December 28, 2020



From Argan to Castor: The Best Hair Oils for Healthy Strands


Hair oil can be a bit intimidating. While we want our hair to look like it’s glistening, we certainly don’t want it to look (or feel) downright oily. While all hair types can benefit from using oil, the catch is finding one that works best for your strands in particular. For thicker hair types and some curlies, rich oils like cold-pressed castor or coconut oil can be used as a luxurious overnight conditioning treatment. Got fine hair with flyaways? Your locks might enjoy an ultra-light, almost invisible oil (yes, those exist) that won't weigh it down after styling, yet will add to its luster and keep errant strands in place.

And if you've been getting just a little too happy with curling irons and DIY hair-coloring kits (it happens to the best of us!), you might be left with too many broken strands to count. Going back to basics with a simple hair oil mask can bring your tresses back to life and repair damaged ends. 

Below, we rounded up the best hair oils that’ll transform your locks.


Shelly Aguirre is a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. She specializes in cutting, blowouts, extensions, and keratin treatments.

Best Overall: Ouai Hair Oil

Created by celebrity hairstylist extraordinaire Jen Atkin, this lightweight oil can be applied to wet or dry hair. Its oil blend—a mix of African galanga, ama oil, and Asian borage oils—works to completely eliminate frizz and tame unruly hair. It also doubles as a subtle hair perfume with notes of gardenia and violet. Use one or two pumps and apply from midshaft to ends to smooth down any wayward strands.

Best At-Home Treatment: Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3

You’ve probably heard of Olaplex at your salon—it is, after all, beloved by hairstylists, colorists, and beauty folk alike. The brand's best-selling game-changer is the Hair Perfector No. 3, an at-home treatment with the same patented active ingredient as its professional counterparts. Basically, this treatment targets broken bonds (which are typically caused by chemical or thermal damage) and works not only to repair them but to prevent them from happening again in the future.

Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Deep Nourishing Treatment

Let us introduce you to your new hero product. This rich oil has a ton of uses: spread throughout hair before shampoo as a protective treatment, apply to damp hair right before styling to keep hair in place, or use after styling to complete your desired look. No matter when or how you use it, just know that argan oil and camellia oil are plumping up your stands and enhancing your shine.

Best for Damaged Hair: Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil

When your hair has been put through the wringer from incessant combing, blow-drying, straightening, perming, and other chemical and mechanical processes, it could use a helping hand from a powerful bonding oil, like this one. This formula features ingredients that help repair broken bonds in strands to prevent further damage and breakage so you can nurse your hair back to its best state.

Best for Detangling: VERB Ghost Oil

This handy pump is called Ghost Oil for a reason—it literally disappears into hair as soon as it’s applied, leaving no trace of it. Users find that it’s an excellent detangler and smoother, thanks to moringa seed oil. Argan oil helps to improve hair’s elasticity, transforming lackluster curls by giving them a healthy bounce. Apply all over the hair for ultimate shine.

Best for Type 4 Hair: Curls Blueberry Bliss Hair Growth Oil

Tight, coily curls are prone to damage from day to day detangling and styling, but this oil is jam packed with all of the nutrients that you need to repair and restore your natural hair. It's formulated with certified organic blueberry extract, pomegranate seed, argan, and gardenia flower oil, and the smell is divine.

Best for Fine Hair: Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Oil

If you have fine hair, prepare for this ultra-lightweight oil to blow your mind. Infused with camellia oil, the velvety texture (read: not sticky) targets deep in your hair’s cortex, hydrating it from within and rebalancing moisture levels. It also doubles are a protectant, as it shields strands from harmful UV rays. Users love how silky and manageable their hair feels after use. Apply just one pump, avoiding the roots, for glossy locks.

Best Overnight: Vernon François Overnight Repair Treatment Oils

With clients like Lupita Nyong’o, Serena Williams, and Kerry Washington, celebrity stylist Vernon François knows hair—which is why the overnight repair oil from his namesake line is on our list. Each vial (this set includes four!) contains the same blend of jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, argan oil, and vitamin E. Just spray evenly from root to tip before bed, and you'll wake up with smoother, nourished strands sans any greasiness.

Best for Sun Protection: PHYTO Plage Protective Sun Veil

You likely know how important it is to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, but protecting your hair is a real thing, too. That's why we love this product—it's basically sunscreen for your strands. It's formulated with built-in UV filters, while sunflower extract creates a protective shield that prevents dehydration from the sun, as well as from chlorine and saltwater.

Best for Hair Growth: Briogeo B. Well Organic + Cold-Pressed 100% Castor Oil

Slather this organic oil all over your scalp, hair, and even eyebrows to promote faster hair growth and thicker strands. Extracted using the cold-press method, this oil is as pure as it gets with all its natural vitamins preserved throughout the process.

Best Oil Serum: Moroccanoil Treatment Original

With each use, argan oil and linseed extract (both packed with essential fatty acids) nourish and strengthen hair. The spicy amber and warm floral scent, exclusive to Moroccanoil, is also transporting. It’s best used on clean, damp hair right before styling or as a touch-up throughout the day.

Best for Dry Hair: Aveda Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil

Brittle hair, beware. This repairing oil is coming for you—but in a good way. Certified organic buriti oil, harvest from the “tree of life” in Brazil, instantly quenches and restores thirsty, weak hair. You’ll also find that there’s no silicone in this formula, so just a few drops are all it takes to revive dull tangled strands.

Best Lightweight: Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil

This oil has a super non-greasy texture that's immediately absorbed, adding needed hydration and removing pesky frizz. Just apply it to wet hair right before drying (or dry hair before heat styling). Plus, it's formulated with UV filters that protect stands from the damaging effects of the sun.

Best Budget: Hask Argan Oil Repairing Shine Hair Oil

Hair oil doesn’t have to be super pricey to work efficiently. Take this affordable little bottle, for example. Its argan-oil-infused formula controls frizz and gently detangles hair. It’s also safe to use on color-treated hair as it’s sulfate- and alcohol-free. Users note to avoid applying this near and on the root as the thicker formula is meant for more damaged areas.

Best for Color-Treated Hair: Leonor Greyl l'Huile de Leonor Greyl Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Our editorial director, Faith Xue, calls this oil a life-saver for her platinum blonde hair. Considered a protective pre-shampoo, it’s best applied on dry hair—either right before you hit the beach or pool, or before you spend the day out in the sun. Let the product sit for a few hours so the product can completely coat each strand, essentially creating a barrier to guard your hair from outside forces (like chlorine). At the end of the day, rinse it out.

Best for Adding Shine: REDKEN Oil for All

Byrdie's editorial director Faith Xue swears by this oil for adding instant shine and hydration to her platinum strands. "My bleached, fragile hair drinks up oil like it's water, and this one from Redken is a newfound favorite," she says. "Whenever my ends are looking parched or thirsty, I add a dime-sized amount to my palms and smooth it through my hair. The result is instant—my hair looks shinier and healthier (and feels softer) immediately afterward. Plus, I like that I can use as much as I want without it feeling greasy or heavy."

Best Argan Oil: Josie Maran 100 Percent Pure Argan Oil

This best-selling argan oil checks all the boxes: hydrating, nourishing, clinically tested, and it has no added ingredients. Tame frizz effectively by applying a small amount from midshaft down, focusing on the ends as you spread out the product. What we love about this versatile oil is that you can literally use it anywhere—your hair, scalp, face, and body. Not only is it multifaceted, but it shortens your routine, too.

Best for Protective Styles: Taliah Waajid Ditch The Itch Bamboo

If you're wearing braids, extensions, or other protective styles, it's important that you keep both your hair and your scalp healthy. This hydrating oil tackles itch and other issues from the root (literally) with an easy to use applicator that goes straight to your scalp. The formula is super calming to stop itch on contact and seal in moisture.

Final Verdict

Hands down, the Ouai Hair Oil is an absolute must. Formulated with a blend of African galanga root extract and ama, borage, and baobab oils, this lightweight hair oil works to completely eliminate frizz and tame unruly hair. Plus, it doubles as a hair perfume with the prettiest gardenia and violet scent. We’re also big fans of the L'Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Deep Nourishing Treatment, a rich, multitasking hair treatment formulated with argan and camellia oils. It can be used as a pre-shampoo treatment, a styling treatment, and a finishing oil to lock in moisture and keep frizz at bay. Looking for something weightless? The VERB Ghost Oil literally disappears into the hair upon application, helping to smooth and detangle it. The results? Shiny, frizz-free hair with no heavy residue.

What to Look for in a Hair Oil
Nutrient-Rich Plant Oils

When it comes to the very best oils for your hair, hair stylist Shelly Aguirre recommends a handful of natural, plant-based oils. “Coconut oil is very conditioning and is rich in vitamins and minerals that help heal the hair,” she says. “It’ll also protect the hair from heat damage. It’s perfect for drier textures.” In addition to coconut, she recommends nut-derived argan and almond oils, both of which are rich in protein and antioxidants. “The protein in argan oil is wonderful for healing hair, while almond oil contains magnesium which may assist in hair growth.” Castor oil is another favorite for thicker, curly hair and is great used as a pre-shampoo treatment.

Avoid Mineral Oil

While the above oils are all great choices for deeply nourishing the hair, there are some oils that shouldn't be slathered all over your scalp. Case in point? Mineral oil. Already considered to be an iffy ingredient in the beauty world, it’s known to cause excess buildup, which will not only lead to scalp issues down the road, but will leave the hair feeling heavy and weighed down.

Fragrance-Free Formulas

Some hair oils smell heavenly, but if your scalp is particularly sensitive and prone to itchiness, it's best to avoid formulas with any added fragrance—even natural ingredients like essential oils. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, and more serious scalp breakouts. If you’re loving the scent of a particular hair oil but you aren't sure how your scalp will react, be sure to only apply it your ends, keeping it as far away from the roots as possible. 

Can you use a hair oil on oily hair?

When it comes to applying hair oil to oily hair, Aguirre says that experts have pretty mixed opinions. “There are a lot of conflicting views on oil for oily hair,” she says. “Most dermatologists won’t recommend applying oil on oily scalps, while some hair care companies do."

She goes on to explain that oil can clog pores, which isn’t good long term, especially if you're prone to scalp blemishes and breakouts. At the same time, the cause behind an oily scalp will vary from case to case and it can sometimes be hard to diagnose. “I would recommend asking your professional stylist what steps to take and which products to use if you're dealing with an oily scalp,” she says.

Do hair oils cause scalp acne?

Scalp acne occurs when hair follicles get clogged with oil, dead skin cells, or product buildup, and it can be caused by several different factors. “If you’re experiencing occasional scalp acne, that’s totally normal and it may just be hormonal,” says Aguirre. However, she mentions that more frequent breakouts can be caused by something internal, like stress, or they can be triggered by the products you’re using—hair oils included. Hair oils and other products that contain a lot of oil can contribute to scalp buildup, causing acne or exacerbating an existing breakout. If your scalp is already prone to breakouts, be sure to avoid applying any oil-based products too close to the scalp or roots.

How do you apply hair oil?

Hair oils can be used a multitude of ways depending on the formula, weight, and your hair’s specific needs. Hair can be soaked in oil as a deep-conditioning pre-shampoo treatment, or it can be applied to wet hair pre-blowout as a shine-boosting styling treatment. Lightweight formulas can also be applied to freshly styled hair to tame frizz and lock in shine.

If you’re not applying hair oil as a pre-shampoo treatment that will be washed out, avoid applying too close to your roots and scalp—especially if your hair is already on the oilier side. “Mid-shaft to your ends would be totally fine, just use caution towards the scalp,” says Aguirre.

When should you apply hair oil?

Hair oil can be applied at any time to wet or dry hair, again, depending on the formula, weight, and your hair's needs. Aguirre prefers to apply hair oil on damp hair before a blowout. “Depending on the density, less might be more,” she adds. “Your brush will glide through the hair easier and it will act as a protectant from the heat of your dryer. It also adds shine and body."