Oil is arguably the most widely used product for textured tresses, however there is a lot of confusion surrounding what oil actually does, when it should be used and what oils are best. We’re going to clear up some of this confusion about oils and textured hair and give practical advice for optimal oil usage.

First and foremost, oil does not moisturize hair! It does act a film former, a protective barrier that seals in moisture and protects from various stresses, like combing, brushing, and friction between strands. Oils also provide shine due to the smooth, reflective surface they create when coating hair. Oils consist of lubricating emollients and nourishing agents that contribute the various health benefits associated with different oils.

Textured tresses naturally produce less sebum than straight hair; plus kinks, curls and twists hinder oil’s distribution through hair. Thus products for textured hair typically contain oil – generally, a good thing. But remember, oil can cause problems if not applied in proper sequence or if not the right type for hair. Oil should be applied AFTER hydrating hair. Always use a water-based product first to infuse moisture then seal the cuticle with oil or an oil-based blend. Not into the oily feel? Then just seal the tips.

So which oils are best? Generally, you want an oil that suits your hair type, nourishment needs and styling goals. Many find blends work best, because they include attributes of natural oils blended to provide a variety of benefits. Heavier oils like Castor and Shea oil are great for coarser hair, and oils like Soy and lightweight silicones are best for finer hair or more free-flowing styles. Jojoba and Coconut Oil tend to have positive results for a broad range of hair types. Noted trichologist Lisa Akbari states “If you’re going to use oil for the hair, you have mink oil, jojoba or macadamia…olive oil I would leave for the salads.” For best results she recommends utilizing oils closest to skin’s natural oils.

Controversy over Mineral Oil and Silicones Historically, mineral oil has been a key ingredient in textured hair products. Though an excellent skin protectant, at high levels it is overkill for the hair. This huge molecule occludes the scalp and weighs so heavily on hair that it prevents incoming moisture and requires harsh shampoos to remove. These growth-inhibiting negatives outweigh positives that might come from its use. Silicones, on the other hand, come in a variety weights and CAN be excellent for the hair when used properly. Improper sequencing locks out needed moisture and causes problems that ultimately stunt hair growth.

Here are some simple do’s & don’ts to get you started:
DO: Experiment to find the oils that work best with your hair.
DO: Use pure, high-grade natural oils to seal in water-based moisture.
DON’T: Substitute oil for moisture in your hair care regimen.
DON’T: Apply oil before moisture.
In future articles we discuss silicones, and identifying water-based vs. oil-based products. Watch for these tips to aid you in your journey to healthier tresses.