We just had to know, so we got in touch with someone with all the know-how to fill us in. Michelle Ranavat is the founder of Ayurvedic beauty brand RANAVAT, which utilizes adaptogenic ingredients and South Asian methods dating back thousands of years in their innovative products. She also grew up in a household where hair oiling was part of her weekly routine, and we asked her our most burning questions about the traditional hair oiling practice.
Sweety High: What exactly is hair oiling? Where does the tradition come from, and what are the benefits for hair?
Michelle Ranavat: Hair oiling is a ritual of applying a nutrient-rich hair serum to the scalp, massaging it in and combing through to the ends. This is a deep conditioning overnight masque to soften the strands, increase shininess and strengthen the hair. Hair oiling also hydrates the strands, reducing frizziness and breakage. The tradition comes from South Asia, where grandmothers and mothers used to sit and oil their children’s hair each week. It is a tradition that has been passed down through the generations—an Indian beauty secret that we’re now sharing with the world!
SH: Can you tell us about your own family history with hair oiling? What has it been like to see it go from a practice that potentially embarrassed you at school to one that’s being embraced by the masses?
MR: I grew up, like many South Asians in America, having my hair oiled each week by my mother. I also fondly remember trips to India where my grandmother would sit and oil my hair; it was an incredible bonding moment for us. As a kid, we were one of the few South Asian families in our community, so I used to get made fun of for having “oily hair.”
Part of the inspiration for starting RANAVAT was to share these incredible beauty secrets with the world. Fast forward to today, we’re now in-store and online at Sephora, showing that Indian beauty secrets are taking their place in the mainstream. It makes me incredibly proud and hopeful for the next generation to be able to see South Asian culture represented at one of the top retailers in the world.
SH: What are the steps of hair oiling? Do you have any dos or don’ts for getting the best results?
MR: After pumping a few drops into your palms, start by massaging the oil into your scalp. It’s important to take the time here to really massage the scalp; that is where you will see the most benefit. We recommend taking 10 to 15 minutes to massage the scalp. After that, you can comb the oil through to the ends. I usually apply a few pumps to the mid-lengths and ends to ensure the strands are evenly coated.
For best results, leave it on overnight and wash out well in the morning.
SH: What are some recommended styles to wear while oiling your hair?
MR: I love making a slicked-back ponytail or tying my hair into a braid when hair oiling. I usually apply hair oil overnight, but if I’m doing it during the day, I sometimes add a fun headband or make a high bun.
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SH: What types of hair can benefit from hair oiling? Are there any hair types that aren’t a match for the practice?
MR: Hair oiling is great for all types of hair. One of our brand pillars in educating consumers about these cultural rituals is to show how they are available for anyone to embrace into their routine.
SH: How does hair oiling help counter hair loss?
MR: Hair oiling helps counter hair loss by strengthening the hair strands. Healthy hair starts at the scalp, and a weekly scalp massage helps increase circulation and invigorates hair follicles—promoting healthy hair growth.
SH: What are your product recommendations for hair oiling?
MR: Our Fortifying Hair Serum is a great mid-weight hair oil that is great for all hair types. It is formulated with amla, jasmine and sunflower oil— three potent ingredients known for their hair strengthening and hydrating properties.
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SH: Is there anything else we should know about the practice?
MR: The key to success with hair oiling is a consistent, weekly routine. After immediate use, you’ll notice the hair feels softer and more manageable, but the true benefits come from continued weekly use. I created this serum out of my postpartum hair loss journey, and being consistent with my hair oiling has helped me grow my hair back to the full, soft strands I have now.
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