What sorts of oils and butters are best for your hair?

Fatty acid composition of common vegetable butters and oils

Vegetable Butter or Oil Fatty Acids
Shea Butter
  • Stearic acid, saturated, long chain, 85-90%
  • Oleic acid, monounsaturated, 5-10%
  • Palmitic, long chain, saturated, minor component
  • Linoleic, polyunsaturated, minor component
  • Arachidic, saturated, long chain, minor component
Cocoa Butter
  • Stearic acid, saturated, 34-36%
  • Palmitic acid, saturated, 24-28%
  • Oleic acid, monounsaturated, 30-40%
  • Linoleic, polyunsaturated, 2-3%
Mango Butter
  • Oleic acid, monounsaturated, 40-50%
  • Linoleic acid, polyunsaturated, 5-8%
  • Stearic acid, saturated, 5-8%
  • Palmitic acid, saturated, 5-8%
  • Arachidic, saturated, 1-4%
Wheat Germ Oil
  • Linoleic, polyunsaturated, 55%
  • Oleic, mono-unsaturated, 18%
  • Palmitic acid, saturated, medium chain, 17%
  • Linolenic, polyunsaturated, 8%
Avocado Oil
  • Oleic Acid, monounsaturated, 55-75%
  • Palmitic, saturated, 9-20%
  • Linoleic, polyunsaturated, 10-15%
  • Palmitoleic, monounsaturated, 2-10%
  • Stearic, saturated, 0.1-2%
Coconut Oil
  • Lauric acid, saturated (shorter chain), 45%
  • Myristic acid, saturated, 17%
  • Palmitic acid, saturated, 8%
  • Caprylic acid, saturated, 8%
  • Linoleic acid and oleic acid, unsaturated, 5-10%
Olive Oil
  • Oleic Acid, monounsaturated, 55% - 85%
  • Linoleic acid, polyunsaturated, 9%
  • Linolenic acid, polyunsaturated, 0-2%
Jojoba Oil
  • Eicosenoic acid, monounsaturated, 69%
  • Erucic acid, monounsaturated, 16%
  • Oleic acid, monounsatruated, 10%
Almond Oil
  • Oleic Acid, monounsaturated, 65%
  • Linoleic, polyunsaturated, 25%
  • Palmitic acid, saturated, 6-7%
  • Stearic acid, saturated, 1-2%
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Tonya McKay

Tonya McKay Becker is a curly-haired polymer scientist and cosmetic chemist whose academic and industrial research experience have provided her with expertise in the fundamentals and applications of polymer science and colloid chemistry. She has long had a fascination with the structure-property relationships of the complex solutions used in hair and skin care products, and how they interact with and impact these remarkable biological substrates. Ever curious, Tonya has dedicated herself for more than a decade to honing her expertise on the science of curly hair, how it differs from straight hair, and how product ingredients used on curly hair affect its health and beauty. Her passion for sharing this knowledge with others has led to her current career of educating people from all backgrounds who share an interest in this exciting field.

This was a great article...saving this under my favorites as a point of reference!!

Wonderful article. Little by little I'm learning how to deal with tempermental Fine, Porose 2B to 3B hair. Thank you.

Wow great article. This explains alot and helped me narrow done my product list. Thanks

Tonya, Wondeful article and just what I needed! As Diana said before me I will be re-reading and studying to figure out why my easy to maintain and moisturize hair 4a/b hair has become overly porous, thin, damaged and protein reliant and all without the use of heat or relaxers. Thanks for helping me take a big step in becoming knowledgeable in the care of my hair.

Phew!!!!!!! That is going to take some re-reading and studying!!! I"m curious why you didn't include Castor oil?? Thanks for this!!!