How To: Hot Oil Treatment
We’ve heard many reasons why hot oil treatments are beneficial including sealing in moisture, fighting dandruff, reducing frizz, etc. Though these are definitely some of the benefits, the true reason for hot oil treatments are to replenish the hair with its natural oils. The outer layer of the hair shaft that protects the cortex is called the cuticle layer. This layer is actually multiple layers of keratinized scales that are adhered together with lipids-the most abundant lipids are ceramides. Manipulation, chemical treatments, washing, heat styling, air drying too long, and even touching your hair can have an effect on the balance of ceramides your hair has. Hot oil treatments, moisture, and protein are the holy trinity for your hair’s optimal length retention.
Choosing The Perfect Oil
Ceramides are known to have high levels of linoleic acid (fatty acids). The best natural oil to choose should be highly concentrated with this fatty acid to replenish the hair with the most nutrients. Another thing to keep in mind is the quality of your oil. Based on the oils below, Safflower oil contains a high percentage of fatty acids. However, choosing an oil that was processed longer can make the oil inert. Whatever natural oil that you decide to use for a hot oil treatment, make sure that it is organic, cold-pressed, and unrefined. This will ensure that the oil is not weak and will give your hair maximum benefits. If you can’t get oil that is organic and cold-pressed, at least make sure that it is unrefined.
Oils based on Linoleic Acid content according to Wikipedia and *Esoteric Oils
Salicornia Oil 75%, Safflower Oil 75%, *Evening Primrose Oil 75%, *Sunflower Oil 72%, Poppy Seed Oil 70%, *Grape Seed Oil 65%, Hemp Oil 60%, *Walnut Oil 58%, *Wheat Germ Oil 54%, Cottonseed Oil 54%, Soybean Oil 51%, *Pumpkin Seed Oil 42-60%, *Rose Hip Oil 43-46%, Rice Bran Oil 39%, Argan Oil 37%, *Sesame Oil 35-50%, Baobab Oil 34%, Pistachio Oil 33%, Peanut Oil 32%, *Apricot Oil 23%, Canola Oil 21%, *Almond Oil 21%, *Avocado Oil 15%, Linseed Oil 15%, Palm Oil 10%, *Hazel Nut Oil 7-15% *Olive Oil 6-25%, *Jojoba Oil 5%, Marula Oil 4-7%, Macadamia Oil 2%, Coconut Oil 2%, Castor Oil 1-5%
A hot oil treatment would be useless if the oil doesn’t penetrate/bind to the cuticle layer. Two ways to do a hot oil treatment include heating the oil indirectly or leaving it on your hair overnight. To heat the oil, either heat the amount you choose to use for that time in a small container and heat it in a hot water bath. Heating the oil will help to thin the oil and make it absorb faster. Do not heat the oil directly via microwave or stove to prevent the oil from scorching and frying your hair. Another way to heat the oil is to apply the oil to your hair, apply a plastic cover and sit under a hooded dryer for 30-45 minutes. Always apply a plastic cap whether you decide to heat the oil or if you do the treatment overnight.
How To Apply The Oil
If you have chosen to heat the oil in a hot water bath, make sure to transfer the amount that you plan to use into a spray bottle or container. I personally have medium-length hair, so one ounce of oil is enough for me. You can use less or more depending on your hair’s length and density. Your hair doesn’t have to be dripping in oil. Applying just enough oil to coat your strands is sufficient. Doing a hot oil treatment on dry hair opposed to wet hair is best as oil is hydrophobic and repels water making the treatment ineffective. However, some pre-packaged hot oil treatments are made to be used on freshly cleansed hair. For these types of products, make sure to follow the instructions as the manufacturers know the best way the product will work. For pure natural oils, always apply on dry hair as a pre-shampoo/cleanse treatment.
The consensus to do a hot oil treatment is monthly. However, one can do a hot oil treatment as often as they’d like. The more the better. Just make sure that you are properly cleansing the oil from your hair to prevent product build-up.
Precautions and Alternatives
For freshly colored hair, wait at least 4 weeks to do a hot oil treatment to prevent the oil from altering the color. Test a strand or small section of your hair before applying the oil to ensure that it won’t change the color. Make sure to properly store your oils in a dark and cool place to prevent it from becoming weak or going rancid quickly. Remember, natural oils are food and should be treated as such. Make sure that you are aware of the shelf life and the “best before date” of your oils. Another great way to replenish your hair’s natural oils are cholesterol treatments.
Ammina Rose is a hair and beauty enthusiast from Chicago, Illinois. She created Lovin’ Our Textures on the belief that all hair is beautiful no matter the texture or style preference. Follow her hair journey from Relaxed to Natural on Youtube and Instagram.