NBC News Select August 23, 2023

NBC News Select


How to find the right hair oil for your hair type


People who use excessive heat or live in dry climates are the best candidates for hair oils, according to our experts.

If you feel like your hair is dry, lackluster and feeling the brunt of damage you’ve put it through, you may want to consider adding hair oil to your self care routine. Unlike hair serums, which form a protective coating on top of strands, hair oils penetrate deeply into the hair to increase moisture levels, reduce breakage and keep your scalp hydrated and healthy, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dylan B Alston. 

Your hair’s natural oils play a crucial role in moisturizing the hair and protecting it from day to day damage, but sometimes overwashing, hot tool use or chemical processing can strip them.  That’s where hair oils come in. They can restore lost moisture and soften the hair, which is ultimately a sign of healthy hair. “Regularly applying hair-specific oils can soften the hair, as the oils seal the gaps between cuticle cells,” says Alston. This, in turn, can make your hair look and feel healthier.

To help you find the right product for your hair type, we spoke to experts about what to look for when shopping for oils, and curated a list of what to shop based on their recommendations and guidance.

How we picked the best hair oils

Experts say introducing a hair oil into your regimen can help restore your hair’s moisture and nourish the hair and scalp. When shopping for the best hair oil, experts recommended considering the following factors:

  • Ingredients: While all hair oils work to improve the health of your hair and scalp, different ingredients offer different solutions. Almond and argan oil are antioxidants that can help protect against UV damage, while castor oil can help promote hair growth, according to experts. If you’re looking to target split ends or damage, olive oil is an effective ingredient to do so (it also combats inflammation on the scalp). There are also some ingredients our experts recommend avoiding like petroleum-based oils, which can clog the pores, and synthetic dyes in fragrances, which can trigger allergic reactions, says Darrius Peace, a natural hair expert, beauty instructor, author and international speaker based in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • Purpose: While some oils help regulate oil production on your scalp, others help restore moisture to damaged hair through chemical processing, rigorous styling or heat exposure. There are also lightweight hair oils that help add moisture to protective hairstyles. Generally, those who use excessive heat or blow dry treatments or live in dry climates are the best candidates for hair oils, according to Peace.
  • Hair texture: Some hair textures are better suited to handle thicker hair oils than others. If your hair is fine, look for formulas with avocado oil, which is lighter in weight than other oils. Thicker hair types can use heavier oils like olive oil to trap moisture. In any case, it’s best to start with a few drops per application and add more as needed.


The best hair oils of 2023

We spoke to hair stylists and dermatologists about their favorite hair oils — for various hair types including curly, thick and textured hair — and put together their recommendations below. We also included a few products we love based on their guidance. 

Moroccanoil Treatment Hair Oil

The Moroccanoil Treatment Hair Oil comes recommended by Dr. Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Facet Dermatology, who says that it helps with shine and strength, while fighting frizz. In my experience, this formula is one of the most well-known in the industry. For years, I’ve been using it on my 2B hair that’s dry, thick and constantly exposed to heat. Its main ingredient is argan oil, which is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids that keep hair hydrated. I typically use it on damp, freshly washed hair and work it in from the middle of my hair to the ends, but you can also use it on dry hair as a frizz tamer and all-around smoother, according to the brand.

Hair type: All hair types | Scent: Spicy amber with sweet florals

Crown Affair Hair Oil

This Select Wellness Award winner for best hair treatment only contains five ingredients, two of which are tsubaki seed for smoothing and meadowfoam seed oil for hydration. The oil is also formulated to improve shine and strengthen the hair, according to the brand. “I love that it’s super lightweight, so it never weighs down my hair or leaves it feeling greasy,” says Select updates editor Mili Godio. "It’s also a heat protectant, so I don’t have to spray an additional product when I’m using my blow dryer or flat iron.”

Hair type: All hair types | Scent: Light citrus

Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil

If you like products that can multitask, then you may want to consider Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil. Yadav recommends this for those with limited space in their beauty cabinets since it’s an oil that works on both your hair and body. This formula has several different oils in it — like rosehip, shea, camelina, sunflower seed and abyssinian — which are loaded with fatty acids to help condition and soften both hair and skin, according to Yadav. For hair application, Ouai recommends working a few drops into wet or dry hair to smooth down your style. To use as a body oil, apply a few drops as needed to rehydrate the skin.

Hair type: All hair types | Scent: Rose and musk

Unite Hair U Oil

Katelyn Hunziker, hair stylist and owner of Mane Local Salon in New Jersey, says this option is ideal for slightly textured, frizzy hair that lies in the 2A, B or C curl type. In my experience, it’s on the richer side and works great for my long, thick, Middle Eastern hair that’s prone to frizz. I don’t need a lot to reap the benefits — just three drops per application keeps my tips looking sleek, smooth and healthy. Plus, even though it has a thick consistency, I find it absorbs nicely without leaving behind a greasy film. The hero ingredient in the formula is argan oil, which can help regulate excess oil production so it’s a great option if your hair or scalp is prone to grease, says Alston.

Hair type: Thick hair | Scent: Citrus floral

Living Proof No Frizz Vanishing Oil

This option comes recommended by Hunziker for finer hair because of its light consistency. That being said, it’s suitable for all hair types — especially those who live in humid climates since it’s formulated with amaranth seed extract, which helps get rid of the common side effects of humidity like frizziness and flyaways, according to the brand. While you can use it on wet hair, Living Proof recommends applying it on dry hair for maximum frizz-defying results. If your hair is fine, the brand says to work it into just the ends while thicker, coarser hair types can work it in from root to tip.

Hair type: Fine hair | Scent: Citrus

Fable & Mane HoliRoots Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil

If you have a dry scalp, Hunziker recommends this treatment oil that you apply before shampooing on dry hair. To use, rub two to three drops of oil in between your palms to warm it up, part your hair down the middle and massage the oil into the scalp, focusing on the crown.. You should leave it on for at least five minutes (or overnight) and then rinse it out. The oil targets hair thinning, breakage and split ends, using ingredients like ashwagandha to stimulate circulation in the scalp, castor oil to improve hair density and dashmool, a mix of holistic plant roots that soothe the scalp, according to Fable & Mane.

Hair type: All hair types | Scent: Spicy floral

Now Solutions Grapeseed Oil

Peace recommends the Now Solutions Grapeseed Oil that you can also use as a moisturizer for dry skin. It works equally well for hair since it contains grapeseed oil, which is an excellent choice for various hair textures, densities and conditions because it is a mid-weight oil that won’t flatten the hair or contribute to grease, says Peace. Grapeseed oil is also rich in fatty acids to help soften the hair and get rid of dryness too, according to the brand. This is a great oil for protective hairstyles because of its thin, lightweight consistency that won’t weigh the hair down, says Leigh Hardges, a hair stylist and natural hair expert based in Chicago.

Hair type: All hair types | Scent: Nutty

K18 Biomimetic Hairscience Molecular Repair Hair Oil

This K18 formula is designed to mimic the natural structure of a healthy, growing hair strand. It works to smooth frizz and enhance shine, and is suitable on all hair types or textures, according to K18. 

I have used this oil several times and love how thick it is, though it can definitely weigh down fine hair, so I recommend starting light with application and avoiding the roots. I notice an immediate difference in my hair’s texture when I use this after flat ironing — usually, my ends are brittle and frayed, but the oil makes them appear healthy, soft and hydrated.

Hair type: Damaged | Scent: Fresh floral

Authentic Beauty Concept Nourishing Hair Oil

This hair oil, which is one of my favorites to use after a blow dry, offers heat protection up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the brand. After using a hot tool, it gives my hair a polished look without weighing it down. It has a floral scent with a musky background, and, as a bonus, the frosted glass bottle looks nice sitting in my bathroom. Unlike most other hair oils I’ve tried, the packaging doesn’t include a spray or dropper, so you’ll have to pour it out of the bottle and into your hand before applying, which can get messy.

Hair type: Fine hair | Scent: Floral

Aveda Dry Remedy Daily Moisturizing Oil

Hardges says this hair oil is one of her favorites for hair types three to four, especially if it’s color-treated since it “builds strength and seals in hydration well.” It uses sunflower seed oil, olive oil and buriti oil harvested from Brazil to improve texture and manageability, according to  Aveda. Like the hair oil from Authentic Beauty Concept, this doesn’t have a dropper, so be careful to avoid over-application.

Hair type: Thick, coarse hair | Scent: Clean

Oribe Gold Lust All Over Oil

Made with meadowfoam seed oil, coconut oil and grapeseed oil, this hair oil comes recommended by Hardges. Because the formula is silicone-free, it will absorb fully into the scalp and hair rather than coating the outer layer, which can cause buildup, Hardges says. You can also use this on the face and body to replenish moisture and deliver a dewy glow, according to the brand.

Hair type: All hair types | Scent: Citrus

Mielle Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil

Rosemary oil is helpful in preventing dandruff and scalp fungi as well as stimulating blood flow, which can support healthy hair growth, says Hardges, who recommends this Mielle formula. It is especially good for adding moisture to types 3A to 4C hair and those who style their hair in braids or weaves, according to the brand. There are a few different ways to use this: You can apply it on the ends and leave it on for 10 minutes to improve luster, or you can use it as a scalp treatment by dividing your hair into four sections, massaging it into the scalp, combing through your hair and styling as normal without rinsing it out.

Hair type: 3A to 4C | Scent: Mint

Kreyòl Essence Haitian Black Castor Oil — Rosemary Mint

Hardges is a fan of this formula because it contains castor oil — a well-loved ingredient in the haircare world for its ability to support healthy hair growth. It’s also an antibacterial and high in vitamin E to help improve conditions like dandruff and dryness, according to the brand. Aside from castor oil, the formula includes lavender, another ingredient with antibacterial properties that’s especially good when hair is confined in protective styles like braids or twists, says Hardges. “If your hair is up, I would recommend lightly oiling the scalp, as needed, by dabbing the oil onto the exposed scalp,” says Hardges. You can also add it to your conditioner or use it as a hot oil treatment, according to  the brand.

Hair type: All hair types | Scent: Earthy


What are the benefits of hair oil?

Hair oils come with a long list of benefits for all hair textures. For curly textures, oils can help ensure your entire hair strand is receiving adequate moisture, from scalp to ends. “Although curly hair is like a sponge, it has the tendency to be dry since the natural oils that the body produces may not always trickle down through the strands as easily as it would be the case for straighter and looser hair textures,” says Peace. Hair oils can also benefit those with dry hair, whether the dryness stems from UV exposure, hot tools or chemical treatments. “When hair is dry and brittle, it’s much more prone to breakage,” says Yadav. “A hair oil will deeply penetrate the hair strand, nourishing it and plumping it from within to make it more resilient.”

Hair oils can also support new hair growth if it’s massaged for 11 to 20 minutes when applied, according to one study. This helps “promote blood circulation and brings better blood flow to the hair follicles, promoting healthier hair growth,” says Yadav. 

If your scalp is experiencing inflammation, whether it be from eczema or psoriasis, anti-inflammatory oils like olive and argan oil can help, according to Yadav. She also recommends tea tree oil, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and “can be very soothing on the scalp.”

Finally, hair oils are a great way to compensate for daily activities that decrease our hair’s natural oils, like shampooing. “Cleansing our hair and scalp strips them of their natural oils, and if you have curly or processed hair, this can be especially dehydrating,” says Yadav. “Restoring that moisture can go a long way towards maintaining a healthy skin barrier on the scalp and keeping the hair smooth, conditioned and tangle-free.”

Hair oils for natural hair

Hair oils are useful for all hair types — especially those with natural hair. Natural and textured hair types tend to lose moisture quickly due to high porosity (which refers to how well the hair can hold on to water and therefore, hydration), according to Hardges. “Oils will seal in hydration where it would normally escape through raised cuticles on the hair strand.”

Those with protective hairstyles will also benefit from incorporating a hair oil into their regimen. While protective hairstyles are great for preventing breakage, they can lead to dryness because the natural oils on the scalp don’t get a chance to travel down the hair strand, says Hardges. Hair oils offer lubrication and allow you to reap the benefits of a protective style without drying out your hair in the process, says Hardges.

How to shop for hair oils

When searching for the right hair oil, our experts recommend considering several factors, including your specific hair type and the consistency of the formula. Below, we highlight their shopping suggestions.

Consistency and weight are key 

It may be tempting to pick up any hair oil, slather it onto your strands and hope for the best, but it’s crucial to think about your product’s consistency and its ingredients when shopping. “Using the right type of oil for your specific hair texture, density and condition can make all of the difference in achieving the best results,” says Peace.

You’ll first want to consider the weight and consistency of the oil you’re using, which will impact  how it performs on your hair.

“A thick oil applied on fine hair will most often weigh down the strands, leaving them looking limp and greasy,” he says. Likewise, “a lightweight oil on thick, curly hair may not offer the fortitude needed to lock in moisture, which can result in dryer hair.”

Consider your ingredients

The market is full of different types of hair oils. When it comes to ingredients, Yadav recommends considering options with castor oil since it’s full of fatty acids that condition your hair, and helps promote hair growth (with consistent use). 

Yadav also recommends products with argan oil because it can help protect hair from damage caused by environmental factors such as UV rays, humidity and cold, dry air — which is especially important if your hair is processed or color treated, she says. She advises against using coconut oil on your scalp, since it’s comedogenic and may congest the hair follicles, which can cause breakouts and inhibit healthy hair growth.

What’s the difference between a hair oil and a hair serum?

While hair oils and hair serums are typically applied similarly, they function differently on the hair. “Hair oils penetrate into the hair to nourish it from within whereas hair serums sit on the surface and form a protective layer against heat damage,” says Hunziker. “Oils are better for moisturizing the hair and scalp.” 

Hair oils are typically made of botanical-based ingredients, such as olive oil, grapeseed oil and avocado oil, while hair serums are usually synthetic-based, according to Peace. Generally speaking, scalp oils are the same as a hair oil you’d apply to your ends, but some formulas, like the Fable & Mane HoliRoots Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil, specifically target the scalp. 

How to apply a hair oil

When using a hair oil, be sure to follow the directions on the bottle and take your unique hair texture and your hair goals into account. In any case, you should apply most formulas on wet hair — though it shouldn’t be sopping wet, says Hunziker. “Applying a hair oil to damp hair can help seal water into the hair cuticle to leave lasting moisture in the hair,” says Yadav. Apply two to three drops from the tops of your ears working your way down toward the tips. 

You can also use some formulas on dry hair, which is helpful if it’s extra dry or damaged and needs added nourishment after cleansing and conditioning routine, says Yadav. Applying hair oil to dry hair also has some benefits — it can help tame flyaways and frizz. When doing this, rub a few drops in between your hands to warm up the product, then apply it from the tops of the ears down toward the tips, says Hunziker. “If you feel like you still have flyaways, you can apply oil to the hair around the face sparingly,” she says. To prevent your roots from appearing oily, avoid applying hair oil to the scalp when it’s dry — unless it’s a hair oil formulated particularly for the scalp, in which case you should apply a few drops to your scalp, let it sit for a few minutes, then shampoo your hair, making sure all the oil is out, says Hunziker.

If you have natural or textured hair, Hardges says you can apply hair oil onto wet hair prior to heat styling. While Hardges says that hair oil benefits don’t differ between curl types, its usage does. “Hair types two and three are not often very dry and would be better served by doing a hot oil treatment instead of a daily oil,” says Hardges. “Hair type four is typically drier and needs the daily oil for lubrication, as well as doing an intensive hot oil treatment once a month.” Hot oil treatments involve heating oil in a double boiler, massaging it into the scalp and brushing through the hair with a wide-tooth comb to ensure even distribution. Then cover your hair with a shower cap and let the oil sit for about 15 to 45 minutes (or overnight, depending on how damaged your hair is) before shampooing it out in the shower. 

Whether you’re doing a daily application or a hot oil treatment on natural hair, even distribution of product is key, according to Hardges. With either application method, you’ll first want to split your hair into sections and work a drop of product into each part, says Hardges. “Be sure to comb or finger rake your hair through after you have applied the oil to disperse it even more thoroughly.”

Applying more than a few drops of hair oil per application session can clog pores on the scalp and hairline, and can also lead to dehydration if they become blocked with oil and dead skin cells, says Hardges.

How often can you use a hair oil?

Hunziker recommends using a hair oil after every wash one to two times a week on either wet or dry hair, except if your hair tends to be on the oilier side. In that case, she recommends using one after every other wash cycle. “If you use a lot of oil everyday, it can definitely cause buildup on your hair and scalp,” she says. Buildup on the scalp can inhibit healthy hair growth, according to Yadav. It can also make your hair appear dirty faster than it ordinarily would, since oil makes it easier for dirt and daily grime to stick onto the hair, says Yadav.

Should you use hair oil if you have oily hair?

Those with oily hair can still benefit from using a hair oil — it can balance the scalp and prevent your hair from being too oily — though how you use it may look different from someone with dry hair. “In some cases, people have oily hair because they’re using shampoos that are too drying, which causes the scalp to produce excess oil to counteract the stripping effects of the shampoo,” says Yadav. 

Avoid using a hair oil every time you style your hair if you’re prone to oiliness, says Hunziker. Also, choose lightweight oils like jojoba oil, which function like our scalp’s natural oils instead of richer oils like coconut or castor oil that can make the hair very oily, especially if you have fine hair, according to Yadav.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest. 

  • Dr. Geeta Yadav is a board-certified dermatologist based in Toronto. 
  • Katelyn Hunziker is an award-winning hair stylist and owner of Mane Local Salon.
  • Darrius Peace is a natural hair expert, beauty instructor, author and international speaker based in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • Dr. Dylan B Alston is a board-certified dermatologist in Utah.
  • Leigh Hardges is a hair stylist and natural hair expert based in Chicago.

Why trust Select?

Select writer Michelle Rostamian has more than 10 years of experience covering beauty and hair care topics. Rostamian has tried dozens of hair products over the years, including oils. For this story, Rostamian spoke to hair stylists Darrius Peace,  Katelyn Hunziker and Leigh Hardges as well as board-certified dermatologists Dr. Geeta Yadav and Dr. Dylan B Alston. Based on their guidance and recommendations, Rostamian reviewed the features of several hair masks from brands like Living Proof, Unite and K18.