Hair and beauty enthusiasts or viewers of Bridgerton may have noticed something like a “hack”: applying oil to the scalp to encourage healthy hair growth.
The trick has attracted attention on social media, with the nicknames “hair slugging” and “hair oiling” on TikTok.
This describes the art of rubbing a penetrating oil (as opposed to a hair shine or non-greasy oil) and massaging it around the head.
And now it’s gone mainstream – with over 35.8 million views and that number, and many hailed it as a new and revolutionary method of changing your hair game.
But actually it’s not new at all. South Asians have been practicing hair slugging, or a thel maish as we know it, for centuries.
We even saw it on Bridgerton when Edwina had her hair massaged lovingly by her sister on the hit Netflix show, an ode to a 5,000-year-old tradition started by the Indian science of Ayurveda.
Many South Asians still adhere to the ritual, including me, and it’s probably what contributes to our luscious, long locks in the community – in fact, India is the largest global supplier of human hair for making wigs, so obviously we get healthy hair right.
For many, a thel malish has many meanings, including nostalgia, special moments with a loved one, or even difficult memories that have been overcome.
For me, the scent of a particular brand (Amla thel, for those in the know) evokes the strongest memories of my late grandmother, whose hair was always smooth with the thel, the scent that adorned her sari. If I get a sniff of it, I’m bought back into wonderful memories of her.
So it feels slightly creepy to see products like Amla in Superdrug and the like listed under “deep conditioning treatments.”
I’m glad we have more options to buy these types of items in the mainstream, and that the practice is getting recognized for all of its benefits. But it’s not something new started by beauty influencers and mammoth brands.
For many, the easy adoption of this trend, when promoted by Western content creators and brands, but shunned when we went to school with greasy hair, stirs up difficult feelings.
Many were bullied for greasy hair and internalized shame and embarrassment for sticking to a cultural practice. Others, as children, hated having to sit still while their mother or another matriarch (it’s mostly practiced by women) thoroughly (and painfully if you have curly hair) applied the oil in circular motions from their fingertips to the bottom. scalp rubbed.
We would like to get a thel maalish from a loved one. And it’s cool that we can just go to a local drugstore and pick one up.
We only wish that it used to be normal to mask your hair in oil too, and that it now gets the credit where it needs to be.
Because South Asians have really enviable hair.