There’s no debating that moisturizing oils are an important pillar of any hair (or skin) routine. You’ve likely heard all about Moroccan, argan, and perhaps even pracaxi oil, but what about moringa oil?
Dating back thousands of years ago, this multi-purpose oil can be used from everything to skincare to cooking. Moringa Oil is derived from the seeds of Moringa Oleifera—a tree native to Himalayan mountains, but is also grown in India, Haiti, and parts of Africa (think, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia). Even better? All of the parts of the tree—including the seeds, root, flowers and bark—are edible and boast nutritional and medicinal benefits.
To get all the facts, we consulted board-certified dermatologists Purvisha Patel, MD, founder of Visha Skincare, and Lucy Chen, MD, of Riverchase Dermatology. Keep reading to find out the benefits of this natural ingredient... and the many reasons moringa oil deserves to be a staple in your beauty routine.
Type of Ingredient: Emollient Oil
Main Benefits: Acts as a moisturizer for the scalp. The zinc and protein in the oil help strengthen hair, as well as decrease inflammatory processes on the scalp.
Who Should Use It: Anyone experiencing dryness. “Moringa oil is generally not an irritating oil, and due to its anti-inflammatory properties, helps inflamed skin,” explains Patel. It’s also a great option for those with color-treated hair.
Works Well With: Other carrier oils, like coconut, grapeseed, rosehip, sunflower, etc., to lessen potency and assist with absorption.
Don’t Use With: Patel cautions against mixing it with other essential oils since it can potentially cause an allergic reaction.
What Is Moringa Oil?
One of the most fascinating things about moringa oil is that it’s derived from a drought-resistant plant—which means even without rain, moringa trees keep going strong and survive dry conditions according to Chen.
“The seeds of a moringa tree have a high oil content, are very nutrient-rich, and are packed with antioxidants,” she adds. “Because of its almost never-ending list of benefits for the hair, skin, and body, moringa oil is a popular ingredient in cosmetics and dermatology.”
Typically, moringa oil is extracted from the seed using a screw press. “First, the seed is crushed, and then a small percentage of water is added,” explains Chen. “The mixture then gets heated over a low fire while being careful not to burn the seed. After 10 to 15 minutes, the oil should be drained and sifted.”
From a texture standpoint, the thickness of the oil depends on whether or not there are filler oils mixed with it. “Pure moringa oil should be a medium olive-oil consistency,” shares Patel, who describes the smell as “nutty.”
Chen agrees, dubbing it as a “pretty dense, rich, fatty oil with a very soft peanut, earthy scent” but clarifies, “most would say the oil has no scent at all; however, some moringa oil products come with added fragrance.”
Benefits of Moringa Oil for Hair
From a structural sense, moringa oil is high in oleic acid, palmitoleic acid, linoleic acid, vitamins, and antioxidants. “Moringa oil works well when massaged into the scalp. It has anti-inflammatory properties to help with scalp scaling and moisturizes well,” explains Patel. “It has zinc that helps with keratin production, and this can help strengthen hair. On the hair strands, it acts as a protectant and moisturizer.”
Chen shares that the oil enhances shine, protects the hair against sun damage and color depletion, and makes hair stronger. “It is also a natural conditioner for shiny and bouncy hair thanks to having one of the highest naturally occurring behenic acid levels, a common ingredient in conditioners,” she adds.
Like other oils such as jojoba, moringa oil actually mimics the natural oils our bodies produce, which makes irritation pretty unlikely to occur per Chen. However, to be safe, she recommends “testing the oil on the inside of your forearm and see how the skin responds [after 24 hours].”
Hair Type Considerations
While any hair type can benefit from this luxurious oil, those with dry, brittle, or color-treated hair can significantly benefit from using moringa oil.
Chen shares, “It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which locks in moisture and also promotes hair growth. It can be used for a scalp massage to fight against dandruff or dry, flaky scalp. The seeds of a moringa tree are also packed with amino acids, which can help repair split ends.”
Does Price Matter?
You might be wondering, when it comes to purchasing oils, does more money mean a better product? The answer isn’t so straightforward due to concentration levels.
“Like most oils and extracts, the purity of the product may be correlated with a higher price point,” explains Patel. “But as there is no regulation with quality and sales with oils and extracts—each bottle may vary from the next in concentration.”
To be sure the product is of good quality, check the color of the oil and read the ingredient list—believe it or not, some brands may have little or no moringa oil included in their formula.
“The oil should smell slightly nutty and be a pale yellow,” adds Patel. “It is a relatively inexpensive oil and increased cost should be correlated with the addition of more active ingredients, or a more extensive cold-pressing extraction technique.”