Hair oiling, a concept originating from India, has made quite a grand entrance in the modern hair care space, especially since the latest season of Bridgerton shows Kate Sharma — played by actor Simone Ashley — applying hair oil on her sister’s scalp at bedtime. If your’e not familiar, the history of hair oiling comes from Ayurveda, a natural system of medicine that originated in India more than 3000 years ago according to John Hopkins Medicine, and there’s a lot of recent research to support its ideas.
The head is the abode of all sense organs and the nervous system, which why head massage is a central part of Ayurvedic daily routine. Hair oiling’s place within the Ayurvedic tradition has spanned centuries. The practice is known to harness the restorative powers of natural oils and give your scalp and strands the much needed moisture and nourishment, explains Michelle Ranavat, founder of Ranavat, an Ayurvedic skin care and hair care brand. “It is a ritual which not only helps to nourish and strengthen the hair but also cultivates family and bonding time,” she says.
The practice has been passed down through generations of South Asian families for hundreds of years. “Pretty much every Saturday morning, my mother, my grandmother, great-grandmother Aai, my sister, and I would concoct our own hair care and skincare creations and they would teach us the benefits behind each ingredient and hair oiling in general,” says Nikita Ramsinghani Charuza, founder of Squigs Beauty, who launched her own hair oil earlier this year, Squigs’ Gooseberry Delight Hair Oil. “There was something just so magical about sitting down together, blasting some music, and talking about our day while doing our weekly self-care routines — it felt like a fun sleepover!” she says. It became a relaxing activity that Charuza would even share with her friends who weren’t familiar with the concept of hair oiling. “We’d come home from school, put on an episode of OG Gossip Girl or The O.C. with our homemade hair oil and DIY face masks and just hang out.”
Curious to learn more? Keep reading to discover how hair oiling might just be the perfect addition to your hair and scalp care routine.
Hair Oiling Benefits
There are numerous physical and mental benefits of hair oiling, such as increasing blood circulation (which can help with hair strength and growth) and decreasing stress. According to the ancient Ayurvedic text Charak Samitha, the act of hair oiling coupled with a head massage is said to ease headaches and relax the mind, says Nikita Mehta, creative director of Fable & Mane, a modern hair wellness brand of potent plant-based products inspired by ancient Indian beauty rituals.
“Many oils, such as coconut oil, have a cooling effect on the scalp and hydrate the hair follicle from the root,” she says. “This helps not only strengthen hair but keep it healthy and promote hair growth. Oil penetrates to the root, compared to silicones found in [many] haircare products — such as hair spray, serums and conditioners — which coat it.” By massaging the oil into the scalp and hair, you can accelerate the rate of absorption and boost the ingredient benefits (as opposed to just applying the oil alone).
However, there are also many misconceptions around hair oils , like they can make your hair greasy, even after washing it out. That’s only true if you have an oily scalp as people who don’t have a dry scalp also suffer with hairloss issues, and again, a little goes a long way, says Nikita Mehta. “The amount you use depends on your hair type, where on your hair strands you’re using the oil and whether you’re using the oil to massage your scalp, seal the strand, or lubricate the ends,” she says. People who have a dry scalp can also use a few drops for the end strands as a leave in treatment. For someone with shoulder-length hair, apply a few pumps or one to two palmfuls onto the scalp and use one-two pumps on the strands depending on density and hair texture, before rinsing it out.
Another misconception regarding the hair oiling tradition is that oils are too heavy for hair, especially for people with an oily scalp. Some believe hair oil should only be used on dry scalp hair. However, the heaviness of hair oil depends on the ingredients. Some oils can sit on the hair while others absorb into the strands and follicles to hydrate and condition hair, explains Akash Mehta. Olive oil or avocado oil absorb into the strands whereas Jojoba oil or grapeseed oils sit as a film and are good for leave in treatments or for people looking for a lighter option and worried about getting their hair greasy. “Also make sure you don’t overuse oil on your hair,” he says, meaning use too much or too often.
Regarding dryness, your hair may still be lacking moisture even if you don’t have a dry scalp and your scalp may be lacking hydration even if you don’t have dry strands, he points out. The key is to assess the ingredients in your hair products and stay away from sulphates or silicones and use hair oil once every week or every couple of weeks, and to continue to re- and re-evaluate the condition of your hair and scalp. For someone who doesn’t think they have dry hair or a dry scalp, a light leave in oil helps to maintain healthy hair and keep the lustre. Keeping the oil on is also part of the tradition and one can also put on a lighter oil after rinsing out. Hair oiling can benefit someone who doesn’t have a dry scalp as well since oil increases the elasticity of hair, which means that it's less prone to breakage and is a good maintenance practice to keep hair healthy.
Hair Oiling How To
Hair oiling is best practiced once a week, with a head massage and leaving the oil on your scalp overnight — even better if you have a loved one or friend massage it in for you, as it can be a time of bonding and sharing stories.
Akash Mehta, CEO of Fable & Mane and brother to Nikita Mehta, suggests beginning by warming oil in your hand and placing it on your crown chakra, an energetic point on the top of your head in the middle of your scalp that when touched helps release stress. “Massage into the scalp and use the remainder of oil to finger brush through the ends. Tie strands in a bun or loose braid and leave it overnight if you can, or at least five minutes),” he says. Then, once the roots are nourished, you are ready to wash. Whether leaving it in for five minutes or overnight, hair oiling will ideally encourage washing the hair with more care and intention.
Hair Oiling & Modern Beauty Rituals
Now that the Ayurvedic tradition has now become popular outside of the Indian community, more brands are recognizing the benefits and creating hair oils to cater to the growing interest in the practice. [Priyanka Chopra Jonas launched the haircare brand Anomaly and recently launched the hair and scalp oil which has almond oil.] That interest is only predicted to grow what with hair loss at an all-time high and (surprise) we are all collectively more stressed and anxious.
Prevention and maintenance are the key to strong and healthy hair, Ranavat says, adding that, “Weekly hair oiling is the perfect ritual. With continued use, beauty consumers will see increased strength and shine in their strands.” Ranavat says they have had a lot of positive feedback in the community with varying hair concerns (resulting from chemotherapy or postpartum hair loss) who have seen their hair grow stronger and healthier as a result of weekly hair oiling. She think hair oiling is incredibly relevant for today’s beauty consumer. “My goal with Ranavat has been to combine the rich culture with purposeful skin and hair treatments.”
Ultimately, there isn’t any hard and fast rule with the hair oiling regimen but the goal is to maintain a regular routine that works for you and to keep it consistent.
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