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What Is Shikakai?

Shikakai is a natural shampoo alternative from India.
Shikakai is advertised as a cure for dandruff.
Hair may be washed with shikakai.
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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 08 July 2014
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Shikakai is a traditional Indian hair care product popular as a natural alternative to other detergents and shampoos. The word shikakai translated literally into English as "fruit for hair," and is considered by some a better approach to hair care than the chemicals in many shampoos for both environmental and personal health reasons. This product is also often advertised as a cure for dandruff or for promoting hair growth. Made from powdered Acacia concinna, this natural shampoo is applied as a paste to the hair, massaged into the scalp, and then rinsed out with warm water.

Washing hair with shikakai alone works because the bark of Acacia concinna contains saponins, which are traditional cleaning agents. It also has detangling properties, so no additional products are required. Being naturally mild, it is also particularly useful for people with sensitive skin. Some people do advise oiling the hair with a product such as coconut oil overnight so that one's hair will not get dry. However, this natural shampoo does little to disrupt the hair's natural oils, so this is typically not considered necessary.

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Shampoos containing shikakai that are ready to use are also available. The ingredients of these products should be inspected prior to purchase because they do not always contain only Acacia concinna. Often, a shikakai shampoo mixes other ingredients such as henna or natural oils in the same bottle. A premixed product is more convenient and less messy, but it provides the consumer with a decreased ability to tailor his or her hair care.

Traditionally, a hair oil such as castor oil or coconut oil is first applied to the scalp, massaged in, and allowed to soak in for one or two hours. Shikakai paste is then worked into the hair to get rid of the oil. A warm-water rinse follows. This traditional routine can be very messy as well as time consuming, which is why many people even in India no longer use this traditional shampoo.

Those who like this product claim that it makes hair grow stronger, shinier, and longer. On the other hand, some believe it makes hair dry, and some have had bad experiences with undisclosed ingredients in prepared powders dying their skin or hair. Whether shikakai works on a person's hair has a lot to do with the individual properties of that person's hair. Shikakai seems to work on many hair types and is a good option for those in the market for a natural product.

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Discuss this Article

anon308849
Post 4

I mix my shikakai with mayo, honey, and my favorite conditioners (usually something by pantene and aussie 3 minute miracle)! My hair detangles with ease, and when dry is shiny and strong!

ysmina
Post 3

I do think that shikakai is good for hair. I've been using it as a hair mask, sometimes steeping it in oil and sometimes mixing it with egg yolks and honey and applying it to my hair once a week.

My hair is softer and shinier since I've started doing this. I've also heard claims that it is good for hair loss. I don't have hair loss so I couldn't say if it works for that or not. But I think there is no harm in trying since it's an all natural product. I can vouch for its moisturizing effects though.

burcinc
Post 2

@burcidi- I don't think it is shikakai that made your hair oily because shikakai is a natural hair cleanser. The coconut oil in that shampoo must have made your hair oily.

Back home in India, many people use dry shikakai to wash their hair. We buy this in powder form and mix it with water to make a paste and then wash hair with it.

Sometimes women will treat their hair with coconut oil first and then wash their hair with shikakai and it removes all of that oil.

If you can get powder shikakai, I think it will be better for you. Alternatively, if you find it in solid form, you can use that as well by boiling it in water and then removing the shikakai and washing your hair with the water.

burcidi
Post 1

I purchased an organic all-natural shampoo with shikakai the other day. I actually didn't know what shikakai was but wanted a natural shampoo without parabens and sulfates.

This shampoos says that it is made from the fruit of the acacia tree and is extra mild. Aside from shikakai, it also has aloe vera and coconut oil.

I've been using it for the past couple of days and it really is a very gentle and mild shampoo. My hair is softer and more hydrated because of the shikakai and other natural ingredients. I think it's best for really dry hair though because it has made my hair very oily. I know it's not the shampoo, my hair is just too oily for this product.

But I really like that it is made from organic shikakai harvested through sustainable farming. I think I'm going to keep it for when my hair is dry and damaged from chemical treatments because it will re-hydrate it and soften it right away.

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