How Do I Choose the Best Conditioning Hair Oil?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

To find the best conditioning hair oil, a person must look at their hair type, the specific oils in the product, what she desires from the oil, and whether the oils are of natural or synthetic origin. Factors such as price also matter but are of less significance. A person will know she has found the right oil if her hair stays soft, is hydrated and moisturized, has few flyaways and is not weighed down.

The best hair oil choice depends on hair type.
The best hair oil choice depends on hair type.

Finding the best conditioning hair oil starts with examining hair type. Broadly, this means looking at the hair's circumference and how flat the protein scales on the outermost or cuticle layer of the hair sit. Cosmetologists and scientists classify hair loosely as fine, normal, thick, straight, wavy or curly. They also categorize hair by the amount of moisture and oil. Each hair type needs a different type of conditioning hair oil.

Essential oils are sometimes used in hair oils.
Essential oils are sometimes used in hair oils.

In general, the straighter or finer a person's hair is, the lighter a hair oil needs to be. Without as many kinks and turns, straight hair has protein scales that are able to sit flatter and therefore are better at protecting, controlling moisture and letting oil travel down the strand. A lighter oil will not weigh the hair down and supplements the smoothing already happening with the natural oil present. The thicker or curlier a person's hair is, the harder it is for the cuticle to sit flat but the stronger the strands are, so the hair can stand up to and is better smoothed and protected by a heavier oil.

Thick, curly hair might do best using a conditioning oil with avocado oil.
Thick, curly hair might do best using a conditioning oil with avocado oil.

In considering hair type, the next thing to do when picking a conditioning hair oil is to look at the percentages of carrier and essential oils in the product. Carrier oils are heavier oils that usually come from seeds, vegetables, nuts and fruits, and which form the foundation of the product. Examples are jojoba and avocado oil. Essential oils such as tea tree oil are much lighter, typically are fragrant and evaporate quickly. A conditioning hair oil with more essential oils is better for fine, straight hair, while one with more carrier oils is better for thick, curly hair.

Once a person knows an oil is suitable for her hair type, she can get specific about exactly what she wants the oil to do. Some conditioning oils, for example, are designed for smoothing and controlling flyaways, while others improve shine, control curls, aid in styling, add body, or prevent damage from starting or worsening. Different oils contribute the product's ability to perform in each of these areas.

Lastly, an individual should look at whether the oil is synthetic or natural. Although some people react even to organic products — an example is peanut oil — an organic hair conditioning oil tends to cause fewer reactions and is better for people with sensitive skin. They are good choices for those who are health conscious, as well. Synthetic conditioning products such as those that contain mineral oil may work well, but many are under study for being potentially toxic or contributing to health issues. Additional ingredients such as preservatives or coloring should be investigated as well.

Organic hair conditioning oils may be best for people with sensitive skin.
Organic hair conditioning oils may be best for people with sensitive skin.

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Discussion Comments


My favorite conditioning hair oil is coconut oil. I buy a food grade one that's imported from India. It costs less than pure coconut oil from the grocery store or the organic store. The issue with coconut oil is that it hardens at room temperature so it has to be warmed up a little bit in order to use it. I usually just let the bottle sit under running hot water in the bathroom for a minute. It changes into liquid form very fast.

The other potential issue is the scent. Raw coconut oil doesn't smell very good. But since I only leave it on for several hours before showering, it has not been a problem for me. I know that it's best to keep conditioning hair oils on overnight for best results but I could never sleep with the overwhelming scent of coconut oil.


@donasmrs-- This is a personal preference but I think it's better to buy and mix natural oils. Some hair oil products have poor ingredients or artificial fragrance and chemicals. When the goal is to condition hair, chemicals, dyes and fragrances are not really needed and I think that they can damage hair as well.

There are many natural oils out there that you could use as hair oil like olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, argan oil, shea butter and so on. You might want to pick up several varieties and try them individually first. All of these are excellent oils for conditioning hair. Just make sure that you are getting a pure product without chemicals.


Is it better to buy hair oil products that have been formulated with various oils and extracts or is it better to buy natural oils and mix them at home?

If I decide to do the latter, which natural oils should I use?

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