Use Oil to Nourish Your Hair Naturally

close shot of older woman in glasses running her fingers through long gray hair

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Oil is not your hair's enemy. In fact, oil can give you luscious, lustrous locks if used properly.

For years I believed that oil was my hair’s greatest enemy. I washed it religiously to get rid of the greasiness, but this had the undesired effect of making it dry, frizzy, and difficult to manage. Hair needs oil, I’ve realized after years of experimentation. When hair has oil in it, whether naturally produced or carefully added, it becomes healthier, stronger, shinier, and smoother. Here are some suggestions for incorporating oil into your hair routine.

1. Wash Your Hair as Little as Possible

glass containers of rice flour and cornstarch on a patio balcony
Pantry ingredients, like rice flour and cornstarch, are great for creating homemade dry shampoo.

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Allow your hair to produce oil without freaking out. It’s OK; nobody else sees it as much as you. Use a natural dry shampoo (a.k.a. rice flour or cornstarch) to absorb the excess greasiness and figure out which hairdos can help you delay washing. Work on stretching it to a week.

2. Don’t Strip Your Hair of Its Oils

Baking soda in a glass jar and apple cider vinegar displayed on marble cutting board

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Avoid shampoo and conditioner with harsh synthetic chemicals. These are bad because they strip the hair and scalp of natural oils, which leads them to overcompensate by producing more. Look for gentle, all-natural brands, switch to baking soda and apple cider vinegar, or go the radical route of water-only washing (which I'm trying right now).

3. Massage Your Scalp With Oil

close-up shot of parted hair with oil being squeezed onto roots

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Scalp massage is believed to stimulate hair growth, while relaxing the body and promoting sleep. Adding a few drops of oil to your fingers while massaging can treat dandruff or dryness, reduce hair loss, discourage premature graying, and make your tresses shinier and less frizzy.

Try rosemary essential oil blended with melted coconut oil, moringa oil, or cold-pressed hibiscus oil, which is a traditional hair-care oil in India. I’ve also read about curry leaves steeped in coconut oil making an excellent scalp massage oil, which I want to try. Do it before a wash, let it sit for a half-hour, then shampoo.

4. Deep-Condition With Oil

coconut oil in upcycled glass jar with coconut shavings displayed alongside it

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Every few weeks, slather coconut oil all over your hair, wrap it in a towel or old T-shirt, and go to sleep (or wait 20 minutes). It may take a couple scrubs and rinses to get most of the oiliness out of your hair, but the result will be deeply hydrated and shiny hair.

5. Style With Oil

A white woman in pajamas sprays oil into her hair.

CentralITAlliance / Getty Images

Don’t be afraid to add oil after washing your hair, though it looks best if done while hair is wet. Add a small amount of oil to the lower end of the shaft, where your hair is most prone to dryness or frizziness. Be sure to get those ends! Rub in a small amount, brush it through, and let it dry. Try pure argan, grapeseed, or sweet almond oil. How much should you add?

“Split your hair into pigtails and wrap your thumb and forefinger around one side. Remove the hair and observe the size of the circle you have made with those two fingers. That size is the amount you apply to half of your hair.” (How To Be A Redhead)

6. Use an Oil-Based Leave-In Conditioner

close up shot of person pouring oil into ends of hair

Treehugger / Dan Amos

There are some very gentle and safe leave-in conditioners that will continue to nourish your scalp and hair throughout the day. EWG’s Skin Deep database gives high ratings to Carina Organics (with coconut, pea, olive, and pumpkin seed oils) and Yarok Feed Your Ends Conditioner (with jojoba, rosemary, and apricot seed oils).