These Are the 3 Best Essential Oils for Curly Hair

Woman with curly hair

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As a woman with a full head of curly, curly hair, it has been a labor of love to tame the massive beast that sits atop my head. If there's a trick out there for curly hair, believe me when I tell you I've probably already tried it.

When it comes to my curls and trying to get them to be the curly, Yara Shahidi-style mane of my dreams, I was constantly looking for miracle creams and gels. Curly hair is incredibly delicate, with the various bends of the individual hair shaft representing the most fragile part of the strand. Generally, the hair is drier when you have curly hair, as your body’s natural oils struggle to saturate the entire strand evenly. As a result, using oils to keep your hair moisturized is key. And that's where essential oils come in.

Essential oils are brilliant for scalp support, which is key for curly hair types. Most curly-haired people don't wash their hair as often as people with straighter textures, which can lead to scalp challenges. By working an essential oil and carrier oil into the scalp, scalp health is maintained and improved, which is basically what we all hope and dream will happen. We asked two trichologists for their recommendations for the best essential oils for curly hair. Keep reading to find out what they chose.

Meet the Expert

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Rosemary Oil

  • What it is: Oil made from the same rosemary you use in your kitchen.
  • Benefits for hair: "This oil is a strong stimulant for hair growth with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties," says Williams. "Rosemary is also great to soothe and prevent the symptoms of dandruff." Rosemary essential oil strengthens circulation, making it great for preventing hair loss.
  • How to use: Rosemary oil is great when mixed with a shampoo or conditioner. Adding three to five drops to your conditioner when washing your hair can go a long, long way. It also makes for an effective scalp massage—add it to any of your favorite carrier oils and massage it into your scalp for at least five minutes. Next, rinse it out (or leave it in—whatever works best for you).

Key Ingredients

Rosemary leaf extract is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin and prevents signs of premature aging. Rosmarinic acid (its main component) helps calm skin conditions like eczema and acne.

Remember that most essential oils should be diluted with a base oil and should not be used alone, as they can burn the skin or cause a serious reaction.

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Ylang-Ylang Oil

  • What it is:  An oil made from the flowers of the herb Cananga odorata genuina.
  • Benefits for hair: Ylang-ylang oil helps create the optimal scalp environment by nourishing the follicle and establishing ultimate follicle fitness, says Yates. It helps treat hair loss and damaged hair by stimulating the sebaceous glands, increasing the production of sebum. It's also great for stimulating hair follicles to promote hair growth, improve hair texture, and reduce breakage and split ends.
  • How to use: This is a great oil to use as a hair mask or a conditioning treatment. Mix five drops of ylang-ylang oil with a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil, and gently heat it up—you don't want it too hot, just warm to the touch so you don't burn your scalp. Apply to your hair, massage it into your scalp, and leave it on for 30 minutes. Rinse and wash out with shampoo, and your hair will feel renewed and refreshed.
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Tea Tree Oil

  • What it is: Tea tree oil is a highly effective antifungal. "It can create a powerful soothing sensation when added to products, and works as an effective cleansing agent," explains Williams.
  • Benefits for hair: If you're struggling with flakes coming from your hair, tea tree oil is a great solution. It stimulates the scalp and hair follicles while also fighting dandruff and flaking.
  • How to use: Because it is an essential oil, mixing an oil like tea tree with a carrier oil is key. For use with a daily shampoo, take a few drops of tea tree oil and mix with a bit of your favorite shampoo for a tingling and soothing effect. To use as a hair growth stimulator, scalp massage, or a mask, mix it with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba—one to three drops of tea tree oil per teaspoon of carrier oil—and slather it all over your hair. Massage it into your scalp for 3-5 minutes before letting it sit for 10-15 minutes (or longer, if you so choose), then rinse thoroughly.

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