Hair-Care Tips

4 Amla Hair Oil Benefits That Make It Worthy of a Spot in Your Pre-Shampoo Routine

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Photo: Getty Images/ LeoPatrizi

As is the case almost all skin-care and hair-care products, there are many hair oils to choose from for shiny, frizz-free strands, but because amla hair oil benefits go beyond the surface, it ranks high up on our list as a not-so-secret weapon for improving scalp health, among other things. Never heard of it? No worries, you’re not alone. You can learn more about it below from a trichologist.

What is amla hair oil?

Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, is a fruit that is native to India but also grows throughout Asia and the Middle East, says Bridgette Hill, a certified trichologist, colorist, and founder of Root Cause Scalp Analysis. Amla hair oil is typically made by drying and blending the fruit into a powder, and then heating it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil. But it can be produced by soaking the fruit in a carrier oil for several days, too. It’s beloved for its scalp and hair health, which Hill credits to its anti-inflammatory and restorative properties. 

4 amla hair oil benefits

So, how exactly does amla hair oil benefit hair and scalp health? Hill first notes that robust independent scientific and medical scalp and hair studies are lagging in general. “This directly impacts the lack of research and development in ethnopharmacology,” she says, which is the study of the traditional medicinal uses of plants. “Most plant-based therapy results are purely anecdotal and rely on private practice, privately funded studies, and individual personal use.” 

That said, the proposed amla oil hair benefits are credited to three unique properties the oil contains: DHT blockers, vitamin C, and other antioxidants, which deliver these top four benefits. 

1. May prevent hair loss

One of the most popular benefits of amla hair oil is hair loss prevention. “Amla extract is the second-most-potent, plant-based inhibitor of 5-alpha reductase, producer of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is believed to be the cause of androgenic or genetic hair loss,” Hill says. 

2. Improves scalp health

Amla hair oil is also rich in vitamin C, and Hill says that’s why it may improve scalp health by boosting collagen production. She adds that the antioxidant aids in preventing seasonal scalp dryness. 

3. Encourages cellular turnover on the scalp

“Cellular turnover is imperative to feeding the hair follicle and building the hair fiber,” Hill says. It can promote hair growth, and when used as a pre-shampoo treatment, amla hair oil also exfoliates the scalp to prevent product build-up. 

4. Helps maintain a healthy scalp microbiome

Amla hair oil also assists with stabilizing the scalp’s microbiome, which has been shown to reduce unwanted scalp conditions such as dandruff and itchy scalp, Hill says. In particular, she recommends using it as a pre-shampoo treatment. “It has a molecular structure that is small enough to penetrate the epidermis and epithelial tissues of the scalp to aid in sustaining a healthy microbiome and minimize the formation of unhealthy bacteria or fungus,” she says.   

Potential side effects of using amla hair oil

As with any topical product you apply anywhere on your body, Hill says some people may have skin reactions to using amla hair oil if they are sensitive to the fruit extract or the carrier oil it’s blended with. If you’re concerned about a potential reaction, she recommends doing a patch test on the inside of your forearm. To do it, rub a dime-size  amount of amla hair oil into a section and don’t wash the area for 24 hours. If there is no reaction, you should be good to go. 

How to use amla hair oil

Ready to give amla hair oil a try? First, get yourself some amla hair oil and ensure you’re purchasing from a reputable manufacturer. Because amla is uncommon in the United States, Hill advises buying from vendors that source from India, Thailand, or the Middle East. 

Once you have your amla hair oil, Hill recommends using it as a pre-shampoo scalp and hair treatment for general maintenance. To do so, first, apply the amla hair oil from root to ends on unshampooed dry hair. 

Next, massage the oil into the scalp with a scalp brush or your fingers. Then comb or brush through the hair to ensure the oil liberally saturates your strands. Let the oil sit for a minimum of 20 minutes. You can also leave it in overnight and shampoo it out in the morning as an effective way to manage a dry scalp. 

Hill recommends doing the amla hair oil pre-shampoo scalp treatment weekly for normal to mild scalp conditions as a general rule of thumb. For severe cases, you can do it before every shampoo. 

Alternatively, Hill also suggests using amla hair oil as a spot treatment on flaky or irritated areas of the scalp. To do so, apply it to the affected area with clean fingers. Or, if you have dry, coarse, thick, curly, or tightly coiled hair, Hill says you can also conservatively use amla hair oil as a leave-in moisturizer for your hair and areas of concern on the scalp. For this, she recommends pouring a dime-size amount of amla hair oil into the palm of your hands, massaging your hands together, and then applying it to the ends of your hair and moving up the hair shaft.

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