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How To Oil Your Hair For Strong, Luscious Locks + A Brief History

Image by Whitney Finuf / Stocksy
November 21, 2022
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You may have come across hair oiling on TikTok, given that hair oiling routine videos have racked up millions of views. What you may not know, however, is that hair oiling has a long history as an Ayurvedic ritual that encourages hair growth and healthy locks.

Apart from the historical significance, the practice of hair oiling can have some pretty noteworthy benefits in your daily routine. Here's the how-to and why it works, so you can try it out, too.

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A brief history. 

Lisa Mattam, founder and CEO of the Ayurvedic beauty brand Sahajan, has been oiling her hair since she was a child. The practice is rooted in South Asian culture, Mattam says, but not just because of the aesthetic hair benefits.

"There is an element of it that is so familial," she explains. "Most people have stories of their moms and dads sitting around and oiling their hair on a weekly basis." For Mattam, it was her father who took on the role of oiling her hair to encourage strong and beautiful locks.

"Hair is considered a reflection of health," she notes. Further, there's a belief system in Ayurveda that says, "The act of anointing oneself with oil from head to toe is the ultimate form of self-expression or love," she says.

Even where you start massaging your scalp holds significance. "When you start at the crown of the head, that's the crown chakra, which is the area of knowledge and energy," she explains. The crown chakra is also the area that holds heat, which can lead to stress, Mattam explains. (That may explain why it's so common to hold tension in your scalp.)

How to oil your hair. 

As an adult, Lisa continues to share this practice with her own children and friends alike. Here, she gives a step-by-step tutorial:

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1.

Apply your oil. 

"Apply the oil through the scalp and then into the hair," she says. Growing up, Mattam often used coconut oil for its cooling effects. You can either use a natural oil (like coconut, argan, or jojoba) on its own or a pre-formulated hair oil, like the Sahajan Nurture Oil.

If you're looking to stimulate hair growth, try to find a product that contains rosemary oil, as it's been shown to be just as effective as 2% minoxidil1 (the active ingredient in many commercial hair-growth products) for reversing hair loss caused by androgens (aka, male- and female-pattern hair loss). 

Part your hair, starting from one side to the other, and apply the hair oil along each part. Be sure to saturate the back of your head, as well as the roots underneath.

2.

Comb from roots to ends.

Next, you'll want to work the oil through your scalp and your hair. "Comb or brush the hair as much as you can until your hair is oily," Mattam says. This will help distribute the product and ensure both your strands and scalp reap the benefits.

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3.

Massage. 

The third and final step: Massage the oil into the scalp. "Start at the crown of the head in circular motions and move out," Mattam explains. Be sure to use your fingertips rather than your nails. You can keep the oil in your hair for up to a day or rinse it out after a few hours.

In addition to serving as a moment of self-care and relaxation, scalp massage can also encourage hair growth due to its ability to increase circulation on the scalp. In fact, in a 2016 study, a small number of men received a daily four-minute scalp massage. At the conclusion of the study, the investigators found an increase in hair thickness2. A more recent 2019 study found that of the 300 or so participants who followed a specific massage regimen, nearly 70% reported improved hair thickness at the end3

Not to mention, keeping your scalp hydrated is essential to maintaining a healthy microbiome. Your locks will also benefit from the boost of moisture, especially if you can keep the oil in your hair for a few hours to a day after performing this practice.

The takeaway. 

While hair oiling may be buzzy right now, it is by no means a new practice. The Ayurvedic ritual of applying oil to the scalp and massaging it in can serve as a moment of mindfulness and encourage hair growth. And on the subject of scalp heath, check out this guide for even more ways to tend to your follicles.

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Hannah Frye
Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.