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The rich history behind hair-oiling traditions

Plus, the 10 best hair oils for growth, hydration and shine

hair oiling traditions 10 top hair oils for growth and shine
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Hair oiling may be trending on TikTok but it's nothing new, and that’s exactly where its allure lies – few beauty treatments come with tried-and-tested validation as weighty as this ancient ritual. The concept of soaking strands in richly nourishing oils may be 5000 years old, but it remains a prominent beauty ritual for many South Asian women today.

“In India, massaging the hair is called ‘champi’ and it stems from the origins of Ayurveda,” explains Anita Kaushal, founder of Mauli. “While yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self, Ayurveda is the practical knowledge of how to live a healthy, full life,” she says. According to Kaushal, using oil to massage the scalp and hair not only nourishes dry skin and strands, but works to replenish the body too.

“We are working on the marma points (the body’s energy points, where two types of tissue meet) which in turn heal the body, release tension and rejuvenate,” she explains. “The point being, our body is a brilliant, complex interconnected web and when we work on one area, we work on all parts.”

Kaushal believes that hair oiling also delivers tangible benefits, in the form of longer, stronger hair growth. “There is truth in the idea that certain oils can encourage hair growth, and indeed there have been countless studies comparing the effects of herbs such as bhrami and amla with pharma hair-growth products, with the natural ingredients producing better results,” she says, divulging that certain big-name brands have previously attempted (and failed) to patent certain oils for their growth-boosting properties.

Of course, the quality of your oil is also important. “Another key factor is how the oils are matured and the percentages of oils or herbs used,” says Kaushal, whose own oil elixir is made the traditional Ayurvedic way, with 14 steps taking over three months. “In a world of instant gratification, we have lost sight of the value of simple steps to wellness – you have only to look at an Indian women’s hair to know that these treatments work.”

The different types of hair oils

While certain oils do offer bolstered benefits to different hair types (nut oils are great for thick and dry hair, while the lighter abyssinian is ideal for fine strands), Kaushal suggests the key to success lies more in the technique of hair oiling. “Don’t saturate the scalp, but part the hair in sections and put a few drops through each. Then, a little through the ends. Give hair a really good but gentle massage as that too brings great results, even without oil.”

Today, the traditional ritual of hair oiling has given way to a host of new products, designed to benefit all hair types by imparting hydration, increasing elasticity, and promoting healthy growth. Some are intended to be slathered and massaged into hair in the traditional style, before being shampooed out, whereas others are designed as a leave-in tincture, with a couple of drops delivering all the protection and moisture dry strands demand.

How do hair oils differ to hair serums?

Finally, a note on silicones: a pure, high-quality hair oil should not contain silicones, which is how they are distinct from a hair serum. Where hair oils are designed to penetrate the strands, imparting nourishing benefits to both the hair and scalp, a silicone serum mostly slips over the surface to create smoothness and shine. To distinguish whether you're holding an oil or a serum (product names can be misleading), check the ingredients list for chemical ingredients ending in '-cone'. Both can have a place in your hair routine, but the benefits they deliver are different.

Below, see the eight pure hair oils the Bazaar team are calling on this summer..

The best hair oils to try now

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Grow Strong Hair Oil
Mauli spacenk.com.uk

Staying true to tradition, Mauli’s Grow Strong hair oil is made using argan, amla, bringraj and brahmi to condition both the scalp and hair. Massage a few drops into dry hair (just like you would a shampoo), then leave for two hours – or overnight, if you can – before washing as normal.

HoliRoots Hair Oil
Fable & Mane

Founder Nikita Mehta created this hair oil as an homage to the childhood ritual she holds close to her heart, sitting cross-legged while her grandmother oiled her hair.

Dashmool (a traditional Indian blend of ten herbs) nourishes the scalp, while ashwagandha calms the nerves and castor oil increases blood flow around the scalp, helping to promote healthy growth.

Nutriplenish Multi-Use Hair Oil
Aveda lookfantastic.com

Aveda’s replenishing oil can be either slathered on before shampooing, or applied sparingly to damp or dry hair to smooth and add shine (just as you would a finishing serum). The argan, coconut and avocado oil delivers moisture that satiates even the straggliest of strands, without adding any extra weight.

Intensely Nourishing Hair Oil
Uma Oils feelunique.com

Uma’s no-filler hair oil works perfectly as both an overnight treatment or a style finisher. It contains grapefruit, lemon and hibiscus essential oils alongside moringa and jojoba, so delivers a delicious fragrance as well as supreme nourishment. Just a couple of drops, smoothed into just blow-dried lengths, will deliver bounce and shine (and, of course, that summery, citrus-spiked scent).

Nourishing Oil

Davines' excellent oil blend comes with multiple potential uses. The safflower, jojoba and sesame oil blend can be used on both the hair and body, imparting supreme moisture to skin and strands. Try smoothing a couple of drops into damp hair before blow-drying – it leaves behind a delicious herbal scent, too.

Argan Scalp & Hair Oil
Aman Aman

For something that exudes spa-level luxury, turn to Aman's sublime hair oil (which you'll also find used in the hotel brand's famous spas).

Moroccan argan is combined with anti-inflammatory neem and Amazonian patua oil, which is believed to combat dandruff. With a grounding, woody scent of neroli and cedarwood, this is a treatment you won't want to wash out.

Hair Oil
Cult Beauty

The Black hair market is long overdue a touch of modernisation, and new brand Bread is here to do exactly that. This silicone-free multi-use oil is designed specifically with 3a - 4c curls in mind, and combines castor, argan and sweet almond oils for a heavy-hitting moisture injection. It smells like a sweet shop, and imparts unrivalled shine.

Revive 5 Hair Oil
Bouclème lookfantastic.com

This rich hair oil is designed to bring the spring and shine back to curls. It contains olive, coconut and moringa oils amongst others, and can be used in multiple ways. We love using a small amount before diffusing hair to protect from heat and add gloss.

Really Good Hair Oil
Fushi feelunique.com

This Aurvedic hair oil blend contains anti-microbial neem and brahmi oils to balance scalp irritation while conditioning hair. Indian jasmine imparts a heady, spa-standard scent that’ll have you putting off that shampoo for just one more hour...

Rejuvenating Oil
Philip B net-a-porter.com.uk

This hair treatment oil is especially beneficial on dry, brittle hair and curls that need a serious moisture injection. Leave it to linger before shampooing, or smooth a drop over damp hair before leaving it to air dry. A couple of weeks of loyal use will result in stronger, shinier hair with improved elasticity.

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