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Do I really need to use a scalp oil for my afro hair?

A question we’re often asked is “Do I need to oil my scalp?”

And our answer would be: “Maybe, but it depends on what your scalp needs.”

There are two reasons you should not use oil on your scalp, we'll get to that shortly but first, the basics.

We always recommend that you treat your scalp as an extension of your face. Just as you wash and moisturise your face, we recommend that you always clean and hydrate your scalp. The thing is, everyone’s hair is different. Some people have oily scalps but dry hair, while others have oily hair but dry scalps! It’s not a matter of having strict rules about applying oil to your scalp and hair but how much and how often you need to cleanse your scalp and use a scalp oil.

Many of us have fond memories of sitting between our mother's, grandmother's or auntie's legs as she delicately applied oil to our scalps. This ritual has roots back in Africa and using scalp oils is culturally important for many reasons.

But recently there have been a wave of people warning against scalp oils. So what's the truth?

When NOT to use a scalp oil

Well, there are some cases where using a scalp oil product is not appropriate. In fact there are two main reasons you should not use oil on your scalp.

1. If you have seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis or eczema then DO NOT use scalp oil until your condition is healed. Applying oil to broken skin can lead to a secondary sensitivity. This means you can develop an allergic reaction to a product you were previously not sensitive to because you applied it to damaged skin. If you have a medical problem on your scalp then see your GP and a trichologist and lay off of the scalp oils until it has healed.

2. If you're using heavy butters, thick oil or even Dax/Vaseline then drop the grease and give your scalp some peace! The pores on your scalp can become blocked leading to painful bumps which can trap hairs and get infected (called folliculitis.) Just as you wouldn't smear shea butter all over your face for fear of breaking out in spots and blackheads, you should not use thick oils on your scalp. Nope, not even Jamaican black castor oil!

Those caveats aside, we're in favour of scalp oil. If your scalp is free of medical woes and you have a quality, lightweight scalp oil then you're all good! Read on for the benefits.

Why natural scalp oil is one of the most slept on afro hair products 

Natural oils produced by our scalp (sebum) are designed by your body to help lock in moisture, protect your hair follicles and maintain the health of your scalp. “Similar to skin, we need oil to have healthy strong hair,” according to Jasmine Merinsky, a Toronto-based hairstylist. So it’s clear that scalp oil is important - but why?

With just the right amount of sebum, your afro hair will be soft and shiny - but if you use harsh shampoos frequently and don’t replenish these oils, itching, dry scalp, dandruff and inflammation can occur.

That said, too much sebum can lead to the build-up of oil on your scalp, which attracts and holds dirt. Too little on the other hand will lead to dry scalp, irritation and flaking.

So how do you get the right balance?

With the right hair care practices, of course!

How to use scalp oil - keeping your hair oiled to perfection 

If you follow our ultimate guide to afro hair care, you can keep your hair looking and feeling great, but let’s break it down real quick.

The best place to start is with clean freshly washed hair. Use a sulphate free shampoo like Swish. It doesn't make sense to use a harsh SLS containing shampoo and irritate your scalp then compensate with oiling daily. We recommend that you use a gentle sulphate free shampoo to cleanse your scalp then oil just as and when you need to.

For best results, whilst your fro is slightly damp, moisturising it will help to prevent breakage and strengthen your hair from root to tip. We would recommend you use a water-based moisturising product (such as our Sheen moisturiser).

After moisturising using an afro hair product, lock that moisture in with an oil. The best blends contain olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and jojoba oil. Then layer on a moisturising cream such as Smooth or leave-in conditioner and twist each section as you go. You can also do this the other way around and use the hair oil last, which ever way works for your hair is best. Now that your hair is well moisturised and twisted, apply a small amount of Soothe to your scalp and massage it in to encourage blood flow to the scalp.

When it comes to good hair care, it’s all about creating a routine that suits you and using the right afro hair products.

Just remember, it’s all about using the right natural afro hair products!

What are the benefits of natural scalp oil?

So by now you probably have an idea of how to use oil products on your scalp and hair, right? Cool. So what are the benefits? Well, scalp oils... 

  • Revitalise hair

One of the things to remember about scalp oil is that it helps keep your hair healthy. Good scalp oil blends contain ingredients that stimulate hair growth and fight against dandruff and bacteria. 

  • Seal in moisture

As quality scalp oils emulate the natural sebum produced on the scalp, they help to moisture to permeate to keep your scalp and roots looking and feeling great. Blends that include coconut and jojoba oil are often the most effective.

  • Protect your scalp

A good scalp oil not only emulates your scalp’s natural sebum, but it also creates a layer that protects it from the weather conditions and even insect bites!

  • Keep your hair shiny

For everyday shine, just apply a few drops of oil to your scalp and massage it through. It’ll also help to reduce afro hair frizz.

  • Fight itchiness and dryness

Quality scalp oils are good at combating itchiness and inflammation. Applying such oils to your scalp immediately after washing and a couple of times throughout the week can help maintain a healthy scalp. You can check out our blog on itchiness for more information.

afro hair oil afro hair products 

If your scalp feels tight or dry, oil blends with ingredients like almond or olive oil can help. Make sure to massage the oils vigorously into your scalp.

Dry hair can also occur as a result of not drinking enough water and having an imbalanced diet, so make sure to drink plenty of water and eat healthily! (You can check out our blog on dry hair fixes for more info.)

Interested in other ways to care for your hair? Read these articles:

How to effectively moisturise Afro hair

Super Tasty Treats for Healthy Afro Hair

7 ways to work self-care into your daily routine

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