Hair oil is an essential part of your haircare routine
There are just two things you need to navigate when choosing one. Namely, the right oils for your hair type. Those that add back much needed moisture to thick or Afro hair, for example, will reduce fine hair to an oil slick.
'Olive, argan and coconut oils, which are typically used on Afro hair, can be too heavy for finer, Caucasian hair,’ explains hairdresser Paul Windle, founder of Windle London. All are, however, key for tight curls, which absorb damaging chemicals more rapidly than straight hair.
Also consider what you need the oil to do for your hair.
Some are packed with essential vitamins that are applied to the scalp and hug each cuticle to jumpstart healthy hair growth.
Other carrier oils like carrot or jojoba improve shine. Meanwhile argan oil, which is rich in fatty acids and vitamin E, breathes life back into thick, brittle strands.
How do hair oils work?
What’s going on behind the scenes goes something like this. Fatty acids and antioxidants within the oil add a protective layer to your hair, helping to prevent breakage.
‘It’s hard for the natural oil on your scalp to travel and moisturise the ends,’ says Nicola Clarke, Creative Colour Director at John Frieda, whose clients include Cate Blanchette.
‘A hair oil will replenish the lipid layer on the surface of the hair. It will also penetrate deep into the strand to strengthen weak spots and prevent damage.’
If you have fine hair...
Generally speaking, if you have very fine hair and are worried about slopping it down apply the oil 20 minutes before washing your hair.
'Massage into the hair and wrap your hair in a warm towel,' says Windle, who swears by a pre-cleanse blend of featherlight apricot, camellia and oat oils. 'When you shampoo, it will take away the residue the oil leaves behind but none of the goodness.’
If your hair gets easily greasy, avoid using oils close to the roots. A tiny dollop applied evenly through the ends of your hair should be enough to improve texture without the extra weight.
If you have dry hair...
If your hair happens to be thick or prone to frizz, rub a pea-size amount of oil between your palms. Work it over the bottom of wet strands to sleeken your pony.
Alternatively, apply it as an intensive overnight treatment. Simply let the oil trickle from root to tip, massage it in and tie your hair up to avoid contact with the face.
If you're after growth...
No magic oil will give you waist-skimming Rapunzel-like strands overnight. But a healthy scalp can improve the quality of your hair growth.
‘Your scalp has the same environment as your face,’ says aesthetic doctor Dr Barbara Sturm.
‘It needs to stay balanced otherwise pores get clogged and the hair cycle gets disrupted. Using a serum that improves the condition of the scalp plays a vital part in the production of strong, healthy hair.’
Some oils, like Castor oil, have the added benefit of encouraging blood circulation near the scalp, which activates the hair follicles.
Keep scrolling for more hair oils that work on thick, dry, frizzy and fine hair...
Formulated using a natural alternative to silicon this oil is super light but manages to tame frizz, smooth hair and leaves hair feeling fuller and healthier.
You can smother parched strands in this oil when you want to baby it. But also use it pre tools in place of a heat protecting spray. One pump does everything (protects up to 450°F, smoothes frizz, adds shine).
Specifically designed for natural or relaxed hair, Pantene’s Gold Series range is born out of a decade of research with 3,000 women. The Intense Hydrating Oil contains hair hero ingredient argan oil and helps to heal fragile strands, smooth flyaways and frizz and help strengthen curly, coily and kinky hair.
A combination of hyaluronic acid, papaya and algin restore the skin's moisture balance. Factor in the anti-irritation properties of the herb purslane and it's like a spa for your scalp.
This oil is practically weightless and disappears as soon as you sweep it through ends. It'll also give your hair protection from sun damage.
We love this British Ayurvedic hair brand and its non-greasy pre-wash strengthening oil is undoubtedly the hero of the line. With its nourishing blend of castor, olive fruit, jojoba, grape seed, and sesame oils to hydrate scalp and strands. Additionally, it contains dashmool and ashwagandha, two popular ingredients in Ayurveda, to restore balance to out-of-whack hair.
Rice bran oil smoothes ends and leaves hair with unparalleled mirror-like shine.
An oldie but a goodie. Maize, argan, camellia and pracaxi oils combine to take hair from unruly to silky in seconds.
Want a quick fix for heat-frazzled locks? Sea buckthorn and sunflower seed oils add up to the whole nourishing package for hair in need of TLC.
Moroccanoil is the product that started the hair oils craze and made argan oil a beauty buzzword. Use it to aid styling, keep brittle ends in check and as an overnight conditioning treatment.
All Virtue products contain the Alpha Keratin 60ku protein, a science-y term for the first-ever keratin molecule extracted from real human hair. The hair oil's ‘shake to activate’ formula means the keratin lives inside the bottle without being diluted in the melon oil. So you get a fresh dose of this strand-repairing protein each time.
Castor oil helps activate hair follicles by increasing blood flow to the scalp. Additionally, exfoliating retinol and lactic acid work to remove dead skin, which often inhibits hair growth. It also contains a special pumpkin seed extract, which research shows can help block an enzyme responsible for hair loss. Pretty impressive, no?
This hair oil from Jen Atkin, hair stylist to the Kardashian Klan, smoothes the hell out of frizzy, dry hair. Its frontline response is a cocktail of nourishing tamarind seed, keratin, borage and baobab oils to seal ends, ramp up shine and protect against sun damage.
This oil can be used both as a pre-wash treatment or applied directly to the hair for some much-needed moisture. The highly nutritious organic hair oil is suitable for all hair types and will restore life and lustre to your locks.
We heart this oil from Adam Reed's haircare brand, ARKIVE. A holy grail combination of baobab and jojoba oils give ultra-light moisture and shine to the hair, nourishing your whole head. Simply apply to freshly washed and conditioned hair that is still damp. Easy.
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Katie Thomas is the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire UK. With over 10 years of experience on women's luxury lifestyle titles, she covers everything from the best beauty looks from the red carpet and stand out trends from the catwalk, to colonic irrigation and to the best mascaras on the market. She started her career on fashion desks across the industry - from The Telegraph to Brides - but found her calling in the Tatler beauty department. From there she moved to Instyle, before joining the Marie Claire digital team in 2018. She’s made it her own personal mission to find the best concealer in the world to cover her tenacious dark circles. She’s obsessed with skincare that makes her skin bouncy and glowy, low-maintenance hair that doesn’t require brushing and a cracking good manicure. Oh and she wears more jewellery than the Queen.