Your At-Home Guide to Hot Oil Hair Treatments

While hot oil treatments aren’t a new hair care phenomenon, they are having a resurgence especially during the cooler, winter months. Not to mention, they can be a fabulous self-care respite during the demands of the new year.

In layman’s terms, a hot oil treatment is a hair care technique that involves applying warm oil to the hair and scalp to improve the overall health and condition of the hair. “The treatment is designed to moisturize and nourish the hair, reduce frizz, add shine, and promote a healthy scalp,” explains trichologist and hair expert, Isfahan Chambers-Harris.

Brazilian Glossy Nourishing Hair Oil
Sol De Janeiro Brazilian Glossy Nourishing Hair Oil
Mighty Majesty Fortifying Hair Serum
Ranavat Mighty Majesty Fortifying Hair Serum
Nourish & Grow Healthy Hair and Scalp Oil
Alodia Nourish & Grow Healthy Hair and Scalp Oil
Custom Hair Oil

But, one of the biggest myth is that hair oil treatments don’t work on all hair types.“As the hair grows farther away from our scalp it loses a lot of natural oil and can become dry depending on the texture, environment, or chemical/heat exposure etc. making hot oil treatments can be beneficial for various hair types, especially dry, damaged, or frizzy hair,” explains trichologist and owner of Ame Salon in Santa Monica, Sara Hallajian.“Asking a professional to help you decide what oil treatment is right for your hair texture might help to ensure you are set up for success when doing your own at home oil treatment.”

Choose Your Oils Wisely

When it comes to hot oil treatments for hair not all of them are created equally. Hallajan predominately recommends options like coconut, olive, argan, jojoba, and almond oil — rotating when possible.

“For thin and fine hair I would lean towards using a hot oil that is lightweight,” she explains. Hallajan is a fan of Reverie Ever Recovery Hair Oil calling it “lightest weight you’ll ever put on your hair” perfect for being easily absorbed into the cuticle layer resulting in increased shine, elasticity, and reduced frizz.

Something else to keep in mind? Any allergens and sensitivities to certain ingredients, particularly mineral oil and petroleum jelly. “These can create a barrier on the hair that may be challenging to wash out and can lead to product buildup,” explains Chambers-Harris. Instead, she suggests choosing a cold pressed or extra virgin oil that is less processed and retains more of their natural nutrients.

Follow Application Directions

As tempting as it may be to soak up all the benefits hot oil treatments have to offer, following suggested usage directions is key. “I would not recommend leaving a hot oil treatment overnight because our scalps already tend to lean oily which could exacerbate an oily scalp condition and cause more irritation,” explains Hallajan. A word of caution: be sure the hot oil isn’t in fact too hot to apply to the scalp to avoid burning yourself.

Complete Pre-Wash Scalp & Hair Strengthening Treatment Oil
JVN Complete Pre-Wash Scalp & Hair Strengthening Treatment Oil
Aceite de Moska Pre-Shampoo Scalp & Hair Oil
Ceremonia Aceite de Moska Pre-Shampoo Scalp & Hair Oil
HoliRoots™ Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil
Fable & Mane HoliRoots™ Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil
Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Hot Oil Concentrate
Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Hot Oil Concentrate

Additionally, those with oily scalp conditions can focus on applying from the mid-shaft to mid-ends. “[However] it’s beneficial to use oil on the scalp if you have redness, psoriasis, or dry scalp,” adds Hallajan. “There is no proven benefit in leaving a treatment longer than necessary nor that it will yield better performance of the oil. Put it on, leave it on for 30 minutes maximum, and then wash.”

Speaking of washing your hair, plan on lathering up twice, perhaps with a clarifying shampoo, to ensure you’ve removed all the oil. “You want a good lather for the second shampoo to be sure it cleanses the oil and your scalp well enough.”

Anticipate Great Benefits

A hot oil treatment can offer a wide array of benefits to your hair and scalp, contributing to overall hair health and appearance. “One of the primary benefits of a hot oil treatment is deep moisturization,” explains Chambers-Harris.

Essentially, the warm oil helps to open the hair cuticle, allowing the oil to penetrate the hair shaft and hydrate it from within. “Hot oil treatments can help smooth the hair cuticle, reducing frizz and promoting a smoother, sleeker appearance,” she adds. “Deeply moisturized and conditioned hair is more manageable and easier to comb or brush. Lastly, the nutrients in the oils, such as vitamins and antioxidants, can contribute to enhanced hair strength.”


Meet The Experts

  • Trichologist Sara Hallajian, owner of Ame Salon in Santa Monica.
  • Trichologist and hair expert Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris

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Janell M. Hickman-Kirby is a writer and editor based in New York.