This article was written by Larell Scardelli and provided by our partners at Rodale’s Organic Life.
Hair oiling, or Indian Head Massage, is a ritual that dates back more than 4,000 years. In the traditional practice, grandmothers and mothers massage oil into children’s hair daily or weekly, says Mituri Sharma, who was brought up with the ritual.
“It’s important for women of all hair types to keep it adequately moisturized to prevent things like damage, breakage, and split ends,” explains Phoenyx Austin, M.D., nutritionist, and author of If You Love It, It Will Grow. I knew my abundant yet thin curls could use a hydration boost, so I was eager to put this ancient practice to the test, and see if it transformed my hair.
Skeptical of adding oil to your beauty routine? Wary of a greasy look? Finding the oil that works best with your hair takes some experimentation. I tried seven popular oils recommended by Austin to find the perfect match for every type of hair.
There are two basic ways to add oil to your hair routine: a weekly deep conditioning or an everyday application, typically done between showers.
Here’s what to do for a deep conditioning application of oil: First, part your hair down the center and fill your palm with about a tablespoon of oil. Rub your hands together to create heat, then run them through one side of your hair until there are no dry spots left. Repeat on the other side. After you apply the oil and rub your scalp, twist your hair into a bun and pop on a shower cap to create more heat. Remove the cap after 15 to 20 minutes and shower and shampoo as you normally would.
Everyday application, the second method for hair oiling, takes place between showers. Drip a dime-sized amount of oil onto your palm and run your hands through your hair. Begin with the ends—not only are they the most damaged, but starting there also prevents an oily look on the top of your head and around your face.
Coconut oil is predominately used in the south of India, which is considered the region with the best hair, says Sharma. Smell alone could make this antioxidant-rich, antibacterial oil a winner.
I melted a tablespoon of this calming, aromatic oil in my hands, and applied, beginning with the tips of my hair. After I showered and let my hair naturally dry, I noticed it was soft and easy to comb through. A little frizzy for my liking, but with continued applications, my hair would likely calm down.
Who Should Use Coconut Oil?
Applied correctly, coconut oil provides a subtle shine and softness for days, and one small jar will last you ages. Start small (I recommend a dime-sized amount) to avoid over applying. Straight or thin-haired women, this is your go-to option!
Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, which moisturize and protect the hair from split ends.
My hair is responding well to Bella Vado USDA Organic Avocado Oil
I used a little under a teaspoon in the morning after showering the night before. My curls ended up with a nice, soft shape, and didn’t get frizzy at all, even after driving with the windows down. I’d describe the finish as a shiny glaze—not oily at all. This lush avocado oil is deep green with a roasted-like smell (pretty excited about using it in a salad). The scent is strong for the first hour, then dissipates.
I used two palms-full of this beautiful green oil to cover my head. I lost track of time while eating dinner and kept it in for a while. Even after shampooing, it still felt like I had oil in my hair. To my pleasant surprise, once my hair dried it was soft and fluffy—not oily!
Who Should Use Avocado Oil?
Austin recommends this light oil for straight hair. I liked this oil for everyday use the best. It took to my curls nicely with no oily finish. While avocado oil is a good choice for straight or fine hair, it can frame frizzy curls, too.
Grapeseed oil is light in color and weight. It contains a high amount of linoleic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid, which is said to combat dryness and protect against moisture loss. Nature Certified added the powerful antioxidant vitamin E to their 100% Natural, Raw, Pure, Hexane Free and USDA Certified Organic Grapeseed Oil
I used a dime-sized amount of grapeseed oil. It absorbed into my hair quickly, but didn’t give my curls a cohesive shape. Because it’s heavy, grapeseed is a good choice for between showers.
A deep conditioning with a generous amount of grapeseed oil left my hair is soft and fluffy.
Who Should Use Grapeseed Oil?
Austin recommends grapeseed oil for light, thin hair. Or, use it between showers for extra moisture in textured hair.
Hemp oil has a splendid amount of vitamin E, which prevents split ends, and zinc to help strengthen hair, according to the Ministry of Hemp.
Foods Alive USDA Organic Cold Pressed Hemp Oil is beautiful periot green, though it’s a bit heavy for an everyday application. My hair started out looking oily, and I applied just a small, dime-sized amount.
My hair was revitalized after this deep conditioning. My curls were effortlessly tussled and soft (hello, easy, beachy look).
Who Should Use Hemp Oil?
Hemp is a great choice for deep conditioning if you have curly or textured hair.
Olive oil has lots of emollients or moisturizing properties. “Many women love using heavy oils, like olive oil, as deep conditioning treatments,” says Austin.
Ah, olive oil. I’ve used olive oil in my hair since I was little, and I love the instant shine it brings out. I poured a small amount of Bragg Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
into my palm and worked it through my hair, touching the top layer last. Olive oil reduces my frizz, and adds a finished look to my natural curls.
Yes. Just yes. The experience of deep conditioning with olive oil feels right—the smell, the consistency, the color (is my Italian showing?). I used quite a bit to cover my whole head, but it worked for my hair. After showering, I let my hair dry naturally. It felt lush and shiny—not at all frizzy like with some of the others. My curls were happy, and I felt like I could walk out the door without styling.
Who Should Use Olive Oil?
Both the everyday application and deep conditioning left my hair shiny and in formation. Olive oil is a great option for textured hair.
This thick oil has been used in Ayurvedic practices for many years, says Sharma. The fruit comes from the Amalaki tree, which is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
I rubbed a dime-sized amount of Henna Sooq Organic Amla Oil
between my hands as it got tacky, and then ran it through my hair starting with the ends and working up. It looked oily for the first hours I had it in, but with more time, absorbed fully. Amla oil may be too heavy for thin hair, but hair with curls and frizz can handle it. My hair became soft, tangle-free, and shiny.
I lathered up my head with the viscous oil. After washing, it was soft, light, and wispy. I’d compare this deep conditioner to a big drink of water.
Who Should Use Amla Oil?
Deep conditioning is the way to go with this oil, as you may risk looking oily with the everyday application. Someone with thick or curly hair would benefit from a weekly regimen.