Oil must be one of the first items any newbie on a natural hair journey buys for their hair. Actually, you may even get to save some pennies since most (if not all) domestic kitchens will have olive oil somewhere inside a cupboard. Once a natural or on your way to fully becoming one, using oils in a curly hair routine soon become a crucial practice in maintaining your hair’s health. However, is it beneficial to use oil on natural hair every day?
Why We Use Oils
Most of us have probably seen our mums, grandmothers or another family member frequently apply some sort of occlusive on their hair. Surely grease or some oil, but now that you’re on this hair journey you know grease is not the kind of occlusive our hair and scalp need because of all the ‘nasty ingredients’ we try to keep away from curly hair. Vegetable oils are far better and healthier for our hair and scalp.
Yes, vegetable oils are an important tool we have to help maintain hair moisture. Moisture is basically the same as saying water and curly hair needs to stay hydrated as much as we need oxygen to live. Unfortunately, simply wetting our hair is not enough because water evaporates.
This is when vegetable oils come in to save the day. Curlies all over the world use them to keep their hair moisturised.
However, should you be using oils every day as many naturalistas do?
I’ve heard it all… However, to me, it’s not so much if you can apply oil on your hair every day or not, it’s more about how you use it. Let me take you on a little reasoning exercise.
What Are Oils & What Do They Do?
Oil are occlusives and when used on hair they create a barrier between the hair and the atmosphere preventing quick moisture release. But, you probably know all this, right?… 🙂
So, by using oils we should be effectively keeping our hair moisturised for longer, yes?! … Well, it should be that simple, but it’s not. In order for us to use oils to maintain hair moisture we first need to make sure our hair is moisturised.
This means your hair should have water or any other water-based products applied on it first. Because vegetable oils don’t mix with water, except through the intervention of an emulsifier, they create a barrier that delays moisture release, however, they also prevent your hair from taking moisture from the atmosphere.
What does this mean?
This means that when you are blissfully applying a vegetable oil on your hair with the best of intentions you gotta make sure your hair has been hydrated first. If you’re simply applying oil on dry, unmoisturized hair you are preventing your hair from at least taking moisture from the environment and possibly contributing to hair breakage. You are successfully suffocating your hair!
Oh,… So you already moisturise first and then apply oil? Great, ’cause that is exactly what you should be doing!
But let me ask you this, apart from your wash day, why is it that you apply oil on your hair?
To keep your hair moisturised?!… Right!… but do you know when your hair is in need of moisture or do you apply oil every day just to keep your bases covered?
Do you Need to ‘Oil Your Hair’ Every Day?
For many newbies here lies a problem, they don’t know how to identify if their hair is in need of moisture or not. So many times the solution is a daily dose of some vegetable oil, just in case… However, if you moisturised you hair properly on wash day you probably don’t need to do so. You can wait a couple of days before your hair requests some more hydration and yes some oil to seal it all in. Perhaps the best solution is to do a mid-week
Perhaps the best solution is to do a mid-week co-wash if you feel your hair is that dry, but it would be best to review why your hair routine and products used as your hair is incapable of retaining moisture.
Not so long ago I wrote a post with a video debut of me giving some tips on how to identify hair in need of moisture, you can check it here or click bellow (hey, don’t expect to see any Meryl Streep performance. It’s just me! 🙂 ). You can also read this post on 5 Reasons Why You’re Still Struggling With Dry Curly Hair.
Moving on… Despite all of this it is possible there may be some of you who feel they their hair can binge drink on vegetable oil and not look greasy. All I can say is, as long as you also moisturise your hair first then at least you are not suffocating your hair.
Still, here are some other ways you can use oils that will help to keep your hair moisturised for longer without the need of a daily dose of vegetable oil.
- Concentrate On The Ends – instead of applying oil all over your hair concentrate on the oldest part of your hair – the ends – they needed most. Every day or every other day, apply a light moisturiser on the ends of your hair and follow with an oil of your preference.
- Oil Pre-poo – this is a very effective treatment at protecting your hair from moisture depletion from harsh cleansers and at prolonging hair moisture inside the hair. You should apply your oil and wait for a minimum of one hour before washing your hair or you can leave it overnight (even better). Continue with your normal washing anmoisturising routine and don’t forget to finish with an oil to seal everything in.
- Hot Oil Treatment – this treatment is very similar to an oil pre-poo, the difference is that you warm up your oil(s) in a ‘bain Marie’ using two containers. Once done, cover your hair with a simple plastic or thermal cap for 20 – 30 minutes. Some people even sit under a hair steamer or use a soft hooded hair dryer (great with penetrating oils!).
- Oil Rinse – take your favourite oil or oil mix and while you are in the shower washing your hair pour the oil all over the hair, leave for a few minutes and then quickly rinse it. Some people like to do it between the shampoo and conditioner application while others do it after the conditioner and then rinse with cold water.
- Sealing vs Penetrating Oils – if you still, admittedly, like a daily application of a vegetable oil then don’t forget to look at your hair porosity. If you have high porosity and are using penetrating oils, it’s possible you feel your hair needs more moisture, thus why you routinely apply oils. Though these oils still have some occlusive power, but it’s just a thin layer. Sealing oils will provide a better barrier to moisture evaporation. Try it and you may feel you can skip your daily application. You can read this post on oils and this one to help you avoid greasy hair.
To recap, before you think you need to apply oil on your hair every day make sure:
- You’re moisturising your hair properly on wash day – I personally prefer the LOC method, but you can also check the Curly Girl or the Greenhouse Method.
- You recognise when your hair needs moisture – make sure you read this post.
- Know your hair’s porosity so you can use the best oils to prolong moisture – The post How To Improve Hair Porosity is a favourite here in the blog.
- You take advantage of the creative bunch we are and increase your hair’s moisture potential by including in your hair routine one or two different ways to use oils.
Love this detailed article on oils and when they should be used. I suffer from seborrheic dermatitis so by default I find myself washing my hair every 4-5 days going no more than a week when my scalp is calm. I rarely get to a point where my hair feels like my hair is drying out. For me, sealing while damp after washing is enough. Sleeping on a silk pillowcases and when needed, using silk scarves also help to keep my hair from drying out sooner than it needs to. I will admit, I still reach for the hair grease pretty often but I am trying to find a natural alternative that works just as well for my hair. What are your thoughts on nut oils like shea for sealing versus vegetable oils?
Hi Jennifer. Make sure you see a professional if you have seborrheic dermatitis. Adding oil and grease to your hair may make your symptoms worse. You don’t need to seal your hair with oils or use raw butter and oils to retain moisture. These will block moisture out if the hair is not well moisturised in the first place and if they’re not removed properly as they create buildup. Establishing a good hair routinehair routine with well well-formulated product will do the same without the added greasy feel.