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.