Do you want healthy, shiny hair and a scalp that’s free from dandruff and itchiness? If so, you should consider using plant oils in your haircare routine. Plant oils are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can nourish your scalp and hair, similar to how they nourish the skin. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the benefits of plant oils for scalp and hair health. We’ll also provide tips on how to use plant oils to improve your scalp and hair health.

So if your scalp is dry, itchy, or flaky–or your hair is dry, brittle, frizzy, chemically treated, or prone to split ends, then a hot oil treatment may be your saving grace. Keep reading to learn more!


Pine essential oil with wood hair comb

What do we mean by plant oils?

Simply, plant oils–also known as vegetable oils or carrier oils–are lipids that are cold-pressed, expelled, or otherwise extracted from the seeds, nuts, or kernels of plants. Plant oils vary greatly in their lipid chemistry and fatty acid composition, so some will be very light and have a dry feel, while others will be heavier, with a more oily feel. Some them work from the inside out, and others work from the outside in. Because of this variety, you can be sure there’s an oil for you.


Essential oils for hair with comb and leaves

What are the benefits of plant oils for scalp and hair health?

Hot oil can swell the hair strand and slightly raise the outer layer of the hair shaft to allow for better penetration and absorption. When it cools, it closes and seals the hair cuticle, helping to protect your hair from damage.

If you have dry, porous, or medium-coarse hair texture, your hair may like the “penetrating” and “coating” oils.

If you have fine hair which tends to get weighed down by oils, your hair may like a blend of penetrating and coating oils.


Natural cosmetics, coconut oil hair treatments concept, view from above

The difference between penetrating oils and coating oils for the hair and scalp:


“Penetrating” oils can lock in moisture from the inside out. Moisture is one of the critical elements needed to strengthen hair and prevent breakage.

Coconut, sunflower, and Babassu oils are ideal penetrating oils.

Coconut oil has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft deeply. Studies have shown that coconut oil is also capable of reducing protein loss in the hair. Protein is what gives hair its fullness, bounce, and sheen. Coconut oil also helps improve blood circulation, thereby supporting hair growth.

Sunflower oil can help undol hair damage from friction. Hair friction occurs when the hair strands rub against each other during aggressive manipulation (combing, brushing, styling, heat exposure, and over-washing). Sunflower oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may relieve an itchy scalp.

Babassu oil is a Brazilian oil that contains a high amount of vitamin E and other antioxidants, which help the scalp and hair repair damage from external toxicants and free radicals. Babassu oil also has anti-microbial properties that protect sensitive and irritated scalps from harmful pathogens.


Dropper bottles with fresh ripe avocado and essential oil on white table flat lay


While penetrating oils can seep inside your hair shaft, “coating” oils sit on top of your hair strands and lock in moisture from the outside in. This provides an additional layer of protection against hot tools and Earthly elements like humidity and UV rays.

Castor, olive, avocado, and sweet almond oil are ideal coating oils.

Cold-pressed castor oil contains ricinoleic acid that helps lock in moisture while creating an optimal environment for hair growth. Please note that while castor oil great for hair, those prone to dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis should not apply it to the scalp. Castor oil’s fatty acid composition has the ability to “feed” fungal conditions and make them worse.

Olive oil is full of oleic acid, which is an emollient with softening and nourishing properties. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to it, which can help calm down inflammation on your scalp.

Avocado oil has a potent mix of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E, forming a protective barrier that coats hair strands, making them more flexible and much stronger. It also may help stimulate blood flow and unclog congested follicles.

Sweet Almond oil is packed with vitamin E, proteins, and antioxidants which help protect hair from environmental damage such as air pollution, and contains magnesium, which reduces hair breakage.


grape seed oil in a small jar. Selective focus. nature.


For more delicate hair strands, lighter-weight argan, grapeseed, and marula oils are ideal coating oils.

Argan oil, also known as Moroccan oil, is rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins A and E, which work together to heal split ends, smooth hair, and tamps down frizz. Argan can also help to manage sebum (body’s natural oil) production, as well as nourish the scalp.

Grapeseed oil is odorless and incredibly lightweight. Its high levels of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E can help strengthen brittle, fragile hair. Grapeseed also can help loosen dead skin and restore moisture.

Marula oil is an African oil that is rich in fatty acids, vitamins C and E, antioxidants, and flavonoids. Marula oil assists in moisture retention, increases hair elasticity, and imparts a natural shine. Marula oil also is a great choice as a leave-on oil because it is pH balanced and is known to be non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog your hair follicles.

If you have an inflammatory skin condition such as psoriasis or eczema, always consult your licensed healthcare practitioner or dermatologist if a hot oil treatment is safe to use on your scalp.

If you have sensitive scalp/skin sensitivities, give yourself a patch test to see if you react adversely to the oil (give it 24 hours to respond).


dermatologist sitting at table examining skin of patient in clinic

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About the author:

Today’s post was written by our Advisory Board member, Jules Annen, PhD. Learn more about Jules HERE.