Using tea to pour or spray over hair and scalp is a practice that has been used for centuries. It has recently become more popular, with hundreds of DIY-ers sharing their favourite 'recipes' and recommendations for tea use on hair as sure "cure-all" remedies.
But will using tea actually do anything to the scalp and the hair?
In this blog post, we explore the recipes, advice, and best teas (with methods) for use on hair and scalp, and clarify some of the myths.
Herbs have been used for all kinds of reasons in natural remedies: For healing chaffed, cut, scraped and sore skin, soothing teeth pain and inflammation, to soothing the gut and helping with sleep. But like any other natural remedy, it may not be enough just to pour tea over the area you're trying to benefit. Healing takes time...
How long should i leave tea for it to work on my hair and scalp?
On the scalp, herbs can fairly quickly soothe the skin and inflammation – however in order to work, they need to remain on the scalp for a bit of time (at least 30 minutes). Just as if you were to pour tea over a cut: It won't work immediately.
Skin is tough, with many layers that are in addition covered by a protective microbiome of various bacteria. Sometimes tea may not be necessary or even helpful, as this wonderous microbiome will soothe and heal itself if properly protected (more on the scalp microbiome in [THIS] blog post).
On the hair itself, it may be even tougher to reap the benefits of an herbal tea, as the hair has its own protective lipid (oil) layer. This lipid layer not only protects your hair, but makes it darned difficult to break through! A concoction of watered-down tea will simply slide downward and, essentially, fall off the hair, just as if you were pouring water on your oiled-up hands, for example.
That whole hair pH thing again...
We've talked quite a bit about the pH required for the scalp and hair specifically, as they are not one and the same. If you're unfamiliar with what pH is and why it matters, please read this blog post [HERE] as this will be incredibly useful to you in order to best understand how to help your hair and scalp be at their healthiest!
So you may be able to get some benefits from using tea on your scalp as it's an extension of your skin, but not necessarily on your hair, depending on the pH of the tea, and here's why:
PH REFRESHER MINI-INFO ---> The pH of water is about 7. Using water alone on your hair can, in time, make your hair frizzy and dry, as the hair's optimal pH is about 4-4.5 (quite acidic). This higher pH makes the hair follicles stand up on end, making them susceptible to damage, and drying them out.
Some teas also have quite a high pH. For example:
Green tea: pH 7-10 (making it more alkaline and excellent for the gut!)
Herbal teas, like chamomile: pH 6-7 (still too high for the acid mantle on the skin/scalp, and too high for that of hair)
Fruit/berry teas, like blackberry and hibiscus: pH 3 (better for hair, but not necessarily for that of the scalp)
(This is just an illustrative general sample, as naturally each fruit/herb has its own pH)
So if you are able to measure the pH of the teas and could possibly adjust them by combining some more acidic and some more alkaline teas, then you'd be golden! But unfortunately, most people do not, and instead, they think that pouring any type of tea on their scalp will have the same benefits as pouring it on the hair itself... You see why it matters?
Don't be fooled by all that info you read on Dr. Online. Read the blog post as it perfectly explains why...
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE TEA TO DO FOR YOUR HAIR?
As you can see, there is no ONE such answer. It all depends on what you want to gain from using a hair tea specifically:
Do you want to soothe the scalp? Is it itchy and you need a quick fix?
Are you losing your hair or is it thinning and you want a daily spritz of 'something-tea-ish' to help?
Do you want to colour your hair naturally and are turning to tea for the answer?
Herbs are powerful, and each herb has its own chemical compounds with its own specific function. However, the scalp has its own protective layer and the hair itself has its own makeup, so as we've seen it may not be enough just to pour a tea rinse over.
Don't be fooled: If there was a magical tea that could cure all things hair and scalp, somebody would be rich BY NOW.
In [THIS] blog post we shared the wonders of a quick rosemary tea tonic. Why? Because as a tonic used for the scalp in order to soothe it and "shpring it back to life", it's wonderful! Rosemary – along with peppermint – are two of the most researched herbs for hair and scalp benefits. Just keep in mind again, that you're best off using an herbal tea for scalp benefits rather than for use on your hair!
BEST TEAS FOR THE SCALP: GREEN TEA, GINGER, and HIBISCUS
If you're going to venture into a routine of making teas for the scalp, make sure you use some of the herbs that have some scientifically-proven benefits. Of these, the best herbs for the scalp include green tea, ginger tea, and hibiscus.
Green tea has some of the most beneficial compounds for use on the scalp: It's high in polyphenols, which are antioxidants with photoprotective effects, that help with skin elasticity and also tone the skin. These compounds can help improve collagen retention and production as well as improve skin hydration. Green tea is also high in catechins, believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects topically. Actually, also if ingested, which is why nutritionists often suggest that "tea is an antioxidant, while coffee is an oxidant".
Same goes for black tea, while just as with green tea, its high levels of caffeine can be quite beneficial to the scalp, helping to stimulate the hair follicles. Need a scalp pick me up? Grab a cup of green or black tea!
Ginger, on the other hand, is another wonderful tea choice for the scalp. "Gingerols" are the main active compounds found in ginger, and they are also the ones responsible for its pungent scent. These gingerols are substances that are known for their antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Being quite volatile, they are best used fresh and immediately after making the teas, so best not to make-it-and-leave-it in a spritzer bottle or in a refrigerator over time because light and temperature changes can oxidize it quickly.
Hibiscus is another nutrient-dense herb that may benefit the scalp. High in polyphenols just like green tea, hibiscus is also high in anthocyanins, which are compounds thought to not only protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV rays and atmospheric damage (acidic rain and pollutants) by inactivating highly reactive molecules but are high in antioxidants to stimulate the scalp and revitalize the hair follicles into production.
So... no teas for the hair?
Oh goodness no, certainly you can use some herbs for hair benefits! Some herbs are high in mucilage – that nutritiously-slimy stuff that makes them slippery and gooey. Mucilage-rich herbs can protect the hair by adding a slight temporary film overtop of it, helping to give the illusion of shine and helping to contribute "slip" (conditioning and softness) to the hair.
Herbs high in mucilage include:
Irish moss (about 55% mucilage)
Slippery elm (high in polysaccharides/mucilage)
Burdock root (super high in mucilage! About 75%, in addition to minerals and iron, inulin (a prebiotic compound), tannins and so much more
Marshmallow root (about 15-20% mucilage, plus pectin, tannins and a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals)
Horsetail (high in silica and minerals, both of which strengthen the hair and aid in shine).
So as you can see, not all herbs have benefits to the scalp AND the hair. Best to choose wisely and learn about each herb's specific benefits before venturing into hair tea-making.
Do you have a favourite hair tea? Have you seen specific results after using herbal tea? Share with us, we'd love to know!
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