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We're answering your burning questions about the ancient ritual of hair oiling, which oils to use, and how they can help your hair look and feel its best.

Is Hair Oiling the Secret To Soft, Shiny Strands?

We're answering your burning questions about the ancient ritual of hair oiling, which oils to use, and how they can help your hair look and feel its best.
Is Hair Oiling the Secret To Soft, Shiny Strands?

If hair oiling videos are suddenly all over your TikTok FYP, you’re not the only one (we’ve noticed it, too). Despite its rising popularity on social media, hair oiling is by no means new. In fact, the practice dates back thousands of years—and it may be the key to attaining the soft and shiny mane you’ve always dreamt of.

Whether you’re curious about hair oiling and how it can fit into your routine or have never heard of the practice and are eager to learn, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for a full run-down on what hair oiling is and its benefits, plus tips on how to oil your hair for sleek, glossy strands.

What Is Hair Oiling?

Hair oiling is a haircare ritual in which natural oils—such as olive oil, argan oil, or marula oil—are massaged onto the hair to help improve the look and feel of your strands. The practice is immensely popular in some parts of South Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. However, the specific oils used (and how they’re applied) may differ across cultures.

What Are the Benefits of Hair Oiling?

Done properly, hair oiling can help improve the look and feel of your hair, protect it from damage, and shield your strands from environmental stressors.

Adds moisture and shine

The primary benefit of hair oiling is that it can help your hair look and feel softer and shinier. Oils coat the hair, which helps to trap moisture in the strands and prevent excessive water loss. Oils can also temporarily smooth the hair’s outer cuticle, giving your mane a shiny, silky appearance.

Helps improve the appearance of split ends

While hair oiling won’t fix split ends, it can help them look better. The coating action we described above also helps temporarily “seal” your split ends, making them appear less prominent. That being said, the only real fix for split ends is a haircut or trim.

May protect against UV rays

Not all hair oils are created equally: some hydrate, others smooth, and still others protect. According to the National Institutes of Health, some natural oils may help shield your hair against ultraviolet radiation—exposure to which can fade your color and contribute to damage.

Should You Oil Your Scalp?

Like hair oiling, scalp oiling is a haircare ritual that has been around for hundreds of years. However, the benefits of scalp oiling are much more hotly contested than hair oiling. Many stylists and dermatologists advise against applying oil to your scalp, as it may clog your follicles and cause unnecessary buildup that can impede your scalp health.

If you’re looking to give your scalp some TLC, we suggest incorporating salon-formulated scalp serums into your haircare routine rather than raiding your pantry. We love Kérastase Nutritive Hydrating Scalp Serum for dry, flaky scalps in need of hydration, while Biolage Professional Scalp Sync Oil Balancing Serum is ideal for those with oily scalps.

Which Oils Are Good for Hair Oiling?

Many oils boast benefits for your hair, so the best oil for your mane will depend on your hair type and concerns. While many oils can help to make your hair look and feel soft and shiny, certain oils boast additional benefits that may suit your specific hair concerns.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is one of the Holy Grails of hair oiling—for a good reason. Its emollient properties help coat the strand to seal in moisture, provide slip to help with detangling, and give the hair a smoother feel.

Coconut oil is also widely available and can be found in a wide array of haircare products. Try Mizani 25 Miracle Nourishing Hair Oil, which contains a blend of coconut, sunflower seed, and jojoba oils. The fast-absorbing formula helps soften and moisturize the hair while reducing frizz and boosting shine.

Castor oil

Castor oil is a thick oil whose claim to fame is helping to grow thick eyebrows and lashes. While those claims remain debatable, the benefits of castor oil for your hair are well known. Castor oil is comprised of many fatty acids that can penetrate the hair shaft and provide the hair with much-needed nourishment.

Argan oil

Argan oil has a high water-holding capacity, making it a moisturizing oil often found in salon-formulated hair care products. Regular use of argan oil on hair may help improve elasticity and reduce breakage.

You’ll find this ingredient in Kérastase Elixir Ultime L’Huile Original Hair Oil. The hydrating formula nourishes and strengthens the hair without leaving behind a greasy feel. Plus, it’s suitable for all hair types and textures, from straight to coily.

Amla oil

Amla oil is another oil worth adding to your hair oiling routine. You can find this moisturizing ingredient in a wide array of shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in treatments, or apply the rich oil directly to your ends for targeted TLC.

Almond oil

Almond oil has a warm, nutty aroma that smells divine on your strands, but the benefits of this oil go beyond aromatherapy. Almond oil is rich in fatty acids that can help smooth and soften your strands, add shine, and more.

Olive oil

Olive oil has plenty of shine-boosting, frizz-fighting benefits for hair, but we advise against applying the popular cooking oil directly to your strands. Instead, look for a product like Kérastase Curl Manifesto Huile Sublime Repair Hair Oil. The luxurious formula conditions curly hair and helps protect against frizz for hydrated, defined curls, coils, and spirals.

Good hair day by @brittney.christinee

How To Oil Your Hair

Hair oiling may sound pretty straightforward—and it is—but we’re sharing a few tips that will help to ensure you oil your hair with ease every time.

Step 1: Detangle

The key to reaping the benefits of your hair oiling routine is ensuring the oil is evenly distributed throughout your strands. Be sure your mane is free of knots and tangles before you apply your hair oil of choice to your strands.

Step 2: Coat your strands

Once your hair is detangled, apply the hair oil to the ends of your hair, working any excess oil throughout the mid-lengths (avoid the roots). We advise starting with a small amount of oil and adding more as needed—too much may weigh your hair down and leave it feeling greasy rather than nourished.

Step 3: Cover with a cap

After working the oil throughout your strands, cover your hair with a plastic cap. This will help the oil penetrate your strands further and keep your mane free from dust and lint. Then, let it sit for at least 20 minutes or up to two hours.

Step 4: Shampoo (twice)

The steps “lather, rinse, and repeat” are essential for any shampoo routine, but that last step is even more critical after oiling your hair. Oils can be tough to remove, and washing your hair twice helps remove all the oil from your hair before you move on to the next step of your haircare routine. You can also opt for a clarifying formula like Biolage Professional Scalp Sync Clarifying Shampoo to remove excess oil and residue.

Step 5: Condition

The extra moisture and nourishment your strands get from hair oiling may make you tempted to skip the conditioner, but we always recommend following up your shampoo with a conditioner. Shampoo and conditioner are formulated to work together, and conditioner replenishes your strands after your squeaky-clean double shampoo.

Good hair day by @teigan_lodge_hair_x.

How Often Should You Oil Your Hair?

How often you should oil your hair will depend on your hair type, concerns, and haircare routine. Those with dry, damaged hair may want to oil weekly or bi-weekly. If your goal is to give your strands some extra moisture and nourishment, consider adding hair oiling to your routine once a month. When in doubt, consult a professional hairstylist to help guide you in the right direction.

Next Up: 18 Editor-Approved Hair Oils For Healthy-Looking Hair

Use our salon locator to schedule an appointment with a stylist near you for personalized product recommendations and a stylist chop.

Header photo credit: @teigan_lodge_hair_x

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