Every other day, it seems there’s another social media trend that promises us younger-looking skin, fuller hair or longer eyelashes. Such is the case with the latest viral craze: hair slugging. Like many trends that make waves on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, this one’s rooted in an old beauty trick. In fact, women (especially those of black and asian descent) have been doing some form of hair slugging for years, but now women of all ethnicities are seeing its value. “Although hair slugging is a new trend, the principle of it has been around for centuries, being passed on from generation to generation,” explains Hair Restoration Surgeon Alan J. Bauman, MD, ABHRS, IAHRS, FISHRS, Founder, CEO & Medical Director of Bauman Medical Hair Transplant & Hair Loss Treatment Center. The benefits of the age-old hair hack? Giving tons of hydration back to the hair and scalp for thicker-looking, lush and shiny locks — for very little money! Read on to discover what approach is right for you:
What exactly is hair slugging?
If the idea calls to mind images of your mom or grandma slathering mayonnaise on their hair, you wouldn’t be far off: Consider this mayo-covered-hair-under-the-showercap 2.0.
Sure it seemed silly to see the more mature women in our lives turn to mayo as a hair conditioner, but they were on to something. As we age, we see decreased oil production in areas like our scalp which leads to thinning, brittle, dried-out hair. Plus as our bodies stop producing the cells that make melanin which contribute color to our hair, which is why it begins to grow in white or gray and with — you guessed it — a coarse, straw-like texture. And being filled with hair-hydrating and nourishing fatty acids and amino acids, mayonnaise was a great, natural, albeit somewhat smelly choice.
This more modern version of hair slugging is similar to the viral skin slugging (click here to learn more about skin slugging) and entails saturating strands with any kind of nourishing oils or conditioners, putting it all up in a shower cap, towel, sock or scarf, and leaving it on overnight. The millions of people who claim to have tried it on social media rave about its purported ability to hydrate and strengthen dry, brittle strands.
That’s why it makes sense that if you’re over 50, you’re likely turning to techniques like slugging to try and turn back the hands of time. It gets to a point where a hydrating shampoo and conditioner simply aren’t enough. With 38% of women over the age of 50 seeing the signs of aging in their hair, it’s no surprise we’d want to give slugging a shot.
What are the benefits of the viral trend?
“Slugging is popular for its ability to deeply hydrate the hair, leaving it moisturized and silky in appearance and touch,” attests New York-based hairstylist Melanie Staucet. “Slugging can also help to mend split ends and even promote length retention in some cases,” adds Dr. Bauman.
Best of all, it doesn’t involve harsh chemicals, as you can use virtually any essential oil. It also saves some cash as a cheaper alternative to pricy deep conditioning salon treatments.
What hair types benefit most from it?
Every hair type, length and texture can try slugging, but Staucet warns, the technique should vary depending on whether you have fine or coarse hair. “If you have fine hair, applying a lightweight oil to the ends of your hair once a week is a better route than saturating the entire head of hair as too much oil on fine hair can make it appear greasy. Conversely, you can coat the hair length from scalp to ends more often if it is thick or coarse.”
What oils are best to use for hair slugging?
It’s not as simple as running to the kitchen and grabbing the bottle of olive oil. Experts say to use an oil best suited for your specific hair type (oh, and ensure you can stomach the smell and aren’t allergic to it). “For instance, using heavy oil on already oily scalps can worsen the problem by increasing the amount of oil on your scalp. Similarly, drying oils on dry or sensitive scalps may cause further dryness and irritation,” explains Dr. Bauman.
He outlines three common types of tresses and the oils recommended for each:
Finer hair: If you have fine hair, which means each individual strand is so small in diameter if you plucked one out and rubbed it between your fingers, you’d barely feel it, “you may want to stick with lighter oils like marula, argan or his own brand, BaumanMD CBD-infused styling oil called ‘Smooth and Soothe,’” advises Dr. Bauman.
Another oil that packs a double punch? Rosemary. Rosemary oil increases blood flow to the hair follicles, delivering the right nutrients and oxygen to the hair. This helps reduce inflammation, which can cause dandruff, actively stimulates hair growth, and prevents hair loss. One study even found it to be just at regrowing hair as minoxidil. (Click here to learn more about how rosemary oil can benefit your hair.)
Medium hair: Medium hair is slightly thicker than fine and can border on coarse, says Dr. Bauman, so because of their thicker consistency, castor or coconut oil are your best bets. (Click through to learn more about how castor oil can speed hair growth and the way coconut oil can benefit hair health.)
Coarser hair: If you have more coarse hair, which means strands are thicker in diameter and tend to be dry and frizzy: “You can use a heavier oil such as jojoba, grapeseed, almond or even a combination of oils. If you have severely dry hair, you can also apply an over the counter hair mask on top of the oils for a double whammy,” he adds.
Hair slugging how to: the simple steps
Staucet advises following these steps for a foolproof way to incorporate hair slugging as part of your beauty routine.
First, apply a moisturizing oil from the roots to the ends of your hair. Be sure to comb through so the oil gets evenly distributed throughout the hair (if you tend to have oily hair, you want to concentrate the product on the ends and less on the scalp).
Next, place your hair in a protective cap, whether it’s a shower cap or bonnet, a silk turban or a fluffy sock, as is the go-to choice for TikTokers. Secure with a scrunchie or hair tie to keep it all in place (and from ruining your sheets). Once awake the following morning, rinse your hair thoroughly with your usual shampoo and conditioning routine. It’s as easy as that!
Are there any adverse effects of hair slugging?
While this is a relatively natural process and doesn’t involve anything too harsh or invasive, like anything, it does come with some risks.
Applying heavy oils on your scalp and leaving them on overnight can clog your hair follicles, leading to pimples — or worse. “This can lead to a condition called folliculitis, which causes inflammation and infection of the hair follicles. Folliculitis can result in symptoms like redness, itching and small pimple-like pustules on the scalp,” states Dr. Bauman. Additionally, excessive oiliness may attract dirt and pollutants, leading to scalp issues like dandruff or scalp odor.”
Allergic reactions can be another issue (for example, if you have a nut allergy and opt to use almond oil). Some people may have allergies or sensitivities to certain oils or their components. “Leaving the oil on your scalp overnight can increase the exposure time, which may trigger allergic reactions. Allergic reactions can vary from mild irritation to severe symptoms like swelling, rash or difficulty breathing,” he explains.
If you’re unsre if it is the best thing for you, Dr. Bauman suggests consulting with a Certified Trichologist or a Hair Restoration Physician who can assess your hair and scalp health and provide personalized recommendations.
To learn more about the natural oils that keep hair healthy:
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