Sesame oil or ’til’ oil, as it is better known in India, has been in use for millennia, with the earliest history of cultivation dating back almost 5000 years. Today, most of us are familiar with the oil as a cooking oil that is widely regarded as healthy, especially when compared to other commonly used oils. This is because of its rich nutritional profile, with a high content of heart healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as fatty acids like linoleic and oleic acid. The oil also contains vitamins E and K, which play an important role in various bodily functions, including skin and hair care. So, while there’s little doubt about its benefits as a cooking ingredient, there’s also plenty of reason to use sesame oil for hair care routines.
Sesame Oil for Hair Care
The Ayurvedic Perspective
Sesame oil is widely used in Ayurveda and is regarded as one of the best cooking oils by most Ayurvedic physicians. It is also used as a carrier or base oil in the preparation of medicated polyherbal oils and is the primary oil used in the Ayurvedic massage therapy – abhyanga. Ascribed with a bitter sweet taste and heating energy, sesame oil is most effective at pacifying vata dosha, but if used excessively can aggravate pitta and kapha doshas.
Although the oil can be ingested or used topically, just make sure to opt for a food grade variety if you plan to use it for cooking. In the context of hair care, which is obviously your biggest concern, Ayurvedic wisdom suggests that sesame oil is best used during the dry cold months of winter. This is because of its inherent heating quality and a moisturizing effect that protects against dry hair, brittle hair, and other winter hair problems. The oil has a nourishing effect on the scalp, detoxifying the tissues, and protecting against hair fall conditions that are linked with skin inflammation. One of the most popular combinations of sesame oil for hair care would be with amla or Indian gooseberry oil.
Because of its esteemed position in Ayurveda and plentiful benefits as both a cooking oil and topical oil, there are many misleading claims surrounding sesame oil. Contrary to popular belief and the claims of some marketers, sesame oil will not restore hair color or increase hair growth when used by itself. However, it can help address these problems in a more indirect manner, while offering direct protection against other conditions that can cause hair damage, hair loss, and premature greying.
Protection from Premature Greying & Hair Loss
Sesame oil can protect against premature hair loss and greying, which is associated with the aging process, also limiting hair damage. This is because of the high content of lignans like sesamin and sesamolin, which have been shown to limit oxidative stress in several studies.
Protects Against Scalp Inflammatory Conditions
Sesame oil may also offer protection against hair loss associated with inflammatory skin conditions that affect the scalp like seborrheic eczema and scalp psoriasis, thereby reducing hair fall. The oil is in fact so effective at relieving inflammation that a study published in the journal Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine states that topical application of the oil can reduce pain and lower NSAID dosage requirements when dealing with lower extremity trauma!
Protection from UV Damage
Aside from oxidative stress and inflammatory scalp conditions, exposure to UV radiation from sunlight is another major cause for deterioration of hair quality, discoloration, dryness, brittle or broken hair, split ends, frizzy hair, and thinning. Sesame oil can be of significant help in this regard too, enhancing protection against UV radiation, as has been shown by researchers at the University in Belgrade. Their study found that sesame oil is able to resist up to 30% of radiation, as compared to 20% with oils like coconut and olive oil.
Aside from its proven benefits, sesame oil is a great alternative to many other popular hair oils because of its versatility. It can be easily combined with other oils and can also be used for a variety of purposes, not just as a topical hair oil. When it comes to personal care products, it’s important to remember that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Give it a shot and find out if it suits your hair type, but make sure to use the oil consistently, as it can take a few months to see noticeable results.
- Chiang, J P, et al. “Effects of Topical Sesame Oil on Oxidative Stress in Rats.” Alternative Therapies, Health and Medicine, vol. 11, no. 6, 2005, pp. 40–45., www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16320859.
- Shamloo, Marzieh Beigom Bigdeli, et al. “The Effects of Topical Sesame (Sesamum Indicum) Oil on Pain Severity and Amount of Received Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs in Patients with Upper or Lower Extremities Trauma.” Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, vol. 5, no. 3, 22 June 2015, doi:10.5812/aapm.25085v2.
- Korać, Radavar, and Kapilm Khambholja. “Potential of Herbs in Skin Protection from Ultraviolet Radiation.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, vol. 5, no. 10, 2011, pp. 164–173., doi:10.4103/0973-7847.91114.