When it comes to maintaining your curly hair, you may be seeing lots of products bombarding the market touting all sorts of ingredients. When it comes to the sheer number of natural hair oils, it can be confusing to know which one may work best for your hair. Although you can learn by trial and error, it is always a good idea to do a little research before trying new ingredients.

To give you a brief introduction on hair oils, there are two main categories you will come across:

  • Carrier oils- vegetable/nut/seed derived oil, usually odorless, can be used alone or used to transport or carry the scent and properties of an essential oil 
  • Essential oils- highly concentrated scent, contain specific therapeutic benefits, normally extracted from plant sources and diluted with carrier oils

Examples of essential oils widely used in the natural hair community are rosemary, tea tree, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender and sandalwood. Of course there are many others, but these are found in many natural hair products for their healing and restorative properties. To help you navigate, here’s a list of some of the more popular and a few obscure natural oils on the market.

Coconut oil

Light and non-greasy, coconut oil can easily be used by all hair types. Coconut oil is one of the few oils that can actually penetrate the hair shaft. There are several types of coconut oil available, but go for the extra virgin (EVCO). This oil is typically clear in its liquid form and a white color that is solid at room temperature. Shelf life: approximately 1-2 years.

More: The May Uses of Coconut Oil

Olive oil

This multipurpose oil is a staple in many  hair care regimens. Not only is olive oil a great pre-poo and hot oil treatment option, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) works wonders to seal moisture in and can add a kick to your conditioning routine too. If you have finer hair you may want to use just a small amount in order to not weigh the hair down. Shelf life: up to 2 years.

Castor oil

A heavier oil great for tighter coils, castor oil can be great for sealing moisture into your hair. Many have also used this oil to help regain thickness around thinning hairline. A little definitely goes a long way. Too much can leave your hair heavy and weighed down. Another popular variation is Jamaican Black Castor Oil. This less refined version can be used to encourage hair growth as well as protect and seal your ends. Shelf life: indefinite.

More: Jamaican Black Castor Oil for Hair Growth

Grapeseed oil

This light and moisturizing hair oil can benefit all types of curls. A natural heat protectant, grapeseed oil can  be used as a thermal agent up to 425 degrees when blow-drying or flat ironing. Apply a bit throughout the hair before applying heat to give your hair added shine and protection. This oil works great to strengthen each strand, increase manageability, and can also be used to combat dry scalp and dandruff. Shelf life: approximately 1 year.

Jojoba oil

Closely matching the sebum, your hair’s natural oil, jojoba oil is a great staple in your natural hair care routine. This hair oil can be used to balance oil production at the scalp, helping to prevent the sebaceous glands from over-producing oil and causing an oily scalp and hair. Jojoba is also non-greasy and gives your hair a healthy shine. Shelf life: can be indefinite.

More: The Beauty of Jojoba

Sweet almond oil

This light, all-purpose oil is great for all hair types and offers many benefits to naturally curly hair. Sweet almond oil works great as a sealant, so apply a small amount on top of your moisturizer to lock in the moisture. It is also great for improving manageability by smoothing the hair shaft. Shelf life: approximately 1 year.

Avocado oil

This super nutrient rich oil is heaven for thick-haired curlies. Chock-full of natural goodies like amino acids, minerals, and vitamins, avocado oil can help strengthen hair and enhance deep conditioning treatments. Try mixing this hair oil with your favorite conditioner as a deep treatment and adding a plastic processing cap or heat cap for added conditioning. Since this oil is a heavy and slightly oily, it is best for thicker or more tightly coiled strands. Shelf life: approximately 1 year.

Argan oil

This rare oil is making waves in the natural hair community for its moisturizing properties. Easily absorbed and quite nourishing, this oil is great for your hair, skin, and nails too. For curly girls, argan oil helps with manageability and can also strengthen the hair. It can be pricey, but a little goes a long way. Shelf life: approximately two years.

Ayurvedic oils

For ages these hair oils have worked wonders across the globe and they are a wonderful option for naturals. Some of the more prominent oils are amla, neem, brahmi, and bhringaraj; each of these distinctive oils offers their own unique benefits for your curls. For example, amla oil is great for condition the hair, neem oil is excellent for tackling dandruff, brahmi can be used to stimulate hair growth, and bhringaraj is great to combat shedding and breakage.

More: Guide to Ayurvedic Hair Care

Rose oil

A lightweight oil, rose oil is perfect for wavies or those with fine, low density hair. Rose oil strengthens hair at the root, protects against frizz, and adds shine.

This article was originally published in January 2012. 

Argan oil is my fav :) cant leave the house without it. I use the Pro Naturals argan oil leave in, totally recommend that one over the MoroccanOil brand (so many silicones urgh!)
What are some good oils for coarse, low porosity hair? My hair is also protein sensitive so it doesn't really get along with oils that strengthen the shaft such as coconut and olive oil. I've tried Shea butter but the moisture doesn't last more than a couple of hours before my hair feels dry again.