According to our grandmothers, the answers to all hair woes lies in oiling the tresses. Even celebrities like Miranda Kerr and Kourtney Kardashian among others humbly swear by coconut oil as their go-to hair product for smooth and lustrous locks. However, to oil or not to oil is the question. We want shiny and voluminous tresses, but with oiling how sure are you really of results? The trick lies in finding the right hair oil and acing the technique of applying it.
Hair washed and smoked in loban (frankincense) was a ritual for queens, and for our ancestors slathering oil on scalp followed by a wash was a habit. Oiling is even encouraged as the primary hair care regimen in Ayurveda. “In the ancient text of Charak Samhita, it is written that one who applies oil on his head regularly does not suffer from headache, baldness, hair fall, and greyness. Strength of the head, forehead is specially enhanced; hair becomes black, long, and deep-rooted,” states Dr Taruna Yadav, Forest Essentials senior Ayurveda expert. Oiling is also considered a corrective and preventive measure for chemically-treated hair (rebonding, straightening, and colouring). So how do we work India’s long-standing tradition of oiling the hair and scalp in our favour?
Identify your hair concern, find the herb
Since herbs cannot be directly massaged onto the scalp, they are infused in nutrient-rich, cold-pressed vegetable oils. Choose the blend that’s right for your scalp and hair concerns. “If your hair concern is hair fall, then opt for the classic bhringraj preparation that promotes hair growth. For a boost of nourishment, go for oils enriched with amla or Indian gooseberries, the richest source of Vitamin C and other nutrients. Neem-based oils work as magic to treat dandruff and itchy scalp concerns. Nothing works better than hibiscus or javakusum to prevent premature greying of hair,” explains Dr Yadav.
Tea Tree Oil, rich in antibacterial and antifungal properties, is very effective for soothing the scalp, and also famously used by the Australian Army, informs Pawan Om Duggal, hairstylist and owner, POD Hairdressing, Mumbai. “Essential Oils are important for all hair types but for an oily scalp, carrier oils can be avoided. Massaging the scalp is important for nourishment. Make a tonic by mixing 1 cup of water, 1 tsp of cider vinegar with a drop of patchouli and cedarwood essential oils,” advises noted aromatherapist and author Blossom Kocchar.
Select the oil based on scalp condition
Coconut, argan, almond, sesame, or a blend of all these? All oils come with such long list of nourishing benefits that it can be challenging to choose the right one. The catch is to identify your scalp and find the perfect base oil. Almond, olive, and sesame oil infused with essential oils are good options to nourish an extremely dry scalp. Climate should also be considered when picking your hair oil. For summer or tropical weather, choose conditioning oils with cooling properties such as coconut, while for winters or cooler climes opt for warming oils such as almond, mustard, and castor to keep the scalp hydrated. According to Duggal, coconut oil is scalp elixir as it nourishes the roots, promoting dense hair growth and hair vitality.
Apply oil the right way
How much oil is too much? The traditional method (laborious and time-intensive) is to weekly massage the scalp and cover it with hot towel for deeper penetration of oils and herbs. But, this long process shouldn’t stop you from oiling your hair.
“On a regular basis when you oil your scalp, neither your scalp or strands should be dripping with oil. One tsp to two (depending on the texture and density of hair) of oil is enough for one-time application. Most of us apply too much and leave it on for too long, and then struggle to take it off,” comments Dr Yadav. The biggest oiling myth is that it should be applied at the end of the day. “Apply oil in the morning on a clean scalp. Best method is to first cleanse the hair before applying. Rinse off excess oil, pretty much like a salon hair spa procedure,” she adds.“Massage from the front to the back, using light circular motions. However, once a week is enough, daily would be overkill. Excessive oiling can cause blockage of sebaceous glands present on the scalp, leading to hair thinning and infections,” says Dr Satish Bhatia, dermatologist and skin surgeon, Dermetics.
Apply lukewarm oil for effective penetration, but avoid heating herb-infused oil to prevent the lose of its core nutrients. Try a double boiler method (where you use a large pot filled with hot water and fit in a smaller pot that uses the steam from the hot water to heat your the oil) instead Duggal debunks another myth that oil should be left overnight to seep in the roots; 45 min – one hour of application is sufficient for effective results. “Leaving it longer serves no purpose. In fact, it is detrimental for those with oily scalp as body naturally also excretes sebum. In such cases, oil should be washed off within 30-45 minutes as excessive oiliness leads to weakening of the roots and dandruff, leaving the scalp at low pH level and making it a breeding spot for bacteria,” explains Duggal.
If you are unable to follow this routine, then you can make up by booking yourself for a monthly Shirodhara treatment, an Ayurvedic oil treatment in which warm herbal oil is steadily poured on the forehead for an hour. Besides increasing the circulation of blood, it effectively promotes hair growth.
If you are looking to massage your hair with oil regularly, then these are the best oils for all hair types.
Luxe hair oils
Aveda Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil, Rs 2,000
Nashi Argan Oil, Rs 2,500
Neemli Rosemary & Jojoba Hair Oil, Rs 1,150
Purearth Bitter Apricot Body & Hair Oil, Rs 3,780