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Your Complete Guide To Using Scalp Oils

Wondering how to use scalp oil and, more importantly, if you actually need one? Read on for everything you need to know.

The hair world has undergone significant changes over the years, and many of those changes are for the better. For example, even a decade or two ago, hair care was mostly about making sure your hair looked good—even if that meant sacrificing its health in the process. 

Whether that meant endlessly backcombing your mane, using way too much sticky hairspray to keep your style in place, or going ham with a flat iron, lots of us were willing to do whatever it took to perfect the appearance of our strands. These days, though, it’s not only important that your hair looks good. It should feel healthy, too. 

When trying to figure out the keys to healthy hair, stylists and brands realized that hair health and scalp health were intertwined. Basically, it’s important to care for the foundation from which your hair grows—your scalp. There are lots of scalp products on the market that we love, but one of the best things you can do for your scalp is to incorporate a scalp oil into your hair care routine. Think of it as a hair-care meets self-care moment. 

We’ve teamed up with Ashley Lantz, Matrix artistic educator and brand ambassador, to give you the scoop on everything you need to know about scalp oil and the right way to use it.


Initialiste Advanced Scalp & Hair Serum

A specialized scalp and hair treatment that will leave hair looking shinier and feeling thicker.

One size only for Initialiste Advanced Scalp & Hair Serum
2 fl oz

Are all oils good for your scalp?

Not quite. While there are many excellent oils to choose from for your scalp, you unfortunately can’t wander into your kitchen pantry and apply the first oil you find to your scalp. 

“A lot of people tend to forget that your scalp is just as, if not more, sensitive than the skin on your face and should be treated as such,” Lantz explains.

Your safest bet when looking for the best oil for scalps is to use a product that’s been carefully formulated, tested, and approved for use. A good example is Kérastase Initialiste Advanced Scalp & Hair Serum, which contains a sophisticated blend of oils, proteins, and extracts that help create thick, strong, and shiny hair

Because every scalp has its own needs, it’s always wise to consult a trusted stylist. That person can help you find the perfect scalp oil for you, whether you’re seeking an oil for dry scalp, and oil for itchy scalp, or an oil for sensitive scalp.

What is scalp oil good for?

The primary benefit of using a scalp oil is that it helps moisturize your scalp. Much like the skin on the rest of your body, your scalp needs moisture to look and feel its best. Your scalp produces its own oils, but sometimes an extra boost can improve your overall scalp and hair health—especially if you have naturally dry skin, are battling winter dryness, or live in a dry climate

In cases where your scalp is already very oily, this might actually be a sign that your scalp is thirsty. Excess oil production is your body’s way of overcompensating for dryness, which can be caused by over-washing or from using drying hair products. When you incorporate a scalp oil into your hair care regimen, you can restore this balance. 

In addition to helping hair look and feel healthier and shinier, some scalp oils can help nix flakiness or dandruff, promote healthy hair growth, and protect your scalp and strands from damage. On that note, you can even extend your oiling routine by using a hair oil on your actual strands.  For example, Kérastase Elixir Ultime L'Huile Original Hair Oil contains five precious hair oils that are absorbed quickly to nourish, boost shine, and prevent breakage. Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil is another example. Meant for your strands and your scalp, it boasts all-day UV protection and a lightweight formulation that leaves hair glossy and not weighed down.

Coco Dew Mizani's New  Curl Pre-Styling & Restyling Refresher Spray

How often should you use oil on your scalp?

Ultimately, how often you apply scalp oil depends on your specific needs and the product you're using. When in doubt, refer to the usage instructions on the bottle. Some products recommend applying scalp oil every day while some suggest a couple times a week. Some scalp oils are also more aggressive treatments that you use less frequently. 

Good hair day by @sindiarifi.

How to incorporate a scalp oil into your hair care routine

Everyone’s scalp has different needs, so Lantz recommends consulting with your stylist to come up with the best routine for you and your hair. However, if you’re not sure where to start, she suggests slowly incorporating the oil into your hair care routine.  

“One of my favorite ways to use this scalp oil is in the salon. Applying a small amount of oil directly to the skin and using a brush to gently exfoliate the scalp prior to their service every four to six weeks helps remove any impurities,” she says.  

If you’re using an at-home product, it’s important to follow the usage instructions. Some products recommend applying as a pre-shampoo treatment, which means you’ll let it set for a period of time before washing it out. Others are meant as leave-in treatments that you apply either just out of the shower or as a between-shampooing pick-me-up. You’ll also find important instructions for how much product to use, so follow that advice as well to achieve the best results. 

Remember, hair care and scalp care is a great way to get a little self-care in, so make sure to treat yourself regularly. 

Interested in more expert hair advice? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you. 

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