How to oil your hair (natural conditioner)

Note: this post is modified from something I wrote some years back BUT thought it was still just as relevant today.  

Anyone Indian will probably look at this post, and think – TELL ME SOMETHING NEW! But non the less, this is something I only really discovered after I came to India. So, let me just say, it doesn’t take much time here in India for a woman (or this woman at least) to start wondering how all the woman here have such beautiful, long, silky, shiny hair. HOW?! Considering that I need to pour at least half a conditioner in my hair to give it the same look as them, I thought ‘there must be another trick to it’. The trick is so simple – oil, oil and oil! It is not that I haven’t heard of hair oil, but at home in Denmark it was at least 5 times the price of a conditioner, and mostly going under exotic names with a page long ingredients list, that made it seem impossible to replicate it on my own.

Man, was I wrong – making your hair oil is as easy as buying an oil. Many oils can actually be used on their own, or in a two to three oil combination. In the South of India Coconut oil is used for almost anything, including as a hair oil. A friend of mine once told me that when women in the South of India are out of oil, they just squeeze some oil from their hair on the pan! Oiling your hair is cost effective but can also help prevent hair fall, treat dandruff and fungal infections, stimulate hair growth, treat split ends and overall keep your hair strong and healthy.

How to choose oils

There are a number of oils I use in my hair oil, alone or in combinations. For me I follow a few criteria when I choose my oils – the oils should be:

  1. Indian sourced – I follow this mainly for Environmental reasons, but there’s a lot of social benefits attached to this as well. Sourcing oils that are native to your country, and even better to you’re local community both lessens the carbon footprint (because of less transport) and supports the local economy, which you can amplify by supporting small scale businesses. For this reason I do not use Olive oils, even though it is supposed to make for a wonderful hair oil. I don’t think though I’m missing out much since there’s a number of equally wonderful oils I can choose from.
  2. Cold pressed – This has several benefits; cold pressed oils are only minimally heated (mainly from the friction when pressed), which best retains the nutrients of the oil. Other processes of extracting oils involves extensive heating of the oils, resulting in loss of nutrients. What is known as ‘Refined’ oils additionally treats the oils with a number of processes that damages the oil, and thereby making it less healthy.
  3. Organic – The boom in use of Pesticides has been immense in this Century. Many don’t think about the fact that buying natural products, doesn’t mean there’s no toxins in them. Pesticides are carried in the produce it’s applied to, and oil is no exception.
  4. Cost effective – The prices of oils are often set according to the cost of the process of extraction, not how nutritious it is. Many super cheap oils are super healthy and nutritious.
  5. Targeting the problem area – Everyone is different, and that applies to our hair too. Using super moisturising oils on already oily hair might make the problem worse. So it’s important to choose an oil that will serve the purpose you’re looking for. This mainly comes from trial and error in my experience.

Keeping these in mind, I use a mixture of the following oils. I’ve made two categories 1) thick oils that has to be ‘diluted’ with other oils 2) Light oils to be used alone or mixed with a thick oil.

Thick oils

Castor oil

Castor oil is one of the most conditioning oils available as well as having antibacterial and anti fungal properties. I’ve come across quite a few articles that swears by Castor oils ability to promote hair growth, because it accelerates blood circulation to the scalp. I won’t swear by its abilities to speed up hair growth, but it does make my hair feel healthy, strong and look beautiful. Besides that, it is one of the cheapest oils of such qualities. Because of it’s thickness though it has to be ‘diluted’ with another oil.

Butters 

Butters is another option, and something I’m only recently started exploring. Butters like Mango butter or Kokum butter are extremely nutritious, and known to make for fantastic personal care products. The only hassle is that butters need to be melted, but that makes for a great opportunity to take your oiling to the next level – hot oil! Anyone that has tried a hot oil head massage knows that its one of the most relaxing and soothing activities possible. Even better if you convince a friend or loved one to apply it for you.

Light oils

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a very popular oil in Southern India, and is also a popular oil for hair. As an oil Coconut is super nutritious, conditioning and strongly antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti fungal. This makes it a great oil to treat dandruff or irritations on the scalp, as well as for general moisturising. It has a very light feel and sweet scent, which makes it comfortable to apply on the hair and keep over night. Thicker oils like Castor can feel a little sticky to keep in too long, even when mixed with another oil. Coconut can be used with a thick oil or on its own.

Neem oil

Some dont like this oil because it has a very strong smell. Though Neem has strong medicinal properties, as well as being a very moisturizing oil. Its also quite a cheap oil, which is a bonus. It has strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties and is an analgesic (painkiller) that can bring relief to discomfort from eczema and other skin ailments. Additionally it treats dandruff, is a natural remedy and prevention for lice  and promotes hair growth. Be aware it might stain since it has a yellow colour. Can be used alone or added in smaller quantities to a mix of three oils, to avoid the strong smell.

Sweet almond oil

Personally I like sweet almond because it is a super light oil. It makes it a great oil to add on days when you don’t feel like having to wash your hair several times to get the oil out, or just as a leave in on dry ends. Its on the expensive side so when using it I usually mix it with castor or simple use very small amounts. An interesting thing I’ve read is that it’s a sealant and hair protector, meaning it penetrates the hair and seals in the moisture, while also protecting it against damage. Which means it can be used before straightening, blowdrying and other treatments where the hair needs some extra protection.

Mix, Use, Wash .. Repeat!

Now once you’ve narrowed down your oil mixture, you simple gather it in a bowl. I would use 1/4 of a thick oil, and 3/4 light oil. You can add your favorite essential oils, to add extra properties to the mix. I use Lavender, sweet orange and peppermint regularly. Now this is how to go about applying it:

In the evening..

  1. Get out your oil of choice, a comb and a towel (if you want to protect your clothes)
  2. Part your hair and apply a little oil to the parting, massaging it in thoroughly to ensure it reaches your scalp.
  3. Keep parting your hair, applying the oil to the scalp, massaging it.
  4. Once you’ve covered the whole scalp massage it gently until yoiu feel like its evenly divided over the whole surface.
  5. Now start applying the oil to the rest of your hair, ending up combing your hair back in a braid.

The morning after.. 

  1. Wash your hair thoroughly. You will experience that the oil will  keep your shampoo from lathering like it would normally, and I always wash my hair twice or thrice to ensure all the oils is out.

Now, enjoy your Loré-oily moment!

//Louise.

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