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

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?


Just another naturalista playing by my own rules! Got hair that doesn't seem to grow past your shoulders? Check out my free Grow Your Hair Faster Video Course

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