Oils have become the superfoods of the beauty world – and no wonder – they have endless healing and nourishing qualities via a myriad of micro nutrients which make them multi-taskers on many levels. Applying them is almost like feeding your body a dose of the best vitamins from the outside. Hair wise, we had the Moroccan Argan craze with a few drops of the rich golden oil acting as a conditioning serum to banish frizz and bring back shine. Along with the vogue for sipping coconut water came a splurge of ranges containing variations of the tropical oil as a natural foaming agent in shampoo, as well as a moisturising ingredient in all sorts of conditioning products. And these are just two examples of countless plant, vegetable and nut oils being used as beautifying ingredients.
Trouble is, it is hard to get our heads (!) around the idea of slicking our hair with oil. Specially if, like me, you have super fine hair which needs all the volume it can get. My own experiences began in the ‘back to natural’ days of the 70s when as a teenager, my Grandma suggested using warm olive oil to deep condition my hair. I loved the effect, but it was a little messy and took a lot of washing to get it out. So I moved on to the little tubes of VO5 oil which you warmed in a cup of hot water (remember those?).
As I grew out of my teens I began to try sophisticated, hi tech hair products until more recently when I’ve deliberately chosen to simplify my regime again. This has happened gradually, through becoming more conscious of what I’m putting in and on my body in general. I began ‘cleaning up’ the food I eat – more to stay away from unnecessary additives rather than to be on a spartan detox or new fangled diet. I discovered that the purer the food I ate, the better I felt and interestingly, the less complicated I wanted my beauty products to be. The best thing is that it’s so much easier to see when an oil is truly 100% natural or organic – the label may have maybe one or very few ingredients on it or at least names you recognise.
I found making the switch to oils as skin care pretty easy. The skin on my body is on the dry side and so naturally loves the richer texture of balms, unctions and oils. It has been a little harder with hair and scalp, however, but there are ways and means to get that shine and nourishment without the oil slick. I’ve always loved the Indian Ayurvedic holistic approach to health and beauty, and many of their simple, daily preventive treatments revolve around oils, so I take inspiration from that.
A big part of the Ayurvedic routine is daily top to toe self-massage with warm oil – ideally before showering. That means you can include your hair and scalp as you’ll be washing it off. Warm the oil – either by putting the bottle in a bowl of hot water or for speed, warm it in your palms first, then apply the oil to dry skin and hair working your way up from toes to crown, taking time to massage your scalp and run the remains of the oil through the lengths and ends of your hair. Once you’re done, apply a normal amount of shampoo and massage in before you add water – this ‘lifts’ the oil before it gets diluted. Then jump in the shower to rinse off. You’ll find your hair and skin feel soft and supple – almost with a water resistant feel without being sticky.
Once I started to do this regularly, my skin became more resilient and healthy – as if the barrier was more in tact. Same with my scalp – previously it had been prone to itchy, scaliness and sensitivity and that improved. Gradually my hair is feeling shinier and stronger, the bonus is, my nails are too. It may take a bit of practice to fit into your routine, but the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit. And you can always adapt – for example, on days I don’t have time to wash my hair or if I’ve had a blow dry, then I’ll skip a day or two just using oil on my body and protecting with a shower cap as you would anyway.
As for which oil – well, that’s where we can have fun experimenting as we are spoiled for choice. Generally speaking, all oils will soften and smooth hair and scalp. If you want to go the very pure Ayurvedic route, buy 100% organic sesame oil (the non-toasted variety) and is used to not only moisturise, but also to soothe what is known as Vata tendencies (i.e. calming down anxiety, stress and a busy mind). Otherwise there are lots of ready made blends specifically for hair which contain other ingredients such as essential oils to trouble shoot specific problems, or you can simply go for beautiful aromas. Here are just a few recommendations:
This Works Sleep Plus Hair Elixir, £25 we love multi tasking and this spritz cares for your hair and helps you sleep. The famous argan, alongside jojoba, baobab and sunflower to nourish hair and scalp, while essential oils of lavender, vetiver and camomile help soothe you into a deep sleep. Best of all, it has a light texture – great if you’re oil averse.
Aromatherapy Associates Enrich Hair Oil, £31 has a base of coconut and jojoba oils with a beautiful blend of wonderfully scented and therapeutic essential oils including ylang ylang, geranium and rosemary which help to soothe and moisturise hair and scalp. Easy to use – 2-3 pumps on dry hair – ideally leave on overnight and wash out in the morning.