How to Do a Hot Oil Treatment on Natural Hair

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Are you struggling with frizz, split ends, thinning edges, or just one too many bad hair days? Your natural hair is bold and beautiful, but sometimes it needs a little extra TLC to look its very best. Why not try a hot oil treatment? On your next wash day, set aside an extra half-hour and get ready for shiny, beautiful curls.[1] If your hair is craving more intense moisture, try an overnight treatment to let the oils really soak in.

Should I wash my hair before or after a hot oil treatment?

  1. It really depends on your personal preference.You can wash your hair either before or after a hot oil treatment. Just keep in mind that you’re going to need a little shampoo to get all the oil out, so it’s really a question of whether you want to wash your hair after the hot oil treatment or both before and after.

    • If you do a pre-shampoo treatment, spray your hair down so that it’s a little damp (not dripping) before you apply the oil—it’ll help the oil stick to your hair better.
    • If your hair is extra dry or if you used a sealing oil for split ends, you might want to leave some of the oil in your hair. In that case, it’s usually better to do your hot oil treatment after you wash your hair since the shampoo will rinse out all of the oil.
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Doing Your Hot Oil Treatment

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    Pour your oils into an applicator bottle.Mix the oils you’ve chosen however you like—experiment until you find what works best for you. Give the bottle a good shake to mix the oils together well.[2] Don’t worry about making too much—you can use the leftover oil for your next hot oil treatment.

    • Write down the oils you used and the amounts. Then, write down your thoughts on your hair after you rinse all the oil out. It’ll help you figure out the best oils for your hair type.
    • Keep in mind that coconut oil is in a more solid form until it’s heated. If you’re using that, you’ll have clumps at first—totally normal. You can also rub the solid coconut oil onto your hair before you do the hot oil treatment itself. It makes a great detangler![3]

     

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    Comb through your hair to detangle it, then section it.Start by splitting your hair in half. Pin one half up out of the way, then split the other section into 2. Go back to the first section and split it in half as well so you end up with 4 sections.[4]

    • If you’re doing a hot oil treatment for dandruff, dry scalp, or hair growth, make more sections so you can better target your scalp.
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    Boil water to heat your oil.Put the water in a large bowl, then set your applicator bottle with the oil inside for a couple of minutes. The oil should be warm, but not hot—you don’t want it to burn your scalp.[5]

    • If you used coconut oil, give that applicator bottle a good shake to distribute the clumps.
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    Apply the oil to your hair from root to tip.Take down a section and work the oil through until the hair is completely saturated, then twist that section up and move on to the next one. Keep going until you’ve oiled your entire head.[6]

    • If you have a scalp condition you want to treat, spend some extra time massaging the oil directly into your scalp, especially at your part lines.
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    Cover your hair with a plastic shower cap for at least 30 minutes.The plastic shower cap creates a sort of greenhouse effect that holds the heat in the oil close to your scalp. This helps the oil really penetrate each strand of hair.[7]

    • Add a hooded dryer, heated hair cap, or other form of indirect heat for more intense moisturizing.
    • For deeper conditioning, you can leave the oil treatment in your hair overnight. Just cover the plastic cap with a sleeping wrap. It provides more protection for your pillowcase and makes it more comfortable to sleep.
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    Lather up your hair with shampoo.Unwrap your hair and squeeze a small amount of shampoo into your hair. Apply it directly to the top of your scalp and really work it into a lather, massaging your scalp as you go. Work your way all the way down to the ends of your hair, keeping that shampoo nice and lathered up.

    • It’s the shampoo that does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting the oil out of your hair. Remember, oil and water don’t mix, so just rinsing your hair with water isn’t going to do a lot of good.
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    Rinse your hair thoroughly and style as usual.You might want to shampoo twice if you left the oil in overnight, just to make sure you got all of it out. And that’s really all there is to it! Now you’re free to dry and style your hair however you want.[8]

Choosing the Best Oil for Your Hair Condition

  1. Use olive oil or avocado oil for dull, dry, or frizzy hair.These relatively light oils provide plenty of moisture for dry, frizzy hair and will help restore your hair’s shine. Avocado oil tends to penetrate better than other oils.[9]

    • If your hair is extremely dry, use coconut oil, which has a denser consistency to provide really intense moisture.
    • You could also use almond oil if your hair is especially prone to frizziness. It’s great for smoothing and conditioning your hair follicles.
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  2. Go with jojoba oil for dandruff or dry scalp.Jojoba oil is a great treatment oil because it’s so similar to the sebum your scalp naturally produces.[10] It can also be used as a treatment for scalp conditions, including psoriasis. But if you have psoriasis, talk to your doctor or dermatologist before you use a hot oil treatment.[11]
  3. Use a sealing oil if you have split ends.[12] Castor oil, Jamaican black castor oil, and grapeseed oil are all great sealing oils.[13] How can you tell if an oil is a sealing oil, rather than a moisturizing oil? If the “polyunsaturated fat” listed on the nutritional label has a larger amount than the saturated and monounsaturated fats, it’s a sealing oil.[14]
  4. Try argan oil to soften, strengthen, and minimize damage to your hair.With regular hot oil treatments, argan oil can protect your hair from damage normally caused by heat styling and the environment.[15] Coconut oil is also great for brittle hair because it provides a ton of moisture.
  5. Soften coarse hair with sunflower oil.Sunflower oil is packed full of vitamins and fatty acids. It also contains emollients that will soften your hair without leaving an oily residue behind.[16]
  6. Stick with jojoba oil for general conditioning.Because jojoba oil is most like the natural sebum created by your scalp, it’s a great overall conditioner that’s also suitable for any hair type.[17] This is also an ideal choice if you have fine hair because it won’t weigh your hair down.

Enhancing Your Hot Oil Treatment with Additives

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    To soothe an irritated scalp:steep dried chamomile in your hot oil for at least 15 minutes, then strain and apply. You could also just use a chamomile tea bag so you don’t have to strain it. The chamomile will help ease the irritation.[18]
  2. To eliminate product buildup:rinse your hair and scalp with witch hazel before doing your hot oil treatment. It’s a natural astringent that easily removes buildup on your hair and scalp, and also helps with dandruff.[19]
  3. To treat dandruff and dry scalp:Add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to your treatment oil. Adding a couple of drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo will help as well—but no more than that! Tea tree oil is incredibly strong so you don’t need very much.[20]

    • Many essential oils, including tea tree oil, are not safe to apply directly to your skin undiluted. They are highly concentrated and can cause irritation and burns on your skin.[21]
  4. To soften coarse hair:Add a few drops of sandalwood oil. In addition to softening your hair, this oil has a woody aroma that many people find seductive.
  5. To stimulate hair growth:Massage your scalp with aloe vera gel either before or after your hot oil treatment. Aloe vera gel can stimulate new hair growth and is used to treat alopecia and other hair loss disorders.[22] You can also add just a few drops of any of the following essential oils to your main oil:

    • Peppermint oil[23]
    • Rosemary oil[24]
    • Lavender oil[25]
  6. To moisturize hair:Mix a little shea butter into your hot oil for an extra moisturizing boost. You can also coat your hair with shea butter after your hot oil treatment for deeper conditioning.[26]

Is hot oil treatment safe?

  1. Yes, hot oil treatment is generally safe.As long as you use a safe, plant-based oil as a carrier and control the temperature of your oil, you’ll be fine. Always test the oil on the inside of your wrist before putting it on your head. If it’s too hot, let it sit for a minute and cool, then test the temperature again.[27]

    • Don’t microwave your oil! Oil doesn’t heat up well in a microwave.[28] On top of that, there’s some evidence that microwaves can zap the nutrients in the oil, stripping your hot oil treatment of its benefits.[29]

What are the benefits of hot oil treatment?

  1. A hot oil treatment provides tons of moisture.This is the biggest benefit of hot oil treatment and you’ll get it regardless of your hair’s overall condition or the type of oil you use. The heat helps the oil penetrate the shaft of each strand of hair for long-lasting moisture.[30] Along with that moisture, you might also see:

    • Reduction in frizziness[31]
    • Stronger, more resilient hair that’s less prone to breakage[32]
    • Improvement in dandruff or dry scalp[33]
    • Stimulated hair growth[34]
    • Shinier, healthier looking hair[35]
    • Improved texture and manageability[36]

How often should I do a hot oil treatment?

  1. Do a hot oil treatment once a week at most.If you typically wash your hair once a week, simply incorporate the hot oil treatment into your regular wash day routine. You’ll notice results immediately after your first treatment.[37]

    • All of the benefits of hot oil treatments are only temporary. To achieve lasting results, you have to commit to doing your treatments on a regular basis. If every week is too frequent for you, start with every other week or even once a month.[38]
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Tips

  • Got sensitive skin? Dab a little of the oil you want to use on the inside of your wrist to do a patch test. Wait 24 hours—if there’s no reaction, you’re good to go!

  • Leftover oil from your hot oil treatment makes a great sealant! If you go for a protective style after your treatment, use it to seal your braids or twists.[39]

  • If you’re not sure whether an oil could be used as a carrier oil, just look at the packaging. If it’s sold in large plastic bottles, it can be used as a carrier oil. If it comes in a small glass bottle with a dropper in the lid, it’s meant to be used sparingly.

Warnings

  • If you have sensitive skin, make sure you’re using 100% natural oils to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction.

  • Don’t burn yourself! Test the oil temperature on the inside of your wrist before you apply it to your scalp.

  • If you have a chronic skin condition, such as psoriasis or eczema, talk to your doctor or dermatologist before doing a hot oil treatment. They’ll tell you if the oil you plan to use is safe for your scalp.[40]

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