Have you heard of this new olive oil hair mask? Or this DIY olive oil cleansing conditioner? Or this olive oil-soaked towel that wraps around your olive oil-coated hair after you rinse it with pure olive oil squeezed from a handful of organic Italian olives?! Yeah, in case you haven’t caught on, coconut oil has been kicked to the curb, and olive oil is now being touted as the most magical, hair-fixing ingredient to have ever graced the earth. But is olive oil actually good for your hair? We went to the experts to find out.
And by experts, we mean cosmetic chemist Joe Cincotta, who spends half of his days being a scientist in cosmetic laboratories, and the other half of his day fending off “wtf is this?!” emails from swarms of beauty editors. Or, at least, I assume that’s the case. But I had only one question for Cincotta: Is olive oil actually good for your hair? Because if you were—or still are—an avid lover of coconut oil hair treatments, you’ve undoubtedly heard the claims that prolonged use of coconut oil can cause protein buildup in your hair cuticle, leading to brittle strands and frizz, and now some are concerned that olive oil could have the same effect.
Thankfully, though, Cincotta assures me that the whole protein-building thing is all bullshit, and that olive oil is actually awesome for your hair, especially if yours is in desperate need of potent moisture. “Both coconut oil and olive oil have a thousand-year long history of being an excellent conditioner for skin and hair,” says Cincotta, noting that olive oil is heavier and richer than coconut oil, making it excellent for anyone with naturally frizzy, curly, kinky, damaged, or color-treated hair.
“All of these hair types tend to have more porous hair shafts, and when the hair is porous, it can’t hold onto its natural moisture, making it really brittle and dry,” says Cincotta. “So when you douse your hair in olive oil, which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E, the oils penetrate the hair shaft and rebalance the hair’s ability to hold moisture, while the vitamin E fights off the free-radical damage from sunlight and pollution.” And yes, these benefits stick around until you wash your hair, so if you only shampoo once a week, you’re looking at seven-day-long protection and happiness.
Basically, olive oil is a total boss. Before you run out and buy a bottle of conditioner decorated with olives, though, hold up: “The level of olive oil found in commercial products is generally so low, it’s not really going to penetrate your hair that much,” says Cincotta. Which could be a good thing if you have fine hair, since it won’t weigh your hair down as much as the oil straight from your kitchen. Instead, Cincotta recommends trying a hot oil treatment: Warm up a cup of olive oil in warm water or in the microwave, transfer it to an applicator bottle (or just use your hands to scoop up the oil, though be prepared for the mess), then section off three-inch pieces of hair and massage the oil from root to tip. Wrap your head in a towel for 30 minutes, then shampoo and condition your hair as usual. Then take a picture, come back here, and tell us how much you love your new insanely hydrated, healthy hair.