Friday, 8 January 2010

Winter hair blues? Give your hair a herbal treat

If your hair and scalp are suffering from the winter winds and chill, here is a 3-step herbal treat for you. Most of it you can make at home with simple ingredients such as olive oil, rosemary and apple cider vinegar.

Step 1 - Make a herbal hot oil
There are many herbs that are classics for the hair, such as nettle, horsetail, calendula, sage and birch leaf. For this recipe we're going to keep it simple and use rosemary, which most people will already have in the house. Rosemary is stimulating for the scalp and can help promote hair growth. A simple hot oil can be made with olive oil - if you have other oils such as almond, jojoba, avocado or coconut oil then you could use a mixture. When the summer months arrive I'm planning to make infused oils the slow way using the sun - but for a winter's day, this hot oil infusion will only take 15 minutes:

Gently warm 1/2 cup of dried rosemary in 1 cup of olive oil in a small saucepan for around 15 minutes (don't boil it!). Allow the oil to cool and strain through a piece of muslin (or a pop sock!) straight into a bottle. And it's ready to use! You could add a little essential oil such as lavender if you want. Dampen the hair or if you have a lot of products such as hairspray in it then give it a quick wash first and towel dry. Massage the oil gently into the hair and scalp - I love this bit, its so relaxing. You can wrap some cling film over the top, and then a towel, and leave it on for at least 20 minutes. And if you don't use it all then bottle up and it should keep for 2-3 months.

Step 2 - Wash out with herbal shampoo
The next step is simply to shampoo the hair twice to wash out all of the oil. We've deeply moisturised the hair in Step 1 and this is a really good intensive treatment once in a while. It's also important to think about the shampoo you use on a regular basis, as many of them (even so-called herbal or natural ones!) contain harsh ingredients that strip the hair of it's natural condition and upset its natural pH balance.

I've been using the herbal shampoos that I make and now sell through Amiya Natural Beauty for nearly three years, and I very rarely need to use a conditioner as well. I've had similar feedback from many of my customers. That's my "plug" for my lovely shampoos which you can buy online, now on to Step 3! :-)

Step 3 - A herb vinegar rinse
When you start making herbal recipes you discover that apple cider vinegar pops up everywhere as an incredibly versatile ingredient! And hair care is no exception. Added to a herbal infusion, or even just mixed with water, it helps to restore the hair's natural pH balance, remove any built up deposits on the hair and also leaves the hair feeling soft (but not smelling like a chip shop or cider keg, I promise!). If you don't have any apple cider vinegar, you can also use white vinegar.

You may want to choose a different herb to make the infusion (which is basically just a cup of herb tea) depending on what you have available. Here are a few ideas:
  • Rosemary is stimulating for the scalp, and can help counteract hair loss and dandruff.
  • Both chamomile and calendula can have a lightening effect on blonde or brown hair, and are also very soothing.
  • Nettles for itchy scalp and dandruff (pick the young shoots in the spring - remember to use twice the amount of fresh to dry herbs)
  • Sage and yarrow are both useful herbs if you have oily hair.
Use a large mug and pour boiling water over about 3 tablespoons of the dried herb. Once its brewed for at least 10 minutes, strain off the liquid and add about half the amount again of apple cider vinegar. This is now ready to use! Pour over the hair and massage gently in and then a quick rinse with warm water (some people prefer not to rinse it at all, and apparently the vinegar smell goes once you dry the hair). If you can stand putting it on your hair once its cold then this is best for the hair, otherwise use it warm!

Finally, enjoy your soft, conditioned hair (and make sure it is fully dry and put a hat on before venturing into the cold....!)

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