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For those of us regularly concerned with breakage, it can feel like a constant search for ingredients and products that will help hair thrive. Of course, the search comes with the internal conflict of not wanting to overmanipulate hair to make the breakage worse while also wanting to try new things. Heavy research is key, and red palm oil seems to be one of the newest ingredients people are buzzing about.
Red palm oil is an oil that comes from the fruit of the tropical oil palm (Elaeis Guineensis), which grows in parts of Africa and the rainforests of Asia.
Red palm oil has many health benefits for the body and hair—it's rich in vitamin E, which can help promote cell growth in hair follicles and prevent hair loss, an excellent source of antioxidants, and full of saturated fats and lipids. It gets its red shade from the same carotenes in sweet potatoes and carrots: alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene.
It's important to make sure your red palm oil is ethically sourced, as some producers of palm oil destroy rainforests, contribute to environmental degradation, and an extreme multitude of other issues for the Earth. Green Palm Sustainability advises purchasing certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) to decrease potential environmental damage.
Meet the Expert
Red Palm Oil for Hair
Type of ingredient Antioxidant.
Main benefits: Reduces inflammation, builds the skin barrier, increases skin's luminosity and radiance, restores natural oil production.
Who should use it: Anyone who wants stronger hair with less chance of breakage or those with irritated, dry scalp would benefit from red palm oil. Those with oily or acne-prone scalps or clogged pores on the skin should avoid this oil topically.
How often can you use it: Daily.
Works well with: Pretty much everything—It's great as a leave-in conditioner and moisturizer.
Don’t use with: if you have light-colored hair, you might want to test leaving it on a section of your hair first to make sure it doesn’t leave a tint. (Unless you like it, then go off!)
What Are The Benefits of Red Palm Oil for Hair?
- As a hair treatment: Red palm oil is a great treatment for split ends, as well as a wonderful overnight leave-in conditioner.
- Can help repair hair: Red palm oil contains a refatting agent that can help restore natural oils to the hair and skin that shampoos and soaps can strip away.
- Protects your scalp from the sun: The type of vitamin E in red palm oil, tocopherol, can help your scalp from sun exposure.
- Reduce the appearance of scars: The tocopherol form of vitamin E is great for scar lightening.
- Has antibacterial properties: Those properties clean the scalp, decrease inflammation and itching on the scalp, seborrhea, and create a rich environment for hair growth
- Stimulates the hair follicle: rich in vitamin E, red palm oil benefits the hair by promoting cell growth of the hair follicles, which results in stronger hair and more radiant hair
- Has moisturizing properties: saturated fats and lipids, as well as fat-soluble vitamin A and vitamin E, help build strength to the hair and act as a moisturizer.
- Prevention and treatment of environmental damage and internal stressors: According to Emer, red palm oil is a major source of antioxidants, as well as phytonutrients such as tocotrienols, tocopherols, carotenoids, phytosterols, squalene, and coenzyme Q10, all of which exhibit nutritional properties and oxidative stability.
Hair Type Considerations
Anyone who wants stronger hair with less chance of breakage or those with irritated, dry scalps would benefit from red palm oil. Red palm oil is especially great for those who experience a lot of frizz. But for our blonde friends or those with light-colored sheets, proceed carefully: "The oil is very red in color and can take up to two weeks to be removed from natural or peeling red blondes," Fields explains. She also wants to emphasize that the oil can also be too heavy for some hair types and to make sure you're not over-saturating the hair with the oil.
How to Use Red Palm Oil for Hair
Red palm oil can be used daily, but a few times a week should suffice. Emer recommends using it as a lovely, luxurious pre-shower treatment mask. Before a shower, you can take a small amount into your hands and apply it from the ends of your hair up to just below your roots. Let it sit on your hair for 10-15 minutes, then take a shower and wash your hair like normal.
It also makes a great leave-in conditioner and split-end protector. Take a small amount—about the size of a dime—and rub it into the ends of your hair. If you're looking for products that feature red palm oil, Shea Moisture makes an entire line using red palm oil and cocoa butter for prime nourishment.