Hair oil trends come and go quicker than we can keep up with, and—not surprisingly—not all of them prevail. In the wise words of Drake, "Only [the] real ... is going to last. All the other [stuff] is here today and gone tomorrow." He may have been talking about music, but you get the idea. Only the very best hair oils stand the test of time.
Whether you're a naturalista who prefers the LOC method (Liquid, Oil, Cream—in that order) on wash day or the LCO method (Liquid, Cream, Oil) like myself, it's clear that oils are an essential part of a healthy natural hair regimen. The right oil can serve as an emollient and an occlusive to lock in water to prevent natural hair from losing moisture. Since textured coils and kinks can prevent scalp oils from traveling down the entire hair shaft, it's important to incorporate hair oils to ensure adequate hydration from root to tip.
"Remember, oils are emollients." Explains Maisha Stephens of Bibi Salon, NYC. "This means that they provide a protective layer to lock in moisture—but they can't be successful without water. Regularly washing hair to restore moisture and wash away product build-up before applying oils is key for healthy, moisturized hair.
Ready to discover which oil is best for you? The following picks are among the best oils for natural hair.
Best Sweet Almond Oil
NOW Solutions Sweet Almond Oil
If you want to moisturize and seal your hair without it feeling weighed down, this fast-absorbing oil is the one for you. Ideal for fine strands, sweet almond oil is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant to keep your hair (and your skin) healthy. Almond oil is especially useful for preventing split ends—score.
Price at time of publish: $6
Best Jojoba Oil
Leven Rose Pure Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil is trending, but it’s worth the hype for its versatility and easy absorption into the hair and skin. It’s a liquid crystalline wax which closely resembles the sebum that your skin and scalp naturally produce, making it an ideal choice for replenishing what shampoos and cleansers strip away. Beyond its reparative and antioxidant qualities, jojoba oil is also praised for reducing the look of everything from acne to stretch marks.
Price at time of publish: $10
Interested in trying this famed oil in a serum? We recommend Pattern Beauty Jojoba Oil Serum.
Best Coconut Oil
SheaMoisture Head To Toe Nourishing Hydration 100% Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the hardest-working emollients in the game, with a reputation for being great for nails, teeth, cooking, and of course, your hair. There are many ways to apply coconut oil, and one of the most effective is to use it as a mask. Unlike many other oils, it penetrates nicely through dry hair, so try letting your hair bask in all of its nutrients for 20 to 30 minutes before your wash routine, or use it to revive dry ends between washes.
Price at time of publish: $16
Best Black Castor Oil
Tropic Isle Living Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Jamaican Black Castor Oil, often referred to as JBCO, has become a favorite in the natural hair community for its reputation for growing damaged edges and bringing thinning hair back to life. Fair warning, though, its texture is incredibly thick, so you’ll want to use it mindfully to prevent your hair from feeling sticky and weighed down.
Price at time of publish: $8
Best Marula Oil
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil
If you're looking to load up on antioxidants, consider giving marula oil a go. Those with dry, brittle hair will reap the most benefits from this nutrient-rich oil, and it has heat protectant qualities that make it a go-to for heat styling. Users also love that it absorbs quickly, so it won’t leave buildup on your scalp.
Do you struggle with dry skin as well? This product doubles nicely as a face oil.
Price at time of publish: $10
Best Grapeseed Oil
Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil
We love a pure, multipurpose oil, but sometimes your hair needs something formulated specifically for your needs. This ultra-hydrating, lightweight oil works as a great heat protectant, but it also repairs broken bonds in your hair, going above and beyond for anti-breakage. It’s formulated with grapeseed oil and fermented green tea oil, so you can feel good about the healthy, natural ingredients.
Price at time of publish: $30
This oil is one of my favorites because it's great for all hair types," says Stephens. "Not only does it work great on shining blowouts, but it can also work to restore your hair's natural texture over time for more defined curls.
What Our Testers Say
“The product excels at taming flyaways, whether you're leaving your hair down or styling it in a slicked-back ponytail.” — Melony Forcier, Product Tester
Best Tea Tree Oil
Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Tea Tree Scalp Treatment Serum
Tea tree oil is like a cooling medicine for your scalp, but as an essential oil, it should always be mixed with a carrier oil to ease its potency. Insert this scalp treatment that marries tea tree oil with charcoal and biotin, for hair that is healthier and stronger from the root. In a Briogeo clinical study, 100% of participants said they had less flakiness and 95% experienced a less itchy scalp. To summarize, the odds are definitely in your favor for noticeable results.
Price at time of publish: $32
Best Rosemary Oil
Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil
Rosemary oil is the shining star in this mixture, but the ingredient list boasts over 30 essential oils and nutrients in one easy-to-apply bottle. Part your hair and apply it to your scalp in sections to receive the cooling effects of rosemary, or apply it to your ends to smooth and prevent splits.
Price at time of publish: $10
Rosemary oil is such an underrated oil for hair growth," says Stephens. "I always recommend it to my clients because it has anti-inflammatory qualities and improves circulation for a healthy scalp—and a healthy scalp always equals healthier hair.
Interested in creating your own rosemary oil blend? Try Handcraft Blends Rosemary Essential Oil.
Best Olive Oil
Allpa Botanicals Olive Hair Oil
This hand-picked olive oil from Argentina has everything that you want in hair oil, it’s pure, organic, cold-pressed, and has an easy, mess-free applicator. Rich in vitamins A, E, and antioxidants, olive oil helps protect the keratin in hair and seals in moisture for strength, softness, and shine. It’s also rich in healthy fats, making it the perfect relief for dry, itchy scalps.
Price at time of publish: $28
In addition to being great for hair, olive oil can also do numbers for your skin. It works great to lift makeup and sebum, but it doesn’t dissolve or remove it, so be sure to follow up with a cleanser.
Best Avocado Oil
NaturAll Club Hydrating Oil Blend with Avocado and Kiwi
Avocado oil is great for your body from the inside out, and for many, it is the key to healthy, hydrated hair. We love this oil blend from NaturAll Club because it’s sourced from organic avocados and it packs on the moisture while being light enough for daily use without tons of build-up. It’s also a great source of amino acids and vitamins B and E, resulting in hair that has less frizz and more shine.
Price at time of publish: $12
Best Vitamin E
African Pride Moisture Miracle Moisturizing Oil
Don't forget to take your vitamins... for your scalp too. This restorative hair and scalp oil uses a nourishing blend of 5 essential oils and vitamin E to replenish natural nutrients and help protect against breakage. With castor, grapeseed, argan, coconut, and olive oils, you can seal in moisture, leaving coils and curls with body and shine.
Price at time of publish: $5
Best for Hair Growth
Wild Growth Hair Oil
There are no frills or influencer campaigns around this growth oil, but it has a strong reputation for doing one thing really well for the past 30 years: growing your hair. It has been known to deliver serious results for thicker and longer hair. Ingredients include coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, to name a few. The oil is quite fragrant and thick, so you’ll want to go easy on the application when using once or twice a week. For those with finer hair, try their lighter oil moisturizer version.
Price at time of publish: $10
You can never go wrong with NOW Solutions Sweet Almond Oil. The lightweight consistency is great for all hair types, plus it's fast-absorbing and full of Vitamin C, so it's helpful for skin too. When it comes to hair growth and scalp health, Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Growth Oil is the way to go, however, Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil takes the cake for styling and color protection.
What to Consider When Buying a Hair Oil
It might be tempting to reach for whatever oil is trending at the moment, but it's more important to consider what nutrients your unique hair needs and what exactly you're trying to achieve. “Oils are not created equal,” explains Michelle O’Connor, professional hairstylist and Global Artistic Director at Matrix. For example, she says coconut oil is great for penetrating the hair fiber to repair damaged hair and help to reduce the loss of protein. If you're striving for stronger, sleeker hair, she says that olive oil has the potential to strengthen, moisturize, and smooth. Another favorite of hers is jojoba, which she says closely mimics the sebum from your own scalp, softening and adding luster to dull hair while regulating dandruff and treating a dry scalp. Of course, don't be afraid to do your research and get specific.
Don't just rely on texture alone to make your hair choices—porosity plays a major factor too. For low porosity hair, lightweight oils that easily penetrate the cuticle are best (think grapeseed, almond, and jojoba oil). For high porosity hair, heavier oils that reduce frizz (like coconut oil, olive oil, and castor oil) are ideal.
Will you be wearing your hair straight, curly, or in a protective style? Your hair will need different types of oil in each of these states. For straight styles, heat protectant should be your #1 priority to protect the integrity of your hair. For curly styles, focus on fighting the frizz and keeping your ends juicy and hydrated. Protective styles? It's all about the scalp! Keep a different oil on hand for each choice.
What does hair oil do?
Hair oils are emollients. They provide a protective layer on the hair that seals in moisture, preventing moisture loss and dryness. Apply hair oil after you wash your hair to seal in the moisture obtained from the water during your shower.
Which oil is good for dry hair?
Oils that are good for dry hair include almond, castor, jojoba, coconut, marula, grapeseed, avocado, olive, and argan oil. Essential oils, like rosemary, and antioxidants, like vitamin E, are also good for dry hair.
Can I use hair oil every day?
You can use hair oil every day so long as you wash it in between uses. It may be best to wash every two or three days, depending on your hair type, and use hair oil directly after washing to seal in the moisture.
Is castor oil for hair?
Castor oil is excellent for hair, especially if it is thin or damaged. Castor oil is heavy, so it works best with thick, dry, or natural hair. A little goes a long way, so start with a small amount. You can also use castor oil in combination with other lighter hair oils such as almond or jojoba.
Meet the Expert
- Michelle O’Connor is a hairstylist and the Global Artistic Director at Matrix.
- Maisha Stephens is a hairstylist at Bibi Salon in New York City.
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