How to Use Olive Oil for Hair Care

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on February 25, 2015Written by Elea Carey on February 25, 2015
olive oil hair care treatments

 

There seems to be no end to the kitchen products they say can be good for your hair: Apple cider vinegar rinses for shine; honey, mayonnaise, and avocado for conditioning; beer for… well, maybe it’s best to save the beer for drinking.

People have used olive oil for haircare for thousands of years. Advocates claim that it adds shine, body, softness, and resilience. This is because its 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 is very little scientific evidence to support olive oil’s popularity in haircare. However, some research on the effect of oils — coconut oil, in particular — show that they can have a major moisturizing effect. Olive oil could add softness and strengthen hair by penetrating the hair shaft and retaining moisture. Shine attributed to olive oil may be due to the oil smoothing the outer cuticle of the hair.

How to use olive oil as a conditioner

1. Measure

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

2. Massage

Massage the oil deeply into your hair for a few minutes. You can also massage it on to 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.

3. Rinse

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.

Who should use olive oil?

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 to the last two 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.

Beyond conditioning

Lice

Olive oil can assist in 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 making sure you get out all the live lice and their nits.

Get more helpful tips here »

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 will 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.

Discover more dandruff remedies »

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