Once upon a time, computer engineer Jasmine Kaushik had long, thick and curly locks. Some years ago, she decided to get her hair rebonded. Next, she began to use a straightening rod. When the film New York released, the 30-year-old got a makeover to match Katrina’s style and highlights.
A month after this transformation, Jasmine realised that her hair was now dry and brittle. “Every time I combed my hair, a handful would fall off,” she says. “I used several shampoos, conditioners, serums and oils, but my hair still felt brittle and dull.”
Like Jasmine, not many of us are aware of how easily hair can get damaged. Says Hakim Mohammad Tariq, in-charge, board of physicians, Hamdard Laboratories, “Frequent dyeing, perming, rebonding, excessive use of dryers, styling products or equipment, excess sun exposure and hard water can all damage hair. Once that happens, nothing can help.”
Trichologist Dr Rekha Yadav, director, Revital Trichology, Mumbai, says she sees many patients with damaged hair as a result of various treatments. “These work by changing the existing bonds of the hair,” explains Dr Yadav. “Salons do neutralise the effect of chemicals, but often, some cuticles and pores remain open and exposed to the environment and other chemicals.” Dr Yadav also sees patients with damaged hair caused by excessive exposure to heat. She adds, “Other causes of damage include poor diet, stress, insomnia and vitamin deficiencies.”
Stem the tide
First, avoid further abuse. Experts say chemical-loaded products do not help – only a treatment involving natural herbs and flowers will be of any use. They advise shutting down hair cuticles to prevent further damage. “Use shampoos high in acidic pH. Or add a few drops of vinegar to a mug of water and rinse hair,” says Dr Yadav.
The next step is to improve hair texture. Oil your hair twice a week with coconut, rosemary and avocado oils. “Most shampoos have detergents that are harmful to hair. Check the ingredients. Don’t buy anything with SLS or polysorbate,” says Dr Yadav.
Or make shampoo at home. “Soak triphala powder (available at pharmacies and ayurvedic shops) in water overnight. Drain in the morning and wash with it,” says Hakim Tariq. If you have oiled your hair, this will not work properly, so he suggests alternating between this and your regular shampoo.
Repair the damage
Another remedy is to mix khali sarson (or sesame or almond residue, available in ayurvedic shops) with water in a bowl and leave overnight to become a paste. In the morning, apply an hour before your bath and rinse off. Or, Hakim Tariq says, “Blend hibiscus petals with water into a paste and apply it on your scalp for 15-20 minutes. Then rinse with warm water. Wrap your hair with a hot towel; this opens up pores so the oil can sink in effectively.” In extreme cases, getting a haircut is the only solution, say experts.