Hair Oiling – A Self Caring Routine
By Soujanya Paddikal & Sheetal Kabra
One of the fondest memories of my childhood, but at the time irritable, is that of my mother insisting on me regularly applying oil to my hair. It was a practice we were supposed to follow without demur. Years later, neither I nor my sister would continue this practice, citing lack of time and the same being old fashioned. It was only when I started to struggle to maintain my hair; I was reminded and advised by my mother about the importance of hair oiling and the need to retrace this practice.
Hair oiling, an age old tradition in India, derives its source from Ayurveda. Ayurveda has placed great importance to oil based massages including hair oiling. However, unfortunately, like with many other traditional practices, as fashion replaced tradition, hair oiling became a sign of old fashion and hair quality became secondary to hair style. As expected, the result is that we all have started struggling to maintain our hair.
Interestingly, hair oiling, a diminishing practice in India, is once again gaining importance globally. Several exotic hair oils have flooded the market and are being touted as the modern beauty treatment to the several hair related problems we are facing now. But, irrespective of whether you choose good old grandma’s remedy or new age exotic ones, oiling your hair regularly, with a good quality oil is important. Want to know why? Read on….
What are the benefits of hair oiling?
- As mentioned in our previous post, hair is made up of proteins. Oil gives our hair the external nourishment it needs.
- Massaging oil into the scalp helps in opening the pores and hence facilitates better oil absorption and improving blood circulation.
- Split ends, hair breakage, extreme dryness are signs of weak roots. Regular oiling can strengthen hair roots, nourish hair shafts, promote new hair growth, soften and condition the hair, prevent dandruff and fungal infections.
- The scalp, in Ayurveda, is composed of multiple energy-relieving points called marmas. Hair oiling, helps in freeing the stagnated energies accumulated in these points, thereby restoring balance. Thus, hair oiling is regarded in Ayurveda as a healing and rejuvenation tool. Hair oiling relaxes us, relieves us from headaches and helps improving the quality of sleep.
Which types of hair oil to use?
The type of oil used, is a very important factor in hair oiling as it greatly influences the benefits that accrue from it. The oil needs to be pure and natural and not mineral oil based. Natural oils get absorded into the skin and nourish the hair roots, while mineral oils clog the pores and form a layer on the scalp.
As per Ayurveda, the type of oil to be used depends on our hair type. Ayurveda states that the health and nature of our hair is influenced by our body constitution (balance between the three doshas – vata, pitta, kapha).
- People with Vata dominant body have thin, dry, prone to split ends and frizzy hair. Sesame or almond oil is recommended for them as it reduces dryness and hair stiffness.
- People with Pitta dominant body, have fine hair, moderately oily scalp, prone to thinning (hair loss) or premature greying. Coconut oil is the go to oil in such cases because of its cooling properties.
- People with Kapha dominant body have thick and oily hair, itchy scalp; sesame oil is used in such cases (coconut oil can also be used if some heat generating herbs like pepper, etc are added to it).
In traditional Ayurvedic texts, sesame oil is recommended in the cold seasons and coconut oil is utilized in the hotter seasons for their respective warming and cooling effects. For enhanced benefits, Ayurvedic herbs—such as thickening hibiscus, growth-stimulating amalaki, antimicrobial bhringraj, or protective brahmi—are infused into the oil.
When and how often to apply hair oil?
- Ayurveda suggests oiling once a week; twice or thrice if you have a dry scalp but not more than that. However, if you suffer from dry scalp or largely stay indoors, few drops or ¼ tsp of oil can be applied on the scalp daily.
- As a general rule, it is better not to expose hair to direct sunlight or dust especially after applying hair oil.
- It is advisable to leaving the oil overnight as it also helps to improve sleep too. However, if one has extremely oily scalp, oiling hair just a couple of hours before shower is considered sufficient.
- If you plan to leave the oil overnight, or apply hair oil for relieving headaches, then application after 6 pm is advised.
- It is recommended to not apply hair oil after exercise. Oil can be applied to hair atleast 30-60 minutes before exercise.
How to apply oil?
Not many of us apply oil in the right manner. It is important that the oil seeps through the scalp to the root.
Here are few steps to ensure proper oiling:
- Choose the right oil for your scalp.
- Take out a small quantity of oil in a bowl. We recommend, you start with 1-2 tsp and if needed, keep increasing 1 tsp at a time.
- If desired, heat the oil, only through double boiler method, till it is warm. Warm oil penetrates better and also increases blood circulation. This is however, recommended for cool or cold weather conditions or if you are applying just a couple of hours before hair wash. It is not advised in warm or hot weather conditions.
- Make partitions in your hair, dip your finger tips in the oil and apply the oil on the scalp. Massage your scalp in a circular motion to rub the oil into your scalp and work your way over your entire head. Massage to ensure that the oil seeps through the scalp. Do not apply excess oil, especially if you already have a greasy scalp.
- Then apply oil to the entire length of your hair including the tips , just to mildly coat the strands.
- Leave overnight or for couple of hours.
- Wash with a natural/ gentle cleanser with warm water.
Hair oiling is not a beauty regime. It is a self nourishing and self caring routine. Perhaps, this is why it has been regarded very important in Ayurveda and Indian traditions. Every individual, men and women alike unquestionably followed it. Taking out 15 to 20 minutes a week to care and love ourselves is not asking for a lot. So folks, if you love yourself, indulge in hair oiling!