Fact Check: Can alum colour your white hair to black?

Quick Take

A few health blogs in media websites claim that alum (fitkari) can colour white hair into black. We fact-checked and found that the claim is mostly false.

The Claim

“Create a mix of alum powder and rose water. Apply this paste on your white hair for few days. Your hair will turn black,” claims one such blog post. Similar claims can be seen here, and here.

Fact Check

Why does our hair turn grey?

Greying of hair is a natural phenomenon with age. The Harvard Health Blog says, “Your hair follicles produce less color as they age, so when hair goes through its natural cycle of dying and being regenerated, it’s more likely to grow in as gray beginning after age 35. Genetics can play a role in when this starts.”

There are multiple other medical conditions that can contribute to the early onset of greying of hair, popularly known as premature greying. The reasons include vitamin deficiency, thyroid disease, vitiligo, and alopecia.

Many people believe even stress contributes to greying of hair. However, there is very little scientific conclusive evidence for the same. A study was done on mice in 2020, showed that under stress their hair turned grey. But whether the same phenomenon works on a human body is still not yet known.

Can the whitening of hair be reversed?

Despite multiple marketing claims by product makers, greying of hair can never be reversed. Cosmetic coloring aside, once a hair follicle produces hair, the color is set and cannot be changed. The Harvard Blog says, “If a single strand of hair starts out brown (or red or black or blond), it is never going to change its color (unless you color your hair).”

What is Alum or fitkari?

An alum block is a mineral block generally made of potassium alum. However, Alum block or crystals made from ammonium, aluminium sulphate, selenate etc. are also available.

Alum finds its usage in various households as a home remedy for minor cuts and skin problems. In industrial environment, it is majorly used as a coagulant in water treatment plants.

Can Alum act as a natural colour for hair?

No. There is no scientific evidence that suggests Alum can act as a colouring agent for hair.

Alum is known for their antiseptic and astringent properties and is used to treat minor cuts or infections on skin. A study done on Alum and its recommended usage as per Ayurveda lists down various benefits of Alum. However, there is no literature on using Alum as a colouring agent for hair.

Alum has been used mordant in fabric colouring industry. Mordant is an ion or salt that is added to fabric to ensure that the colours hold properly. A mordant is not a colour in itself.

Dr. Ambrish Srivastava

Dr. Ambrish Srivastava, MBBS, MD says, “Due to the chemical composition of Alum can act as a tanning agent. But I am not aware of any scientific evidence that suggests the use of alum regularly on hair to turn its colour. As far as I understand, it’s a highly unconventional use with no documented study of effects or side effects.”

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