How to Try a Hot Oil Treatment for Hair at Home


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Given that oily hair is something people complain about, it may seem counterintuitive to use oil to bring your hair back to life. However, the best hot oil treatments for hair can do exactly that! Dermatologists Dendy Engelman and Rina Allawh share their secrets for hot oil treatments for all hair types: From kinky-curly to thin-fine, we've got the right treatment for your hair.

Meet the Expert

The Benefits of Hot Oil Treatments for Hair

Hot oil treatments can revive dry, damaged tresses. According to Engelman, "Hot oil treatments work by sealing the hair cuticle and protecting your hair from damage. These treatments moisturize and nourish your hair to make it stronger and protect against breakage. Additional benefits include reducing frizz and boosting shine, helping get rid of dandruff, and even potentially aiding with hair growth by tending to the scalp." Allawh agrees: "Hot oil treatments are helpful for dry, thin, and/or frizzy hair. If you are looking to seal in moisture and find you have dry hair, hot oil treatments may be beneficial to help hold onto the moisture and strengthen the integrity of the hair shaft." 

Are Hot Oil Treatments Suitable for All Hair Types?

"Hot oil hair treatments are especially beneficial if your hair is weak, dry, chemically damaged, or frizzy. This is because these hair types are most in need of moisture and damage prevention," explains Engelman. Since hot oil treatments work by restoring moisture to the hair, it makes sense that it would most benefit those whose strands are lacking in that department.

How to DIY a Hot Oil Treatment

We recommend coconut oil for the best hot oil treatment, as it is super nourishing and has been shown to prevent protein loss in the hair shaft. Both virgin and refined coconut oils work just fine. "Jojoba and almond oil are also good for hot oil treatments because they are usually absorbed quickly and are also very moisturizing," adds Engelman. "Regardless of where your oil is derived, make sure that whatever you’re using is free of any potentially harmful or irritating additives," she emphasizes. Also worth noting: "Not all hot oil treatments are hair and/or scalp safe," warns Allawh. "As a dermatologist, I am always wary of numerous botanical ingredients as these may be irritating to the scalp and trigger allergic skin reactions, and may even cause hair loss and increased shedding. It is important to look for hair oils that contain gentle, hydrating ingredients such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, and shea butter."

Keep in mind that olive oil may work best on very dry hair since it's a heavier oil (Note: Since olive oil is a common skin irritant and may trigger skin allergic reactions, notes Allawh, perform a patch test first). Jojoba is the most similar to the sebum that your scalp naturally produces, so go for that if you tend to be on the oilier side.

Feel free to add lavender or rosemary essential oil, too. Due to their soothing abilities, experts believe these EOs can help stimulate hair growth. Either way, the aromatherapy will make this experience even more luxurious and relaxing. Before getting started, Engelman offers up some advice: "Hot oil works best on clean hair, so you should wash it before beginning your treatment. This allows the treatment to fully penetrate your scalp and hair, instead of just sitting on top of other oils. After letting the oil sit in your hair, rinse it out and finish with your conditioner." 


  1. Create a double boiler situation by adding about an inch of water to a small pot or saucepan, then placing a heat-safe bowl over it.
  2. Add one tablespoon to a quarter-cup of coconut oil to the bowl (depending on how long your hair is). Heat until melted and warm to the touch. The oil should not be scalding hot, as this could burn your scalp—test a small amount on your wrist first to make sure it's safe.
  3. Apply generously to clean, and dry or damp hair. Work the oil into your scalp and down to your ends.
  4. Cover your hair with a shower cap and/or a warm towel. Leave the oil in for at least 30 minutes—even better, overnight.
  5. Rinse out, then shampoo your hair twice.
  6. Condition your hair as usual.

Note: You can do this treatment once a week or as many as three times a week.

Another method that doesn't involve a double boiler: Apply the room-temperature oil first to your scalp and hair, and then add heat with a blow-dryer on the low setting.

After the Treatment: Washing it Out

While the goal of a hot oil treatment is to infuse your hair with as much moisture as possible, you'll definitely want to be sure the excess amount that your hair and scalp didn't absorb is thoroughly washed away. Otherwise, your hair and scalp could be left looking and feeling greasy, which no one wants. If you find that your usual shampoo just doesn't remove the leftover oil as completely as you'd hoped, you can instead use a clarifying shampoo.

The Final Takeaway

Although it's true that any hair oil will hydrate and protect your strands and scalp, a hot oil will reap even more rewards. That's because the heat will help you to better absorb the oil, enhancing its effectiveness and ensuring the promise of strong and healthy hair.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Gavazzoni Dias MF. Hair cosmetics: an overviewInt J Trichology. 2015;7(1):2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450

  2. Ezekwe N, King M, Hollinger JC. The use of natural ingredients in the treatment of alopecias with an emphasis on central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia: a systematic reviewJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2020;13(8):23-27.

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