China has customs of hair care and grooming that are distinct from Western practices, though many modern Chinese people now follow a similar routine to U.S. residents. Traditional Chinese hair care focuses on the balance of energies in the body, the use of natural materials such as ginger and herbs and careful combing. These methods can provide a useful alternative to people who find conventional Western hair care techniques drying and damaging to their hair.
According to the Encyclopedia of Hair, the hair is traditionally considered an important part of the appearance in China. Neglect of the hair might signify extreme grief or illness. Cutting the hair could be regarded as disfiguring and disrespectful, since Confucianism regards the entire body as a gift from one's parents. It is traditional to shave an infant's hair in the first few months, however. This is thought to encourage thicker, sturdier growth afterward. Ancient styles tended to encourage long hair, but China is made up of many ethnic groups, and hair care techniques can vary significantly within the country.
Careful hair grooming is considered important in China. Traditionally, the hair is combed regularly, with up to 500 strokes. Rhino horn combs have been thought to remove excess heat and toxins from the top of the head and may be used to treat hair loss, dullness or headaches. These are generally no longer in use, but sheep and ox horn are still used. Extensive combing is still practised by traditional Chinese women who wear their hair very long.
Ginger juice or fresh sliced ginger may be applied directly to the scalp to stimulate healthy hair growth. The tingling sensation is thought to encourage blood flow to the scalp and prevent ageing-related hair loss. Vinegar, stinging nettle juice and red chilli peppers soaked in wine have also been used, as their "spicy" elements encourage dilation of blood vessels in a way similar to that of ginger.
Walnuts, black sesame seeds and black beans are all eaten for shiny, dark hair and to reverse greying. Dr. Maoshing Ni also recommends flaxseed oil, sesame oil, virgin coconut oil and avocado for people with greying or thinning hair. Other foods rich in essential fatty acids may also be of benefit. Traditional Chinese medicine states that liver problems are the source of hair loss, and that herbal treatments like baked liquorice root, red peony and cinnamon bark may help restore the body's internal balance.
Women in Huangluo, China, as well as throughout Southeast Asia, traditionally avoid shampoo. Instead, they wash their hair once every two to three days using water which has previously been used to rinse rice. Rice water is also used on the face and is thought to prevent premature ageing. Its helpful properties may be due to antioxidants naturally present in rice or simply to its cool temperature, encourages smooth hair follicles and smaller pores.
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- Cultural China: Medicine and Healthcare
- "Second Spring: Dr. Mao's Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at any Age"; Maoshing Ni; 2009
- "Encyclopedia of Hair"; Victoria Sherrow; 2006
- Are You Gonna Eat That? Huanglo: Don't throw out the rice water
- Institute For Traditional Medicine: Treatment of Alopecia With Chinese Herbs