Celeste asks…What is Amla powder and what does it do for hair?
The Right Brain replies:
Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, is a fruit from the myrobalan-tree which is native to India and Burma. Like its cousin the North American gooseberry, amla fruit is edible with tart citrusy flavor. Amla is allegedly high in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and tannins which give it high antioxidant strength. Amla also contains flavonoids, kaempferol, ellagic acid and gallic acid.
Preliminary medical research has shown Amla potentially provides a surprising variety of benefits including antiviral and antimicrobial properties; prevention of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, activity against some cancers; reduced severity of acute pancreatitis, age-related renal disease, and diabetes; and reduction of blood cholesterol levels. Not bad, eh?
Is Amla good for hair?
It’s popularly believed that amla fruit is good for hair when applied as a conditioner. A quick search reveals claims about nourishing hair and scalp, adding texture and volume to hair, and preventing premature grey hair. Does amla really deliver against any of these claims?
“Nourishing” claims are fairly ambiguous and are therefore easy to support. Any material that provides a conditioning effect can be said to be nourishing, so it’s likely that amla does have some benefit in this regard. Texturizing may be one area where amla really delivers, provided it’s left in your hair. There are a number of anecdotal stories of these benefits – read more about the experiences of those who’ve tried amla oil for hair.
The grey hair claims may come from the fact that amla is used in inks and fabric dyes to help “fix” the dye in place. Unfortunately, hair dyes work by a different chemistry than fabric dyes and we can find no reference to in the cosmetic science literature to indicate that amla has any effect on hair color what so ever.
Interesting bonus fact: In Punjabi, amla is called olay, as in “Oil of Olay” beauty products from Proctor and Gamble. Is this coincidence, or sinister design?
What about Amla Oil?
While Celeste didn’t specifically ask about it, amla fruit is also available in oil form. We would be very cautious about purchasing this version because in several of the products we reviewed the so called “amla oil” was really just amla extract diluted down in mineral and canola oil. You’re better off with the concentrated powder.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
While some of the claims are outlandish, you may perceive some basic conditioning and texturizing benefits from applying amla powder to your hair. We’d expect this to be true of leave in applications and wouldn’t expect to see any difference when it’s rinsed out.
Do you use amla powder or amla oil? What's your experience been?