As of last year, oil had become the ugly duckling–turned–beautiful swan of the beauty world. Formerly avoided like the plague (Clogged pores! Greasiness! Breakouts!), oil is now being slathered on by everyone and their mother (literally, though—it’s great for aging skin) and used to cleanse, moisturize, brighten, and even fight acne. Thus, it should be no surprise that the hair world would soon get on board. Adding shine and softness to your hair with oils is old news by now (hi, argan), but cleansing your hair with oil is another story—a story we’re very, very interested in. Just like how cleansing oils for your skin claim to gently lift oils without harsh surfactants, the latest crop of cleansing oil shampoos promise to do the same for your scalp.
Cleansing Oil Shampoo 101
First things first—how exactly do cleansing oil shampoos, like Shu Uemura’s Cleansing Oil Shampoo ($57), benefit your strands? We turned to the pros for the answer. “Cleansing oil benefits the hair for a number of reasons,” Cibu stylist and educator Heather Comer says. “Most shampoos contain strong surfactants, which strip your hair of its natural oils. Therefore, your scalp must work twice as hard to replace the oil that the shampoo removed; this could lead to a tighter scalp, which means a weaker strand.” Cleansing oils, on the other hand, use essential oils like neroli to gently attract and remove excess oil, leaving your scalp healthy and clean. Plus, many natural oils also have antibacterial properties, Comer notes. "It is similar to the way a cleansing oil on your skin will help to regulate the production of excess oil," Shu Uemura Art of Hair Artistic Director Moises Villa says. "Oil cleansing helps to regulate your scalp's natural oils by telling the oil glands that there is enough."
To use a cleansing oil shampoo, you simply apply to your strands and gently massage into your roots like you would a normal shampoo. “You don’t need a regular shampoo afterward,” Cibu technical and artistic director Sharon So says. “It won’t leave an oily residue.” As for who benefits most from a cleansing oil, So says it’s good for all hair types but best for those with medium to coarse hair. “I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who has super-fine hair,” she says. Comer agrees, saying that cleansing oil is most beneficial for chemically dependent, curly or wavy, and super-parched strands. So—will cleansing oils be here to stay? Comer and So both think yes. “I absolutely think cleansing oils are going to stay around,” Comer says. “What are our clients looking for? Beautiful, soft strands that can withstand the evolution of beauty. The benefits of cleansing oil shampoos are endless.”