Every other week, a friend or family member asks me for shampoo, conditioner or hair oil recommendations. From hair fall and an itchy scalp to frizz, dryness, oiliness and lifeless strands, I am the secret keeper of their worst hair nightmares. The problem is, we all face said nightmares. But the most common thing among the people in this mix is their search for a ‘clean’, Indian brand that understands their moody, unruly locks. As my job would have it, I have tried more than just a few.
The thing about Indian hair is that you can’t bracket it into a type. And safe to say, it does not like to be tamed. Take mine, for example—sure, it’s lush and thick, but it’s moodier than I am—fried and frizzy like it’s never known what hydration feels like one day, but a smooth cascade of soft beachy curls on another. And it’s no fun when my hairbrush competes with my head at ‘Who’s got more strands on them today?’ Should I even begin to talk about the scalp? With time and a lot of lathering, rinsing and massaging over the years, I’ve come to realise that besides all that hydration and nourishment, your hair needs a lot of space to breathe for it to shine. And so while I’m all for deep-conditioning and hair-masking, I am equally a propagator for leaving your strands be. So I’ll also simply wash my hair with very cold water on days when I know that’s all my hair is asking for and avoid heat as much as I can. To those who ask, my first piece of advice is to embrace your natural hair texture and use products that will help you do so.
Thankfully for us, homegrown brands today work specifically with formulations and ingredients that understand Indian hair requirements, with a high-level focus on making their processes as clean and sustainable as possible. They’re the ones who’ve tapped into the rich ancestral traditions of Indian haircare—digging deep into tried and tested remedies that our grandmothers and their mothers swore by—and are bottling them to bring it all back to us. Here, the ones that make my hair happy, and might do the same for you too.Arata anti-hairfall Super Shampoo
The founders of Arata launched their plant-based, vegan and chemical-free haircare brand when they decided they needed to reveal their secret hair gel recipe to the world (it’s made with flax seeds). The brand focuses on finding creative switches to make its products and its life cycle as clean as possible—from using floral-based fragrances and essential oils to replacing synthetic scents and synthetic surfactants with coconut-based cleansers and soapnuts—creating effective formulations with their team of cosmetologists and Ayurveda experts. Arata’s anti-hairfall Super Shampoo comes with the power trio of onion oil, argan oil and apple cider vinegar is a great respite for chemically treated hair like mine that is still reeling from the after-effects. It cleans up without leaving your hair devoid of moisture.Soulflower Herbal Super Rich Conditioner
This preservative-free, cruelty-free and vegan brand takes you on a serious sensorial journey during bath time, courtesy of the delicious mix of herbs and flowers used in its blends. The formulas are free of parabens, silicones, mineral oil and sulphates, so you can cleanse and condition guilt-free, knowing your scalp and hair health isn’t compromised with harsh chemicals. Be wary of the shelf life of any product that lacks preservatives, though, as the formulation is hindered once it reaches its expiration date. Soulflower’s Herbal Super Rich Conditioner, a silicone-free, deeply nourishing concoction of cocoa and shea butter, aloe vera leaf juice and the oils of olive, argan, avocado, black seed and tamanu, along with essential oils of ylang-ylang, lavender and rosemary, will make you smell like a garden of the freshest blooms. And when a conditioner is safe enough to touch your scalp (as opposed to those that must only come in contact with your strands starting mid-length), you know it’s safe to use repeatedly. It’s one of those products that leaves your hair smelling so nice that you may get more hugs on a freshly-washed hair day than usual.The Earth Collective Revitalising Hair Spa Mask
Besides its beautiful exterior with nature-inspired artwork, the product makes your hair thrive. Free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oils and other harmful chemicals, The Earth Collective focuses on haircare only and includes everything from shampoos, conditioners and masks to hair oils, serums, scalp tonic and overnight repair treatments to suit your concern. Turn a Sunday into spa day and try its pre-shampoo Revitalising Hair Spa Mask that helps restore moisture and balance the pH level of your scalp. Insured with ashwagandha which is known to maintain hair health, argan oil for softer strands and multivitamins for utmost nourishment, massage it onto your scalp, working towards the ends of your hair. Leave this deep mask on for 30 minutes before washing it off with a shampoo.Re'equil Pea Protein & Ceramide Hair Mask
SLS- and paraben-free, Re'equil’s range of haircare focuses on and tackles prime concerns like hair fall, dandruff, damaged and frizzy strands with potent science-backed ingredients. Try its Pea Protein & Ceramide Hair Mask when your hair is feeling especially rough and dry and could do with some extra care. The plant-based protein helps reduce breakage, while the ceramides and omega-3 fatty acids flatten the cuticles to help resist environmental aggression and restore elasticity. It won’t tame your crazy curls, but it’ll definitely soften them so they smoothly swirl around you and be on their best behaviour. Avoid if you have thin or limp hair.WOW Skin Science Black Seed Onion Hair Oil
A fair bit of research on hair loss remedies will show onion juice or oil as the number one ingredient for boosting hair growth and reducing hair loss. Of course, DIY-ing your way through it can be messy, and quite unpleasant. Plus, there are chances of you tearing up. Enter WOW Skin Science’s Black Seed Onion hair oil, which does the job without the hazards of concocting it yourself. The best part? This one is the non-smelly kind, blended with oils of olive, almond, jojoba, castor and coconut, all cold-pressed and free of hexane, mineral oil or silicones. It’s also the kind that will nudge you to bring back oiling sessions as a ritual with your mother, sister or best friend.The Tribe Concepts Organic Hair Cleanser
There must be something special about age-old traditions that make us keep going back to them. This natural hair cleanser is a mix of soapberries, shikakai, fenugreek, Indian gooseberries hibiscus leaf extract (“and nothing else”, as they claim), that comes in a dried powder form. It helps deeply cleanse your scalp and hair while retaining the essential nutrients needed to retain hair health. Mix it with warm water and form a paste, then use it like you would any shampoo.
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