Hair oiling has been trending on social media recently. Yes, oil for your hair as a finishing touch has long been popular, but hair oiling is a whole different concept. The technique involves leaving oil in your hair overnight to make it healthier and shinier. Although it’s trending now, hair oiling has long been an Ayurvedic practice in India. A few brands have set out to build a more accessible bridge from their family traditions of oiling hair to the modern consumer so more people can benefit from the method.
What are the origins of hair oiling?
“Hair oiling is a part of the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda, which is known as the science of healthy living. Ayurveda has been used within the South Asian community for more than 5,000 years, which makes it the oldest healing system in the world,” says founder of Squigs, Nikita Charuza. Both Charuza and Fable & Mane co founder Nikita Mehta grew up with oiling their hair as part of their self-care routine.
“Like many South Asian households, making our own Ayurvedic hair oils was a weekly tradition,” says Charuza. She notes that her great grandmother, Aai, had her own version of an amla hair oil, which her oil is inspired by. “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,” says Charuza. “It became a relaxing activity that I would even share with my friends who weren’t familiar with the concept of oiling. Now, I even practice the same rituals with my one-year-old daughter Selina, and it’s such a full-circle moment.”
How does one use hair oil for this technique?
“Setting an intention of self-care is the most important when starting your oiling ritual,” says Mehta, which might feel different than spraying your leave-in conditioner and heading out the door. Charuza says there’s an art to hair oiling. “My mother taught me all of the various pressure points on the head you should be massaging not only to stimulate hair growth but also to help relieve stress and tension,” says Charuza.
If you’re new to oiling, Mehta recommends people at least once a week in the evenings. Charuza says she likes oiling as a pre-wash overnight treatment when she knows she’ll be washing her hair the next morning. “I start by pouring oil into my hands and massaging it into my scalp. I comb through, using as much oil as needed to coat all of my hair, including my mid-lengths, and ends,” says Charuza. Mehta finishes by wrapping her hair in a turban. She leaves the oil in overnight to rinse thoroughly in the morning.
By “beginning at the scalp, you effectively soften dead cells and eliminate build up and excess oil, which allows for the remainder of products used in your greater ritual to absorb and work most effectively,” says founder of RANAVAT Michelle Ranavat. She recommends using hair oiling as an intensive overnight mask once a week. It’s also great to have oil products on hand to add instant shine and moisture or tame flyaways throughout the week as needed.
Applying oil in this way can also have a positive effect on mental health. “On days when I personally need a little extra TLC, and my hair requires some much-need nourishment, I like to warm up the oil for a few seconds before applying it,” says Charuza. “I really enjoy spending those few minutes relaxing in my self-care ritual and indulging.”
The benefits of oiling hair
“Hair oiling is known to promote overall hair health and well-being,” says Mehta. She notes that it encourages hair growth, nourishes damaged, dry hair and stimulates blood flow. It also delays the process of premature graying. Charuza says it’s also believed to strengthen and condition hair and rebalance the scalp. “Plus, it’s also a relaxing beauty ritual that is very grounding,” she notes. Ranavat adds that she experienced postpartum hair loss but has seen a huge improvement in hair growth and quality with using oil. “I’ve noticed my hair is stronger, shinier and overall so much more healthy now that I am consistently hair oiling.”
The new wave of hair oil products
As mentioned, hair oil blends are often made at home in Indian culture, but Mehta says this can take hours of preparation. Charuza created Squigs Gooseberry Delight Oil ($34) because while the DIY hair oils were very effective, they tended to be messy, greasy and hard to wash out. “I really wanted to create an everyday version of it that you can even wear out while running errands. We’ve even had so many customers tell us they love to wear it when they go for a workout class!” After years of testing, they fell in love with this formula that promotes strong, shiny hair and a healthy scalp featuring coconut oil, amla extract, apricot oil and orange peel.
Similarly, Mehta wanted to meld the Ayurvedic traditions she loved with modern-day innovations. Mehta couldn’t find anything that worked for her hair, so she created Fable & Mane. She and her brother made the products with the intention of “bringing Ayurvedic traditions to the modern world,” says Mehta. She was also inspired by her hair loss journey. Fable & Mane HoliRoots Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil ($36) is packed with Ayurvedic herbs and ingredients, like castor oil, ashwagandha and dashmool to promote healthy hair. She says it’s a good place to start as a beginner, says Mehta.
RANAVAT’s “formulation philosophy is inspired by ancient practices paired with modern-day technologies and advancements in innovation,” says Ranavat. “I created a lighter, floral version of the traditional oil to seamlessly fit into the modern world,” she adds. Ranavat recommends Fortifying Hair Serum—Mighty Majesty ($70). A challenge she faced was finding the right shampoo and conditioner to pair with the practice. Clarifying shampoos felt too stripping, and others left her hair greasy. This led her to create the Veda4 Bond Complex Shampoo ($48) and Conditioner. She says the three-step practice is her “holy grail that’s kept her hair shiny even at 41.”