Have you ever wanted to take defibrillator paddles to your hair and yell, "Clear!"? Sometimes our strands enter a dire code blue, and the resuscitation process is a bit more taxing than we expected. Enter hot oil treatments. Yep, we're talking about those little plastic tubes of amber liquid—probably branded Vo5—that you've seen stashed in your grandma's or mother's medicine cabinet. But don't be so quick to dismiss it as an outdated treatment—there's a reason it's been around for several decades, and that's because it works.
Before shampooing and after warming up the oil to a comfortable temperature, you can deposit the oil onto your scalp to stimulate blood flow and encourage hair growth while also coating the strands to strengthen them and boost shine. So whether your hair is kinky-curly or straight and thin, a hot oil treatment is the answer to your 911 call.
And no, you don't need to drive yourself to the drugstore. As long as you've got coconut, olive, jojoba, or avocado oil on hand, you're already halfway there. Keep scrolling to learn the simplest way to give yourself a hot oil treatment—and get our picks for next-generation products if you're not the DIY type.
DIY 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. If you have other oils like olive, jojoba, or avocado, those are also extremely moisturizing. Keep in mind that olive oil works best on very dry hair since it's a heavier oil. 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. Some believe these EOs can help speed up hair growth, but the jury's still out on that. Either way, the aromatherapy will make this experience even more luxurious and relaxing.
- 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.
- 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.
- Apply generously to clean, and dry or damp hair. Work the oil into your scalp and all the way down to your ends.
- Cover your hair with a shower cap and/or a warm towel. Leave the oil in for at least 30 minutes—even better, overnight.
- Rinse out, then shampoo your hair twice.
- Condition your hair as usual.
You can do this treatment once a week or as many as three times 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.
The Best Next-Gen Hot Oil Treatments
No pre-heating is required for this treatment—in fact, you're supposed to use it after shampooing (although, it also works as a pre-shampoo treatment). Massage it into your scalp and hair, and it'll self-heat for extra nourishment.
While this thick, paste-like mask doesn't resemble the consistency of a traditional hair oil, it has both cleansing and nourishing properties (thanks to fuller's earth and rich oils like coconut oil and lanolin, respectively). Your scalp will thank you.
This serum can be used as either a leave-in treatment before styling (no rinsing necessary) or as a hot oil treatment worn on the scalp and hair for five to 15 minutes prior to shampooing. Either way, your hair will enjoy a sublimely hydrating, restorative treat.
After applying, just add heat with a blow-dryer on the low setting. This opens the hair follicle and allows for maximum absorption of the treatment.
Fortified with biotin (a nutrient used to help hair grow) and organic cold-pressed coconut oil, this deeply hydrating cream can be heated in the microwave and then applied to the scalp and hair for 20 minutes. You'll want to rinse and repeat, though, as the solution is so rich, it could leave a bit of a film behind.