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Top 10 Natural Oils for Natural Hair

By October 29, 2012hair + beauty

When I have the time, I love making my own products at home. Many beauty products sold on the market today can be expensive, plus they contain many artificial ingredient and synthetic additives that are not good for your tresses. When you create your own hair oils, hot oil treatments and conditioners, you know exactly what ingredients are included in the final product. Plus, making your own products is fairly easy and can be extremely rewarding. As you experiment with making your own homemade hair care recipes, here is a list of my ten favorite carries hair oils for you can try.

For those of you who don’t know, a carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels or the nuts. In natural hair care preparations, carrier oils are typically referred to as base oils. Essential oils, on the other hand, are distilled from the leaves, bark, roots and other portions of a botanical, and are generally used for their aromatic properties.

If you have any specific thoughts on certain oils or favorite oils that I didn’t list, please feel free to post your comments here or on my Facebook page. for over 50 natural hair care recipes, check out my bookThank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair or stop by the homemade hair care recipes section on my blog.

1. Jojoba (Great for Moisture)

Jojoba is  a great choice as a  healing hair conditioner in that the molecular structure of  this oil is very similar to the natural oil or sebum that is produced by the sebaceous glands of the scalp. Hair that has been extremely damaged or that breaks, splits or tangles easily usually  responds well to this moisturizer. The beauty of this oil is that you can use it  straight or in a mix and it will work for just about all types of hair. Jojoba is  also very stable and can be stored for years without going rancid.
2. Extra-Virgin Olive (Great for Moisture and Thick Hair)

Extra virgin olive oil has been used by people for centuries as both a cooking oil and a cosmetic aide. This natural oil is great for hair that is dry or damage, and also  works extremely well on  thick, coarse hair.  Olive oil is also suitable for use in the treatment of scalp conditions and dry skin. It does have quite a distinctive color and odor of its own, which not everyone  will appreciate, and it is rather heavy. Some naturals also prefer to use olive oil in combination with another, lighter carrier oil, like coconut or grape seed.

3. Castor Oil (Great for Moisture/Hair Loss)

Castor oil is often used as beauty aid, to soften and treat rough, dry skin. A naturally-produced vegetable oil makes it ideal for use on the skin both as an emollient, and as a hot oil treatment for dry damaged hair.  When used on the hair, castor oil coats the hair shaft and smoothes the cuticle layer, sealing in moisture and leaving the hair feeling soft and silky. It is also a humectant which draws in moisture and is great when used in a daily moisturizer. If you’re looking to give your hair a little pick me up, try combining castor oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil and water into a spray body and using as a revitalizing spritz (3 part water: 1 part oil).

4. Coconut (Great for Shine) 
The most commonly available coconut oil is refined, bleached & deodorized oil. This oil is produced from copra which is dried coconut meat. At room  temperature coconut oil is a solid, white substance with only a faint scent. The oil liquefies when it is placed in warm water.    This elegant moisturizer and superfatting agent is great for nourishing the hair to give it a healthy shine and helps to also minimize tangles.  Coconut oil is also recommended for the control of dry scalp and dandruff.  Coconut oil can be used alone as a hair and scalp oil or added to shampoo to add special nourishing and softening benefits.

5. Sweet Almond Oil (Great for Moisture)

Popular with the ancient Romans, this very pale yellow and odorless oil nourishes dry, flaky, itchy, sensitive scalps. Although lighter than  olive, this cold burnt oil made from almond kernels provides excellent  lubricating and penetrating properties and it is a favorite carrier oil for hair and skin treatments. Sweet almond oil has also been used throughout history during pregnancy and labor to prevent rips and tears.  While relatively inexpensive, this normally safe  oil should not be used by people who have known almond or nut allegories in  order to avoid an unpleasant reaction.

6. Grapeseed Oil (Great for Shine)

Grapeseed oil is one of the lightest oils and is easily absorbed by the hair and skin. It also can act as a preservative in hair care preparations.      Note, this oil has a slight flavor and a noticeable odor

7. Aloe Vera Oil & Gel (Stimulates Hair Growth)

The oil produced by the aloe vera desert plant is one of the most precious substances for human scalps, hair and skin. This odorless oil, which is different from aloe vera gel, is rich in enzymes, vitamins, proteins and minerals that support health. Not only does aloe vera oil help maintain proper moisture balances, it stimulates circulation which is helpful for hair growth. Excellent for  dandruff, this oil will also soothe psoriasis and eczema of the scalp.

8. Avocado Oil

This clear oil is made from the fleshy  fruit of the avocado. Touted as a hair growth  stimulant, this oil nourishes and restores softness to dry, dehydrated and mature hair  and skin. Problems, especially  psoriasis of the scalp, respond to its high content of vitamins A, B and E  along with lecithin, proteins and fatty acids. Avocado oil has its own distinct aroma and goes rancid quickly. Buy in small amounts and refrigerate.

9. Sesame Oil

This clear light oil is made from uncooked seeds and is used in many sun care preparations for the hair and body to protect the hair from harsh temperatures.   It can be added to other oils to enrich them. Note, sesame becomes rancid quickly and must be stored in a cool dry place.

10. Safflower Oil

This light oil is made from the seeds and penetrates the hair well. It is cheap and readily available in an unrefined state, making it a  useful oil base for a blend.

If your hair is craving a little attention, try treating your tresses to a hot oil treatment. For a great recipe, click here and feel free to substitute the olive oil for any of the oils listed above.

Shopping for Oils

When shopping for hair oils, be sure to look for oils that are 100% pure extract and not chemical reproductions. Pure oils are known to be the most effective conditioners for the hair and can be found in health food stores, online and in stores that sell organic products. When shopping locally, be on the look out for dust on the bottles, which can indicate that the oil has been sitting around for awhile. Also steer clear of  oils that are not blends of two or more oils and that have no additives.

  • Processing Method: Shop for carrier oils that have been cold pressed or cold expeller pressed. This indicates that the oil has been pressed from the fatty portions of the botanical without the use of added heat (or minimal heat). Oils that simply say expeller pressed have not been processed to maintain low heat levels. When oils are processed without cool conditions, the high temperature of the processing method can be harmful to the natural properties of the oil.
  • Price: Carrier oils can vary greatly in price based on several factors: the botanical it is made from, how it was processed, if it is organic, the quantity that you are purchasing, and the source that you’re purchasing it from.
  • Organic: Organic carrier oils generally cost more than conventional oils. When purchasing organic carrier oils, verify if the oil is certified.
  • Color: Color doesn’t always matter when selecting a carrier oil for simple blends, but it can matter if you are making more elaborate recipes where the color of your final product is important to you.
  • Aroma: The aroma of some carrier oils can compete or conflict with the aroma of the essential oils in your desired blend.
  • Absorption/Feel: This is a rather subjective evaluation of how thoroughly and quickly an oil penetrates the skin, and if it makes the skin feel oily after application.

Carrier oils vary in how long they last before oxidizing and becoming rancid. When purchasing carrier oils, estimate the quantity of oil that you think you’ll use within the lifetime of the oil. For fragile carrier oils or for those that you will be keeping for a long duration, store them in dark glass bottles with tight fitting tops, in a cool, dark place. Amber or cobalt Boston round bottles are ideal.  If you will be using up an oil well before its lifespan, it really doesn’t need to be transferred to dark glass. Unlike with essential oils which should always be stored in glass (essential oils can dissolve the plastic), carrier oils can be stored in plastic.  Most carrier oils can be stored in the refrigerator, and this can help prolong the lifespan.  Note, oils stored in the refrigerator may solidify or turn cloudy and will need time to return to room temperature prior to use.

For more on caring and maintaining your natural hair, pick up a copy of my book, which Essence declared the “Natural Hair Bible”.   Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair is now available at, Barnes & Noble, and