Hot Oil for My Hair?
March 18, 2009 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Do hot oil treatments for hair work? Are they good for curly/frizzy fairly thick hair? Will they make my hair silky smooth? Or do they do nothing?

I have ok hair. It is, I feel, intrinsically a bit dry and frizzy. I counteract this by alternating between an array of hair products (Redken curl creme, Aveda BeCurly, BedHead Curls Rock, and some others) depending on what's available at the stores where I am. I recently met an Indian lady who swears by hot oil treatments. She says women from her region have been using oil in their hair for centuries, and it makes your hair soft and shiny and more manageable.

Is this true? And if so, what are good treatments to buy? If I decide to DIY, how would I go about doing it?
posted by bluefly to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I've tried them, and they do feel nice, but you're essentially coating your hail with oil that will wash off the next time you shampoo. My understanding is that the oil molecules are too big to actually penetrate the hair shaft, so there's no lasting improvement. But I'm not a scientist.
posted by thebazilist at 10:06 AM on March 18, 2009

The woman you talked to is right- they'll definitely make your hair less dry for a few days, and if you want to uphold that effect, you can just keep doing them. You can buy them separately packaged, I think Suave and V-05 do packages of 2 or 3, or you can buy a big bottle of it- I have the Queene Helene Placenta Hot Oil Treatment, which smells great.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:14 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've done them, and I noticed a difference. They do feel quite nice, as well. Plus, if you do it DIY, it's way cheap to try out. I never even thought of salons providing this treatment.

STEP ONE: Buy the oil at the drug store. I think V05 makes a fancy schmancy treatment, but the cheapest route is to big a big ass bottle of oil with all sorts of vitamins and such added to it for $2-$3 in the African American section. Yes, next to the Murphy's pomade. No, you don't have to be African American.

STEP TWO: Heat it up. I put it in a microwave in a coffee cup. Please, please, please, be extremely careful not to get it too hot. Microwave it half a minute at a time, and dip the tippiest tip of your pinkie finger to test it, then test it more thoroughly if it's not burning lava. You do not want to dump boiling oil over your whole head. That is some medieval shit. This is not a dangerous activity, but I really would rather you not throw the oil in the microwave for 5 minutes and immediately pour it on your face after pulling it out.

STEP THREE: Massage it into your hair. Use a wide-toothed comb to work it through, if you wish. Wrap your head in your not-nicest towel (extra nice if you warm it up in the dryer to help keep the heat in) and leave it in for five minutes.

STEP FOUR: Wash it out like you always wash your hair.

Please don't get freaked out by me warning you not to burn yourself. If you're careful, you won't. I just wanted to make sure I was clear it's important to be careful.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:16 AM on March 18, 2009 [9 favorites]

All the oil treatments I've bought suggest warming up the oil still in the container, by immersing the container in a cup of hot water. I would not warm up the oil you're about to put on your head in the microwave! It doesn't need to get anywhere near that hot to work.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:18 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I liken hot oil treatments to putting lotion on dry skin - it can make a difference, but it's not permanent, and it washes out. And oil treatments can't actually fix damaged hair (as far as I know, nothing can do that except a haircut), but they can definitely make your hair more manageable while the oil is in it.

And please do not heat the oil package in the microwave. Heat up some water in the microwave or on the stove, then warm the oil tube in the cup or pan. The oil only needs to be warm, not searing hot.
posted by boomchicka at 10:31 AM on March 18, 2009

Yes it works - but make sure you get oil that isn't saturated with a bunch of chemicals or preservatives. You don't want that seeping into your scalp. Get only natural oil - jojoba, cocanut, olive, shea, Vitamin A/E come to mind. It should be smoother, silkier and fuller.
posted by watercarrier at 10:35 AM on March 18, 2009

before you consider hot oil treatments, check out this thread from the other day for some other options! i have wavy super thick hair and like many of my curly wavy friends have found that not washing my hair every day + switching to shampoos without lauryl sulfates + only combing with a wide-toothed comb + never ever brushing it + no blowdrying = hair with no frizz that looks pretty damn great even if i don't condition or use products.
posted by lia at 10:37 AM on March 18, 2009

My (Indian) mother used to put oil in my and my sister's hair once a week. We'd leave it there several hours and then shampoo it out. From what I remember, she used to spend most of that time massaging our scalp.

I think she said that during exams in India, parents would massage their kids scalps with oil to help them study better. Considering that, I don't think the point is to coat your hair with oil so much as it is to encourage oil production in your scalp.

I've never used drugstore hair treatments, so I don't know if they follow the same concept. I think my Mom used olive oil, although I know coconut oil is very popular for this.

I just bought a castile soap (Kirk's castile bar soap) which is made of coconut oil. I've tried shampooing my hair with it, and it left my hair soft and shiny. Although now that you've reminded me, I might go back to my childhood head massages.
posted by larkin123 at 10:37 AM on March 18, 2009

I oil my hair once a week/every other week. It does remarkably reduce my natural frizz. I DIY it with plain old coconut oil--nothing added. You can use any light vegetable oil you wish to use but I use coconut because it absorbs well, is CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP, smells good and (most importantly) comes out easily with one shampoo post oiling. I just put a small amount on my ends (hair should be kind of oily, not dripping), tie it back and leave it on anywhere from 10 minutes to all day/all night, shampoo it out (I don't actually use shampoo--I use the herbs shikakai/aritha currently but I have used shampoo successfully in the past). The key is that the post-oil shampoo removes the *excess* oil but leaves your hair coated with a small amount, thus reducing the frizz. It ameliorates the frizz but it can't change damage or split ends.

A few notes:
--I definitely do not heat the oil as suggested above. Plain coconut oil is solid at room temp. I just melt it in my palms and rub on. If I want to make it a "hot" oil treatment I simply "dry" my hair with my hair dryer to heat up the oil on my hair. I found heating, however, to be zero sum. The benefits occur whether the oil is hot or not.
--If you use a heavier oil, like olive oil, removal is easier if you "dry" shampoo your hair. When you are ready to remove the oil from your hair, rub shampoo into your oily hair WITHOUT wetting it first. This will feel very strange and it will generate few suds but it will very effectively remove the oil.

FWIW, I get compliments on my hair all the time. And it is unbelievably shiny/healthy. A few years ago I wore it in a ponytail much of the time because of frizz.
posted by hecho de la basura at 10:40 AM on March 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

According to the The Beauty Brains, either coconut oil or olive oil will penetrate into the hair, while most other oils simply lie on the surface until the residue is washed off.

After reading this the first time, I tried deep conditioning with olive oil, and it did make my hair shinier. I didn't microwave it, just poured it into a small glass container and put that into several inches of hot water to heat. Admittedly, this is more a warm-oil treatment than a hot-oil treatment. Sometimes, I also add a drop of essential oil to give a faint scent, but that's a frill, totally unnecessary.

For me, the shine from an olive oil treatment looks better and lasts longer than Alberto VO5 (which, incidentally, smelled like several squeaky-clean but nonetheless undesirable things).
posted by Elsa at 10:47 AM on March 18, 2009

I'm a guy, but I've got some classic Jew-fro hair. I don't think I'd be caught dead doing a hot-oil treatment, but Kiehl's Creme with Silk Groom is, IMO, the absolute best product for what you need.
posted by mkultra at 11:07 AM on March 18, 2009

And ladies, let's not forget the Mayonnaise Treatment.....
posted by watercarrier at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2009

I have wavy hair that I straighten everyday. It used to be a giant frizzball, but I started using Morrocan hair oil. Just a dime-sized drop worked through from the ends up to the scalp, and my hair was soft and not at all frizzy. It's not a hot oil treatment, but a daily oil treatment. It's fantastic.

Morrocan Hair Oil
posted by mandapanda at 11:14 AM on March 18, 2009

Yes, next to the Murphy's pomade

Actually, it's Murray's but the point is a good one: You don't need to spend big buck's on an oil.
Hot oil treatments have been part of my hair care routine since childhood (I'm black) and I find that they do help with managability and shine. I generally just use whatever olive oil I have in my kitchen. When my sister went to Bangkok last year, she bought me back some purer coconut oil that worked beautifully and smelled great. I've since been buying unrefined coconut oil from the health food store but it's pricey so I switch off between that and olive oil.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:58 AM on March 18, 2009

Not quite on the topic, but just wanted to check: The products that you mention you use, are you putting them on your hair *before* using a heated tool such as a blow dryer? Nothing will dry your hair out faster than attacking it with heat without putting some sort of barrier on it first.

I don't know of any home treatments, but once when my hair was super dry I splurged on a Kerastase treatment at a fancy salon. I don't know exactly which one it was but it appears to be one of the "nourishing rituals". My hair felt *amazing* afterwards and it stayed that way for a long time after.
posted by radioamy at 12:40 PM on March 18, 2009

I use olive oil heated in a mug 30 seconds at a time, as Juliet Banana suggests. I do the towel-wrap thing and hang out for 30 minutes. I find it a very relaxing process, and my hair is shiny and soft for a few days afterward.
posted by runningwithscissors at 1:19 PM on March 18, 2009

I use olive oil heated in a mug 30 seconds at a time, as Juliet Banana suggests.

Oh, thank god, I was beginning to feel like a murderer, or a dispenser of really bad advice. Like I stressed in my original comment, as long as you're careful not to leave it in too long and make sure it's a reasonable temp before using it, you'll be fine.

Or just use the hot water trick. That's good too. I usually had a giant plastic bottle of oil, so that never occured to me.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:02 PM on March 18, 2009

I have similar hair problems, and when I last dyed mine, I grabbed a packet of this at the Walgreen's -- I have to say that used in small amounts (i.e. not the whole packet at once), it's done wonders! I haven't read the entire ingredients list but I think there's some orange oil in there somewhere, it smells like the Burt's Bees orange oil face stuff...
posted by at 2:31 PM on March 18, 2009

Hey thanks for all the advice. I have seen those earlier threads on curly hair, and I do follow best practices, but I just thought this might be something nice to try. I think I'll buy some coconut oil and try that first because I love the smell. I marked a few answers, but I really found all of them helpful (I noticed some people here don't like it when you mark all answers as best).
posted by bluefly at 2:33 PM on March 18, 2009

I bought some olive oil for my hair yesterday, for the first time after reading this thread, and oh my god it makes such a huge difference! The softness.... The softneeeeeessss...
posted by Bakuun at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2009

The softness.... The softneeeeeessss...

Seriously. I made people pet my hair for days after the first time I tried it.
posted by runningwithscissors at 4:23 PM on May 19, 2009

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