The natural hair gospel includes one very important rule: always treat your strands to a little–correction: a lot–of oil. I had this hammered into my head (figuratively, not literally) the minute I decided to big chop and start fresh. And though it seems easy in theory, knowing exactly how to use oil on natural hair requires a little more thought than most would assume.
Because while it’s incredibly easy to step out the shower, squeeze a huge dollop onto your hand, lather, and call it a day, natural oils including the always popular coconut are not created equal. Not the best news to hear if like me, your routine is unabashedly lazy and sometimes completely neglected. The good news is that knowing what oils to use and which ones mix best isn’t too complicated. For starters, it’s important to understand the basic, but essential purpose of hair oil.
“Hair oils have a multitude of benefits that help promote good hair and scalp health,” says Kendria Strong, Director of Marketing for African Pride. “Some of the benefits include adding hydration and locking in moisture, preventing hair breakage, promoting growth and length retention, increasing shine, softness, and manageability, soothing the scalp, replenishing the hair and scalp with natural nutrients and the list goes on.” Contrary to popular belief, hair oil should quite simply feel good too. That means when used correctly, your hair shouldn’t feel heavy or weighed down. It should be soft to the touch and shiny instead.
While there is a constantly growing list of hair oils, there are only two main categories that Strong says they will fall under: sealing oils or moisturizing oils.
First, sealing oils (like the African Pride Black Castor Miracle Hair & Scalp Sealing Oil) are pretty self-explanatory. They’re the ones that seal or coat your hair to lock in the moisture that is already there. According to Strong, they can be combined with other moisturizing products such as creams or liquids when doing the L.O.C. or L.C.O methods (which stand for liquid, oil, cream or liquid, cream, and oil respectively). “Sealing oils are essential as locking in moisture is the key to healthy hair growth and length retention,” she adds.
Popular hair oils that help seal or lock in hair moisture, include:
- Black Castor Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Soybean Oil
“Moisturizing oils have the ability to penetrate the hair shaft and moisturize hair strands from the inside out,” says Strong. Unlike sealing oils, these can and should be applied to the scalp to help soothe and stimulate, which promotes growth.
Popular hair oils that help moisturize your hair, include:
- Coconut Oil (known to penetrate the deepest)
- Olive Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Baobab Oil
- Argan Oil
How to Layer
How you decide to use these types of oils together really depends on your personal preference. Most people revert to the popular L.O.C method (liquid, oil, cream) or L.C.O method (liquid, cream, oil). “Both methods are designed to help your hair obtain and retain maximum hydration and as a result, your chosen hairstyle, for days at a time without drying out,” says Strong. “In my opinion, the best method, especially for coarser natural textures is to cocktail your products using the L.C.O method so that you’re applying the oil last.”
As for how much of each oil you’re applying to your hair, Strong notes that since everyone’s hair responds differently to oil, she suggests starting out with a small amount and increase as needed. “Your hair will certainly tell you when to stop,” she says. It’s also not necessary to use oils every day, especially if you’re using the L.C.O or L.O.C methods.
“Your hair should be retaining moisture for at least a few days at a time, but you can grab an oil if you’re using it to separate or refresh your curls to add some additional shine.” Lastly, your type of curl pattern does determine how you use moisturizers and sealants. If your hair is fine or your curls are on the looser side, Strong recommends using oils more sparingly so you don’t weigh your strands down.
“If you have coarser or kinkier textures, your hair is more likely to dry out faster, so you can use a combination of moisturizing and sealing oils (like the African Pride Moisture Miracle Strengthen & Protect 5 Essentials Oils), along with your other products to help you retain moisture,” she continues. “Ultimately, and this goes for everyone, it comes down to trial and error.”