Hair Ritual: Champi


I’ve spoken about Champi before, the Indian tradition of head massage and oiling hair. But I realise this can be confusing unless you have been proactive and watching some ‘how to’ videos. Or of course you already know what I am talking about. So for those novices who don't, I shall share my tips on how to do a quick Champi, which by the way is the origin of the word ‘Shampoo’.

Although herbal oils can be tailored to your needs, the go-to oil would have been coconut oil. You can use this of course. Or the Herb Oil #2 which is made with cleansing herbs Rosemary + Thyme and Yarrow all of which are beneficial to the hair. The idea was that you can use it to massage hair and body before stepping into a shower or bath. Its main ingredients are Coconut oil, Sesame oil (which is great for detoxing and deep moisturising) and Olive oil all of which are suitable and beneficial for hair and body. 

How often you need a Champi depends on your hair type. For me (straight, long, fairly healthy hair) once or twice a month is enough. Greasy hair would need it sporadically, if at all and dry hair types could do with this more often. Oiling and massaging the hair + scalp conditions the hair from the roots up providing nourishment, encouraging new hair growth, blood circulation and helps maintain the general health and shine of the hair. Regular head massage extending to the neck and face also contributes to a better general well being. After all the head is where the most amount of stress happens. It works so hard!  

I am not an expert of the Indian Head massage so I will only explain how to apply the oil. But feel free to watch some videos and try a few techniques on yourself or someone else. Better yet get someone to give you one! (And hopefully they can massage better than Monica from Friends.)

So, oil when hair are dry. Usually the oil is warmed a little. Herb oil #2 can be used as it is. If you want to warm it slightly, pour out a small amount in a little bowl and let it sit in hot water like a bain-marie for a few mins. (avoid high or direct heat as the essential oils will evaporate). I have long hair and had to quickly form a routine to not end up with a tangled nest on my head. The concept is simple: part hair all the way from front to back using a comb. Apply oil with your fingers and rubbing it on the scalp in the partition all the way front to back. Part hair an inch away parallel to the first partition and apply oil the same way till the whole scalp covered in oil. You can do this from one side to the other but for some reason I always start at the centre...

For those who have short hair, the above technique should still work. If you have really cropped hair, well, then got for it. You can’t possibly tangle them. 

Once you’ve oiled your head you can try a few massage techniques. But if time, patience and partner is not permitting, then simply comb through the hair to ensure the oil reaches the tips of your hair, rubbing in extra oil on the ends if needed. Combing also stimulates the hair folicles and encourages blood circulation. Tie your hair if needed and leave in for about 20-30 mins before washing off. For those with dry hair, you can also try wrapping a hot towel for 5-10 mins to allow more oil to be absorbed by the hair.

How much oil to use also depends on how much your hair needs really. So it might take a few attempts to get it right. I suggest starting with a little bit and if you feel the scalp and hair are soaking it all in, apply more.

I recently learned that if you apply shampoo directly to the oiled hair before wetting them, lather a bit and then use water it’s more effective in removing the excess oil. And yes, it worked. My hair doesn’t need conditioner on most days and definitely not when I’ve just oiled them. So it’s your call depending on your hair type. Again this might take a few attempts.

I normally leave this ritual for the weekend or on my days off since it’s a bit time consuming, can be messy and let’s face it, oiled hair aren’t very presentable. So hunker down. Wear old clothes you don’t mind having oil stains on. Make a cup of tea get some music on, burn a candle or put on a face mask. This messy, tedious aspect is in a way a blessing. Can't use your phone with oily hands or go out in old, oily clothes! It forces one to simply have to take time to pay attention to oneself. Let that feel good. 

Champi such an integral part of my lifestyle that its like second nature. So I’ve probably not even thought of some basic points. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to help. And when you do try it I would love to know how it went.

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