In India, under the Ayurvedic system, the application of oil is an integral part of hair treatments. Washing and rinsing, or conditioning, come after oil applications.
Oiling of the hair not only provides nourishment, but is the best way to deal with dryness. It is also an excellent pre-shampoo treatment and helps the natural distribution of oils along the hair shaft. The scalp is rich in oil-producing glands (sebaceous glands). But, stress, pollution, dandruff and other factors can cause the pores to become blocked. This can also interfere with blood circulation. Thus the natural oil, called sebum, becomes dry and hard, while the roots are starved. If this continues, the roots become weak and the hair may fall out. Scalp conditions like dandruff may also occur.
The application of oil with a light massage helps to soften the texture of the hair and also stimulates blood circulation to the follicles. The hair is actually fed by the nutrients in the blood stream. So good blood circulation to the follicles is necessary for the hair. Oil massages also help to keep the scalp healthy, nourish the hair and improve the look of dry and damaged hair.
The hair should not be rubbed vigorously. After applying the oil, use the finger tips to actually move the scalp with small rotary movements. If there is dandruff, warm oil should be applied on the scalp with cotton wool, rubbing gently to remove the flakes, especially in cases of sticky dandruff, where the flakes adhere to the scalp.
Ayurveda recognises specific points, called “marma” on the body and head, where massage has specific benefits. It is believed that the flow of energy is along certain channels and the direction of the massage enhances the flow of energy. According to the Ayurvedic tradition, the Mardhi Marma, or crown of the head is said to be the point where blood vessels and nerves meet. It also helps in the rectifying of dosha imbalances as all the three doshas meet at this point. The Marma points are massaged very gently, rubbing in small clockwise circles, increasing the pressure very gradually and also releasing the pressure very gradually. Thus Ayurveda identifies other sensitive points on the head and these are massaged.
The Champi Massage of India has become very popular in other countries. It gives a feeling of deep relaxation and rejuvenation. It involves gentle and deep strokes, as well as soft thumping on the scalp with the palm. Here too, pressure is applied at the different marma points. Champi is a rhythmic massage, which employs various techniques of applying and releasing pressure, stroking, thumping, etc. Again, combinations of oils are used, which actually help to strengthen the hair, nourish it and make it healthy and lustrous. The Champi massage is also said to help detoxification, apart from improving blood circulation. It reduces stress and anxiety and helps in relieving muscular and skeletal tension. It has been useful in treating depression and insomnia.
If the hair is very oily, oil applications should be avoided. However, if there is dandruff, warmed olive oil is helpful and may be used once or twice a week. For normal to dry hair, the hair may be oiled twice a week, the night before shampoo. Keeping the oil on, helps the hair and scalp absorb the oil and also helps to soften the hair.
If there is hair loss and the roots are already weak, the hair should not be massaged, as it may aggravate the problem. Also, if the hair is very oily, oil applications or oil massage should be avoided.
Different oils do have different qualities. Sesame seed oil is light, free of odour and is easily absorbed by the skin. Ayurveda advocates it as the most balanced oil and therefore it suits all “doshas.” It is rich in nutrients and has healing properties too. It is also rich in Vitamin E, minerals, protein and lecithin. It may be used in scalp problems and in dandruff.
Almond oil is said to be very nourishing for dry hair. It is reported to be soothing, healing, lubricating, softening, revitalizing and nourishing.
Olive oil helps to restore the normal acid-alkaline balance of the scalp. It is useful for oily hair with dandruff
Castor oil is said to have hair darkening properties. While it will not turn white hair black, it will restore darkness to hair that has turned brown due to excessive sun-exposure. It is also useful in cases of hair damage. It is a heavy oil and benefits very dry and rough hair. It contains fatty acids, Vitamin E, minerals and proteins.
Pure coconut oil is most commonly used in India. It is extremely nourishing for the hair and actually helps to improve hair texture and also promote growth. Coconut oil can also be mixed with other ingredients and applied on the hair.