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  5. An Ayurvedic Guide To Treat Your Hair Follicle Problems

Does your hair feel thin and brittle? Do you experience excessive breakage and unusual fall out? The root cause might be damaged hair follicles.

Growing out of the hair follicles situated on your scalp, every strand of your hair directly derives nourishment from them. When your hair follicles are damaged, it impacts the health of your hair, eventually leading to severe hair loss.

Ayurvedic treatments can help repair your damaged hair follicles. Let’s discuss how!

What Is Hair Follicle?

Hair follicles are tiny bag-like structures on the outer layer of your skin (epidermis) from which your hair strands originate. Simply said, these are the same little pores that you see on the skin of your arm when you look closely.

Hair roots are made up of protein cells known as Keratin and they receive nutrition from blood cells around the follicle. The sweat glands opening into the follicle lubricate your hair and keep it moisturized.

As per Ayurveda, these bodily functions occur smoothly only when your Tridoshas, Vata-Pitta-Kapha are perfectly balanced. If either dosha is elevated, the effect will be manifested in different parts of the body, your scalp being one such site.

Structure Of Your Hair Follicle According to Ayurveda

human hair structure

Ayurveda speaks of three main parts of your hair – the hair shaft (above the skin), hair root (below the skin attached to the follicle) and the hair follicle. The follicle is divided into the following parts:

1. Papilla

The papilla, located at the bottom of the follicle, has an artery which supplies Rakta or blood to your hair.

2. Hair Matrix

New cells grow in the matrix to form the hair shafts.

3. Hair Bulb

Hair roots begin from the hair bulb where protein cells called Keratin are formed. As new cells are deposited in the bulb hair shaft is pushed out resulting in hair growth.

4. Bulge

The bulge is a storehouse of stem cells that provide new cells to the hair follicles. It also performs healing functions in case of injury to your epidermis. The Arrector pili muscle located in the bulge is responsible for making your hair stand whenever you experience goosebumps.

The external hair is made of completely dead protein cells called Keratin. This is why your hair strands have no sensation.

Primary Functions Of Your Hair Follicles

The primary function of hair follicles is production of hair. However, it also determines the hair colour, texture and shape of your hair strands. Elliptical shaped follicles produce straight or wavy hair whereas curvy follicles produce curls.

Hair follicles produce a certain pigment called melanin that gives your hair its unique colour. There are two types of melanin - eumelanin and pheomelanin. The type of melanin in your body is determined by your genes. An excess of eumelanin makes your hair black, slightly lesser amounts make your hair brown and very low amounts results in blonde hair. Pheomelanin, on the other hand, makes your hair red.

Grey hair tends to appear with age. This is because melanin production in your hair follicles reduces as you age and your hair can no longer retain its original colour.

Ayurvedic Guide To Maintaining Healthy Hair Follicle Function

1. Diet

Choosing the right foods for your unique Prakriti helps in proper functioning of your Pitta, which governs all metabolic functions. Your diet plays a major role in determining the health of your hair follicle.

Improper nutrition or consumption of certain types of foods can imbalance the harmony of your doshas leading to scalp problems. For example, if you are experiencing hair fall issues, there are chances that your Pitta levels are high. In that case, try to avoid spicy foods that may further aggravate your Pitta.

“You can include ayurvedic superfoods such as leafy greens, walnuts, almonds and other nuts, moong beans, amla, cucumber, moringa, triphala, coconut in your meals to enhance your hair follicle function,” says Dr. Zeel, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.

2. Environmental Factors

A stress-free healthy lifestyle is a key factor in determining your healthy hair follicle function. External factors such as excessive sun exposure, dust and pollution, hard water, chemicals and medications hinder your natural hair follicle function. Furthermore, negative emotions such as nervousness and anxiety may aggravate your Vata and anger, hate increases your pitta which affects your follicle health. Take adequate preventive measures against these factors and make sure to get ample sleep to rejuvenate your hair follicle health.

3. Hair Care Regime

A proper Ayurvedic hair care routine is capable of promoting hair follicle growth, keeping all your hair problems caused by the above mentioned factors at bay:

A. Regular oil massage promotes blood circulation to your hair follicles. If you have an oily scalp, coconut or argan oil will help pacify your pitta. If your scalp is dry and itchy almond oil or sesame oil will balance the vata of your scalp.

B. Cleanse your hair with Sikhakai, reetha, amla, hibiscus, neem.

C. Use a Sirolepa (hair pack) made of amla, rasana, shikakai, triphala [1], brahmi, and bringaraja to fight hair conditions such as dandruff, dry scalp, hairfall and promote hair follicle regrowth.

Vedix Tip: Season your food with methi seeds and curry leaves as they help to promote hair growth, prevent premature greying and control various hair follicle issues

Understanding Hair Growth Cycle Through Ayurveda

Ayurveda believes that your body is made of seven Dhatus (body elements). Hair, which is made of dead keratin cells is considered an Upadhatu produced from the metabolism of the Asthi Dhatu (bone tissue). Your hair grows in three different phases that are mentioned in Ayurveda, namely Anagen, Catagen and Telogen.

1. Anagen (growth) Phase

Usually most of your hair is in the Anagen or growth phase. During this time, your hair grows rapidly about 1 cm every 28 days. This phase lasts for about 2-7 years.

2. Catagen (transitional) Phase

The Anagen phase transitions to the Catagen phase when your hair follicle shrinks and hair growth slows down. Around 10% of your scalp hair is likely to be in the Catagen phase. This lasts for about 2-3 weeks.

3. Telogen (resting) Phase

With the beginning of the Telogen phase, your hair rests for about 2 - 4 months and falls out. It is then replaced by new hair which starts its growth cycle.

It is normal to lose around 100 hair strands in a day. Accidentally pulled out hair grows back normally as long as your follicle is not damaged. However, if you are experiencing more hair fall than normal, you might be facing any of the below mentioned hair issues.

Hair Follicle Infections And Ayurvedic Treatments

Your hair follicles are often susceptible to infections caused by bacteria, improper diet, unsuitable hair products or other environmental factors. In such cases, it is vital to first identify the root cause of the problem and then decide the appropriate remedy. According to Ayurveda, you may be susceptible to certain types of diseases depending upon your Prakriti.

inflamed pus pimples on head scalp

1. Folliculitis

Ayurveda classifies Infections of the hair follicle as ‘Shiroroga’ or diseases of the scalp and head. Folliculitis is a common hair follicle infection caused due to the aggravation of Pitta dosha in the body. To restore the balance of the doshas the sebaceous glands secrete excessive amounts of sebum on your scalp which clogs your hair follicles, resulting in folliculitis.

Symptoms of folliculitis include inflammation of your follicle, hair follicle pimple, redness of your skin, formation of small blisters that contain pus. Folliculitis usually affects those areas where hair density is more such as your scalp. [2]

A mild case of folliculitis can be treated at home with the help of simple Ayurvedic remedies. Apply herbs such as Bhringraj, Neem which contain antibacterial properties to the infected area. You can also use aloe vera can to relieve the symptoms of itchiness and swelling. Consumption of Gandhak Rasayan 2 to 3 times a day will also help reduce your hair follicle infection.

male and female hair loss patterns

2. Androgenetic Alopecia

Androgenetic Alopecia is a condition of severe hair loss common in both men and women. It is termed as ‘Khalitya’ [3] in Ayurveda or Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Baldness. Pitta combines with Kapha or Vata Dosha to increase the body heat which scorches the hair follicles resulting in Khalitya.

In men, the hairline gradually recedes causing hair loss on the top of the head. For women, hair loss occurs in a scattered pattern with general thinning of hair mostly at the crown area. Most common causes are genetic, hormones, ageing, illness, malnutrition, certain types of medication, stress.

Ayurveda suggests Sirolepa treatment [4] formulated with herbs such as amla, brahmi, shikakai, triphala, rasanai, bringaraja that directly address your hair loss problems. Make sure to avoid consumption of liquors, caffeinated drinks or spicy foods to further aggravate this condition.

woman before and after hair loss treatment

3. Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata, is an auto-immune disease where your body’s immune system acts against its own hair follicles thus causing hair loss in patches. [5] This is often correlated with the disease ‘Indralupta’ described in Ayurvedic texts. When Kapha dosha combines with Rakta, blood supply to your follicles is abruptly cut off causing degeneration of your follicles and hair loss.

Your ayurvedic doctor may prescribe Raktashodhakas (blood purifiers) such as Manjishthadi Kwatha, hair growth promoting herbs such as Amalaki Churna and for topical application Gunjabeeja Lepa with Gunja Taila (hair oil) and recommend washing your hair twice a week with Triphala Yavakuta Kwatha.

telogen effluvium

4. Telogen Effluvium

Telogen Effluvium is a condition where most of your hair abruptly transitions into the Telogen phase before falling off due to the effect of trauma or shock experienced by your body. In normal conditions, about 80 to 90% of your scalp hair is in the anagen phase (growth phase) and only 10% is in the telogen phase where hair growth slows down. Thus, if you are experiencing a condition of Telogen Effluvium, you are most likely to shed around 300 strands of hair instead of the normal 100 strands of hair in a day.

According to Ayurveda excessive hair fall is a Vata-Pitta dosha. Hence, you need to take measures to pacify your Vata and Pitta dosha. Switching to a low-sodium diet will pacify the pitta on your scalp. “Include adequate sleep, proper nutrition and stay away from harsh chemical procedures to avoid further aggravation.

Important Note:

Consult your Ayurvedic doctor in case you are experiencing any of the above vyadhis or infections. It is important to get your dosha levels checked to be prescribed a suitable Rasayana therapy for your condition.

How To Change Hair Follicle Shape?

Your natural hair follicle shape is determined by your genes. The follicle shape may change naturally due to change in hormones as you age or any medical treatment. This may result in the growth of straight hair in place of your natural curls. However, external measures cannot change hair follicle shape as the follicle is embedded inside your skin. Chemical hair procedures such as hair straightening (straight hair) or perming (curly hair) can fetch temporary results but may cause damage to your hair over time.

The Last Word

The use of Ayurveda for healthy hair follicle growth and function is an ancient practice recommended by Ayurveda doctors and the elders in our family. Ayurveda has no side effects and naturally acts on the imbalance of doshas helping your scalp to strengthen your hair follicles. If your hair follicles are healthy it will naturally produce healthy thick hair that is not prone to damage or infections. At Vedix, we customize an Ayurvedic hair care regimen for your unique hair problems by evaluating your doshas.

Know Your Dosha Now