A Curly Girl's Guide To Hair Oils

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins.
When it comes to curly hair, oils are a major key. In fact, almost every single complaint you have about your curls can be resolved with the right oil: from frizz to lack of shine, brittle hair, and even split ends. Curly hair tends to hold less hydration than straight hair. This lack of hydration causes frizz, making hair look dull (read: no shine). A lack of hydration also causes hair to feel brittle, which leads to more split ends. All of this stems from your curl pattern, not a natural inclination that you have for drier hair. The oils produced on your scalp — a.k.a. sebum — are what hydrate hair, adding shine, decreasing frizz, and giving it strength.
For those with straight hair, those oils slip down the shaft rather easily. Brushes help pull oils from the scalp down, and distributes them throughout the hair. Since it's difficult for oils to slide down a spiral or coil, this is why curly hair textures are drier than straight versions. But you don't need a brush or even your natural oils to get a shiny, frizz-free style. All you need is the right hair oil. "They're a wonderful way to moisturize the hair," says Sarah Stevens, a curly-hair vlogger for WaterLily716. "And, they are totally natural. Most pure oils are easy to remove from the hair and they don't contain synthetic ingredients."
There are two main types of oils: sealing and moisturizing. Sealing oils (think jojoba) seal in moisture, meaning that you'll need to apply water or conditioner to your hair beforehand for them to really work. Moisturizing oils (we're talking coconut, olive, or avocado) are heavier than sealing oils and can be used alone to moisturize the hair. Sealing and moisturizing oils are meant to be used at different times — one after a shower, for instance, and the other during a deep-conditioning treatment — and each applied in different ways. You can use an oil to hydrate your scalp, encourage hair growth via massaging, reduce split ends, add in your conditioner, apply a heat treatment (with a heavier oil) — the options go on.
In general, though, most people with curly hair use multiple types of oils to perfect their style and to address their individual needs. Ahead, we've identified some of the most common natural oils, plus tips on how to use them. Read on to find the one for you.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

More from Hair

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Documentary
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
Fashion
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Beauty
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
Documentary
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Documentary
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
Documentary
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Comedy
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Documentary
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Politics
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
Film
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.