Why the Ancient Indian Tradition of Hair-Oiling Is the Perfect Form of Self-Care for Right Now – Vogue

Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:48 am


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In ancient Indian sanskrit, the word "sneha" means "to oil," as well as "to love"and that's no coincidence.

As the 5,000-year-old Indian science of Ayurveda has fast gained traction within the modern wellness movement, so has one of its most sacred above-neck rituals: Hair-oiling. The treatment, typically practiced before taking a shower or before bed at night, consists of harnessing the regenerative powers of natural oils by working them into the scalp and hair for moisture and nourishment. "It reduces dryness and gives your hair strength, shininess, thickness and softness," says AnantaRipa Ajmera, a certified Ayurvedic health practitioner and director of Ayurveda at New York City health club The Well. In traditional Ayurvedic texts, sesame oil is recommended in the cold seasons and coconut oil is utilized in the hotter seasons for their respective warming and cooling effects. For enhanced benefits, Ayurvedic herbssuch as thickening hibiscus, growth-stimulating amalaki, antimicrobial bhringraj, or protective brahmican be infused into the oil, says Ajmera. Along with saturating strands, a head massage (gently kneading the scalp, temples, and neck with the fingertips), is an integraland ultimately catharticpart of the experience. "It helps to exfoliate, moisturize, and improve circulation in the scalp so that you're addressing hair health at the root," explains Divya Viswanathan, co-founder of Ayurvedic beauty brand Taza."It is also believed to activate the seventh chakra, the crown chakra, which is connected to the pineal glad and works to calm the mind."

Going beyond beauty, hair-oiling is also a tradition of bonding that's been passed down from generation to generation. "Every summer, our grandma used to come from India with these Ayurvedic ingredients and make these natural hair potions while telling us ancient fablesit was haircare and story time," explains Akash Mehta, who has teamed up with his sister Nikita on Fable & Mane, a new hair-care lined inspired by the Indian hair rituals and Panchatantrasancient animal fablesthey grew up with. "A few years ago, my hair started falling out, so I started going into the kitchen and mixing the oils my grandmother used and they worked wonders," explains Nikita of the driving catalyst behind the brand, which will have select proceeds going toward tiger conservation in India. "Life was so fast-paced, I really wanted to get back to these ancient at-home traditions and that became our whole brand mission." With their lightweight HoliRoots oil, a prewash treatment laced with anti-inflammatory ashwagandha, healing dashmool, and circulation-boosting castor oil, the pair set out to create a replenishing "roots for roots" treatment that calls for its user to pause for a few minutes and, in turn, make the daily ritual of showering a more a "relaxing and meditative" experience. Better yet, they encourage a partner or family member to become a part of the process, administering the treatment to bring that intimacy and sense of human touch.

"I vividly remember my mum massaging oil into my scalp and temples thoroughly, and then onto hers once I was done," recalls Indian model and illustrator Namita Sunil of her childhood in her native Kerala, India. "It's a tradition that's often passed on from every mother in a family." Her mother's go-to homemade mixture was made from hibiscus flowers, which were crushed into a paste and mixed with oil. "No matter how frizzy or curly the average Keralite women's hair was, it would be shiny and slicked down at the scalp," she explains."For girls my generation, this was our sole childhood hair care routine, and there are still plenty of older women with the same shine in their hair." For Viswanathan, it remains a "truly ceremonious" act. "Growing up, my grandma would massage my mom's hair, while my mom massaged mine," she explains. "Now, I continue this ritual both individually, as well as perform it with my daughter."

Amid the many changes that have come with the coronavirus pandemic, hair-oiling can be a soothing act that helps keep you present. "It really is the perfect self-love and self-care practice to nurture yourself through all the uncertainty we are facing right now," says Ajmera. "It also takes time to get used to adding new practices to your routine, so starting to incorporate this practice when you can during quarantine will help you make a new habit out of it that you can return to even when we re-emerge into the world." And if you want to take it a step further, Viswanathan recommends hair-oiling in tandem with a full-body abhyanga, or self-massage, which helps reduce inflammation, promote lymphatic drainage, and hydrate the skin to leave you feeling more grounded and centered all over. Taking time out of the day for such deeply personal practices may feel like a foreign undertaking, but take encouragement from the fact this isn't exactly unchartered territory. As Akash points out, "Hair-oiling is new to many, but its benefits have been proven from centuries of ancient tradition."

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Why the Ancient Indian Tradition of Hair-Oiling Is the Perfect Form of Self-Care for Right Now - Vogue

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April 20th, 2020 at 10:48 am

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