You've probably heard of and encountered many, many oils that promise to treat your biggest hair qualms. Coconut oil, argan oil, and even olive oil have all been touted as magical hair salves at one point or another.
One type of oil for hair you may not be familiar with, however, is Abyssinian oil—and according to the pros, it may actually work better than anything you've tried yet. (Step aside, culinary oils. Seriously.)
What is Abyssinian oil?
Like many of its fellow oils for hair, Abyssinian oil is derived directly from nature. It's extracted from the seeds of the Ethiopian-native Brassica Abyssinica plant, to be exact.
Abyssinian oil is chemically similar to the natural oils found on our skin and in our hair, making it a safe, practical ingredient (especially if you're as passionate about clean beauty as we are). So, is Abyssinian oil really the secret to strong strands? We spoke with certified trichologist Mark Blake and New York–based dermatologist Hadley King, MD for the scoop.
Meet the Expert
Mark Blake is a certified trichologist and member of the International Association of Trichologists. He is an internationally recognized trichologist and thinning hair specialist who has worked in the hair industry for over 40 years.
Hadley King, MD is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. She is also a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
So, what exactly makes Abyssinian oil so special? "Abyssinian oil is loaded with omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, and E," says King. (Yes, that's a lot of nutrients in one oil—which is the whole point. More on that in a bit.)
Read ahead to get the answers you need on the best-kept-secret hair ingredient, Abyssinian oil.
Abyssinian Oil for Hair
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Hydrator, strengthener, and may also be an anti-fungal
MAIN BENEFITS: Protects hair from heat and pollution while also decreasing frizz and adding shine and moisture.
WHO SHOULD USE IT: Anyone looking to add some hydration and shine to their hair while reducing frizz and flyaways. Those who have fine hair should use sparingly.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: Once daily, or simply after washing your hair if used as styling product.
WORKS WELL WITH: Argan and jojoba oils.
DON'T USE WITH: There are no known ingredients that Abyssinian oil counteracts with.
Benefits of Abyssinian Oil for Hair
Spoiler alert: Not only will your hair thank you for trying Abyssinian oil, but your scalp will, too. Unlike some of the synthetic mineral oils that currently dominate the haircare market, Abyssinian oil is completely derived from nature—meaning, you don't have to worry about the buildup that happens while using chemical- or silicone-based haircare products. (Can't beat that.)
There are other benefits of Abyssinian Oil, including:
- Strengthens and softens: King says that the nutrient-rich Abyssinian oil will "moisturize, add shine, decrease frizz, and help protect the hair from heat and pollution." The rich lineup of nutrients adds elasticity to hair, making your strands less prone to splitting, breaking, or becoming brittle. It basically acts as a shield against everyday irritants and pollution, too, by strengthening the strands and locking in moisture and shine.
- Consistently works: Another perk of Abyssinian oil, according to King, is that it resists oxidation—meaning, you won't have to worry about the formula's chemical compounds changing after opening the bottle and exposing it to air. You get what you see with Abyssinian oil.
- May help hair growth: The fatty-acid profile of Abyssinian oil allows it to condition split ends, soften hair, and boost shine. The plethora of minerals, including the Omega-3 fatty acids, may help promote healthy hair growth, however more studies are needed to verify this.
- May act as a natural anti-fungal: Since Abyssinian oil also contains linoleic acid, it may work as an anti-fungal, too. The linoleic acid may help stop scalp fungus growth (which can be responsible for unpleasant side effects like dandruff and itchiness, which, in turn, can lead to hair thinning and loss). Essentially, what's good for your scalp is good for your hair—and Abyssinian oil basically does it all.
- Gives skin a boost: "The omega fatty acids improve texture and hydration and reduce inflammation when you use it on the skin," King continues. "The oil is also rich in antioxidants to help protect skin from free-radical damage, and it's also non-comedogenic." (Non-comedogenic means it's unlikely to clog pores or cause breakouts.)
Hair Type Considerations
Abyssinian oil is "lightweight, non-greasy, and absorbs quickly into skin and hair," says King. That's right: You won't have to worry about greasy residue or oily buildup with this oil. Due to the omega fatty acid chains, Abyssinian oil goes on lightweight without stickiness, greasiness, or tack—making it the perfect formula for everyday use (and won't weigh down or overwhelm your strands like heavier oils that ultimately end up stripping your hair of moisture rather than replenishing it).
Trichologist Mark Blake says that Abyssinian oil is “best for dry, colored, curly, kinky and longer hair,” he says. For these hair types, the oil does a great job in creating shine and helping to defrizz. If your hair tends to get greasy, use sparingly and only on the ends. He says that due to the fact that it is an oil, it is “best to avoid on fine hair" as it may weigh down your hair or cause it to look greasy.
How to Use Abyssinian Oil for Hair
Obviously, heat damage from tools like hair straighteners, blow-dryers, and curling irons can do a number on your hair, no matter how much you try to prevent it. Abyssinian oil can be used to not only moisturize your hair, but it can also be used as a styling treatment to strengthen the ends, reduce frizz and increase shine.
Styling treatment to reduce breakage: Abyssinian oil is the perfect pre-styling treatment, as it shields and protects strands from heat damage and other external irritants—and has miraculously been clinically proven to cause less breakage than non-treated hair or hair that's been treated with the chemically similar argan oil. “Use on damp hair,” says Blake. ”Apply just a couple of drops and evenly distribute with a large tooth comb throughout your mid lengths and ends.”
Finishing product to defrizz: You can also use Abyssinian oil if you simply want to add moisture—and subtract frizz—from your tresses, or if you want to add a dose of hydration to a dry, next-day hairstyle. “Use a drop on dry hair to tame those frizzy ends,” says Blake.
Nourishing Scalp treatment: Abyssinian oil can also be used as a nourishing scalp treatment as the Omega fatty acids provide hydration and may promote hair growth, while the linoleic acid acts as a de-fungal treatment to prevent dandruff. Massage the oil onto your scalp and wrap your hair up into a shower cap or towel. Leave on for 20-30 minutes and then shampoo out.
Moisturizing leave-in mask: Abyssinian oil makes an excellent leave-in mask for moisturizing the ends, preventing breakage, de-frizzing and adding in shine. Mix a few tablespoons of Abyssinian oil with equal amounts of argan oil or jojoba oil and apply to the ends of your hair. Leave on for 20-30 minutes before shampooing as normal.
The Best Products With Abyssinian Oil
For the most part, however, Abyssinian oil is a safe, natural remedy for lackluster hair and damaged, split ends—even if its name doesn't evoke as much recognition as its coconut-based cousin. If you are using pure Abyssinian oil, make sure you are getting it from a reputable source. "I like Natural Abyssinian Oil by Conscious Skin Care as you can use it on your hair and skin," says Blake. Africa Imports Abyssinian Oil is another great option for pure oil that can be used in a variety of ways.
Or, introduce the ingredient directly into your shower routine with an Abyssinian-based conditioner you can count on to smooth your strands and prevent frizz before it begins.
This Abyssian Deep Hydration Shampoo not only contains Abyssinian oil, but also scalp-soothing chamomile oil that helps reduce split ends and hydrates your strands.
The IT 12-in-One Serum is infused with Abyssinian Oil and is the perfect styling treatment to help seal the cuticles to prevent breakage, lock in moisture and add shine. This lightweight formula can be used on wet or dry hair.
Cocabi Natural Leave-In conditioner contains both Abyssinian oil and coconut oil for soft and healthy looking hair. Simply spray in while wet and style as normal to get all the moisturizing benefits.
Can Abyssinian oil treat dandruff?
Possibly, however, more studies are needed. Abyssinian oil contains linoleic acid which has been shown to be an antifungal, however no studies have been done specifically on Abyssinian oil. It does moisturize the scalp which can prevent flakes.
Does Abyssinian oil help with split ends?
Yes, the Omega fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins all help to moisturize your hair to prevent your hair from breaking.
Is Abyssinian oil good for low porosity hair?
Yes, Abyssinian oil can be used for for smoothing and adding shine to low porosity hair that doesn’t allow moisture to easily be absorbed. Mix Abyssinian oil with argan oil and use it as a styling serum or conditioning treatment.
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