Taking good care of your hair is nothing like a walk in the park on a warm, spring day. It’s more like a long slog up a steep slope in the middle of a storm. This is especially true if you tend to have dry locks that break or split at the drop of a hat. This is because dry hair often needs more work to look not dry, which means using lots of products and styling it with heat. But then, all that work to make it look good leads to more dryness and damage! Seems like you can’t win.
That’s why Mother Nature created hair-friendly plant oils! Plant oils can do wonders for your mane, and some are better than others. And the best part is that they come directly from nature, so there’s no worry about causing more damage from harsh ingredients lurking in some hair products.
We’ve created a list of seven of the best natural plant oils for hair that’s forever a challenge to keep smooth, hydrated and healthy.
Jojoba oil comes from the seed of the Simmondsia chinesis plant, which is native to the deserts of the U.S. southwest. It’s a unique oil (though it’s technically a wax ester) because it’s very similar to the sebum our own bodies produce. It’s perfect for adding shine, reducing frizz, protecting the strands, and sealing in moisture since it sits on top of the strand. It doesn’t penetrate the hair shaft like many other plant oils.
Vitamins and minerals in jojoba oil strengthen hair and add nourishment to make hair thicker. Jojoba oil works well with other hydrating hair oils that condition inside the strand. And it’s the best oil for balancing the oil on your scalp and hydrating it because it’s easily absorbed into the skin.
You can use jojoba oil as a sealant by putting a few drops on your fingers and running them down your strands on dry hair. Or use it to massage into your scalp. Adding a few drops to your conditioner will boost its benefits.
No list of amazing plant oils would be complete without coconut oil. The oil from the coconut is rich with fatty acids that penetrate the strand for deep conditioning of the cuticle. This is what makes it one of the best oils for dry, damaged hair.
Coconut oil was shown in a study to protect hair from protein loss better than other plant oils. This is due to lauric acid, a fatty acid chain with a long, straight structure that allows it to enter the cuticle of the hair strand. It also tends to attract protein molecules. Coconut oil is most helpful when applied either before or after washing your hair. It might even help you grow longer, stronger hair by protecting it from everyday damage like heat styling, the sun, and pollutants in the environment.
Use coconut oil by melting it to its liquid form before applying it to the ends of your hair. You can also apply it and leave it on as a hair mask for 20-30 minutes, or overnight if your hair is extremely brittle. You might need to wash it a few times to get all of the residue out.
Macadamia nut oil
From the deliciously rich nut of the macadamia tree comes a luxurious oil that’s great for hair. Macadamia nut oil infuses hair with shine and moisture to give you a beautifully healthy mane. This oil is full of emollient fatty acids that enter the hair shaft and strengthen your strands. It’s especially great for curly hair and damaged hair.
Macadamia nut oil also contains high amounts of antioxidants like vitamin E that help repair hair that’s been damaged by the sun and pollutants in the air. And it makes an excellent oil for nourishing the scalp. Applying it after styling helps smooth out any frizz and adds sheen. It’s not a good idea to use macadamia nut oil right before styling tools, however, because heat may make the oil damaging.
Use a few drops and apply as a leave-in treatment or to tame split ends or frizzies.
* If you’re allergic to nuts, there is a chance you could have a reaction to macadamia nut oil. Do a small patch test first.
Argan oil is often referred to as “liquid gold.” It comes from the kernels of the fruit of the argan tree that’s native to Morocco. The oil contains high amounts of oleic and linoleic acid, two fatty acids that are excellent for hydrating your hair and adding beautiful shine. It also contains high amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant that coats the hair and seals in moisture and makes hair more resilient. Vitamin E is shown to also boost hair growth.
This oil may also be effective at reducing scalp irritation or treating dandruff because it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. If you experience a lot of hair breakage, argan oil is a wonderful choice to use before heat styling to prevent this type of damage. It may even protect your hair from the harmful rays of the sun.
Argan oil is thick so it may be best to use it blended with other thinner oils. Use it as a hair mask and leave it on for 15-20 minutes, or use it for styling unruly hair. You can also massage it into your scalp.
Castor oil comes from the seeds of the castor plant and is made mostly in India. It’s been used for centuries, and there’s evidence that it was used in medicinal and beauty treatments in ancient Egypt. (It also provided fuel for lamps!) Today, castor oil is known to be effective as a laxative if taken as a supplement. For hair, it’s considered to be one of the best emollients.
Castor oil has a special type of fatty acid called ricinoleic acid, which is an omega-9 fat that reduces inflammation. It also contains omega-6 fatty acids. This makes it great for moisturizing brittle hair and soothing your scalp, especially if it’s dry or itchy. It also has antimicrobial properties that make it useful for fighting bacteria on the scalp. This oil is also said to help with hair growth and is used often on eyebrows and eyelashes to grow and thicken them.
If you want to use castor oil directly on your hair or scalp, you’ll probably want to dilute it in a carrier oil like jojoba because it’s very thick. Castor oil is also believed to be great for moisturizing the skin. Use as a hair mask for 15-20 minutes, or smooth it on your ends.
The oil from the creamy, fleshy fruit of the avocado tree is chock full of healthy nutrients for your hair (and for you!). A generous amount of essential fatty acids in avocado makes it a fabulous moisturizer for your mane. Avocado also has an abundance of other nutrients and antioxidants to infuse your hair strands with gobs of strength. One of those nutrients is biotin, which is a powerful hair thickener.
Minerals like potassium and magnesium in avocado oil seal the cuticles of your hair to make hair smooth and silky. And it doesn’t just coat your hair but also has the ability to penetrate the shaft into the cuticle to deeply hydrate.
The hydrators in avocado oil also nourish the scalp, increasing blood flow and unclogging blocked follicles, which could help with hair loss. Antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein protect hair against UV rays and damage from other environmental elements. You can use avocado oil by itself for a scalp massage or apply it to your hair as a shine serum. It also is common to make your own avocado hair mask.
Olive oil may sound super boring compared to other oils on the list, but it’s one of the best oils to use for soft, healthy hair. Olive oil is an excellent emollient because it has oleic acid, palmitic acid, and squalene. Squalene is a natural compound found in both plants and animals. The plant-based version found in olive oil is often used in vegan skincare and hair care.
Olive oil is especially fabulous for thick hair or hair that’s been treated with chemicals. It can help smooth split ends and broken strands by being absorbed into the cuticle. It also adds shine by coating the outside of the hair. Massaging olive oil into your scalp will add moisture and stimulate circulation to increase hair growth. Use a high-quality, extra virgin variety for the best results.
This list of oils hopefully gives you some hope that you can win the battle over dry, damaged hair. They’re easy to use and are probably ones you already have at home. You should also look for all-natural products (like ours!) that contain these oils to help hydrate and condition your mane. Thanks to Mother Nature, plants can rescue you from hair that may seem impossible to tame!