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After the obvious shampoo and conditioner set, hair oil might be the best next addition to your hair care routine! Hair oils are multi-functional products that make the hair healthier and more beautiful. They can work both as treatments and as styling products, depending on the hair oil you choose and how you apply it.
In this article, I’ll explain what hair oils are, what the difference is between natural hair oils and commercial hair oils, how to use each one, how to choose the best hair oils for your unique hair needs, and of course, I’ll give a large list of the best hair oils on the market!
Guide to Hair Oils: Contents
- What Are Hair Oils?
- When Should I Be Using a Hair Oil?
- Difference Between Natural Hair Oils and Commercial Hair Oils
- Natural Oils for Hair
- Essential Oils for the Hair
- How to Choose the Perfect Hair Oil for Your Hair Type
- How to Use Commercial Hair Oil
- How to Use Natural Hair Oil: 7 Uses
- Best Natural Hair Oils
- Best Commercial Hair Oils
Hair oils are thick, liquid products that fortify the hair, seal the cuticle, stop frizz, and make the hair look incredible. They can be used in a variety of ways, both before washing and after styling.
There are two main types of hair oils: natural hair oils, which you can buy both in the cooking aisle or at the health food store, and commercial hair oils that can be found at any beauty store.
Hairs oil are used both for health and beauty! You should consider using hair oils:
• If your hair is damaged due to dyeing or heat styling;
• If your hair is dry or weak;
• If you have split ends;
• If you have a dry scalp;
• If you suffer from dandruff;
• If your hair seems dull;
• If your hair is unruly and difficult to style;
• If your hair looks frizzy or becomes messy due to static electricity;
• If you just want healthier hair!
Plant oils are naturally rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and nutrients that can strengthen and protect the hair. Some oils, like coconut oil or olive oil, are better able to penetrate the hair shaft to strengthen from within, while others like jojoba or apricot oil tend to stick closer to the surface where they can smooth down the cuticle and give the hair natural shine.
These natural oils for hair can be bought along at the grocery story, or you can buy a blend of oils made especially for your hair, so your hair can get a few different benefits.
We also have commercial hair oils, often advertised as containing sexy ingredients like marula oil, argan oil, or sea buckthorn oil. This leads consumers to assume that these products only include those oils, although that’s rarely the case.
Instead, they contain a tiny percentage of the oil advertized, and a large quantity of silicone. A quick look at the ingredients list on your bottle will tell you what kind of oil you have in your hands.
If you have read my post on makeup primers, you know that silicones are the main ingredients in most primers. In a way, a lot of commercial hair oils work like primers for the hair – the silicones seal the cuticle, make the hair silky and smooth, and give a light-diffusing shine. Silicones can build up in the hair, so using them regularly without adequate removal can cause build-up, which makes the hair feel heavy and look lifeless.
These kinds of commercial hair oils are better applied to the hair as a styling product, to keep it looking and feeling good, while plant oils are better as hair treatments to nourish and strengthen the hair before it is washed.
You can buy natural hair oils from the cooking section of the grocery store, as well as from various natural food stores. Some of these oils have a shorter shelf-life once they’ve been opened, so read labels and consider keeping them in the beauty fridge!
You can mix any of these hair oils with a few drops of essential oils, for a delicious scent and additional hair benefits! These are some of the best and more popular natural hair oils:
This is considered the best natural oil for hair, because it is by far the most penetrative. It can sink deep into the hair shaft where it fills in space between the hair cells to prevent moisture loss, strengthen the hair, and improve its elasticity.
Coconut oil can be applied to the hair before a shower, although if it is applied to the hair while it is damp, it can pull moisture into the hair. Since this oil is more penetrative, it is not great for styling or taming frizz because it doesn’t seal the cuticle from the outside.
This oil is the modern star of botanical hair oils, and while I do believe it is a little overhyped, it is still a phenomenal hair oil. It doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the hair shaft, so it can work quite well as a post-shower hair treatment. It is very rich in vitamin E, so it does a great job protecting the hair from environmental damage. Argan oil is also a wonderful treatment oil for the scalp.
Avocado oil is a semi-penetrative oil that has benefits both for the shallow layers of the hair, and for the outside, where it can seal in moisture and protect the cuticles. It is a little on the thicker side, and is also super healthy to consume!
Castor oil for hair has anti-inflammatory properties, so it is great as a scalp oil, especially if you’re sensitive. It is said to help increase hair growth, and while there is no concrete proof, it doesn’t hurt to try. It is one of the thickest natural hair oils, so it is definitely best as a treatment, or thinned out with a lighter oil.
Olive oil is just as penetrative as argan oil, and as nourishing to boot. It helps to soften the hair, keep it moist, and load it up with different fatty acids. Watch out, though, olive oil is not great as a scalp treatment for many people due to a high oleic acid content.
Grape Seed Oil
This medium-penetrative oil is very light, and famously excellent for acne-prone skin. If you have an oily scalp, this should be your treatment oil of choice. For the hair, it provides some shine, and does penetrate a little bit, but it is not the richest or most moisturizing of natural hair oils.
Macadamia Nut Oil
As one of very few sources of palmitoleic acid, macadamia oil is quite moisturizing to the hair, both from the outside and the top inner layers. It contains some vitamins to protect the hair from damage, so it can work both as a treatment or as a styling oil.
This moisturizing oil is similar to macadamia oil, with medium penetration and loads of vitamin E. Almond oil for hair is extremely stable, so it is a wonderful choice as a protective oil for daytime, against pollution and sun damage.
This is one of my favorite styling hair oils, because it doesn’t penetrate the hair – instead, it seals the cuticles, provides an incredible shine, and tames frizz effortlessly.
You can blend it with other oils for a more comprehensive treatment, or save it as a post-shower shine booster. It is also a great oil (well, technically wax) for the scalp, because it is rich in antioxidants and is wonderfully light and moisturizing.
Camellia (Tea Seed) Oil
Brands like Tatcha are starting to popularize this lovely beauty oil. This oil is very high in vitamins E and B, as well as nourishing oleic acid. In that regard, it is similar to olive oil, but with a less potent scent.
Like coconut oil, babassu can also penetrate deeply into the hair shaft, so it is great for dry and damaged hair that needs deep repair. It is rich in lauric acid, which is great for sensitive scalps as well.
Similar to other nut oils for hair, marula penetrates the hair shaft only shallowly, but it is able to keep moisture in the hair and to make the hair look shiny and healthy. Its antioxidant content protects the hair from all kinds of drying and destroying free radicals.
Sea Buckthorn Oil
Since it is loaded with beta-carotene, sea buckthorn is one of the best anti-aging natural hair oils. It is richly orange, and provides incredible repair and protection to both the scalp and the hair shaft. Since this oil is quite luxurious and expensive, it is best blended with less expensive oils.
Essential oils are actually not oils – they’re volatile fragrance compounds and cannot be used like a regular oil! Instead, an essential oil can be mixed with a carrier oil (i.e. a natural hair oil) and applied to the hair, in order to give the plant oil a nicer scents.
Remember that since essential oils for hair are very potent, it is important to be careful and to dilute them well in oil, especially if you’ll be putting them on the scalp as well as on the hair. Always read safety precautions about essential oils before using them, and conduct patch tests.
Some essential oils for hair are also reported to have various positive effects on the hair, although remember that these reports are anecdotal and there is little scientific evidence for most of these benefits.
Lemongrass Essential Oil
This citrusy essential hair oil has shown some ability to inhibit dandruff, and it also has a wonderful and refreshing unisex scent. Additionally, lemongrass is said to be an insect repellant, so it is a great option for those who love hiking and camping.
Thyme Essential Oil
This is a mild anti-septic essential oil for hair, great for controlling odour and preventing breakouts. When blended with the essential oils of lavender, cedarwood, and rosemary, this oil has shown the ability to reduce hair loss caused by alopecia areata, and it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try for other kinds of hair loss as well.
Lavender Essential Oil
Well-known for its anti-inflammatory capabilities, lavender is fantastic for an irritated or inflamed scalp. As combined with previously mentioned essential hair oils it is also great for some types of hair loss.
Cedarwood Essential Oil
This classic essential oil for hair is lightly antibacterial, and can prevent alopecia when combined with other essential oils. It has a warm, woodsy scent that is favored by men.
Rosemary Essential Oil
In addition to being a key-part of a hair loss fighting blend, rosemary also works as an astringent to stimulate the scalp and tighten pores. It is great for those with oily scalps.
Geranium Essential Oil
Thanks to a high antioxidant capacity, geranium essential oil can protect the hair and scalp from destructive free radical damage. It is also said to soften the hair, although the mechanism by which essential hair oils can do such a thing is unclear, nor has this effect been proven.
Chamomile Essential Oil
This essential oil is rich in chamazulene and other calming properties, so it is a must for irritated and sensitive scalps. It can prevent itchiness and redness. Chamomile tea is able to lighten the hair over time, so the essential oil might have similar effects.
Clary Sage Essential Oil
Clary sage is said to improve hair growth and balances women’s hormones, although there is little proof. It doesn’t hurt to add it to your carrier oil, since the fragrance is lovely and mood calming.
Lemon Peel Essential Oil
Like many other citrus peel oils for hair, this essential oil has a clarifying effect that is wonderful for oily hair and scalps. This essential oil is antibacterial as well, which is great for those who breakout on their scalps. Since lemon peel oil is phototoxic, avoid using it in the daytime, and avoid sun exposure to the scalp.
Patchouli Essential Oil
Known for its skin repairing and anti-inflammatory effect, patchouli oil is perfect for sensitive or irritated scalps. This oil has a musky smell that is closely associated with the hippie culture.
Tea Tree Oil
Well known for its effect on acne, tea tree oil is a great choice for anyone with oily or acne-prone skin on their scalp. It might also be able to control fungal infections, which are occasionally at fault for dandruff.
Rose Essential Oil
With one of the highest antioxidant capacities as well as skin regenerating properties, the delicious essential oil of rose can both renew the scalp and protect the hair shaft from sun and pollution damage.
Peppermint Essential Oil
The menthol in peppermint has a cooling and stimulating effect on the skin, which is great for anyone who gets headaches easily. The stimulating effect might also have a positive effect on hair growth by helping to strengthen the hair follicle.
While most hair oils have the magical ability to give that healthy glow to your tresses (like hair serums), it’s important to know how to choose the best hair oil for your hair type and concern.
Best Hair Oils for Dry or Damaged Hair with Split Ends
Botanical oils with the ability to penetrate the hair are a must in your routine! Coconut oil, olive oil, and babassu oil are the perfect examples.
You can mix them with oils rich in vitamins that maybe don’t penetrate as deeply, like argan oil, camellia oil, or marula oil, for antioxidant protection and moisturization on both the inner and outer layers of the hair shaft.
Best Hair Oils for Frizzy or Difficult-to-Style Hair
If you find it very difficult to keep your hair from becoming a tangled mess, a styling commercial hair oil would be your best bet. The silicones would do the best job of smoothing down the hair cuticles from the outside, to mitigate any frizziness and to make the hair softer and easier to style.
If you prefer to stick to natural ingredients in your hair care routine (after all, silicone doesn’t work for everyone, and it is usually difficult to wash it out completely if you prefer a sulfate-free shampoo), some hair oils work quite well for hair styling. Grape seed oil is a light, dry-feeling oil that will tame your strands without looking greasy.
Jojoba oil will also help seal the hair from the outside, but is a little more moisturizing than grape seed. You can even experiment with a mixture of both!
Best Hair Oils for Dull Hair
Dull hair is usually a sign of dryness. For an immediate fix, aim for a commercial hair oil that provides a bit of a shine. Alternatively, jojoba oil would also have a light-reflective effect that will make your strands gleam and shine.
In the long term, increasing the level of moisture in the hair is key! Much like the treatments for dry hair, opt for a rich hair oil like coconut, avocado, etc.
Best Hair Oils for Dry or Sensitive Scalp
If your scalp gets dry and irritated, a natural hair oil could seriously help moisturize and soothe. Coconut oil might be a little heavy, but it also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that are excellent for sensitive skin.
If you opt for an oil with a lighter texture, jojoba, almond, and argan oil would all be excellent. You can blend in a few drops of a soothing essential oil like lavender or chamomile.
Best Hair Oils for Dandruff
Lemongrass essential oil has shown to be a fairly effective treatment for dandruff. Blend it with a light botanical oil, so it makes up about 10% of the solution, and allow it to sit on the scalp as a treatment before washing. You can pair this treatment with a dandruff-fighting shampoo, for a comprehensive solution.
Best Hair Oils for Oily Hair
If your scalp naturally produces a lot of oil, you will likely want to avoid hair oils, especially as a styling option. You may use the occasional astringent oil, like grape seed oil, as a pre-wash treatment on your scalp.
It will nourish and moisturize it without causing oil-related issues. Adding a clarifying essential oil from citrus peel can also help to de-grease the hair.
You can still use coconut oil, but only on the ends of the hair. The key in maintaining oily hair is not to overwash or over-style, and to avoid using too many styling products.
Best Hair Oils for Thick Hair
Everyone thinks they want thick hair, although it requires quite a bit of maintenance. If your thick hair gets tangled very easily, the tiniest amount of commercial hair oil will help soften the hair and prevent a mess from being formed.
Best Hair Oils for Thin Hair
Assuming your hair isn’t oily, a hair oil that won’t absorb into the hair will help give your hair texture. Using one of the best hair oils on my list of commercial hair oils will certainly do the trick, as would using a botanical oil that doesn’t absorb into the hair like jojoba oil.
Run it through the mid-length of your hair, but make sure to volumize the top so it won’t get weighed down.
The best way to use silicone-based commercial hair oils is when hair is damp, before blow-drying or air-drying.
Depending on the length of your hair, squeeze out at least a pea-sized amount of hair oil. Apply it to your hair beginning at the mid-length point, and work it downwards to the ends of the hair, either with your hands or a hair brush. Follow it up with your usual hair styling routine.
If you notice some flyaways after you already finished styling your hair, you can smooth them down with a tiny amount of hair oil.
• As a pre-shower hair treatment, coat your hair and scalp with your hair oil of choice. Make sure every strand is thoroughly saturated by applying it to the hair in sections.
You can leave it in for as long as you like – my favorite way is to apply it in the evening, wrap my hair up in a clean scarf, go to sleep, and wash it out in the morning for silky-soft hair. If the hair is dehydrated, do all of this while hair is damp. The oils will help lock the water in the hair.
• For an extra boost of moisture, squeeze out a few drops of oil into your conditioner, right before applying it to your hair. Leave it in for a few minutes, and then rinse it out as normal.
• If you don’t have the time for a full night soak in hair oils, but still need speedy repair, heat up your hair oils before applying. For the hot oil treatment for hair, don’t let them get too hot – just warm them up a bit with a double boiling method, or microwaving them at a very low heat. The warmth of the oil will open up your cuticles, and allow more of the oil to penetrate quickly.
• If what you require is more of a scalp treatment than a hair treatment, rub the oil directly onto your scalp. Leave it in for 30-45 minutes, and wash it out.
• Lighter, less penetrative hair oils like jojoba oil, argan oil, or grape seed oil can be used for hair styling. Use a very small amount, either after or before heat styling, to smooth down frizz and nourish the ends. Avoid applying them too close to the scalp, as that can lead to a greasy look.
• You can apply hair oil to your hair right before dyeing it, and you don’t have to remove it for the session! The hair dye will take just as well, but your hair will be extra strong and protected.
• Before jumping in the pool, a coating of hair oil will prevent the chlorine from causing too much damage.
1. Shea Moisture Coconut Oil
Unrefined coconut oil is proven to be one of the most effective oils for treating hair from within. I can say with confidence that this oil goes above and beyond as one of the best hair oils available anywhere. It has an incredible ability to penetrate, so it makes the hair shaft stronger, more elastic, and more resistant to damage. It also increases the hair’s ability to hold moisture, keeping it supple. It’s available at Ulta.
2. Josie Maran Argan Oil
Argan oil has become the center of a hair oil craze, and it certainly deserves its place as one of the best hair oils. It is an oil rich in protective vitamin E, and is able to penetrate the hair, although not as deeply as heavier oils. This means that it also saturates the hair with a healthy shine, so it can be used both as a treatment and for styling. This organic version by Josie Maran comes in a convenient dropper bottle that is UV-resistant, so this delicate oil will stay fresh for a while. Pick up a bottle for yourself at Sephora.
3. Desert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil is a light wax that mimics the natural sebum our skin produces. It is excellent as a scalp moisturizer and a moisture sealant for the hair. Unlike other natural hair oils, it does not penetrate into the hair, but this means it is great as a styling aid, to tame frizz and provide the hair with a bit of shine! It is available for sale at Walgreens.
4. The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil
A little bit like olive oil, marula oil has a medium penetration into the hair. This means it can give some moisturization from within, while also sealing the cuticle. I think it would be an excellent post-shower oil, to lock in moisture. It is loaded with antioxidants to fortify the hair against environmental damage. Grab yourself a bottle from Adore Beauty.
5. Herbivore Citrine Glowing Hydration Body Oil
This all natural body and hair oil blend from Sephora is the very definition of luxury, with a gorgeous floral scent and really luxurious oils that both coat and penetrate the hair, for ultimate shine and strength. There is just a hint of rosehip oil, for a very serious dose of antioxidants that you will rarely find in most hair products.
1. MoroccanOil Hair Treatment
I’d be remiss not to mention the hair oil everyone is raving about. It is important to mention that while this is one of the best hair oils, it is not pure argan oil, even though that is what it is often mistaken for. This luxurious blend is primarily silicone, although it does feature a healthy dose of argan oil, so it still has some hair nourishing properties. It is available for sale at Nordstrom.
2. Redken Diamond Oil Glow Dry
This hair oil will give your hair an impossible shine, and seriously upgrade any hairstyling look. Unlike some of the other best hair oils on this list, this one doesn’t have any hair nourishing properties – it is straight silicone with fragrance, although the texture is light enough so that it’ll also work for oily hair. It does what it does extremely well, but nothing beyond. If that is what you need, you can find it at Ulta.
3. Tatcha Gold Camellia Beauty Oil
This hair oil from Sephora behaves like a botanical oil, and should definitely be used as such. Its main ingredient is Caprylic/ Capric Triglyceride, a unique compound that penetrates and strengthens the hair, as well as coconut oil. There are other oils and natural extracts in here that will greatly improve the hair’s functioning, but in a unique formula that feels dry and silky on the skin. You can use it as a long-term treatment, or for styling!
4. CHI Argan Oil Plus Moringa Oil
A collection of nourishing oils and silk proteins makes this a comprehensive styling hair treatment, and truly deserves a place as one of the best hair oils. It tames flyaways and leaves the hair silky soft, but it will also fortify the hair with a lot of incredible nutrients. It is also lightweight and amazingly scented, so get one for yourself at Ulta.
5. Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil
Nothing puts me in a better mood than a hint of rose fragrance. The oil blend itself, here, is a mixture of deep penetrating and medium penetrating oils that beautifully moisturize the hair. There is no silicone in sight, but there are mattifying ingredients that lend this nourishing hair oil a hint of a silicone-feel. You can use it both as a treatment and for styling. These are available for sale at Sephora.
Do you prefer natural hair oils, or commercial hair oils? Which are your favorite hair oils? Let us know!
Photos via @telleish_hair_studio, @negin_mirsalehi, @michiethomas