Readers of this blog know that I like to use an unorthodox hair wash in place of shampoo. As someone who’s also used henna to dye my hair and clay masks to deep-cleanse my scalp, I’m comfortable playing with paste and mud when it comes to my hair care regimen, which is why I pounced on this trio of plant powders from Khadi Natural.
Amla, reetha, and skikakai have a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine. When the fruits of these plants are dried, ground into powder, and mixed with water to make a paste, they provide numerous benefits for the hair and scalp.
Amla, which comes from the Indian gooseberry fruit, is high in vitamin C, a key nutrient in slowing the effects of aging. It is believed that using amla paste and oil on the hair and scalp can prevent hair loss and premature graying. When used in conjunction with henna, amla can improve dye uptake and intensify hair color.
The soapnut tree, known as reetha in Hindi, produces a fruit that contains saponins: natural surfactants that gently remove dirt and oil. (Soapnuts make a surprisingly effective organic laundry detergent that is quite capable at cleaning without harsh chemicals.)
The pod-like fruit of shikakai can also cleanse the hair, but is primarily touted for its conditioning and detangling effects. It is said to strengthen hair from the roots and promote hair growth.
I have been experimenting with this trio and found that each plant works well for different purposes. Unlike my sweet-smelling hair wash, these powders are “earthy,” to say the least. The upside is that there is no lingering odor once they’ve been washed out. I applied each of them in the same way by mixing equal parts powder and aloe vera gel in a small bowl before working the paste into wet hair. (I discovered that using aloe gel in place of water gives the paste some slip, which makes it easier to massage into the hair and scalp.) For my medium-thick, long hair, 1-2 tablespoons of powder with an equal amount of aloe gel was sufficient for each application.
Reetha worked best as a cleanser. It actually foamed up a bit, like soap, and removed all traces of oil and dirt. This is something I might use once a week or every two weeks to remove buildup and clarify the scalp.
The amla paste did not work for me as a shampoo, leaving some oil behind (and necessitating a follow-up wash), but I’ve found that it makes a great dry shampoo. With its neutral tan color, it blends well with my brownish-blonde hair,* and just ½ teaspoon of the dry powder massaged through the scalp absorbs oil and livens locks on days when there’s no time to wash.
Another way to receive the benefits of amla is to mix 2 teaspoons of powder with 8 oz. of hot water, steep until the liquid cools, strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and pour into a dropper bottle. Apply the liquid to the scalp a couple of times a week, massage in, and let dry. (There’s no need to wash it out—simply brush hair when dry.)
The real star of this lineup, in my opinion, is shikakai. It worked as both an effective hair wash and a stellar conditioner, leaving my hair feeling softer and more manageable than I’ve EVER felt it. I noticed the difference from the moment I rinsed it out in the shower and continued to feel it when my hair was dry. I have no idea what chemical constituents in the fruit are responsible for this effect, but it’s remarkable. Follow the directions for steeping above (replacing amla with shikakai) and strain into a spray bottle for spritzing on dry hair between washes to boost shine and manageability.
As with my Terressentials hair wash, combing out wet hair after washing with these powders is quick, easy, and painless—no conditioner required.
For taming all types of tresses, these plants are a natural, so if you’re searching for hair care solutions that have stood the test of time, more powder to you!
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:
As of this writing, the Khadi Hair Care Combo is no longer available from Amazon, but the company sells individual tins of amla, reetha, and shikakai hair powders on their website. Alternatively, a Google or Amazon search (e.g. “organic amla hair powder”) will turn up numerous retailers and purchasing options.
*For darker hair colors, add unsweetened cocoa powder until the desired shade is achieved.