How to Find the Best Oil for Your Hair and Scalp
by Heather Smith on Jan 14, 2023
The best hair oils combine specific carrier oils with potent botanicals that target the needs of your scalp and follicles. However, just like facial oils, finding the right hair oil is an individualized process and different for everyone.
Before you jump onto Applepay and start shelling out your hard-earned dollars, learning some baseline facts will help you choose the best hair oil for you.
Hair Oil Basics to Know Before Starting
A quick anatomy lesson 🙈
Your scalp contains the same 3 layers as the rest of the skin on your body and each has the same purpose. However, the microenvironment is very different because of the density of hair follicles and differences in the moisture, oils, and microbiome.
The hair shaft leads down deep into the dermis, where the root is connected to blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. Inside the root bulb are living, dividing cells that contribute to continuous hair growth. However, only dead cells and protein (keratin) remain once the hair grows outwards. It's a pretty interesting process if you're interested in learning more.
What is a Hair Oil?
A hair oil is an oil-based product applied to your scalp, hair follicles, and flowing tresses. They are generally waterless and contain a combination of carrier oils, botanical extracts, essential oils, or other active ingredients.
What are the Benefits of Hair Oils?
There are many potential benefits to using oils on your hair, scalp, and follicles. Carrier oils are usually cold-pressed and unrefined from the seeds and nuts of various fruits and vegetables. They contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal fatty acids, vitamins, and phytonutrients.
When applied to the scalp and hair, benefits of hair oils include:
- Seals in moisture for the hair and scalp
- Increased shine and manageability
- Soothing and healing of some scalp conditions like dandruff and itch
- Potential to stimulate hair growth or prevent hair loss
- Protection from surfactants and heat damage from styling
- Reduced split ends
- Relaxation and wellness from massage and aromatherapy
Is Silicone a Hair Oil?
No. Silicone feels slick an is water repellant, so there are a lot of similarities.
Silicone-based hair products add extreme shine and glossiness as they coat the hair. They are generally styling products that help with hold, texture, heat protection, shine, and reducing frizziness (note: hair oils do all that too).
However, they aren't usually targeting a treatment aspect of things (like hair growth or scalp conditions), and they aren't considered to be natural in the same way as a plant extract or cold-pressed carrier oil.
No problem if that's your shopping preference, but they don't qualify as hair oil.
How Do You Use Oils on Your Hair
Hair often suffers from over-washing. Usually, people need to shampoo much less frequently than they do. This is because the surfactants in shampoo can be quite harsh and stripping.
If you have normal or dry hair, you can use small amounts of oil at any time. Apply a few drops onto your hands, rub them together, then smooth them over the hair. This method works well for shine and dryness, especially at the ends. If you're out and about, be careful not to put too much oil in the scalp/root area at this time. That is where it can accumulate and look a bit greasy if it builds up. Once you get a feel for your hair and scalp needs, you'll know how much and how often to do this.
Everyone, even people with oily scalps, can benefit from more intensive oil treatments at bedtime. In particular, on the nights before you know you're going to shampoo. On these nights, you can be a bit more liberal (think 4-8 drops). Get some oil right onto your scalp and massage it in. Also, gently brush or comb some oil through. Don't overdo it because you need to resist the temptation to aggressively shampoo it all out the next day. Just wake up, have a standard shower, and do your usual shampoo and condition.
If you don't like sleeping with oil in your hair, you can use a cap to protect your bed linens. Or, you can do the same steps as a mask and just let it sit for an hour or two before washing.
Always apply oils to dry hair; wetness will repel the oil away from the hair and follicle.
If you're considering the derma-rolling technique for hair growth, be sure to discuss the addition of any oils or products with your treatment prescriber.
Can I Use Face Oil in My Hair
While brands trying to market you ten different products will work hard to make you think you need a specific product for every body part, there is a lot of overlap in the face oil and oil serum worlds.
Like we say below about beard care, it's far more critical to match the right oil to your skin type than to have a separate product for each body area.
Can I Use Hair Oil On My Beard
Yes, no problem. There is no "one best oil for beard."
Hair is hair.
Men have a unique situation concerning facial hair follicles and the presence of testosterone. If oiliness and acne are a concern, it's more important to use oils that are appropriate for your skin type than it is to use an oil specifically designed for hair. In this article, we discuss beard care in more depth.
Understanding Carrier Oils
We've covered carrier oils extensively concerning their use as face oil and have written multiple articles on the best face oils for sensitive skin, oily skin, dry skin, and aged skin.
Much of the same information applies to the scalp and hair.
The main benefits of hair oil come from the properties of the carrier oil - the ratio of linoleic to oleic acids, fatty acid composition, levels of Vitamin A and E, and the type and variety of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytochemicals. Together, these factors make most carrier oils excellent for skin and hair use.
When it comes to hair and scalp care, the worry about clogging pores is less. This creates an opportunity to use different oils that aren't as good for the face. Specifically, coconut oil is one of the favourite hair oils for many people, particularly people who are black and those who have dry and curly hair.
11 Best Hair Oils and Why They're Amazing
The thing with all-natural skin and hair care is that many remedies are passed down for generations through cultural and medicinal traditions. Scientific data is always lacking, and lots more are unlikely to be forthcoming due to the costs. There's just no incentive for proper clinical trials to be done on something as readily available and common as castor oil.
We've reviewed the data and anticipate the results of ongoing trials like this one using hemp to be useful. However, much of the knowledge that's passed on about topics like this is historical and word of mouth.
These are the 10 best hair oils and some reasons why we love them:
- Rosemary essential oil
- Peppermint essential oil
- Castor Oil
- Jojoba oil
- Argan oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Amla oil
- Eclipta alba extract (the scientific name for Bhringraj oil)
- Black cumin seed oil
- Radish seed oil (daikon seed extract)
Coconut oil is high in medium-chain fatty acids, particularly lauric acid, which penetrates the hair shaft to provide moisture, reduced protein loss and improved hair strength and elasticity. Its chemical makeup allows it to penetrate hair the best, making it an effective conditioner. Coconut oil reduces damage caused by combing and brushing and protects hair from environmental stressors. Additionally, it has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with scalp conditions such as dandruff and eczema.
Rosemary essential oil is known to promote hair growth and improve thickness. The reason probably has to do with increased blood circulation in the scalp. Additionally, rosemary oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, effectively treating various scalp conditions, such as dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis. It's also found to have natural DHT blocking properties, a hormone that is known to cause hair loss. Research suggests that rosemary oil applied to the scalp can increase the number of follicles and hair thickness.
Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint essential oil is rich in menthol, which is also known to stimulate blood flow to the scalp to promote growth. The oil also has a cooling and refreshing effect, which can help to invigorate the scalp, reduce itching, and soothe any irritation. Menthol is also a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. The oil's high content of menthol also makes it a great hair tonic, providing a cooling and refreshing sensation to the scalp. Even if you're not looking for a hair growth stimulant or remedy, the sensorial aspects of this type of ritual can't be ignored.
Essential oils shouldn't be used full strength on the scalp. Both rosemary and peppermint oils should be diluted with one of the other oils on this list before applying.
Rich in ricinoleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid, castor oil has long been a favourite for use in hair. The oil is thick and viscous, making it an effective sealant, helping to lock in moisture and protect the hair from damage. Castor oil has been traditionally used for hair growth, nourishment and thickness, and there is some supporting evidence for this.
Jojoba is a liquid wax closely resembling the scalp's natural sebum. It's rich in fatty acids such as oleic acid, linoleic acid, and wax esters, which are known to be beneficial for hair health. In addition, Jojoba oil is non-greasy and easily absorbed. It's particularly helpful for dry and damaged hair, as it can help to repair and strengthen the hair shaft, preventing breakage and split ends. Jojoba oil is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to soothe an irritated scalp and help with conditions such as dandruff and eczema.
Argan is another all-around excellent hair oil. Being high in oleic and linoleic acids and Vitamin E makes it protective and nourishing. Argan oil is particularly effective in treating dry, damaged, and chemically treated hair. Its high content of antioxidants and fatty acids helps to repair and strengthen the hair shaft, preventing breakage and split ends. It also helps to tame frizz and flyaways, leaving hair smooth and shiny.
Another great all-purpose hair oil is grapeseed. Grapeseed oil has a light and non-greasy texture, making it easily absorbed by the hair and scalp. It's also a good natural emollient, which can help hydrate and moisturize the hair, leaving it soft and shiny. Studies have found that grapeseed oil can also help to strengthen the hair, reducing breakage and split ends. It doesn't have many of its own outstanding qualities, but that makes it excellent for diluting essential oils or for people with sensitive or irritable skin.
Amla oil comes from the Indian gooseberry. A longstanding favourite in traditional Ayurvedic practices, it is commonly used as a natural hair conditioner. Amla oil is also rich in tannins and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, making it another effective treatment for scalp conditions.
Another frequently used hair oil in Ayurvedic practices is Eclipta alba (Bhringraj oil). The plant is rich in phytosterols, flavonoids, and alkaloids. Bhringraj oil is felt to be beneficial for hair due to its ability to promote hair growth, strengthen the hair shaft, and prevent hair loss. The oil is also has anti-inflammatory properties and used for scalp conditions.
Black cumin seed oil
Black cumin oil is derived from the Nigella sativa plant. It's rich in fatty acids and antioxidants and used as a natural hair conditioner and scalp treatment. Additionally, it's been found to be effective in regulating the scalp's natural oil production and may help prevent hair loss.
Radish Seed Oil (Daikon Radish Seed)
Daikon radish extract is an oil with silicone-like texture. It has a unique, light, sensory component that makes it useful as a natural alternative to silicone. It is a sustainable cover-crop with rapid germination rates, so it can be an ecologically favourable crop.
When applied to hair, it helps nourish and strengthen the hair shaft, improving the overall health and appearance of the hair. This encourages healthy hair growth via improved root health in addition to softness and shine.
Of course, there are many other oils that can be used for hair, but these are our favourites due to their long history of successful use. If you're shopping for commercially available hair oil, look for ones that contain at least some of these ingredients.
There are also many newer and more cutting-edge oil-soluble active botanicals that target hair growth and scalp health; stay tuned for more information on that!
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