Most of us have no idea how to choose a hair oil though we use them all the time! We choose based a friend’s recommendations or what sounds good.
Many vegetable oils have amazing properties that nourish our hair and wholly contribute to the softness, shine and strength of hair.
Different oils carry different properties that support one or all of the particular results you might be looking for and in order to know how to chose, you must know the chemistry of oils.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a scientist, nor do I pretend to be one, but I will say years of highschool, college and grad school have made me a very capable researcher! Use this information at your discretion. I hope you find it as helpful to your hair journey as it has been to mine!
Oils have various properties and charecteristics that can help one to judge its affinity to hair. The fats in oils (refered to as fatty acids) can generally fall under two categories- saturated, unsaturated (which has two main sub categories of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).
Oils with a high saturated fatty acid content (i.e. stearic, lauric and palmitic acids) or high monounsaturated fatty acid content (i.e. oleic acid) tend to have an easier time “becoming one” with our hair fibers because of their simple, straight chain structure that allow for easy entry into the deepest layers of the hair.
Oils with a high unsaturated fatty acid content (i.e. linoleic, linolic acid) have the tendency to penetrate only the most outer layers and coat the cuticle of the hair. This excellent in providing shine and keeping hair tangle free.
Here are 4 steps to choosing an oil:
1. Determine your hair’s porosity.
Understanding the porosity of your hair will only help you to understand where you hair is at. Hair that s very porous will easily absorb most anything you place on it. This isn’t neccessarily bad- depending on what you what yoru hair to do for you. For example in the case of coloring it, highly porous hair will enjoy the quality that your hair will take to the color very well, however if you just straightened your hair and want it straight for the next 3 days, a porous head of hair probably won’t be able to go a few hours until the hair reverts.
Highly porous hair may suffer from lots of frizz and because of this you may not want to chose and oil that is mostly lauric acid as it readily absorbs into the hair’s shaft. Or you may chose to use such an oil, but seal with an oil with a high concentration of linoleic acid to prevent a lot of frizz.
Hair porosity and testing is better explained in this post.
2. Know you hair texture.
Thickly textured hair will withstand the addition of heavier butters and oils while thinner textured hair may find butters ad heavier oils to heavy on their strands. Some thinner textured naturals may find shea and mango butters best as pre-shampoo treatments.
Want to find out how to text your hair for texture? See this post and scroll down to the “so what really matters?” section.
3. Match your choice of oil to the goal you wish to achieve.
What’s you hair goal? If it’s shine, incorporate oils with a heavy linoleic acid profile.
Do you want pliability and softness? An oil with equal parts saturate and unsaturated oils will be very good.
Are you looking for deep conditioning and penetration? Oils high in stearic and lauric acid will deliver just what you need.
I find that having a little of this and mixing with a little of that can often bring incredible results to your hair since your hair isn’t uniformally one type or way. Experimenting is certainly key.
There’s no need to buy gallons of one particular oils you haven’t tried out just because your bff uses it and it works wonders for her. Text and see and when you realize it works for you- then go ahead and invest in it!