Hot OIl Treatment

I have naturally curly hair that tends to be dry. I also live for most of the year in a dry climate. It can really wreak havoc on my hair. Hot oiling my hair is a great way to treat and protect it, but I don’t do it often enough. It does take some pre-planning, so often I think I don’t have time.

A few weeks ago, though, my hair had become really dry. I could see that it was on the edge of breaking. So, I had to make some time for hot oil. I wrote up my process and thought to share it here!

First of all, don’t buy a hot oil treatment at the grocery store, drugstore, or beauty supply. Those treatments have only a small fraction of oil, usually mineral oil, and include emulsifiers, scents, and other chemicals that you don’t need on your hair. And frankly, they are not as effective as using a natural oil.

I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for my hair. I usually buy a lower grade of oil than I would use to cook with (I’m pretty picky about the EVOO that I eat; I usually stick with Star or Colavita brand oils, and I like a fruity, piquant oil for eating. Such oils can be pricey, and my hair doesn’t care how the oil tastes, so go with cheap here.) EVOO is rich in vitamin E and Omega-9 and omega-6 fatty acids. It isn’t just moisturizing, it is also strengthening and protective. EVOO molecules can actually penetrate the hair shaft, and stay there for awhile. Again, commercial hot-oil products have mostly mineral oil and additives that aren’t great for the hair. Extra-virgin olive oil is a much better choice.

Some people like using coconut oil in their hair, and I do too. But as my hair is very dry, I find coconut oil is better for daytime use, like to massage into the ends at bedtime, or on a dry day, or to use as a leave-in treatment (if you like something pre-made, this is a really good leave-in conditioner with coconut oil.) Coconut oil has smaller molecules than olive, and in my experience it just isn’t heavy enough to be a good hot oil treatment. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

So, cheap EVOO. I buy a big bottle of it to keep in the bathroom: it’s good for dry hair, dry skin (especially heels and elbows) body scrubs, etc. I use a squirt bottle to apply it, the same kind I use to apply hair color. Basically, a plastic bottle with a narrow nozzle.  I put the nozzle near my scalp, under my hair, and start squirting small amounts and rubbing them into my scalp and through my hair. Once my scalp is covered, I run my hands through my hair from the roots to the ends a few times, to spread oil outward. Then I start applying oil to the lengths. I basically squirt a little on, then use my other hand to rub that in and down the hairs, repeat, etc, until my hair is saturated from root to ends. You want to do this cautiously and slowly because you don’t want to put on too much and have it running down your neck and face.

If your hair is dry like mine, you will find that it starts soaking up the oil immediately, so basically keep applying oil until the hairs have soaked up as much as they can and are coated. If your hair is still soaking up the oil, keep applying more, until you have a thick coating of oil.

Once your head is coated in oil, you want to keep the oil there and also seal in heat. I use a plastic grocery bag or a cheap plastic shower cap to cover my hair. Then on top of that I like to use a heat cap. A heat cap is like an electric blanket for your head: you plug it in, it gets warm. These are great for deep conditioning, hot oil treatments, and hair color. I’ve had mine for ten years and it still works very well, so I think this is a good investment if you are into hair care.

If you don’t have a heat cap, you can put a thick towel in the microwave to warm it up, then wrap it around your head. The initial heat will warm the oil and the towel will help to insulate it. This isn’t as effective as a heat cap, but it’s better than nothing. Once my head is wrapped and warm, I usually sit around and do homework, or read, or watch a movie, etc, for a few hours. I’ve even slept in it before.

I usually hot oil in the evening so I can go to bed afterward and let my hair rest and let the oil bond with it. After a few hours of heat, I take a shower and wash my hair. When I rinse out the shampoo, my hair sometimes feels a little heavy, almost rubbery. That is normal and will be gone by morning. After washing, I condition as usual. (I alternate between an extra-deep conditioner and a regular conditioner for dry/curly hair; after hot oil I will usually use the lighter conditioner.) Then I squeeze my hair in a towel, wrap it in said towel for a little while so it can dry a bit, and then I go to bed.

Overnight the hair will dry and the oil will bond with the hair (think of it like an oil stain on a shirt: if you let it sit for awhile it will stain permanently, or at least be really hard to get out. That really is molecular bonding!) And in the morning, I wake up with really soft, healthy, great-looking hair. Hot oil helps enhance my curls and make my hair more manageable. It really is like night and day. Every time I do it I think “Wow, I should do this more often!” And really, I should.

I hope this write-up helps someone with dry hair to have the hair they want 🙂

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