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Hair oil: The great Indian beauty secret

If there’s one thing that I have seen being passed down generations in India, it’s the application of hair oil. In India, beautiful hair is considered to be a woman’s crown jewels. We hate getting our hair cut short because we love to luxuriate in its length, softness and density. The ideal hair aesthetic for Indians is coal black, shiny, long and so thick that it’s impossible to wrap your fingers around a ponytail. Even in her 60s, my mother has hair like this, and she credits the application of oil for the quality of her hair.

Traditionally we have oiled our hair every time before we washed it. And even today we oil it at least once a week. A gentle oil massage stimulates blood circulation and enhances the quality of the scalp. If face oils are the new beauty must haves, why shouldn’t you oil your hair too? If you’re blond, red or light haired, you should not use traditional ayurvedic oils such as brahmi amla and bhringraj because they contain Indian gooseberry that make your hair darker. However, you can use pure apricot, almond, coconut, or even extra virgin olive oil on your hair.

This is how we oil our hair in India:

  • Slightly heat some oil in a bowl. Heating it will increase the penetration in your scalp.
  • Then use a piece of cotton wool or your fingers to apply the oil on your scalp. Concentrate the application on your crown area and then massage outwards.
  • If you have dermatitis or dandruff, don’t be too vigorous with the massage. Just apply the oil gently.
  • Rub the oil over the lengths to the ends, especially if your hair is damaged. Leave it on for at least half an hour, or (for best results) overnight.
  • If you want, you can rub half a lemon on your scalp and lengths 15 minutes before you wash. This will boost shine and also help the oil come off easily. However, if you have just coloured your hair, then avoid this step.
  • Washing oiled hair is a matter of practice. Sometimes you may overwash your hair and sometimes you’ll find that a little oil is left behind. But don’t let that discourage you. In a few washes you will understand how many times you need to shampoo so that the oil comes off but leaves behind a softness. I shampoo my hair twice.

Oiling hair is a traditional hair secret. It will provide instantaneous results, but the real boost comes when you do this long term. Unlike a lot of beauty tips in this world, oiling hair is not a fad. By doing so regularly and over the long term, you’ll enjoy better scalp health, go grey more slowly, and boost length and density it is also a perfect treatment when it gets colder and your hair needs some extra boost and nourishment to prep for cold winter days.

If you have cannot find Ayurvedic oils in a pharmacy, use pure virgin, organic coconut oil. We suggest the following oils which you can get in Europe easily:

Lernberger & Stafsing Oil Booster, John Frieda Frizz Ease Nährendes Elixier Haar-Öl, Weleda Intensiv pflegendes Haaröl

I have been writing for on beauty, health and wellness for over 15 years. I have previously been beauty director for Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health in India. These days I run a beauty column in The Hindu and post on wellness on Vogue.in. And I’m a certified reiki healer and yoga teacher. I love yoga, meditation, great skincare and red lipstick. I stay in New Delhi and have a lovely Labrador girl called Happy.  Find more of her stories on  www.vbeauty.co 

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