Experts weigh in on the best hair oils for all your hair concerns.

By Melanie Rud
April 07, 2020
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Incorporating oils into your skin-care routine is commonplace these days, but did you know that oils can play a pivotal role in your hair-care regimen, too? And, contrary to popular belief, there's an oil out there for every hair type and texture—yes, even if you have oily hair to begin with. (Related: How to Find the Perfect Face Oil for Your Skin)

Ahead, experts explain exactly what a hair oil can do, plus how to determine which one is best for you. Whatever your mane concern is (LOL, get it?), there's a hair oil that can help.

What Is the Benefit of Using a Hair Oil?

The same principles apply to hair oils as they do for skin oils: Natural oils are loaded with different types of vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids, all of which are important for both a healthy scalp and healthy hair, says stylist Steven Picciano, a Goldwell National Artist. As long as you pick the best one for your hair type and texture and use it in the right way, hair oils can be beneficial for everyone, he adds. (Don't worry, we'll get to some specific oils and their uses shortly.)

On top of boosting the health and strength of your strands, they can offer styling benefits, as well. "Hair oils can be used for grooming, maintaining moisture, and to prevent breakage," explains Jennifer Haley, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Scottsdale, AZ. If you start to feel like your tresses could use some extra shine during winter or if you're wanting to tame frizz in summer months, a hair oil could be your new must-have styling product.

But, Can Hair Oil Help with Hair Growth?

In a word, yes. "Three essential oils have research backing enhanced hair growth—rosemary, peppermint, and lavender," says Haley. The key? Unlike when you're simply using oil to impart moisture or shine, these hair oils need to be applied directly onto the scalp in order to reap these benefits; in this case, they're actually working more on the skin than the hair.

How (and How Often) Should You Use a Hair Oil?

There's no universal answer here since it largely depends on the oil you're using, its intended purpose, and, again, the texture of your hair. Generally speaking, however, if you're using hair oil for styling purposes, you can use a few drops—from mid-length to ends—daily, either before or after blow-drying, says Picciano.

To use one as a treatment, apply it throughout the hair and leave it on for 25 to 30 minutes before rinsing out. You can do this weekly. (Related: The 12 Best Protein Treatments for Stronger, Healthier Hair)

And if your goal is growth, first dilute one of those aforementioned essential oils with a carrier oil (a neutral oil like avocado or grapeseed), since they can be potentially irritating if they go straight onto your scalp, notes Haley. You can do this as a weekly mask, or simply mix a few drops of the essential oil into your shampoo every day, she adds.

The Best Hair Oil for Your Hair Type

Now, to the good stuff. Here's a detailed lowdown on nine different oils—plus products to try.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil is often lauded for being a magical cure-all, and it is indeed good for your strands. "Its unique characteristic is the ability to deeply penetrate the hair shaft and lock in moisture, and also prevent damage during the styling process," says Haley. The big caveat here? Coconut oil is a known pore-clogger so keep it away from your scalp and hairline, she warns. Work a small amount (be sure it's warm and liquified—and not solid—to avoid the risk of tangles) through mid-shafts to ends and leave on for up to 30 minutes. Picciano advises rinsing it for three to five minutes with warm water before shampooing to ensure it's thoroughly removed. Try the highly-rated Kopari Coconut Melt (Buy It, $28, sephora.com), or snag SheaMoisture 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for half the price (Buy It, $11, target.com).

Castor oil: Thanks to its thick viscosity, this oil can make hair appear thicker—it's why people often swipe it onto their eyebrows—though there's no scientific evidence that it actually helps hair growth or thickness, says Haley. Still, you can use a bit on your ends for moisturizing purposes. It's especially choice for fighting frizz or dryness, so pick up Briogeo B. Well Organic + Cold-Pressed 100% Castor Oil (Buy It, $26, sephora.com) or Heritage Store Castor Oil (Buy It, $8, target.com) to hydrate and smooth locks.

Argan oil: There's a good reason why this is one of the more popular hair oils out there. Rich in linoleic and oleic acids, as well as vitamin E, argan oil has been shown in studies to protect the hair shaft from damage caused by hair dyeing, says Hale. Picciano's pro tip: Apply a few drops as the final step in your styling routine to impart mirror-like shine. Just add Josie Maran 100 Percent Pure Argan Oil (Buy It, from $17, sephora.com) or Moroccanoil Treatment (Buy It, from $15, sephora.com) to your shopping cart. (ICYDK, Argan oil is just a purer form of Moroccan oil.)

Olive oil: This staple oil can soften hair and increase shine, but, as with coconut oil, be careful and reserve it for the ends of your strands only, especially if you're prone to flaking, cautions Haley. Olive oil can make dandruff worse by feeding the yeast on the scalp that contributes to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, another condition characterized by an itchy, flaky scalp, she adds. Apply ORS Olive Oil Extra Rich Hair Cream (Buy It, $8, target.com) to ends and rinse, or leave on as an overnight mask.

Tea tree oil: On the flip side, this is a great option for those with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, thanks to its anti-fungal benefits, notes Haley. She recommends using it in its pure form and mixing a few drops in with your shampoo daily (it can be irritating, so never apply it straight onto the scalp). The astringent properties of tea tree oil also make this the go-to oil for anyone with oily or greasy strands, and it's ideal for helping to remove excess product buildup as well, says Picciano. Try Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal Tea Tree Treatment (Buy It, $22, nordstrom.com) or Difeel Pure Essential Tea Tree Oil (Buy It, $6, target.com) to fight dandruff and improve scalp health.

Jojoba oil: This lightweight oil is a fan-favorite in the skin-care world, and works equally well for hair, improving both hydration and shine. Upgrade the benefits of your daily conditioner simply by adding a few drops of jojoba oil to it, suggests Picciano. An affordable find, Sephora's Multi-Purpose Jojoba Protecting Oil (Buy It, $5, $8, sephora.com) nourishes and purifies hair without weighing it down. (Related: Why Jojoba Oil Is the Only Oil You Should Be Using On Your Face)

Avocado oil: One of Picciano's favorites, he calls this, "a hero oil that's able to penetrate the hair shaft, while leaving behind the least amount of grease." Yes, please. It's another great pick to use as a weekly, deep-moisturizing treatment. Smooth a small amount of Hair Food Avocado & Argan Smooth Hair Oil (Buy It, $12, target.com) into damp or dry hair from scalp to ends to condition locks and add shine.

Rosemary oil: This hair growth-booster works by improving circulation and stimulating the follicles, explains Picciano. It was even compared to minoxidil, a drug approved by the FDA for regrowing hair, in a 2015 study (the two worked equally well). Picciano recommends mixing it with avocado oil if you're using it in its purest form (which will give you the greatest amount of benefits) and applying it to your scalp. Try Allpa Botanicals Rosemary Hair Oil (Buy It, $27, allpabotanicals.com), or test out a pre-formulated treatment, like Kiehl's Magic Elixir (Buy It, $22, kiehls.com), which you massage into your scalp and then thoroughly rinse before applying shampoo. (Related: What Is Nutrafol for Women?)

Almond oil: By filling in gaps in the hair strand, almond oil can promote smoothness and help prevent breakage, says Picciano. Use a small amount on damp hair before heat styling. A cheap yet effective pick: Mielle Organics Mint Almond Oil (Buy It, $13, target.com), an oil that restores dry hair and split ends, and increases blood circulation in the scalp, which could promote hair growth.

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