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With the explosion in care products for the unique and varying textures of black hair, it can sometimes be confusing knowing what to buy. Back in the day, when most products catering to the black hair market contained suffocating ingredients like petroleum, along with cheap additions that did nothing to improve hair's health, consumers didn't have much choice. That ubiquitous jar of Ultra Sheen grease (blue or green) sat on bathroom counters throughout the black community.
Today is a different story. You have your pick of products ranging in price from inexpensive to pricey, and many of them tout claims like "controls frizz" and "curl defining." There are great finds on your drugstore shelf as well as salon brands that are worth the extra money.
Sometimes, you want to keep it simple. The following picks are among the best oils for black hair. Besides being wonderful for using on your tresses, most of these oils are multi-purpose; some of them can be used as a body moisturizer, while others carry over to the kitchen.
Coconut: Nature's Way Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil
One of the most well-known oils that benefit many types of hair, coconut is a favorite because it actually moisturizes tresses. To be clear: most oils do not moisturize the hair. They help to seal in moisture, which should come in the form of water, including water-based products. But the chemical structure of coconut oil allows it to penetrate the hair strands, strengthening and moisturizing it from within. Look for organic varieties of this oil, which are readily available at many regular grocery stores along with health food retailers.
Multi-purpose claim: Use coconut oil for cooking, baking, and as an all-over moisturizer.
Jojoba: Leven Rose Organic 100% Pure Cold Pressed Jojoba Oil
One of the most attractive qualities about jojoba oil is that its make-up closely resembles that of our scalp's natural sebum. That makes it an ideal oil for scalp massages. Like other oils on this list, it works extremely well as a sealant over water-dampened hair. Look for unrefined jojoba, which is golden in color.
Multi-purpose claim: Use jojoba oil as a facial moisturizer and natural makeup remover.
Olive: Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil isn't just for cooking. This fave may have moved into your bathroom a while ago, while also being useful in the kitchen. Very easy to find, look for extra virgin olive oil, popularly known as EVOO in hair circles, whenever possible. This variety has little processing or refinement done to it, so it retains many of its nutrients. Olive oil nourishes dry scalps; anyone plagued by an itchy scalp may find relief with gentle EVOO massages.
Multi-purpose claim: Cook with it for its heart-healthy benefits, or use it as a skincare product.
Sweet Almond: NOW Solutions Sweet Almond Oil
Women looking for a lightweight oil that won't weigh down fine strands will probably like sweet almond oil. It works well as a light sealant, whether you use it only for dry ends or as an oil rinse.
Multi-purpose claim: Dab a little on chapped lips or skin for relief, or use it as a healthy fat for cooking.
Castor: Tropic Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil
One of the most inexpensive oils, this one has moved from the pharmacy shelf to many homes. While plain castor oil has long been used as a laxative, it's become more common in hair care, too. This one is incredibly thick, so use sparingly; otherwise, your hair will be weighed down and sticky. The pharmacy-grade castor oil has benefits, but Jamaican Black Castor Oil has really come into its own. Otherwise known as JBCO, this variety gets its dark color and nutty scent from the ash content derived from roasted castor beans. It's believed that the ash helps with hair growth. Women who swear by JBCO say it helped regrow thinning edges and made their hair grow faster overall.
Multi-purpose claim: Use regular castor oil to soften hard spots on the feet.
Grapeseed: NOW Solutions Grape Seed Oil
Like sweet almond, this one is a lightweight oil perfect for women who don't want heavy hair. Unlike olive oil, it doesn't have a strong scent, so that's another plus if you don't want to mask the smell with essential oils. Dandruff sufferers may find relief from regular grapeseed oil scalp massages.
Multi-purpose claim: Like others on this list, this oil has replaced bad or high cholesterol-promoting oils in the kitchen when cooking.
Avocado: NOW Solutions Avocado Oil
Rich, thick, and nourishing, avocado oil is fast becoming a popular oil in hair care. Used in everything from conditioners, styling products, and DIY hair masks, this one is full of emollient properties that make hair feel softer, smoother, and healthier.
Multi-purpose claim: Like the fruit it's derived from, avocado oil is good for the body—inside and out. Use the oil to help soothe psoriasis and replace your vegetable cooking oil with it to help increase good cholesterol levels while lowering the bad ones.
Argan: Pura d'Or Moroccan Argan Oil
One of the pricier oils to grace this list, argan has grown in popularity in recent years. Look for 100 percent argan or 100 percent Moroccan argan oil if you want the full benefits of this frizz-fighter and extreme shine-booster. Because of the cost, you may want to add small amounts to your shampoo or conditioner to boost their softening properties instead of using the oil by itself.
Multi-purpose claim: Use argan oil in place of olive for sprinkling over salads and for bread dipping.
Tea Tree: Now Essential Oils 100% Pure Tree Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is packaged in much smaller containers than other oils listed here because it should always be mixed with a carrier oil or other product before applying to your hair or scalp. This small packaging is typical of essential oils (EOs). Like other EOs, tea tree oil is very potent, and a little dab goes a long way. It helps with dandruff and itchy scalps, as well as helping remove product buildup that can inhibit hair growth.
Multi-purpose claim: Acne sufferers have long used tea tree oil to fight pimples. It's also known for its antiseptic properties.
Shea Butter: Unrefined Ivory Shea Butter by Better Shea Butter
Not technically an oil, shea butter can be melted down into oil if desired, but its thick, buttery properties are the reason a lot of people love it. It's a wonderful sealant and mixes well with other oils on this list, making it easier to apply. Shea butter also provides some sun protection if you're outdoors a lot, and with all of the fatty acids it contains, it softens dry tresses extremely well.
When buying shea butter, look for one that is a pale yellow color. Dark yellow butter is highly refined and therefore not as nutrient-rich.
Multi-purpose claim: This heavy butter works wonders on dry skin, particularly elbows, knees, and feet.
Monoi: Carol's Daughter Monoi Oil Sacred Strengthening Serum
Monoi oil comes from Tahitian gardenia extract and coconut oil. This is technically a serum with the same powers of oil that'll revert dry and heat-damaged natural hair back to its best state. Gently massage this silicone-free formula into your scalp and along your hair shafts.
Multi-purpose claim: Monoi oil is great for moisturizing skin, too. Some even say it's amazing at preventing signs of aging.