You Can Get Shiny Hair Like Ours, Even If You Don't Have Indian Genes

This shine-boosting overnight treatment was passed down to us by the women in our family, and since we don't have kids yet, we're passing it on to you.
Publish date:
March 26, 2013
coconut oil, How-To, sleep, treatments, shiny hair, baby oil

Before we were introduced to balayage, ombré and other hair-color trends we just had to try, we had sleek, super-shiny, reflect-the-sun-and-blind-you black hair.

Despite some minor tampering with color, it’s managed to maintain some of its supernatural shimmer. When the light hits it just right, some say they can see themselves in it. It’s envy-inducing.

So, how do we do it?

Well, we don’t. We owe it to good hair genes. Basically, we got it from our mama. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have the same thing. Shiny hair, that is--you can’t have our mama. BACK OFF.

There are tons of products promising sleek, mirror-like hair, but we can’t help but wonder if an old tradition practiced by our mother, her mother (our Amma) and generations before could be the real key to getting an glassy sheen overnight.

The only catch? You have to douse your head in oil.

When we first learned of this practice from our mom, we were a tad disturbed. We haven’t played around with too many hair masks and have never cracked an egg over our heads. We wash our hair almost every day to avoid greasiness, so the idea of sitting with a bowl's worth of oil on our heads kind of sends us into freak-out mode, not unlike Pia’s reaction to maple syrup (she has a paralyzing fear of having it anywhere on her body besides in her mouth and makes a weird squeaky sound if you fork a pancake and put it near her neck).

When our mother was our age, she had waist-length, shiny black hair. If you ask her how, she would tell you that every night growing up, she braided her hair to avoid split ends, and often, her mother would baby-oil her hair at night, braid it and vigorously wash out the oil in the morning. The result? A lifetime of thick, strong and super-glossy hair.

Once we stopped being sissies (the cowardly kind--we'll always be twin sissies) and accepted the lube-your-head-up challenge, we realized our imaginations had gotten the best of us, because this is quite possibly the least icky, least expensive and most effective hair treatment we’ve ever tried.


Make sure to do it before you go to bed so your hair can “marinate” all night. (Besides, walking around with oil-drenched hair during the day is uncomfortable.) Your hair should be completely dry, or the oil won’t hang on and won’t penetrate your the strands. Ready? OK!

  • Comb through your hair to get rid of any knots.
  • Set yourself up with a bowl of baby oil or coconut oil, and a washcloth.
  • If you’re doing this on yourself, do it over a sink and put a towel down on the floor to avoid slipping if you spill (shiny hair doesn’t look good on a cracked skull). Also place a towel around your shoulders because the oil will get on your clothes and doing laundry sucks.
  • Dip a corner of the washcloth in the oil and completely saturate it. Then starting at your roots gently massage the oil through your hair, one section at a time.
  • To help spread the oil evenly, use the comb to pull it through to your ends.
  • Once you’re done, secure your hair in a clip if you have short hair, or braid it if it is long.
  • Cover your pillow with a towel and drift off. Be sure to dream of having shiny hair, or this won’t work. (Kidding.)
  • When you wake in the morning, give yourself some extra shower time. You’ll likely need to shampoo twice to remove all the oil, but skip a rich conditioner to avoid weighing it down.
  • Blow dry your hair gently and bask in the glory of super-soft, manageable, shiny hair.
  • Induce envy from your less shimmery friends while disorienting people on the street with your radiance.

There are some beauty secrets you just can’t find in the beauty aisle, ya know? Do you have any tried and true beauty treatments passed down from your dear ol’ grannies?