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The Art of Scalp/Hair Oiling

The Art of Scalp/Hair Oiling

Depending on your heritage, you might’ve grown up with scalp oiling as part of a weekly hair care ritual – or you might be wondering why anyone would purposely put oil on their head. (After all, don’t we wash our hair to get the oil out?)

For me, this was a a weekly event.

This practice can ease nervousness and stress of all kinds. Over the years, I’ve gathered many insights into the art of scalp oiling, which will help you avoid common mishaps and make it easier to tap into that sacred healing state.

What is Scalp Oiling?

Scalp oiling is a simple concept – applying oil to the scalp. Used as a pre-shampoo treatment, akin to the traditional Indian method of hair oiling, there’s a conditioning effect on hair and scalp. That’s the process I use, with the occasional 24-hour steep as a maximum.

Why Do It?

Natural oils nourish and protect our hair strands and, used before shampooing, boost the shine and vitality of hair. Scalp oiling can also soothe an itching, dry, or flaky scalp.

All those benefits aside, the number one reason I see for scalp oiling is to get into a deeply relaxed, restorative state. If you’ve ever experienced the profoundly relaxing effect of a head massage, imagine it amplified by an herb-infused oil. Your scalp is packed with nerve endings just waiting to be soothed by plant compounds. Little else can ground the nervous system while easing mental tension and stress as quickly and fully as scalp oiling.

“The number one reason I see for scalp oiling is to get into a deeply relaxed, restorative state.”

I’ve seen this practice help many people, especially those who have trouble dropping into a restful sleep. If you’ve never done a head massage with herbal oils, try a lavender-infused oil and leave it on overnight.

This is such a wonderful practice to introduce to your children, or anyone in your life that you would like to share massage with. I remember scalp oiling my son one time when he was about 5 years old and he literally fell asleep while sitting up while I was doing it. His entire body just completely let down and he couldn’t hold himself up anymore!

Scalp Oiling: How To

  1. Measure the oil – 2 tablespoons for very short hair and up to 4 tablespoons for long hair.
  2. Warm the oil by heating it gently in a saucepan or putting a small cup of oil into a larger cup of hot water. If you have a teacup warmer, use that.
  3. Part your hair.
  4. Apply the oil to your scalp, massaging it in with your fingertips.
  5. Continue to part different sections of hair, apply the oil, and massage in.
  6. To finish, massage the oil from the scalp toward the ends of your hair, applying oil directly onto all of your hair.
  7. Cover your hair with a cap and leave on for an hour, overnight, or up to 24 hours. Covering your head keeps oil from getting onto other surfaces and protects the scalp, which can feel sensitive when oil is on it.
  8. Wash your hair as you normally would.

Scalp Oiling FAQs

  • How often should I oil? This varies from person to person. I like doing it about once a month because it’s messy and takes time.
  • What oils should I use? If you’re hoping to stimulate circulation to the scalp, try an oil infused with rosemary or peppermint. For a more soothing experience, try calendula, St. John’s wort, or lavender herbal oils. You can also use plain coconut, sesame, or olive oil.
  • How intense is the experience? This will depend on which oils you use and the length of time you leave them on. The first time you try scalp oiling, don’t do it before you have somewhere to be. Leave yourself plenty of time to disconnect from the clock and calendar, rest, and enter a healing state of mind. I scalp oil on days when the calendar is clear and I can create a little healing retreat for myself.

Scalp oiling is one of my favorite gateways to the restorative parasympathetic state, and I’d love to see more people add this practice to their self-care routines.

Self-care – though often dismissed as frivolous – is a foundational element of health care. It’s each of us claiming responsibility as the primary steward of our health. And an essential part of that stewardship is allowing our bodies and minds to slow down and recalibrate.

In those terms, self-care doesn’t seem so frivolous, does it? All the more reason to give your nervous system a reset with scalp oiling. I hope you’ll try it and see where it takes you.


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