RGUHS Nat. J. Pub. Heal. Sci Vol No: 10 Issue No: 1 eISSN: pISSN: 2249-2149
Hair is connected to beauty, personality, age, nationality, beliefs and more. Hence people spend a lot of money for its care. Greying of hair along with premature greying is a major problem affecting the population at large that can occur due to various internal and external factors. To address this problem, people use chemical hair dyes, which have a negative impact on the health. The world is looking for different products that are natural and devoid of adverse effects. In Ayurveda, palitya (greying of hair), its causes and treatments like Nasya karma, Shiro abhyanga etc have been explained. The present review was conducted to identify three possible dye like formulations in Ayurvedic texts and to study the drugs used in formulations with an intent to analyse their dyeing properties and why they would work if practically used. Also to establish a possible classical formulation in ayurvedic texts as hair dye. The drugs like Bhringaraja, Neeli, Triphala (Haritaki, Vibhithaki, Amalaki) and others have been used from generations to dye hair, with no adverse effects, suggesting their safety, efficacy and supremacy regarding these properties over contemporary dyes and so called herbal dyes that use chemicals. Hence this review article aims to provide insight regarding research updates in need of synthesizing herbal dye.
Hair comes in different shapes, sizes and textures, but a major problem affecting everyone is greying. Greying of hair especially premature greying of hair is on the rise owing to pollution, lifestyle changes and other factors. This has resulted in a trend of increased usage of chemical laden hair dye as the society considers greying of hair as a trait of old age, foregoing both the short term and long term implications it presents with. According to Ayurveda, Kesha is a prithvi mahabhutha pradaan dravya and developed from pitruja bhava1 and the bhrajaka pitta located in the twak is responsible for producing the colour to the skin and the hair2 . Palitya (greying of hair) is the condition which happens as a result of pittaadhikhyata caused by anger, grief and exertion along with pitta located in the head3 . The Ayurvedic texts explains certain dye like formulations with regard to this. Having both nourishing and colouring properties, these formulations ensures that hair doesn’t undergo damage during and after dyeing. Formulations containing Bhringaraja (Eclipta alba), Neeli (Indigoferra tinctoria), Triphala haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Vibhithaki (Terminalia bellerica), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis)) and others have been used since ancient times for dyeing hair and promoting hair growth.
Hair is a form of expression and linked to one’s selfconfidence. Consequently any changes in this will be connected to emotional disturbances and one such condition is greying of hair; also referred to as canities. This concern and obsession which results in debilitating impact on day to day activities has resulted in the establishment of a multibillion dollar industry to cater to the needs of those having grey hair.
Hair greying is a common process occurring in people as they age. Fifty percent of the population has about 50% grey hair at the age of 50 years, known as the 50-50-50 rule. Hair greying is an obvious sign of human aging.4
Hair contains melanin, a pigment whose production is determined by the genetic makeup of a person. Melanin gives colour to our hair, eyes and skin. The process of hair greying has been attributed to the loss of pigment forming melanocytes, which are the product of a complex biological pathway, i.e., melanogenesis.5
Although greying has been investigated extensively, the mechanism remains unclear. Till date, the exact etiopathogenesis of greying remains incompletely understood. Perhaps the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on greying of hair is most studied. During active growth phase, i.e., anagen phase there is active melanogenesis in the hair follicle. This involves hydroxylation of tyrosine and oxidation of dihydroxyphenylalanine to melanin causing enormous accumulative oxidative stress. The failure of antioxidant effect could damage melanocytes leading to decreased pigmentation. Oxidative stress can also be a result of ultraviolet (UV) rays, pollution, emotional factors, or inflammatory causes. Experiments have shown melanocyte apoptosis and oxidative damage in greying hair follicles. Furthermore, exogenous oxidative stress showed increased greying in the hair follicles.6
In Ayurveda, this condition of greying of hairs can be correlated to “Palitya”. The cause for this has been explained that the heat of the body travelling to the head due to grief, fatigue, anger etc., gets mixed with the doshas, cooks (ripens) the hairs and causes palitya (grey colour of the hairs). The types of palitya based on dosha involvement are as follows: by predominance of vata, the hair is cracked, black in colour, rough, dry and has watery hue; by pitta, there is burning sensation and yellow colour; by kapha, it is unctuous (smooth), growing thick and white and with predominance of all the doshas, there will be mixed features. Another kind which arises from headaches (either during or after it) is discoloured and does not tolerate touch, this also is incurable.7
Among various products in use to tackle the problem of greying of hair, the hair dye is widely used by the general public as a quick fix that provides instant gratification. This aspect of the hair dye along with its accessibility and ease has made it the most endearing product among both young and old alike. However, this comes with adverse effects which vary in severity based on the individual’s body capacities.
Types of hair dyes available commercially can be grouped according to their colour durability as: Temporary (Dye removed in single wash), semi-permanent (Dye removed in- 3-6 washes), demi permanent (Dye removed in- 20 washes) and permanent (Dye with greater resistance to washes).8
Hair dye is reported as one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis in India.9 P-phenylenediamine (PPD) has been identified as the most frequent contact sensitizer of hair dye and the clinical characteristics of hair dye contact allergy are diverse. The clinical findings of hair dye allergy vary and includes typical allergic contact dermatitis, lichen simplex chronicus, non-specific eczema and dermographism on the hair dye-exposed area or/and extended area. In severe cases, acute systemic adverse effects such as angioedema, upper airway obstruction, rhabdomyolysis, and acute renal failure have also been reported.10
Apart from PPD which is used widely, the contemporary dyes used nowadays have a composition of other chemical constituents like- ammonia, peroxide, resorcinol, diaminobenzene, para- phenylenediamine, toulene-2, 5-diamine etc. These ingredients can cause allergic skin rashes in many people. It can also cause dermatitis, reddening and swelling of scalp and face. They are also at risk of producing even cancers on prolonged usage.11
It has been found in the local market survey that most of the marketed herbal formulations in India that claim to be natural, safe and effective may actually contain the harmful synthetic agent para-phenylenediamine (PPD) at 20-25% concentrations as the main ingredient of commercial synthetic dyes.12
As the global drift is now changing to focus more on Ayurveda and its ancient wisdom, it is important to find the possible dye like formulations mentioned by the seers of past in the classic Ayurvedic texts.
An example of this was explained by Charaka in the Trimarmiya chikitsa regarding a possible hair dye formulation - Lauha powder cooked with saindhava, suktamla, and rice. After washing head well to free it from oil, this paste should be applied over the scalp and left overnight. In the morning, the head should be washed with the decoction of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Vibhitaki (Terminalia bellerica), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis). With this therapy, the hair becomes black and soft.
Lauha powder triturated with sour articles and haritaki (Terminalia chebula), vibhitaki (Terminalia bellerica), amalaki (Emblica officinalis) is an excellent hair dye.13 A closer look at the ingredients used in the formulation and analysis of the key ingredients helps in the better understanding of why this formulation can be used as a hair dye
Loha bhasma is a micro fine powder of iron oxide containing Fe, Fe2 O3 , Fe3 O4 . The interaction of iron oxide with fine Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) powder (ascorbic acid) produces fused black particles (chelates) capable of dyeing hair. Dried fruits of Amalaki promotes hair growth and prevention of hair greying, the classic signs of pitta dosha. Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) fruit is tridoshashamaka, especially pittashamaka and is effective against manifestations of pitta on hair. Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) alleviates pitta dosha due to its sheeta and madhura properties and thereby promotes pigmentation of hair.14
Berries obtained from Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) enhances the absorption of calcium, helping to make healthier bones, teeth, nails, and hair. It maintains the hair colour, prevents premature greying and strengthens the hair follicles. Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) is the richest and concentrated form of Vitamin C along with tannins found among the plants. Whole fruit is used as an active ingredient of the hair care preparations. The Vitamin C found in the fruit binds with tannins that protect it from being lost by heat or light. This fruit is also rich in tannins, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, Fe and amino acid. The fruit extract is useful for hair growth and reduces hair loss. Amalaki has antibacterial and antioxidant properties that can help promote the growth of healthy and lustrous hair.15
Emblicanins & Ellagic acid in Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) herb are a type of polyphenol which are traditionally used as dyes. The fruit of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) & Vibhitaki (Terminalia bellerica) herbs contains tannic acid & gallic acid. Tannic acid is a specific form of tannin, a type of polyphenol useful as a yellow dye for hair. It is also a common mordant (dye fixative) used in the dyeing process. Gallic acid forms a complex with iron ions in hair to achieve a good chromaticity and fastness of the dyed hair.16 All these suggest the effectiveness of the formulation.
Another formulation explained in 69th Bhavaprakasha Madhyamakhanda and 69th chapter of Kshudrarogadhikara is composed of Triphala haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Vibhithaki (Terminalia bellerica), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis)), Neeli (Indigoferra tinctoria) patra, Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba) and ayoraja that is made into a paste by adding sheep’s urine. This formulation should be applied on the head and it helps the hair become excessively black.17
The other components explained in this formulation are Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba) which dyes because of the presence of yellow crystalline flavones like Apigenin and Luteolin. Luteolin is also present in Neeli herb. Indigo dye is an organic compound with a distinctive blue colour extracted from the leaves of Neeli (Indigoferra tinctoria) herb. The leaves when soaked in water and fermented converts the glycoside indican to the blue dye indigotin.18
In Ayurveda, the drugs considered to be keshya (that which is good for hair) includes Neeli (Indigoferra tinctoria) patra, Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), Kasseesa (ferrous compound)19 and Triphala haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Vibhithaki (Terminalia bellerica), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis)). Neeli20 (Indigoferra tinctoria) patra and Bhringaraj21 (Eclipta alba) are especially highlighted for their kesha ranjana (that which imparts colour to the hair) property in the classics.
The above enlisted formulations and its components suggests the possible efficacy of Ayurvedic formulations in a hair dye form. Further studies are needed to prove the efficacy of these classical formulations, to establish their effectiveness and also their role in the promotion of hair growth. This would provide a healthy alternative to the chemical laden hair dyes available in the market that are hazardous to health and impacts environment.
Conflict of interest
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- Seong Kyeong Jo, Ji Yeon Lee, Young Lee, Chang Deok Kim, Jeung-Hoon Lee, Young Ho Lee. Three streams for the mechanism of hair graying. Ann Dermatol 2018;30(4):397–401.
- Saad M, Babar NF, Majeed R, Rehman AU, Khan OA, Chatha DE et al. Impact of premature greying of hair on socio-cultural adjustment and self-esteem among medical undergraduates in foundation university, Islamabad. Cureus 2019;11(7):e5083.
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- Da França SA, Dario MF, Esteves VB, Baby AR, Velasco MVR. Types of hair dye and their mechanisms of action. Cosmetics 2015;2:110-126.
- Sarma P, Kumar H, Medhi B. Cosmeto vigilance in India: Need of the day. Indian J Pharmacol. 2017;49(5):341-343.
- Han JH, Lee HJ, Bang CH, Lee JH, Park YM, Lee JY. P-Phenylenediamine hair dye allergy and its clinical characteristics. Ann Dermatol 2018;30(3):316- 321. Available from: URL; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5929949/doi: 10.5021/ ad.2018.30.3.316.
- Phadatare SP, Nesari TN, Pokharkar D, Pingle RP, Gagde MS. Comparative study of dyeing efficiency and retention capacity of herbal hair dyes. Int J Res Ayurveda Pharm 2013;4(2):198-202.
- Agnivesha, Charaka Samhita, Ayurveda Dipika commentary of Chakrapani revised by Charaka and Dridabala, Ed. Dr Ram Karan Sharma and Vaidya Bhagwan Dash, Chaukambha Sanskrit Samsthana, Varanasi, Volume-4 Edition: (Reprint 2018) chikitsa sthana 26/280-282. Pg-544. ISBN 978-81- 218-0068-4.
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