25 Popular Oils, Butters and Natural Ingredients and How To Use Them on Natural Hair


By Chinwe of Hair and Health

When it comes to hair care, it is vital to know how certain ingredients work on our strands. Having this knowledge reduces the “trial and error” involved in both building and adjusting a hair care regimen.

Below is a quick guide for the more popular, mainly natural ingredients involved in do-it-yourself (DIY) hair care. Do keep in mind that what works for most individuals may (or may not) work for you.

1. When you want to take advantage of the humidity:
Glycerin, honey, aloe vera juice
Why: Humectants (moisture retention).
How to use: Add to a moisturizer or a leave-in.

2. When you want an oil-based sealant:
Soybean oil, grapeseed oil, castor oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil
Why: These oils can reduce moisture loss.
How to use: Use separately or add some to your moisturizer.

3. When you want a light sealant:
Jojoba oil, grapeseed oil
Why: These oils are light compared to other oils.
How to use: Use separately or add some to your moisturizer.

4. When you want a heavy sealant:
Olive oil, shea butter (melted) mixed with any oil
Why: Olive oil is one of the heavier oils. Many butters (such as shea) contain fatty acids like oils but are heavier than oils.
How to use: Use separately or add some to your moisturizer.

5. When your scalp is itchy:
Tea tree essential oil, aloe vera juice
Why: Some find either of these substances to be soothing to the skin.
How to use: (Tea tree) Use a few drops with water or a carrier oil. (Aloe vera) Use straight or mix with water. NOTE: If you are pregnant or have a health condition, please consult your doctor before using essential oils.

6. When your scalp is dry:
Jojoba oil, aloe vera juicegrapeseed oil
Why: Jojoba oil is light and said to be very similar to our sebum. Aloe vera juice is light, moisturizing, and soothing to the skin.  Grapeseed oil contains a high amount of linoleic acid, which has been shown to protect against moisture loss (British Journal of Derm. 1976 Sept;95(3):255–64).
How to use: (Jojoba, grapeseed) Massage a few drops into the scalp. (Aloe vera) Use straight or mix with water.

7. When you want a moisturizing or softening oil:
Grapeseed oil, safflower oil, castor oil, argan oil
Why: These oils tend to leave the hair feeling soft and moist.
How to use: Use separately on damp hair or add some to your moisturizer.

8. When you want a moisturizing or softening non-oil:
Glycerin, aloe vera gel/juice, rosewater, honey, water
Why: Glycerin and honey are humectants (good for moisture retention). Aloe vera gel/juice and rosewater are moisturizing. Water is the best natural form of hydration.
How to use: Use separately, add to your moisturizer, or mix one (or more) ingredients to create a moisturizing spritz. Glycerin and honey work best when applied to damp hair or mixed with water.  NOTE: Adding water, aloe vera juice, or rosewater to a whipped butter can create an environment for bacterial and/or fungal growth.

9. When you want shine or sheen:
Castor oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, apple cider vinegar
Why: Castor oil has been shown to impart sheen (J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Jul-Aug;54(4):335-51). Coconut oil, avocado oil, and apple cider vinegar are ones that many naturals swear by.
How to use: (Castor, coconut, avocado) Use separately or add on top of your moisturizer. (Apple cider vinegar) Use as a post-wash rinse with cold water for 5 minutes.

10. When your shampoo is drying:
Coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil
Why: These oils are moisturizing and lubricating.
How to use: Pre-poo with any of the above oils or add to shampoo.

11. When your shampoo is not cleansing enough:
Baking soda
Why: Easily lifts oils and dirt.
How to use: Mix a little with your shampoo. (Be sure to follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse.)

12. When you want more slip in your conditioner:
Shea butter (melted), coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil
Why: Lubricating.
How to use: Add some to your conditioner.

13. When you want a more moisturizing conditioner:
Glycerin, honey, shea butter (melted), argan oil
Why: (glycerin, honey) moisture retention; (shea butter) emollient.
How to use: Add some to your conditioner.

14. When you want a more strengthening conditioner:
Coconut oil, gelatin, other hydrolyzed protein (e.g. keratin, collagen)
Why: Coconut oil has been shown to penetrate the hair and reduce keratin loss (J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92). Hydrolyzed protein, including gelatin, provides reinforcement by temporarily patching the cuticle layer.  For maximum strengthening, go for conditioners containing hydrolyzed protein.
How to use: (Coconut oil) Best used as a pre-poo to minimize breakage, but may also use post-wash. (Gelatin) Mix with an avocado, yogurt, and/or oils to create a strengthening conditioner. (Other hydrolyzed protein) Find a commercial conditioner with this ingredient.

15. When you want more hold and definition:
Shea butter, mango butter, beeswax, flaxseed gel
How to use: Add some to your moisturizer or use separately.

16. When you want to add fragrance to your mixture:
Lavender essential oil, jasmine essential oil, rose essential oilorange essential oil
Why: These oils are some of the better options for specifically adding fragrance.  Lavender, jasmine, and rose have floral scents while orange has a citrusy scent.
How to use: Add some to your moisturizer or spritz.

17. When you want a lighter, less oil-based whipped butter (e.g., warm weather):
Aloe vera gel, jojoba oil
Why: moisturizing, but light
How to use: Mix a 1:1 shea butter and aloe vera gel mixture (or a variation of this recipe).

18. When you want a heavier, more oil-based whipped butter (e.g., cold weather):
Olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, castor oil
Why: moisturizing and sealing
How to use: Mix a 1:1 or 2:1 shea butter and oil(s) mixture.

Ladies, what natural ingredients do you look for in hair care products?



Empowering women of color to break barriers. Cherish.Thy.Melanin. https://cherishthymelanin.com/ https://www.facebook.com/cherishthymelanin/

52 thoughts on “25 Popular Oils, Butters and Natural Ingredients and How To Use Them on Natural Hair

  1. I’m looking for oils that will really moisturise my hair because whatever I use, my hair drinks it all up. And an hour later it is dry again plus living in Canada makes it even harder to keep my hair hydrated. I’m also looking for oil that will prevent my hair from breaking, just to strengthen my hair. And this article really helped me understand all the benefits each oils have to offer. Thanks ????????

    • I know Canada weather oh too well. You must lay off the humectant s when its cold. Like glycerin rich products and limit your honey and aloe uses. Remember limit, not cease unless necessary. Try investing in a hair steamer and I am almost positive you will see a difference

    • Remember that oils will not “moisturize” your hair, but rather seal in the moisture. Get a really good leave-in and seal in with a rich oil and/or butter. Otherwise, just applying oil with no moisturizer will do more harm than good, because you’ll actually be blocking the moisture out…

  2. Thank you for this informative ingredients chart. I am a 50 year old, 4C, thick and dense haired woman. I have tried to go natural, at least, 5 times in my life. I never felt comforted not accepting or understanding a part of me. This last journey, thanks to you beautiful young people has been the most successful. Although I had a set back last year when I was iron and vitamin D def., my hair has grown back thick and healthy. You girls made a scary time in my life doable with all of your hair advice and You tube videos.

    I do understand the frustration in the one young lady’s journey. So, I suggest that we must be patient as she continues to discover herself. I began this last journey already knowing what wouldn’t work, already spent too much money and time on products that didn’t work for me. The best thing was finding out I was 4C and how to make my own, get it, my own products. My only suggestion is to somehow make a hair chart that describes hair density and shaft thickness in addition to curl/texture pattern. Thanks again for the chart and all you young ladies who are learning to love a part of yourselves.

  3. I’m curious. Why would adding water to a whipped butter cause bacteria/fungal growth? Most products w/ shea butter has water as the first ingredient.

    • It’s not necessarily the water that promotes bacterial/fungal growth. Most products on the market that have an oil and water mixture have preservatives in them to keep them shelf stable and to prevent the product from spoiling. If you make your own butters and creams (like I do), you have to always include a variations of a preservative (Potassium sorbate, vitamin E). Just think of it this way, when you create an oil mixture and then add distilled water..it might be okay for a few days, but then you start dipping your hand in the mixture…thus introducing germs that can make your creams nasty in a matter of days.

  4. #8 is great for me, especially since I have a scalp that is severely sensitive to oil. I prepoo with honey/floral water solutions, along with apple cider vinegar to increase the antibacterial and antifungal properties. Doing so’s been a big help this winter. Oh, the dry skin humanity…

  5. I love this article, I’m actually following this article as my guide to have a healthy head of hair, I’m so excited,I’m also using a stimulant. Wish me luck

  6. I was with you all the way to number 15. Beeswax is not good for hair it clogs the follicle, which stunts hair growth and causes breakage. But every thing else was okay. . .

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