To give you a brief introduction on hair oils, there are a couple main types of oils you’ll come across: carrier oils (vegetable/nut/seed derived oil, usually odorless, can be used alone or used to transport or “carry” the scent and properties of an essential oil) and essential oils (highly concentrated scent, contain specific therapeutic benefits, normally extracted from plant sources and diluted with carrier oils).
Examples of essential oils widely used in the natural hair community are rosemary, tea tree, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender and sandalwood. Of course there are many others, but these are found in many natural hair products for their healing and restorative properties.
On their own, carrier oils have their own individual benefits and are extremely popular among curly girls. Whether you have type 2 waves, type 3 curls, or type 4 coils, there’s an oil out there that can benefit your tresses. To help you navigate, here’s a list of some of the more popular, and a few obscure, natural oils on the market.
- Coconut Oil (Extra Virgin) Light and non-greasy, coconut oil can easily be used by all hair types. Coconut oil is one of the few oils that can actually penetrate the hair shaft. There are several types of coconut oil available, but go for the extra virgin (EVCO). This oil is typically clear in its liquid form and a white color that is solid at room temperature. Shelf life: approximately 1-2 years.
- Olive Oil (Extra Virgin) This multipurpose oil is a staple in many naturals’ hair care regimens. Not only is olive oil a great pre-poo and hot oil treatment option, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) works wonders to seal moisture in and can add a kick to your conditioning routine too. If you have finer hair you may want to use just a small amount in order to not weigh the hair down. Shelf life: up to 2 years.
- Castor Oil (Jamaican Black Castor Oil) A heavier oil great for tighter coils, castor oil can be great for sealing moisture into your hair. Many have also used this oil to help regain thickness around thinning hairlines. A little definitely goes a long way with this oil; too much can leave your hair heavy and weighed down. Another popular variation is Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO). This less refined version can be used to encourage hair growth as well as protect and seal your ends. Shelf life: indefinite.
- Grape Seed Oil This super light and moisturizing hair oil can benefit all types of curls. A natural heat protectant, grape seed oil can actually be used as a thermal agent up to 425 degrees when blow drying or flat ironing. Apply a bit throughout the hair before applying heat to give your hair added shine and protection. This oil works great to strengthen each strand, increase manageability and can also be used to combat dry scalp and dandruff. Shelf life: approximately 1 year
- Jojoba Oil Closely matching the sebum, your hair’s natural oil, jojoba oil is a great staple in your natural hair care routine. This hair oil can be used to balance oil production at the scalp, aiding overproducing glands that cause oily hair. Jojoba is also non-greasy and gives your hair a healthy shine. At this time, however, jojoba oil is very scarce and that is reflected in the skyrocketing price. Shelf life: can be indefinite.
- Sweet Almond Oil This light, all-purpose oil is great for all hair types and offers many benefits to naturally curly hair. Sweet almond oil works great as a sealant, so apply a small bit on top of your moisturizer to lock in the moisture. It’s also great for improving manageability by smoothing the hair shaft. Shelf life: approximately 1 year.
- Avocado Oil This super nutrient rich oil is heaven for thick haired curlies. Chock full of natural goodies like amino acids, minerals, and vitamins, avocado oil can help strengthen hair and enhance deep conditioning treatments. Try mixing a bit of this hair oil with your favorite conditioner as a deep treatment, adding a plastic baggy or heat cap for added conditioning. Since this oil is a bit heavy and slightly oily, it’s best for thicker or more tightly coiled strands. Shelf life: approximately 1 year.
- Argan Oil This rare oil is making waves in the natural hair community for its moisturizing properties. Easily absorbed and quite nourishing, this oil is great for your hair, skin, and nails too. For curly girls, argan oil helps with manageability and can also strengthen the hair. It can be pricey, but a little goes a long way. Shelf life: approximately 2 years.
- Ayurvedic Oils For ages these hair oils have worked wonders across the globe and they’re a wonderful option for naturals. Some of the more prominent oils are amla, neem, brahmi, and bhringaraj; each of these distinctive oils offer their own unique benefits for your curls. For example, amla oil is great to strengthen and condition the hair, neem oil is excellent for tackling dandruff, brahmi can be used to stimulate hair growth and bhringaraj is great to combat shedding and breakage.
- Rose Oil A lightweight oil, rose oil is perfect for wavies or those with thinner hair. Rose oil strengthens hair at the root, protects against frizz and adds shine.
When it comes to incorporating natural hair oils into your regimen, there are a few rules of thumb. First, research the shelf life of the oils before you purchase them and make sure you use them before they go bad. Essential oils will not turn bad, but carrier oils can go rancid. Rancid oils may turn colors or develop odors so it helps to pay close attention to the date of packaging.
Next, when you’re shopping for carrier oils, you’ll want to look for those that have been cold pressed or expeller pressed. This means that no additional heat was used to extract the oil, thus keeping the vital nutrients intact. Lastly, you should make efforts to purchase your ingredients from reputable companies. If you prefer buying on the ground, you can look at Whole Foods, Vitamin Shoppe or other health/nutritional stores. You may find better prices online from such retailers as CamdenGray.com, MountainRoseHerbs.com, TexasNaturalSupply.com and NewDirectionsAromatics.com.
Take some time to assess your hair and determine which hair oils may benefit you the most. You can even combine different oils to create your own treatment. This is just a handful of options available to you, so do a little research now and your hair will thank you for it later!