliver the nutrients deep into your hair strands. To understand which oils work best for your hair we are going to look at the composition of our hair sebum and how this plays an important role in choosing oils.
The Composition of Hair Sebum
According to the research our hair consists of triglycerides, fatty acids, wax esters, squalene, cholesterol, cholesterol esters (see figure 1). Interestingly, the research lumps triglycerides and fatty acids together and wax esters and squalene into their own brackets. So today, I wanted to focus on the triglycerides and fatty acids as the research focuses on the impact of these components and their ability to penetrate into the hair strand.
So let’s take a look at the fatty acids found within the hair strand. Figure 2 below shows the following Fatty Acids found within the hair strand: Lauric Acid, Myristoleic Acid, Myristic Acid, Squalene, Palmitic Acid, Pentadecanoleic Acid, Sapienic Acid, Heptadecanoleic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Stearic Acid, Arachideic Acid and Behenic Acid,
The fatty acid chain lengths of human sebum vary considerably, but are predominantly 16 and 18 carbons (stearic, C18:0, oleic, C18:1Δ9, linoleic, C18:2Δ9Δ12, palmitic, 16:0, sapienic, 16:1Δ6, and palmitoleic, C16:1Δ9, Figure 2)
How to Choose Oils based on Fatty Acids and Triglyceride Composition
Now that we have gathered all this knowledge, let’s see how we can apply this to the oils we use and whether or not the oil will penetrate into the hair strand. So let’s focus on the amount of triglyceride and short-chain fatty acids it contains – as well as how the components of the triglyceride are arranged. Additionally, monounsaturated fats tend to be better at penetrating your hair than polyunsaturated fats.
Let’s look at 6 oils that are rich in these fatty acids and triglycerides and can deeply nourish and penetrate the hair strand.
Coconut Oil- Rich in 49% Lauric Acid and 9% Myristic acid and came out on top in all studies regarding oils that can penetrate the hair shaft and reduce protein loss in hair that was undamaged, bleached, chemically treated and UV exposed. coconut oil is also a great dandruff treatment, helps hair loss prevention, and can help prevent hygral fatigue. It also contains 64% of triglycerides.
Sunflower Oil- Rich in 59% Linoleic Acid (Polyunsaturated) and 30% Oleic Acid (Monounsaturated). Though linoleic acid is a larger structure, sunflower oil is truly unique because of its other components- Cermaides and Phosolipids. Ceramides are like the “glue” the holds the hair shaft together and binds to the proteins in our hair strands allowing for a smoother surface, locking in nutrients and moisture.
Babassu OIl- Rich in Lauric Acid 50% and Myristic Acids 20% and has a melting point relative close to the human body temperature. If you notice Babassu Oil has similar fatty acids as Coconut oil and is said to be equally amazing as coconut oil. So those that hate coconut oil, usually love Babassu Oil, it can penetrate deep in the hair strand, softening and conditioning the hair. Babassu Oil boasts a high moisture-retaining capacity, meaning it doesn’t evaporate or break down easily. It helps keep moisture from escaping once it’s on the skin, scalp, and hair shaft. Additionally, Babassu Oil contains 12% triglycerides.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- Oleic acid 70% (monounsaturated) Linoleic Acid 15% moisturize and improve luster and shine to the hair
Avocado Oil-contains 50% Oleic acid and 26% Palmitoleic acid which is about 76% monounsaturated fats and is rich in triglycerides. This oil can penetrate into the hair strands, providing nurtrients, rather than just coat the hair strand. Avocado oil helps to strengthen the hair strand and minimize breakage.
Sweet Almond Oil- rich in Oleic Acid 68%(monounsaturated) and Lineolic Acid 25% (Polyunsaturated). Sweet almond oil can penetrate into the hair strands promoting softer, longer and stronger hair. It also can improve blood circulation and is rich in Vitamin E and D which can help prevent hair loss.
These oils are not the only oils you can use, but simply my top 6 picks for infusing oils because of their unique properties to penetrate into the hair strands and deliver nutrients and benefits.
Top 3 Ayurvedic Herbs
Now lets take a look at the top three ayurvedic herbs to begin infusing in your oil. These herbs will focus on hair growth, hair loss and scalp health.
Amla- Rich in vitamin C, can help stop hair fall and useful for hair regrowth and provides amazing curl definition. It also provides anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
Neem- The king in providing anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties and is perfect for those with dandruff, eczema, dermatitis, and excess sebum production.
Fenugreek/Methi seeds- Provides strength and moisture. Contains nicotinic acid which stops hair fall and dandruff and is great for stimulating hair growth.
Methods for Infusing Herbs
Solar Infusion- this is your old school method and requires true patience as the herbs infuse for 4-6 weeks. In a clean, glass mason jar, fill the jar with your favorite herbs. Make sure there is enough room to fully cover all the herbs completely with oil, leaving at least an inch or two oil on top. Cover with a lid and set in the sun for 4-6 weeks, making sure to shake the jar daily. Decant and use as needed.
Double Broiler/Slow Cooker- this method is quick and will give you an herbal infused oil in a few hours. Place a pot on the stove with water, once the water boils, set a smaller bowl/pot into the pot and turn the heat down low. Add your favorite oils and herbs and let the infuse for 30 mins to 2 hours. (the longer the better). Strain your herbs with a panty hose/ cheese cloth and use as needed.
Now that we have our oils and our herbs lets look at some basic recipes for infusing. Your ratio can be 1:3 or 1:2, that is one part herbs to three parts oil or one part herbs to two parts oil respectively. Here is one of my recipes adapted to the herbal combination recommended above.
1 cup Coconut oil
2 tbs Babassu oil or Almond Oil
1 tbsp Amla
1 tbs Fenugreek Seeds or powder
1 tbs Neem Powder