The Best Oils to Hydrate Your Hair

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Healthy hair looks good and it makes us feel good. We spend a fortune on treatments, haircuts, and hair dyes, but before we do any of that, we need to think about what condition our hair is in. If you subject hair that’s already dry and damaged to harsh products and chemicals, you’re asking for trouble. Dry hair looks uncared for, brittle and lackluster. Your hair can be dry because of a health condition, exposing it to excessive heat or using harsh products. But it is possible to have healthy hair and to make every hair a good hair day.

Signs that your hair is healthy    

Healthy hair looks and feels good. These are the top signs that your locks are healthy and that your hair care routine is working for you:

Your hair has elasticity

If your hair can be stretched without breaking, and it has a springy, bouncy appearance, your hair is healthy. If your hair snaps easily it needs more moisture and protein.

Your hair is strong

If your hair does not break easily when you style your hair, your hair is strong. Dry hair tends to break more easily. Check your hairbrush to see how much hair you’re shedding. Losing 100 hairs per day is normal, more than this and there’s something wrong.

Hair feels soft

Feel your hair when it is in its ‘healthiest’ state, for example when you have just styled it. Does it feel soft to the touch or does it feel rough? Rough hair lacks moisture so you need to hydrate it.

Your hair retains moisture

Healthy hair can retain moisture. If the cuticles are healthy they can easily absorb nourishing products. If they can’t, they are damaged.

Healthy hair has an unmistakable shine

With healthy hair, the cuticles are smooth and lie flat, reflecting the light. Rough, dry hair does not. If hair appears dull and lifeless, there is probably damage.

Signs that your hair is unhealthy   

Signs that your hair is unhealthy   

You have split ends

Split ends are a classic sign of damage caused by rough styling or heat damage. They look unsightly, and if not treated, the hair can split further up the shaft. Wrap a section of hair around your finger; if any small strands stick out, they are split ends. Getting hair trimmed regularly can help get rid of damaged ends.

There is heat damage

Exposing your hair to excessive heat makes it dry and brittle. Allow hair to dry naturally as much as you possibly can.

Your hair breaks easily and sheds excessively

If you see a lot of hair coming out in your hairbrush or in the plughole after you shower, your hair is damaged.  Check your haircare routine and get a health check-up if it persists. Hair loss can be a sign of stress or a thyroid problem.

Your hair looks lacklustre

Dry, damaged hair lacks shine as the cuticles are rough and don’t lie flat. Don’t add more products to try and achieve a shine, this can make hair damage worse, as it causes product build up.

Your hair tangles easily

If your hair is very tangled when wet, it’s a sign of possible damage. Use a wide-tooth comb to style wet hair, never a hairbrush as the hair is more vulnerable to breakage.

Your hair is dry

If the hair lacks moisture, it could be because of exposure to heat and chemicals or you may have a health problem or a poor diet.

So, the key difference between healthy and unhealthy hair is moisture. There are countless hydrating hair products on the market these days, and the newest hydration heroes for parched hair are hair oils.

Why are oils so good for hair?

Many people who have hair that is oily at the roots and dry at the ends will baulk at the idea of using oil on their hair. People assume that oils will simply make their hair greasy. But oils can be great for restoring hair health. They prevent damage, seal in moisture and smooth split ends. Oil can improve the elasticity of the hair which reduces frizz and breakage, plus it forms a protective layer, coating the hair shaft with nutrients and moisture. They can also nourish the scalp which is important because you can’t have healthy hair if you have a dry irritated scalp.

The oils that are on the market these days are lighter and they multitask. So, one bottle of hair oil can double as a styling cream, hair serum and shine product, saving you money and space on your bathroom shelf. When using an oil, only use a few drops. Less is more! Only apply it from the lengths to the ends so you don’t end up with roots that look like an oil slick.

How can you use oils on your hair?

You can use oils on wet or dry hair. You can use them as a pre-shampoo treatment, a deep conditioning mask or after styling to smooth and condition hair.

The best hair oils for hydration    

The best hair oils for hydration    

If your hair is fine: use avocado oil

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Avocado is light so it won’t leave fine hair greasy, plus it will add gloss and promote growth.

If your hair is thick or curly: use babassu oil

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Hair that is thick and curly can be dry, so you need an oil that can penetrate the hair shaft and reduce frizz. Babassu oil comes from the seeds of the babassu plant, and it coats the hair but doesn’t leave it looking greasy.

If your hair is coloured: use marula oil

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If you use chemical hair dyes regularly, it may be on the dry side so you need a little extra nourishment. Oils are natural, so won’t strip your hair of any of its natural moisture. The oil comes from the fruit of the marula tree, it’s rich in vitamin A and C and it seals moisture into the hair to eliminate frizz and roughness.

If you have a dry or overly oily scalp: use tea tree oil

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A dry or oily scalp is caused by an imbalance in the natural oils and chemicals produced by the scalp. Tea tree oil is antifungal and antibacterial so it’s good for controlling excess oil production but also gets rid of the build-up of dead skin that causes dandruff. A healthy scalp means healthy hair growth.

If your hair is dry: use argan oil

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Dry hair can get even drier when winter comes, as it is exposed to the elements and the effects of central heating. Argan oil penetrates the hair shaft, moisturises, and nourishes the hair and seals split ends.

If your hair is super dry: use olive oil

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If you feel as if your dry hair is beyond help, fear not! Olive oil contains hair loving vitamin E and other antioxidants which protects the hair from further damage by sealing in moisture.

If you suffer from hair loss: use sesame oil

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Sesame oil contains a lot of nutrients and is a natural emollient. It combats dryness, seals in moisture, and the anti-inflammatory effect of the vitamin E can prevent hair loss.

Homemade recipes for dry hair  

So, we know that taking good care of our hair means eating a healthy diet, using gentle and natural hair products, and staying away from heat styling. But it doesn’t mean using expensive products to achieve healthy hair. Try these hair oil recipes for lustrous locks.

Hot oil treatment

This hot oil treatment can also double as a hair mask. It is nourishing for all hair types. Use it once per week and you will soon see the improvement in the condition of your hair.

You’ll need:

2 tablespoons oil (olive oil, sesame oil, avocado or olive oil)

3 drops essential oil (for conditioning and fragrance)

1 teaspoon infused herbs

Choosing your essential oil: rosemary oil is great to give dark hair shine, and sandalwood fragrances hair beautifully. Tea tree oil can treat dry itchy scalps and carrot seed oil is great for moisturising. Choosing the herb: Rosemary and chamomile are calming, moisturising and soothing.

How to make it:

Warm the oil in a small bowl that’s placed above a pan of hot water. Stir well. Add the herbs, then once the oil is fully heated, strain the herbs out of the mixture.  Section hair off as you do when you blow dry, then apply the oil using a brush (a pastry brush is ideal) to each section. Once all the hair is covered in oil, massage the oil into the scalp. Wrap your hair up in a towel for 30 minutes then rinse the oil off. Shampoo and condition as normal.

Olive oil hair mask

This mask will make hair look and feel so much better, plus it will be so much more manageable and shiny.  To add a nice fragrance and more antioxidants, soak a sprig of rosemary or lavender in the oil the day before you make the mask. Honey is a natural moisturiser plus it contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Raw honey is more effective than the processed type.  The vitamin E will repair the hair and soothe the scalp.

You’ll need:

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup raw honey

3 vitamin E capsules

How to make it:

Pour the honey into a glass container. Whisk the honey and olive oil together.

Pierce the vitamin E capsules and add the liquid to the mixture. Use a pastry brush to apply the mixture to the hair. Cover the hair with a shower cap and leave it on for around 90 minutes. Rinse the hair well with warm water. Shampoo and condition as normal.

Olive oil and coconut oil hair mask

Coconut oil is excellent for dry and damaged hair as it is rich in fatty acids which readily penetrate the hair shaft. It’s a natural antifungal, so it’s good if you have dandruff or a dry scalp.

You’ll need:

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon olive oil

How to make it:

Mix together the coconut and olive oil. Massage the mixture through your hair, and focus on the ends. Comb through with a wide-tooth comb to distribute the oil evenly. Cover your hair with a towel or a shower cap. Leave it on overnight if possible, then rinse out in the morning. Shampoo and condition as usual.

Olive oil and banana hair mask

Bananas are rich in vitamins A and E which keep hair healthy. This mask is great for hair that has been chemically treated or coloured.

You’ll need:

1 ripe banana

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon of raw honey

How to make it:

Mash up the banana in a bowl and add the olive oil. Mix together until smooth. You can use a blender if necessary. Stir in the honey and mix well. Massage the mask through the hair, focusing on the ends. Wrap the hair in a towel or cover it with a shower cap and leave on for 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and shampoo as usual.

Olive oil, avocado, and honey hair mask

Avocados are rich in vitamins A and E and in monounsaturated fat, which will add moisture and shine to the hair. The oils in avocado are similar in their composition to the oils produced naturally by the scalp. The mask is great for nourishing dry and frizzy hair.

You’ll need:

1 avocado

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

How to make it:

Scoop out the avocado flesh with a spoon. Mash the flesh into a paste in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil and honey. The mixture should be smooth and have a light green colour. You can use a blender if you need a smoother consistency.

Spread the mask onto damp hair, focusing on the ends. If you have oily roots, don’t put the mask on them. You can use your fingers or a pastry brush or similar to work the mask into your hair.

Wrap the hair up in a shower cap and blast with a hair dryer. The heat will activate the treatment. Leave the mask on for 45 minutes, then rinse and shampoo as usual.

Sesame oil scalp treatment

Sesame oil is nourishing and moisturising. When mixed with other ingredients such as ginger, lemon juice and beetroot juice it makes a great exfoliating tonic for the scalp.

You’ll need:

2-3 teaspoons of sesame oil

1 teaspoon of grated ginger

1 tablespoon of beetroot juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

How to make it:

Mix the sesame oil, grated ginger, lemon juice and beetroot juice and massage the mixture into your scalp for a few minutes. Wrap the hair in a towel and leave for 15 minutes. Rinse the hair and shampoo as usual. Do this once per week to improve scalp health.

Final thoughts

Healthy hair looks good and it feels good, and it doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve. As well as eating a healthy diet and avoiding harsh chemicals and excessive heat styling, there are natural products we can add to our healthy hair routine. Natural products nourish the hair and restore moisture rather than strip it of its natural oils. The new natural wonder products for restoring hair health are hair oils. They have taken the hair and beauty world by storm in recent years, and for good reason. The oils are full of fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants, and their anti-inflammatory properties give hair a healthy base from which to grow. Today’s oils are not greasy or heavy, they are lightweight and multitasking. They can replace shine sprays, serums and leave in conditioners, making them amazing value for money. How many products can nourish the scalp, seal moisture in the hair, eliminate frizz, seal split ends and get rid of dryness, and this without any harsh ingredients at all?  Just as when we use natural products such as oils on the skin, when we use them on the hair we get all the benefits without having to be exposed to questionable ingredients.

Healthy hair is achievable, and it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. In fact, you can make some wonderful hair treatments with the ingredients that you probably already have at home.

Remember with oils however, that less is more, so work with your hair type and texture. Fine hair will appear weighed down if you apply too much oil but dry coarse hair might absorb it like a sponge so you need to add more as you go. Always concentrate on the ends as this is where the dryness tends to be. The difference between healthy lustrous hair and unhealthy rough dry hair is moisture. Hair lacking in moisture will be dull, rough, and frizzy. If hair has enough moisture it will have plenty of elasticity and shine. Which would you rather have? It’s time to be kinder to your hair. Forget the heat and the chemicals and turn to mother nature for your best hair yet.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.