The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Right Oil For Your Curls

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
The entire Internet is raving about this new wonder oil, so you dutifully pick some up and try it on your hair and it does...nothing. Has everyone been lying? Was everyone paid to talk about that oil? Or are you the only one who doesn’t feel the magic?

Chances are, it just wasn’t the oil for you. Not all hair oils will work for everyone, and there are literally hundreds of carrier and essential oils out there. We know you don’t have time to sort through them all, so we're gonna break it down for you: Which are the most popular hair oils, and who will benefit the most based on their properties?

Before we get started, it’s important to know the difference between a carrier oil and an essential oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated in fragrance and contain therapeutic benefits to the body, skin, and hair. They typically come in very small bottles and have a strong scent, and some should not be placed directly on the skin or hair without first being diluted by a carrier oil. Carrier oils (also known as base or vegetable oils) are added to natural hair and skin recipes to dilute essential oils for safe, gentle use.
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Dry, Thick Hair
Castor oil is a heavy carrier oil with the consistency of honey, making it best for people with thick, coarse, or tightly coiled textures. Tightly coiled hair needs more moisture, and castor oil makes an effective sealant or moisturizing hot-oil treatment. Massage it into the scalp and hair, and then cover up with a plastic cap for 15 to 30 minutes before washing out. The most popular version for hair is Jamaican Black Castor Oil, which is less refined than some others and contains dark ash, making it thicker, darker, and smoky in scent. You can combine it with a lighter carrier oil like jojoba and add the blend to your favorite conditioner to make it even more moisturizing.

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Dry, Fine Hair
Coconut oil is much lighter than castor oil. Though it is solid in the jar, it melts into a light, non-greasy oil when warmed between the fingers. If you have fine hair, a small amount of coconut oil won’t weigh your hair down the way other oils can. For looser curl patterns, use a small amount (start with less than you think you need and build from there) as the finishing touch in your styling routine to spot-treat frizz, add shine to your style, and give your waves and curls soft hold. Many women swear by coconut oil’s moisturizing properties, while others find that it makes their hair feel brittle, the way protein does (even though coconut oil does not contain protein). Test it on a small section of your hair before applying throughout to see if your hair reacts well to it. Be sure to buy unrefined coconut oil with no additives or other ingredients.

Related: 3 All-Natural Remedies for Thinning Edges by HeyFranHey

Dandruff
Rosemary essential oil is packed with vitamin A and is an antiseptic used in natural healing remedies for acne, eczema, and psoriasis. This makes it ideal for soothing an itchy or irritated scalp. If you're experiencing itchiness or flaking, try applying a pre-poo treatment of rosemary oil mixed with pure argan oil, a carrier oil that the scalp easily absorbs for ultimate hydration. Apply the treatment and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before you shampoo, then cleanse and condition as you normally would.

Thinning Edges
Thinning and fragile edges can be caused by wearing tight or protective styles, wig caps or adhesives, and heat styling. While the first step to growing your edges back is to stop the bad styling habits that caused them to thin, the next course of action is to make sure you’re creating the healthiest possible environment for new hair growth. Peppermint oil is a natural antibacterial that will remove any of the buildup or impurities that are obstructing your hair follicles.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Its stimulating effect on the scalp can increase blood circulation to that area to promote hair growth. Remember, peppermint is an essential oil (and a potent one at that), so be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil like jojoba before applying it to your temples. For best results, massage the oil blend into your scalp and hairline using the soft pads of your fingers for extra stimulation. We also recommend checking with your doctor to confirm that the thinning isn’t caused by a health condition.

Sensitive Scalp
Jojoba is actually not an oil, but a liquid wax. It's organically similar to human skin oil, making it ideal for those with skin sensitivities and allergies. Jojoba is full of fatty acids that are necessary for healthy, moisturized hair. If you find that many of the ingredients in common hair-care products leave your scalp feeling irritated, try using jojoba as your natural moisturizer instead. You can either add it to your favorite natural conditioner or use it as a hot-oil treatment. Jojoba is a carrier oil, so luckily, you can buy it in large bottles — it’s not as expensive as the tiny bottles of essential oil.

Color-Treated Hair
Color-treated hair is likely to have undergone chemical damage, so it needs extra TLC. Hempseed oil is a carrier oil packed with vital nutrients and vitamins, such as omega 3, 6, and 9, to give your hair back its healthy softness. If you’ve colored your hair, then you also want to keep it vibrant by avoiding harsh cleansers that can strip the color or cause it to bleed and fade. To make your own cleanser more color-friendly, combine hempseed oil with jasmine essential oil and add them to your co-wash or gentle shampoo.

Which mix of oils has worked for you?

Next: The Coconut Oil Bleaching Method
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