Recently there has been a shift towards treating the hair more like we look after our skin – the movement being coined the ‘skinification’ of the hair. Think scalp scrubs, hair serums and ingredients traditionally found in skincare such as hyaluronic acid & probiotics migrating into haircare formulations. Now hair slugging, another skincare export, is also having a major hair moment.

What is hair slugging?

You may have come across the term ‘hair slugging’ this year thanks to its popularity on TikTok, however, the practice isn’t at all new. Akash & Nikita Mehta, the sibling Co-Founders of Fable & Mane, explain that “the concept of treating hair with an oil formula originates from the ancient art of hair oiling”. They further add that hair oiling “has been a tradition for centuries (some say more than 4000 years) in South Asian culture and anchored in generational secrets being passed down for healthy, hydrated, and stronger hair.”  Echoing the same sentiment, Rahua Co-Founder, Anna Ayers, explains that “in the Amazon Rainforest the women of the Achuar tribe have been making and applying handmade Rahua oil to their long lustrous strands for centuries”.

Slugging, as seen on social media, involves applying oil (or a combination of oil and intensive conditioning treatment) and then wrapping the hair overnight to help add hydration. Fans of the trend cite noticeably smoother and softer strands after just one treatment and healthier hair with less breakage when done regularly over time. 

Who’s it for?

Whilst anyone can try hair slugging, the Mehta siblings explain that as its primary aim is to hydrate, it’s “ideal for dry or damaged hair because dry hair is more prone to breakage and dullness but also for dry scalps to rebalance, a healthy scalp results in healthy roots and healthy hair”. Those with coarse or curly hair may also particularly benefit from the hydrating results, as will those with colour-treated hair – though it’s important to ensure the products you opt for are colour safe.

Whether you use an oil on its own or a combination of oil and conditioning treatment is a personal choice but it’s advised to pay attention to your hair type. Ayers recommends that “high porosity hair types will benefit more from oils and low porosity/fine hair can benefit more from cream hair treatments and masks. Layering an oil with a cream allows for more customisation between hair types”.

A how-to guide to hair slugging

  1. Firstly brush or comb hair
  2. Apply oil to dry hair (option to add conditioning treatment on top)
  3. Optional step to massage oil into the scalp
  4. Wrap hair in a silk hair turban or wrap of choice
  5. Leave overnight 
  6. In the morning, wash out thoroughly followed by the rest of your normal haircare routine 

According to the Metha siblings, the amount of oil you’ll need to use “depends on your hair type, where on your hair strands you’re using the oil and whether you’re using the oil to massage your scalp, seal the strand, or lubricate the ends”. They also caution that “you do not need to overuse oil on your hair”.

The experts agree that whilst fuzzy socks seem to be the choice of TikTok demos, silk is preferable to wrap the hair in as it’s less likely to cause damage. The Mehta siblings recommend “either a hair wrap, hair turban or even an old t-shirt but not a regular towel as this can be too thick and heavy for the hair and scalp”. They also add that using a wrap “will lock in moisture better and allows the oil to re-distribute along the hair shaft, however, it is not a vital step within the routine. Massaging your scalp with the oil has a similar effect.”  If you don’t want to wrap your hair overnight, sleeping on a silk pillowcase is the next best option (just make sure to wash it after using). Another variation is to hair slug pre-wash for a few hours. As for how often to include in your routine, apparently, you can have too much of a good thing. Ayers recommends “once a week to every other week, no more” for optimal benefits.