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Beauty Secrets from India: Oiling Your Hair

oiling your hair

In the Indian tradition, a woman’s hair is considered to be her crowning glory. Women have historically been been identified with long, thick luscious locks that cascade down to their waist. Hair is associated with strength and beauty. This is why in fact it is intentionally not cut in Sikhism.

So what is their beauty secret to gorgeous hair? The age old tradition of oiling.

Unlike in the West where we condition our hair post shampooing it, in India, oiling your hair and scalp always precedes washing it. Many people naturally associate the application of oil with ‘being greasy.’ Nothing could be more untrue. Hair treatments using oil provide deep conditioning and help cleanse micro dust particles that cause dandruff, irritation, infections and even certain types of alopecia or hair loss. Also, applying oil to the scalp promotes relaxation, a process which in itself is extremely important for think, healthy hair.

Which Oil is Best For Your Hair?

Most Indians use coconut oil as it has a cooling effect on the head. Releasing heat is essential for maintaining the beauty of the hair as it weakens the roots. There are many commercial varieties of coconut oil available in the market but it is a good idea to identify a pure organic product as chemicals and preservatives invariably alter the cooling quality of coconut oil. If you are looking to address a specific hair issue then you might want to consider an Ayurvedic hair oil. Amla oil is used to maintain natural hair color and prevent premature graying; Bhringhraj oil is considered to be one of the best products for hair loss. If you would like to make your own coconut hair oil infused with herbs and flowers then you might want to check an Ayurvedic self care book for recipes.

How to Condition Your Hair with Oil

The process is not too difficult. Massage a small amount of coconut oil into your scalp. Comb the oil out to the ends of the hair. You can apply a turban made from a hot towel to help the oil penetrate into your scalp and individual hair shafts. Leave the oil in for at least an hour or up to overnight. Wash your hair out, making sure that your scalp ‘squeaks’ clean to ensure that all the oil has been removed. Then sit back and admire your beautifully conditioned, shiny locks that are vibrant with moisture and health!

More Natural Hair Care:

Image Credit: Beautiful Hair photo via Shutterstock

Written by Reenita Malhotra

Reenita Malhotra Hora is an Ayurveda clinician, entrepreneur, writer and mom. Her experience has ranged from running Ayoma, an Ayurveda business to running a natural health practice at San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center.

Reenita is a published author of two books books about health and wellness: ‘Ayurveda - the Natural Medicine of India’ and
‘Inner Beauty’. She is also the Editor for Green Options Media's business blogs and a freelance writer for a variety of print and web publications.

In quieter moments, she likes to spend her time hiking, swimming the warm seas, cooking with the family or writing fantasy fiction adventure stories for kids from from 2 to 92.

Check out her wisdom at


  1. hi I know most indians have natural oily hair but is it still ok to use the oil for an hour and then wash will it make my hair twice as oily in the long run??

  2. thank you so much for this post as i have been slathering my hair in oils for years and the benefits are luscious, strong, rich in color locks that are almost free from greys (with the exception of a sight few). i usually dont wash the oils out especially if im home working for a few days. Instead i keep adding oils and then after a few days i will condition the product out because most conditioners have a slight cleansing agent in them, just the right amount to get out oils. I barely ever wash my hair with shampoo! Coconut oil is wonderful as is sesame infused with herbs lke rosemary, bay, eucalyptus and the like! Thanks again for the post and btw i am loving your blog. will definitely stay in the loop:)

  3. My hair is thick and has four different textures. My tightest curls and crimps break easily. However I loose many straight and wavy strands from the root each day. This has given me a halo of shorter new growth that makes me look like a dandelion. I also have short Einstein wings at my temples. I’m all for embracing your ethnic heritage, but I sometimes look like a German clown! I’m dark blonde and I have greasy hair with a dry, flaky, itchy scalp.

    I’m certain oiling my hair will help with it’s strength but what about my renegade scalp? Would oiling it make my hair even greasier? Do I need to be concerned about my hair darkening?

    • Being a curly-girl myself, I understand your point of view… and being German, I’ve felt like a clown many times before!

      And after trying various treatments, I can tell you that there is no “one fix trick” that will “fix” your ‘do— although oil -is- wonderful for curlies! I know women who swear by it.

      Still, knowlege is your strongest tool to select the best haircare for your hair type. What works for one curly might not work for another. Before trying anything, identify your curl type (Type 1, Type 3b, etc), and then see what other women with your curl type do— and what works.

      Also, write down your morning routine to identify what causes breakage. Make notes about your general environment— do you use more or fewer hair products on a certain day? For me, breakage resulted from seasonal dying, over-shampooing, rubbing a towel on my hair, blow-drying, and combing with a thin-tooth comb. I also cut it too often, and my stylist did not have a full understanding of curly hair (she thought that if she cut it in “layers,” that the volume would go down. This just ended up giving me an 80s top-poof.) With curly hair, less really is more. Over-fussing and over-styling actually makes it worse, not better.

      It also helps to have a realistic idea of what you want your curls to look like. I kept trying to get that 20s bob-wave cut, then those romantic Jessica Simpson curls— only to realize that both were straight hair styled to look curly.

      Before you decide to oil your hair, get the 411 on your hair— otherwise, the oiling might not give you the results you are looking for.

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