Most of us have no idea how to choose a hair oil though we use them all the time! We choose based on a friend’s recommendations or whatever sounds good. Many vegetable oils have amazing properties that nourish and provide softness, shine and strength to the hair, but in order to choose an oil that will produce the results you’re looking for, it’s helpful to know the basic chemistry of oils.

I am not a scientist, nor do I pretend to be one, but years of schooling has made me a very capable researcher! Use this information at your discretion. I hope you find it as helpful to your hair journey as it has been to mine!

The fats in oils (referred to as fatty acids) generally fall under two categories — saturated and unsaturated (which has two main sub categories of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).

Category A: Oils with a high saturated fatty acid content (i.e. stearic, lauric and palmitic acids) or high monounsaturated fatty acid content (i.e. oleic acid) tend to have an easier time “becoming one” with our hair fibers because of their simple, straight chain structure that allows for easy entry into the deepest layers of the strand. Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat. Oils high in monounsaturated fat include avocado oil, jojoba oil, olive oil and sweet almond oil.

Category B: Oils with a high polyunsaturated fatty acid content (i.e. linoleic, linolic acid) have the tendency to penetrate only the most outer layers and coat the cuticle of the hair. This is excellent for providing shine and keeping hair tangle free. Oils high in polyunsaturated fat include castor oil, flaxseed oil and grapeseed oil.

This diagram from is clutch.


Knowing this, here are two things you should consider when selecting an oil.

1. Your hair’s porosity (ability to absorb moisture)
Hair that is very porous will easily absorb most anything you place on it. This isn’t necessarily bad. For example, highly porous hair takes on color very well. On the flip side, if you straighten it it will absorb moisture and revert back to curly pretty quickly.

Because highly porous hair is prone to frizz, oils from Category B will help to ward off humidity.

2. Whether your hair goals are related to styling/shine or conditioning/softness.

If you are looking for an oil to add some extra sheen, go with Category B. But if you want oils that will penetrate and condition your strands, go with Category A. If you want both, mix it up!

Remember to Experiment!

Buy a few applicator bottles and test different oil mixtures. You will be surprised the incredible results you’ll come up with! Be sure to buy oils in small quantities (4 ounces or less) to test before you commit to bigger sizes.

Ladies, how do you choose oils for your hair? Which oils work best for you?

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12 Comments on "Coconut, Olive and Castor Oh My! How to Choose the Right Oil for Your Natural Hair"

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Staci Elle

Just came through to say that her hair is BOMB!


EVOO and castor oil WORK for me the LOC method.


My hair likes coconut, olive and castor oil alot I’m trying avocado oil but I can’t tell yet what it likes

Chocolate drop

Virgin coconut oil(VCO) works best for me


I’ve tried to reply to “C.”comments with facts but somehow each response ends up deleted ?.

Jojoba produces significant amounts of liquid wax similar to our own restorative human sebum. In typical plant oils, molecular double bonds are close and attract free radicals while Jojobas are spread far apart. Here’s the source info:


Jojoba has wax esters because it’s not actually an oil. Out of 350k plants it’s he only one to produce significant liquid wax – (Jojoba Company). It’s molecular structure allows it to last upwards of 5 years but not indefinitely as the chart states.


Please be aware Jojoba is a liquid WAX not an oil. And because of its molecular structure it lasts longer than most carrier oils upwards of 5 years – not indefinite as this chart states because of oxidization.

Unrefined lasts the longest –


It has wax esters, which are a type of functional group on fatty acids and fatty alcohols. Not actual wax.


It’s a was ester not an oil as referred to in this chart. It’s just clairification and here are some sources:


Jojoba oil is the liquid produced in the seed of the Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba) plant. Don’t know where you got that from.


Well from the Jojoba Company, they sell unrefined jojoba here’s the source:


It’s marketed as an oil when in fact it’s not one.