People have used olive oil for haircare for thousands of years, claiming it adds shine, body, softness, and resilience.

Olive oil’s primary chemical elements are oleic acid, palmitic acid, and squalene. These are all emollients, which means they have softening qualities. In fact, many shampoos, conditioners, and pomades contain lab-made versions of emollients.

There’s very little scientific evidence to support olive oil’s popularity in haircare. But some research on the effect of olive oil shows that it can have a major moisturizing effect.

Olive oil could add softness and strengthen hair by penetrating the hair shaft and preserving moisture. The shine said to come from olive oil may be due to the oil smoothing the outer cuticle of the hair.

You may end up doing some experiments before finding a routine that works for your needs. If you’ve never used olive oil to condition your hair, here’s how to start.

If you’ve never experimented with olive oil as a hair product before, use just a tablespoon or two for your first treatment.

How much olive oil you should use depends on how deeply you want to moisturize and where. The ends won’t require more than a tablespoon.

If you’re treating your entire head, you’ll need at least 1/4 cup of olive oil — especially if you have long or very thick hair.

Massage the oil deeply into your hair for a few minutes. You can also massage it into your scalp if you have dry scalp.

For the most effective conditioning, wrap your hair in a shower cap and let the oil soak in for 15 minutes or more.

Comb your hair with a wide-toothed comb before you shampoo the oil out. This will make combing and styling afterward easier.

Shampoo rigorously and dry your hair to see results. You might need to shampoo twice, depending on how much you’ve applied.

There’s nothing harmful about conditioning with olive oil. Unless your hair is dry enough to require a moisturizing treatment every day, use it once a week or less often for the best results.

Using oil in general may not be right for every hair type and texture because some hair types retain oil for longer than others. Your body naturally produces oil through glands attached to hair follicles, and this oil tends to travel faster down thin, straight hair than it does down coarse or curly hair.

Thick hair

Olive oil is most beneficial for dry, thick hair. Advocates say it can keep hair moist and strong. Olive oil tends to weigh down thinner hair. Oily hair and scalps simply don’t need the conditioning.

Processed hair

Heavily processed hair — like hair that’s been treated with relaxers, perms, or bleach — especially benefit from extra moisture.

Always wait at least 72 hours after the initial treatment before you apply olive oil. If you’re using olive oil on bleached hair, test a strand to make sure the oil doesn’t leave a trace of its green shade behind.

Split ends

Olive oil can help smooth the broken or burned ends of your hair. Apply it to the last 2 inches of the strands that are damaged.

Even though you’re just treating the ends, keep your hair pinned up so the olive oil doesn’t get on your clothes. To condition your hair all over, start at the scalp and massage the oil through to the ends.

Lice

Olive oil can help with removing head lice, but it isn’t any more effective than other oil or conditioning treatments. It’s critical to use the proper comb and make sure you get out all the live lice and their nits.

Dandruff

If you’re trying to treat dandruff, bear in mind it has many causes, including fungus. As far as we know, there’s no cure for dandruff, though using olive oil might reduce your flakes.

Massage olive oil into your dry scalp and comb out dandruff flakes. Leave olive oil in your hair and cover with a shower cap for extra conditioning.