In Indian households, hair oils hold an exalted status. From helping our grandmothers make her fabulous onion oil to having her soft hands massage it into our hair, hair oils are a mainstay of our beauty routines. But we can't always have our grandmother's elixirs, and thankfully, the beauty market has alternatives. There is something for everyone's needs. Read on to find exactly what your hair needs.
These multitasking oils are designed to safely treat both the scalp and hair. While application strategies vary from blend to blend, most double-duty formulas can be applied conservatively as a smoothing, frizz-fighting, leave-in treatment—or slathered on as a hydrating mask (then rinsed out later).
Some to try: Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil (₹2,950), Kiehl's Magic Elixir Hair Restructuring Concentrate With Rosemary Leaf And Avocado Oil (₹2750) may also be used on dry hair as a shine-boosting styler. And Juicy Chemistry's Marula, Argan, and Lavender Hair Oil (₹800) can be applied as a pre-shampoo scalp soother and strand smoother: Massage into the scalp, finger-comb through the hair, then rinse out.
Strand-centric formulas are used primarily to protect the hair and dial-up shine. Most versions are also surprisingly lightweight, helping to make locks lustrous but not lank. For best results, these blends are usually applied to clean, damp hair as you would a leave-in conditioner—comb through or mist on and style as usual. Try Kerastase Elixir Ultime - L'Huile Rose Radiance Beautifying Oil (₹2,900), The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil (₹650).
Moisturising the skin and removing buildup are these formulas’ goals, since a healthy scalp sprouts fuller hair. “Dullness, brittleness, or a lack of volume can start at the root,” says Helen Reavey, celebrity hairstylist, trichologist, and founder of Act+Acre hair care, who cites follicle-clogging buildup as a common cause of weakened strands. Most scalp oils are meant to be used as a prewash treatment, massaged into the scalp to loosen debris, then shampooed out. Try Moroccanoil Light Treatment Oil (₹ 3,330) or richer blends, such as Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment (₹3,100).
Using oil blends to treat hair and the scalp has origins in the 5,000-year-old system of Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Shalini Seneviratne, founder of holistic beauty brand Wildpatch, was raised in the tradition and has been oiling her hair for as long as she can remember. The practice, she says, is “the first beauty ritual many South Asians learn.” The rest of the world has been catching on to its myriad benefits, as the global hair oil market is projected to reach $3.9 billion by 2024.
This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar US.