As a teenager in Chicago, Negar Mohammadi remembers her grandmother saying she looked “as beautiful as the fourteenth night” during her summer visits. It’s a classic Persian expression alluding to the halfway point of the lunar cycle, when the moon is at its fullest and most radiant. Her grandma shared a trove of Persian beauty secrets, too, always arriving with a glass vial of hand-mixed argan and pomegranate oil. She’d smooth it into Mohammadi’s long, gold-flecked hair in the summers to repair damage from heat and chlorine and make it look as luminous as the moon.
The oil became Mohammadi’s one-and-done haircare routine, but by the time she was living in New York (spending many years as Vogue’s director of brand marketing) and her grandmother passed away, she had to find alternatives. Even the priciest hair oils failed to mend heat and saltwater damage—Mohammadi is an avid surfer—and they didn’t smell nearly as good as her grandma’s blend. The formulas felt super luxe, but why weren’t they doing anything?
She quickly learned that almost every hair oil on the market features silicone as a main ingredient: “It gives the oil that really slippery, luxurious texture, but it doesn’t actually do anything for your hair,” Mohammadi explains. So she tried making her own, recalling the ingredients, texture, and scent of her grandmother’s concoction. A vat of 100% argan oil Mohammadi found in a health food store was incredibly thick and smelled too earthy; a raw pomegranate oil was also too heavy, sitting on top of her hair rather than sinking into it. Melted coconut oil worked, sort of, but it left even Mohammadi’s thick hair looking greasy for days.