Sub-continental Hair Oils

Hair oils in this country have usually been confined to the "ethnic" beauty aisles at beauty supply and drugstores, if at all available. I laugh when I see more upscale brands discuss the merits of hair oil and scalp massages, as well as beauty reviews that rave about the wonderful uses of olive oil as a hair product.

Being Indian, hair oil is again one of those things that has always been kept in my house. We often used it for a relieving scalp massage when someone was sick. I occasionally used it when I felt my hair was super dry and unmanageable. Over time, as I got older, I stopped altogether. I hear, however, that it is still the secret of many a Bollywood star with cascading waves of thick, black hair.

When I was living in India, I had more regular hair oil massages and missed how good it makes your scalp feel (my hair is quite heavy and when it gets matted at the roots, it makes my scalp feel achey and tired). But since I don't wash my hair often during the week, I hesitated to apply it more often because I always thought it needed to be left on for at least a day before washing out to reap all its benefits. Who wants to be walking around with oil in their hair? Not I.

However, a friend told me that she only applies some to her scalp and roots (not throughout the hair) at night before going to bed and washes it out in the morning. I was encouraged to use it more and am glad that lately, my hair is in pretty good shape (I generally do have nice hair although I'm terrible at styling it) and my scalp feels healthy, too.

All you need to do is massage a couple of tablespoons (depending on hair texture and thickness) into your scalp and hair (starting at the scalp and working your way through the rest of the hair), and leave in overnight, or even 1-2 days, before washing out. This is supposed to stimulate hair growth and moisturize hair as well. I try to do this once a week or once every two weeks. This needs a good washing, so use some extra shampoo!

You can find various types of hair oil in most Indian/South Asian grocery stores. My favorite is Cantharadine Hair Oil because it is light and odor-less. However, it's very difficult to find in the U.S. Heavier oils are coconut and amla (Dabur is a trusted Indian brand) - both are more cooling to the scalp than Cantharadine. You can also find jasmine and almond oils - obviously very expensive, and I think less effective.

These can usually be found at local or online Indian grocers like IndianBlend.com. Happy hair.


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