If you’re on a healthy hair journey, you’ve probably come across a variety of hair oiling benefits. Applying oil to strands may help prevent breakage, tame frizzy hair, and even set the stage for hair growth. Whether you’re trying to decide between slathering on castor oil, coconut oil, or another, the right elixir may just bring life back to your locks, restoring shine, bounce, and smoothing strands.
According to our experts, it’s a great addition to your hair care routine, no matter your hair type or texture. “Hair oiling has tons of perks for your hair and scalp,” says Mahogany Grace, a hairstylist and owner of Mahogany Grace Salon. “Using oils shields against heat damage, boosts strength, keeps it hydrated, fights frizz, promotes growth, and can act as a natural UV protector.”
Meet the experts: Mahogany Grace, hairstylist and owner of Mahogany Grace Salon; Michelle Cleveland, owner of Hair Addict Salon in NJ; Janiene Luke, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Loma Linda University’s Faculty Medical Group in CA
However, those with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis may want to avoid applying oil to the scalp, as certain ones can encourage yeast to thrive, explains Janiene Luke, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Loma Linda University’s Faculty Medical Group in CA.
For those with fine hair, using lighter oils and washing it out soon after application may be helpful, as “those with fine hair may find that hair oiling weighs their hair down too much, or may not like their hair to feel oily,” Dr. Luke says.
Ahead, experts explain the many hair oiling benefits, the best ways to oil your hair, and the best hair oils for the job.
Hair oiling benefits
Experts say you may notice the following benefits of hair oiling:
Add smoothness and shine
“Hair oiling can help reduce frizz and add shine,” because many hair oils “coat hair strands and seal in the cuticle,” helping to lock in moisture, explains Dr. Luke. This is particularly beneficial “for those with naturally curly hair, who tend to have drier hair when compared to those with straighter hair.”
Boost overall scalp health
Certain oils made for the scalp can be very nourishing, “reducing dryness, itchiness, and flakiness,” Grace explains. “These oils give your scalp and hair follicles nutrients, stimulate hair growth, and amp up overall scalp health.”
May promote hair growth
“If using natural oils, the essential vitamins and minerals contained within can promote hair growth,” explains Michelle Cleveland, owner of Hair Addict Salon in NJ. Hair oils may not directly stimulate hair growth, but they tend to create healthier scalp conditions which promote it.
Cleveland continues to note that the vitamins and minerals found in many natural hair oils “strengthen the hair follicle as well as the entire hair shaft, preventing breakage.” By regularly using hair oils, you may see a reduction in split ends and have an easier time retaining length by avoiding breakage.
Protect from sun and heat
Depending on the specific oil you choose to use on your hair, experts agree that you may also get some protective benefits. “Coating the surface of the hair can help protect it against the elements/environment (sun) as well as chemicals and heat,” says Dr. Luke.
How to oil hair
When it comes to oiling your hair for hair and scalp treatment, it’s best to apply the oil as a mask before washing strands.
Cleveland suggests applying your oil of choice directly to the scalp, working in one-inch sections. “Once each section is made you can apply oil straight down the part line and massage it in with the pads of your fingertips,” she explains. “Once complete, continue massaging the scalp and work any excess oil down the hair strands to the ends. Let it sit for about three hours and then shampoo.” If you can’t let the oil sit for that long, Dr. Luke says that waiting about 30 minutes works well, too.
Additionally, Grace suggests concentrating the oil on the tip of the strands if you’re struggling with breakage and split ends. Grace also recommends using hair oil in addition to protective styles like twists or braids, to further protect your tresses.
How often should I oil my hair?
If you’re wondering how often you should oil your hair, “It really comes down to what’s up with your scalp,” Grace explains. “If you’re battling dryness and flakes, go for a weekly session. If you’re just doing regular scalp TLC, two to three times a month should do the trick.”
Those with oily scalps or oily hair may prefer to try hair oiling less frequently—especially if they find that the added serum weighs down strands. Experts suggest experimenting and finding what works best for you.
How to choose the best hair oils
When oiling your hair, it is also important to consider which specific oil(s) to use. Grace suggests choosing ones suited for your hair type or even experimenting with mixing oils to create exactly what you’re looking for. Below, find our expert’s favorite oils for healthy hair:
Jojoba oil, which Grace recommends for those looking to focus on scalp health, has a similar composition to our natural sebum (a natural oily substance found on the scalp). “There is also a high concentration of vitamin E in jojoba oil, which is a well-known antioxidant that helps the skin and hair protect itself against oxidative damage,” explains Dr. Luke.
Grace recommends coconut oil to those with thicker hair. It is “made up of a fatty acid called lauric acid and it is unique in that its structure allows it to penetrate the hair shaft which results in decreased protein loss, water absorption, and greater hair shaft strength in studies,” explains Dr. Luke. “Coconut oil also acts as an emollient, coating hair strands, sealing the cuticle, and trapping in moisture which can help reduce frizz and impart shine.”
Argan oil, recommended by Grace for those with dry hair, “contains fatty acids and other compounds (like squalene) which can add moisture to the hair,” adds. Dr. Luke. “It also contains Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant.”
Sesame oil is another useful oil for the hair, as it contains a high level of fatty acids, including linoleic acid and oleic acids, which Dr. Luke notes are great for adding moisture to the hair.
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