Cholesterol—that scary word that gets thrown around from time to time in medicine commercials and by your aunt worried about her salt intake. It gets a bad rap. However, using cholesterol in hair treatments is one of the most common DIY treatments for hair for a long time. Ingredients that are high in fat, such as mayonnaise, egg yolks and olive oil, are commonly used in cholesterol treatments.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a naturally occurring fat-like component of the keratinocyte membranes, as in the cells that make up the hair. When using cholesterol topically in your hair, its lipid-heavy ingredient can help repair chemical, color, or heat damage, or damage caused by overmanipulating the hair, leaving your hair soft, healthy and shiny.
We asked BosleyMD-certified trichologist Gretchen Friese and natural hair expert Brittney Ogike how this ingredient can help your hair reach its full potential.
Meet the Expert
- Gretchen Friese is a BosleyMD-certified trichologist.
- Brittney Ogike is a natural hair expert and founder of BeautyBeez, a modern beauty supply store created by and for women of color.
"A cholesterol hair treatment repairs, restores and moisturizes damaged hair," says Ogike. "It can also strengthen and enhance hair structure."
Read on to find out exactly what a cholesterol treatment is and how you can use it on your own hair.
Cholesterol for Hair
- Type of ingredient: Hydrator or moisturizer.
- Main benefits: Hydrates and softens hair, repairs over-processed or damaged hair, helps the hair cuticle lay flat.
- Who should use it: Cholesterol has actually been used for textured hair types for many years. Those with dry, thick, and coarse hair may benefit from cholesterol treatments; it can make fine hair limp or weighed down. Anyone with hair that is damaged from chemicals or heat is also a great candidate for cholesterol treatments.
- How often can you use it: Depending on the amount of damage, at least once a week, if not once a month—as often as you feel your hair needs extra conditioning.
- Works well with: You can combine cholesterol treatments, such as mayonnaise or egg yolks, with honey or other oils, including olive oil, jojoba oil or coconut oil.
- Don't use with: There are no known ingredients that negatively interact with cholesterol treatments, however if you are allergic to eggs you should avoid using the egg yolk and mayonnaise cholesterol treatments.
Benefits of Cholesterol for Hair
A cholesterol treatment has many benefits for all different hair types. Those with oily hair can focus the treatment on the ends, while those with dry hair can apply the treatment from root to tip. "If your hair is dry and brittle, especially during the cold winter months, a cholesterol hair treatment may be beneficial in order to help your hair retain moisture and stay soft and healthy," says Ogike.
- Repairs the hair: Cholesterol treatments are typically are rich in lipids or fats designed to repair the hair.
- Rehydrates the hair: Adding lipids and fat to the hair gives it more moisture.
- Helps the hair cuticle lay flat: The three types of lipids found in the hair’s cuticle, ceramides, cholesterol, and 18 MEA, are what helps the cuticle to lay flat by keeping the hair cuticle in place.
- Softens hair: Most cholesterol treatments have nourishing oils and cholesterol in the ingredients, which help soften hair.
- Helps define curl: Waves and curls usually lack sebum, or natural oil, in the middle and ends of the hair cuticle and shaft—the oils in cholesterol treatments can help build sebum.
- Gives the hair shine: The lipids in cholesterol treatments make the hair look luxurious and healthy.
- Great for over-processed hair: Heat, color, or chemical damage is caused by damage to the lipids in the hair; cholesterol treatments are designed to counteract that damage. "If your hair is damaged from coloring or styling, a cholesterol hair treatment will help restore your hair’s health, moisture, and softness," says Ogike.
- Cost-effective: Most cholesterol treatments on the market are less than $5.
Hair Type Considerations
If you're striving for long, shiny, luxurious hair, cholesterol can help. While protein can strengthen your hair, cholesterol serves to make the hair soft and moisturized. "Anyone with hair that is damaged from chemicals or heat is a great candidate for cholesterol treatments," Friese explains. Most commonly, cholesterol treatments are found in the beauty store's textured hair section—meaning those with thick, coarse, and dry hair will find cholesterol to be one of our favorite ingredients.
Ogike agrees, saying more course hair will really benefit from cholesterol products, however those with fine hair should use sparingly. "This treatment has been used for textured hair that is dry, thick, and coarse, as it helps define, volumize, and soften hair. However, those with fine hair may find that a cholesterol treatment weighs down their hair," she says.
How to Use Cholesterol Treatments for Hair
From hot oils, to creamy masks and even homemade DIY treatments, there are many ways to use cholesterol treatments for healthier hair. "A great way to ease into it is to start by using it once a month or every other week to see how your hair reacts and eventually build up to once a week or more based on your hair’s needs," says Ogike, who says that often you do it "varies from person to person, depending on how damaged their hair is and how often you feel like your hair needs some extra love."
Because cholesterol treatments are so rich and ultra-moisturizing, you won't use these as leave-in treatments or in styling products.
Ready to get started? Here are some proven ways to use cholesterol treatments for your hair.
- Homemade Cholesterol Hair Treatments: There are several topical cholesterol treatments to make your hair look silky. First and most familiar: a homemade cholesterol mask using mayonnaise. The egg yolks in mayonnaise are heavy and rich in cholesterol, and the vinegar helps with the hair's pH levels. The queen of hair envy, Blake Lively, whose hair always looks thick and shiny, is a fan. We even wrote about why you should consider putting mayonnaise in your hair (and on your sandwiches) a little while back, and we stand by our statements.
"To get the full effect, apply mayonnaise to your hair, starting from your scalp and then working it into your ends," says Ogike. "Cover your hair with a cap and let the mayonnaise sit for about 20 minutes. After rinsing your hair and shampooing as normal, your hair will be full of moisture and shine! It’s important to know that everyone’s strands are different. Pay attention to how your curls and coils respond to this treatment — sitting for too long and too often may cause breakage."
Don't have mayonnaise? You can do the same treatment using eggs. Simply beat two to three eggs and apply to your hair following the same method above.
- Cholesterol Hot Oil Treatments: Hot oil treatments are perfect for those who do a lot of chemical or heat styling and need to have the moisture restored in their hair follicles and making their hair look strong, shinier, and healthier than ever before. It's also great for post-bleach when your hair might be feeling dry and fried to rebuild the lost moisture and retain the moisture already in your hair. There are plenty of Black people in the world who have experienced the joy of having their mother apply a warm oil treatment to their scalp with love and tenderness, only to wake up with hair that feels brand new.
- Cholesterol Deep Conditioning Treatments: Looking for something a little less do-it-yourself, or just afraid of winding up with scrambled eggs in your hair? Fortunately for you, there are plenty of cholesterol treatments on the market for purchase that won't make you smell like salad dressing. Use these treatments like a deep conditioner—apply the product to wet or damp hair after shampooing, cover with a plastic cap, using heat if desired, and rinse out after 15-20 minutes. Cholesterol treatments haven't hit the mainstream salon market in the same way that protein treatments such as keratin treatments have, so if you want to infuse your hair with some cholesterol, that'll be a home treatment, rather than something you can ask a professional to do for you.
The Best Products With Cholesterol
If you would rather not do a DIY treatment with mayonnaise or eggs, there are many amazing cholesterol hair products for healthy and shiny hair.
"Queen Helene’s Cholesterol Hair Conditioning Creme is not only effective but also super affordable. A 15oz jar is just $4.99, so you get a lot of bang for your buck!" says Ogike. "The treatment adds moisture to damaged, over-processed hair and leaves you with shiny, soft, voluminous hair."
If you prefer a hot oil over a cream, Queen Helene Cholesterol Hot Oil Treatment is one of the top oil treatments for soft and shiny hair. Simply place the tube in hot water until it is warm and then massage into your hair. Cover you hair with a shower cap, leave on for three minutes and wash out.
Camille Rose's Buritti Nectar Repair Cholesterol Treatment ($17) helps revive dry and color treated hair with this "modern" take on the cholesterol treatment using ingredients such as omega fatty acids.
If you love how a homemade mayonnaise treatment works on your hair, but you aren't a fan of the smell — then this Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayonnaise treatment is the right product for you. This treatment is infused with botanical extracts, along with whole egg protein and olive oil, to leave your hair soft and supple.
Silk Elements Cholesterol Treatment contains coconut oil, as well as Panthenol Pro-Vitamin B5, to infuse moisture and shine into dry, brittle hair. You can leave this on for two minutes for instant conditioning, or five to seven minutes for more deep conditioning.
Should you leave cholesterol treatments in overnight?
Hot oil treatments you can leave in overnight, but cholesterol creams and masks you should follow the directions and, in general, rinse out after 20-30 minutes. Homemade treatments, such as mayonnaise and eggs, should not be left in overnight as they could cause breakage, says Ogike.
What is the difference between cholesterol hair treatments and protein hair treatments?
Can I use a cholesterol treatment if I have fine hair?
In general, cholesterol treatments work best for textured, coarse or thick hair. These type of treatments can weigh down fine hair. If you do use them on fine hair, use sparingly and only on the ends.
Palmer MA, Blakeborough L, Harries M, Haslam IS. Cholesterol homeostasis: Links to hair follicle biology and hair disorders. Exp Dermatol. 2020;29(3):299-311.
Méndez S, Manich AM, Martí M, Parra JL, Coderch L. Damaged hair retrieval with ceramide-rich liposomes. J Cosmet Sci. 2011;62(6):565-577.
Martí M, Barba C, Manich AM, Rubio L, Alonso C, Coderch L. The influence of hair lipids in ethnic hair properties. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2016;38(1):77-84.
Houschyar KS, Borrelli MR, Tapking C, et al. Molecular mechanisms of hair growth and regeneration: current understanding and novel paradigms. Dermatology. 2020;236(4):271-280.