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Does Hair Oiling Work?

Exploring the viral hair oil trend


By Natalie Hickey 


Photo By Anna Wojeck

TikTok beauty trends seem to continuously ebb and flow, with cream blushes trending one day and heatless hair curlers trending another. One trend I’ve noticed more prominently recently is hair oils — whether for the scalp or the ends. 


Like with so many trends lately, I believe the true start to this craze began during the pandemic — specifically with the Gisou Hair Oil. We all remember her… the golden yellow jar and the countless influencers swearing by its effects. The Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil sold us on the idea of silky hair in a bottle, focusing on “hair shine, hair hydration, and smoothing frizz.” Yet, even with all this buzz, the Honey Hair Oil discussion eventually seemed to fade away.


But recently, the hair oil fad seems to be back — and this time, it’s promising more than just shinier hair; it’s claiming hair growth, too. Today, the conversation around hair oils has switched gears, tackling the root of hair issues, quite literally, by targeting the hair roots. Some of the trending oils follow a more holistic approach, such as rosemary and castor oil, and others are more targeted and designed by hair care brands, such as Ouai’s Scalp Serum. 


These oils are meant to be applied directly to the scalp, massaged in, and left on for a while. Many celebrities and influencers proudly participate in this ritual, often seen sporting a slicked-back bun during the process.


However, like all other TikTok trends, one must ask: Does this work, and is it actually beneficial? 


Hair oiling has been used in India for centuries and is recommended in Ayurvedic medicine. It is said to have four main benefits: strengthening the hair, protecting the hair from heat damage, stimulating hair growth, and hydrating and preventing frizz. These benefits are not mutually exclusive and can vary depending on the oil you use (such as coconut oil, argan oil, etc.). 


With all of this said, understanding these oils and how to use them correctly is the most crucial part and can explain why hair oils you’ve previously purchased may have damaged your hair. 


While reading an article by Vogue India detailing the proper application of oils, it dawned on me that my previous method was completely incorrect. Vogue’s guidelines suggest avoiding leaving oil in overnight, avoiding hair oiling on an oily scalp, and avoiding hair oiling if you struggle with hair fall (each of which I take part in). They also recommend avoiding using oil on dandruff and caution against using too much oil in general. 


While I don’t technically sleep in my hair oil, I typically leave it on throughout the day, far surpassing their three to four-hour advice. Dr Sandhya Lakshmi, an Ayurvedic doctor, explains in the Vogue article that the reason for this time limit is due to the oil’s ability to block hair follicles, which can lead to hair fall and dandruff (tying back into their two other suggestions). 


Hair oiling has many benefits and has been passed down through generations for centuries. It is a practice that most certainly works, but one that must be used correctly in order to be beneficial. 



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