Back To Basics: Should You Be Applying Hair Oil To A Clean Scalp?

An expert weighs in on how to make the most out of your hair oiling sessions.

Published On Apr 05, 2023 | Updated On Mar 07, 2024


Mangoes, gully cricket, and hair oil massages—if you were to describe a quintessential Indian childhood, these three would definitely top many lists. Champi, now globally known as the hot oil head massage, has been an integral part of Indian beauty rituals for generations. No hair spa can come close to the feeling of your grandmother’s gentle fingers tapping your scalp—it’s relaxing, even during the times you were crouched uncomfortably on the floor, clamped between her knees. And its benefits extend beyond the realm of beauty too.

Over the years, however, the process has been adapted and tweaked to suit the modern lifestyle, which has diluted the benefits we all loved to begin with. Ayurveda expert, Dr Rekha Radhamony weighs in on the major hair oiling mistakes and how one can make the most out of their hair oiling sessions in order to reap the rewards effectively.

“Massaging oil on your scalp and hair has plenty of benefits,” says Dr Radhamony. “It makes your hair stronger, reduces breakage, keeps your scalp hydrated and nourished, and promotes hair growth. Oil massages also aid in reducing hair fall, rejuvenate your hair follicles, prevent dandruff, and add to the volume of your hair.”


The more the merrier, right? Wrong! Looking back, a bowlful (if not more) of oil was always poured onto the scalp, which often left the hair super greasy. According to Dr Radhamony, applying too much oil is one of the biggest mistakes one can make. “A palmful of oil is enough to apply on your hair. Don’t go overboard with it. Your focus should be on massaging the oil deeply—you can add more where you feel there are dry spots,” she advises.

When you apply oil to your hair can make a whirlwind of a difference to your mane! Contrary to popular trends on social media, according to the expert, oil shouldn’t be applied to a freshly cleansed scalp. This will clog the pores and allow the absorption of dirt and sweat. “Doing so can worsen dandruff and acne too, so it’s better to oil before you shampoo your hair.”


The duration you leave it on highly depends on your hair and scalp type. “If you have an extremely dry scalp, leave the oil on for 45 minutes,” she suggests. “If you have a medium to dry scalp, leave it on for 30 minutes. However, if you tend to get coughs and colds easily or you have an oily scalp, I suggest that you do not leave the oil on your hair for more than 15 minutes.” Whatever you do, do not leave it on overnight as it can block your hair follicles.

You can even wrap your hair in a warm towel for about 15 to 20 minutes. This will help steam your scalp so that the oil can penetrate deeper and nourish it even better. You need to oil your hair twice a week to see results.

It’s safe to say that washing off the hair oil can suck the joy out of the relaxing head massage you just experienced. And while rigorously scrubbing your scalp can feel satisfying in the moment, it’s actually quite harmful. In this case, Dr Radhamony recommends using a hair scrub to help with the removal of oil before rinsing it off. Use a clarifying hair shampoo to help get rid of any traces of oil.

Don’t overthink your hair oil massages! A palmful of oil, a 15-minute massage, and 15 to 45 minutes of wait time (depending on your hair type) is all you need for an effective champi

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