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Do I Need to Oil My Scalp?

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If you're like many, it was a childhood ritual to sit in between a mother's knees and wait (semi) patiently as she parts and oils her child's scalp to prepare it for styling. You may have even had that ubiquitous jar of Ultra Sheen sitting in your bathroom. If you're wondering, "Should you put oil on your scalp?," you're not alone. The reality is that it really depends on your preferences as well as the condition of your scalp. While for some, the feeling of massaging a light oil into a dry scalp pre-styling offers hydration, others may have an oily scalp to begin with and may find applying moisture-rich products to the hair (versus the scalp) a better alternative.

If you like the feeling you get from applying oils to your scalp, feel free to do so, keeping these points in mind.

Avoid Petroleum-Based Products

We encourage you to be your own hair care advocate and look at the list of ingredients on each beauty product you buy. All too often, petrolatum—mineral oil jelly—is listed as a main ingredient. It's that old "hair grease" that many of us grew up using, but it offers no benefits for black hair and instead clogs pores, weighs the hair down, and creates a coating that's susceptible to dirt. We recommend avoiding petroleum-based products on your hair altogether.

Use Natural Oils

Fortunately, natural oils are as accessible as ever. While it used to be the case that olive oil was the only oil available at local grocers (anything "exotic" such as almond or coconut oil were usually only available at health food stores or organic markets), there are several natural oil options available today, including jojoba and coconut. Jojoba oil is similar to the sebum that your scalp naturally produces, making it an ideal candidate for a scalp massage (plus, it can also be used as a full-body moisturizing treatment). Other noteworthy scalp-massaging oils include:

  • Grapeseed
  • Castor (Jamaican Black Castor Oil is touted for increased growth)
  • Avocado
  • Argan

For additional scalp maintenance, use a scalp scrub (try Ouai Scalp & Body Scrub, $38) to remove flaking skin and product buildup.

Oil as Needed

So, how often should you oil your scalp? You may not need to do it every day, even if this was common practice for you as a child. The important thing is to recognize your hair's particular needs, which may differ from season to season and can be very different from others in your own family. Examine your scalp: Is it tight? Does it itch? If so, you may benefit from a light application of oil. On the other hand, if your scalp smooth, clean, and isn't flaky, then you may be in the clear to skip the oil. Whereas during the winter season your scalp may require weekly oiling, you may find that you can skip it altogether during the summer. The bottom line on scalp oiling: Do what feels right for you, your scalp, and your hair.

The Best Scalp Oils

Maple Holistics 100% Pure Avocado Oil
Maple Holistics 100% Pure Avocado Oil $10

Because avocado oil is lighter compared to others, it's quick-absorbing and doesn't feel as greasy—ideal for those just getting their start in scalp oils.

Janomi Essential Hair and Scalp Oil
Janomi Essential Hair and Scalp Oil $16

This multi-purpose hair and scalp oil features a formula rich in essential oils to prevent dry scalp.

Iq Natural Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Iq Natural Jamaican Black Castor Oil $10

This organic black castor oil encourages hair growth and repairs damaged scalp with its conditioning, strengthening properties.

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