This is my recent experience with shikakai.
No, Shikakai is not the name of an exotic new boyfriend (although I wish it were haha, not only am I in the mood for a boyfriend but if, in addition, he’s exotic too, that would be really icing on the cake haha).
It’s the name of an Indian herb that is used a lot in Ayurvedic medicine as well as for natural hair care.
I’d just henna-ed my hair, and I was so thrilled with the results once again—as I always am every time I henna my hair, which I don’t do often enough—that I got into a completely natural hair care craze, and started looking up all sorts of ways that I could care for my hair in a more natural manner, and avoid carcinogenic, toxic and aging chemicals.
I’m pretty natural in my hair care routine already as it is. I frequently oil my hair, as I describe in this post on hair oiling. But I was still using all these chemical-laden shampoos filled with sodium lauryl sulphate and silicones, that you can buy in any drugstore or supermarket.
I was looking to reduce the amount of chemicals that I was using even more. Then I discovered Indian Ayurvedic herbs.
I already knew about these herbs and was in the habit of using them when I lived in Barcelona. There they have a large Indian/Pakistani community, so there are several Indian grocery stores where they sell Indian products. There I could buy amla, shikakai, brahmi, aritha and any other Indian herbs that I liked whenever I wanted.
But when I arrived here in Malaga, I found it was impossible to obtain these herbs here as there are NO Indian or Pakistani people, hence no demand for Indian products, so they are not sold here. (I’ve been told there’s an Indian food store in Fuengirola, on the Costa del Sol, but that is far from where carless-me lives.)(And if I did have a car I’d be discouraged from using it to go to Fuengirola by the hassle of trying to find a parking space haha.)
But now I am in seventh heaven and have started to use these Ayurvedic herbs again, because I’ve now discovered that I can buy them online.
There are several shops that sell them on the internet now here in Europe. One I discovered fairly recently is called Bazar Al-Andalus. They have a huge array of products and an amazing blog as well, in which they describe in detail about all the different uses of Indian and North African natural cosmetics.
Their service is also THE MOST ASTOUNDING I have EVER encountered EVER in any online store in my whole entire life. I recently ordered a few vegetable-based, lead-free kohls from them, an experience which I hope to describe in a future post.
WITHIN LESS THAN 24 HOURS AFTER MAKING MY ORDER, I was already holding the products in my own hands, having had them delivered personally to my door.
Okay, I suppose maybe it helped a bit that they are located in Granada, which is only an hour’s drive from Malaga.
But even so, no one is obliged to send you your order with such unheard-of expediency.
So due to that, I would highly recommend this online shop to anyone who happens to be living in Spain (they deliver nationally and internationally with very reasonable shipping rates) and would like to live a more natural way of life.
However, I’ve now discovered a site that sells Indian herbs—and also a larger variety of them as well—at a much more reasonable price, called Aromazone. I haven’t tried them out yet, but I may put up a post about them in the future if I do.
(Edited to add that Aromazone has quite a high shipping rate to Spain, 8 euros. So I think Bazar Al-Andalus will still be my natural and ethnic online store of choice for the moment, especially for smaller orders.)
All right, so on to my experience with the herb “shikakai” in particular.
I just washed my hair with shikakai, even though it’s only been 2 days since I’ve hennaed and you are supposed to wait 3 days before washing, in order to give the henna more time to bind to your hair. But I just couldn’t wait any longer hehe. I was so impatient to try out shikakai and see how it made my hair look.
This is what the box I bought in Barcelona looks like. It’s from the brand name Hesh, a very common brand in India. But you can find it from many brands on the internet.
In many sites on the internet they tell you that regular use will strengthen the roots, make hair grow thicker, stronger and shinier, and nourish it with minerals. It looks like carob beans.
It’s very easy to prepare a paste with shikakai. You simply take some of the powder and mix it with warm water in a non-metallic dish, such as a porcelain, glass or plastic bowl. This is what the powder looks like.
Shikakai turns into a very dark brown paste like dark chocolate and it smells a bit weird, but not a bad weird. Similar to henna, a sort of plant-y, earthy, black tea smell.
You let it sit for about 5 minutes, then take it into your shower with you. Wet your hair. Then cover it all over with the shikakai paste, working it in with your hands.
Let it sit for 5 minutes (during which time you can be doing your face, your toes, your fingers…… whatever it is you usually do in your shower haha). Then simply rinse out. Conditioner is not necessary after that.
I don’t think I will be doing this too often, though, because it takes too long for me to do it. I need to use a lot because I have a lot of hair and it’s long.
So what is my verdict and what are my impressions now that my hair is completely dry and styled? (Ie. it has styled itself haha, as I never style it, just let it dry and it falls into its own style by itself.)
The hair LOOKS great. It’s very shiny and bouncy, much better looking than when I’ve used a drying chemical- and sodium-lauryl-sulphate-filled shampoo. It has more volume than just after I’ve washed with a shampoo. It does FEEL nice and soft and silky, which is always a plus since my thick, coarse, wiry, straw-like hair never feels silky.
However, it also feels drier than after I’d hennaed. After I hennaed I just used conditioner. However, the roots look great, with volume and oil-free.
So maybe shikakai is better for oilier hair and not as good for dry hair? Maybe for me conditioner-only washing (co-washing) is better since I have dry hair?
Or perhaps I should only use shikakai on the roots, and use conditioner on the lengths. My friend has been only washing her hair with conditioner for several months and she is delighted. The trick is to use the very cheap, large-format conditioners since these have the least ingredients and therefore less chemicals.
So I am not that impressed with shikakai, mainly because of the smell. It smells horrible!
Well, okay. It doesn’t smell that bad. But it’s not what people would call fragrant either. It has a scent of black tea, and that’s not something you want to walk around smelling like all the time. And this when I’d rinsed it out well, too, and the water was even coming out clear.
At any rate, I don’t think I’ll be using shikakai that much in the end, mainly because of the smell. Maybe I’ll use it once every few washings. I don’t wash my hair very often, usually only twice a week, as it’s long and dry.
Maybe I’d just use the shikakai when I do hair oiling, to remove all the oil instead of using shampoo for that, as it seems it would indeed remove all the oil.
(I’ve since discovered that bentonite clay is much better for that (post coming up on bentonite clay soon!). And it doesn’t leave a funky, horrible smell the way shikakai does.)
Another natural alternative I was thinking of was to use Jabón Lagarto to remove the oil when I oiled my hair, but in the end perhaps shikakai would work for that, as it seems quite astringent.
And while we’re at it, not to sound like a sleazy saleslady but I’ve written a few thrillers so, if you’re into creepy, scary, suspenseful novels, I’d love it if you’d check them out, here: Thrillers by Moi.
So how about you? Have you ever tried Indian herbs or other natural hair cleansers in place of shampoo? What have been your experiences? Feel free to leave me a comment about your experiences. As you know, I LURRVE to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!
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