One of the greatest advantages of carrier oils is that you can use them for blending with essential oils, boosting another product, or on their own. That versatility makes these fatty-acid based liquids ideal for crafting DIY beauty products, including at-home hair treatments. When it comes to choosing the best carrier oils for hair, they should all be 100% pure, cold-pressed, and organic if possible. Beyond that, you'll want to go for the one that's best suited to your own unique hair care needs (color protection, soothing a dry scalp, adding shine).
First, a quick disclaimer: Just like essential oils and aromatherapy, the world of carrier oils is vast, so you should always do a patch test (inside your elbow is a good spot) to ensure you won't have a negative reaction on your skin or scalp. Also, if you plan to make your own concoctions using essential oils, be aware that some are not safe for skin, even when diluted with a carrier oil (here's a helpful guide to skin-safe essential oils).
Whenever possible, choose carrier oils that have been cold-pressed, as this form of processing ensures the liquid stays pure and the nutrients and therapeutic benefits remain intact. And even though they're all technically "oils," they have different consistencies and benefits, so for best results, try to tailor your pick to fit your needs. Grapeseed oil, for example, is a little more lightweight and slippery, making it ideal for fine hair. Coconut oil, on the other hand, will give a much heavier dose of moisture to dry and/or damaged hair.
To get you started, you'll find six of the best carrier oils for various hair types and concerns, rounded up ahead.
1. Argan Oil: The Best For All Hair Types
Derived from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree, argan oil is rich in antioxidants, like vitamin E, and because this one is cold-pressed, it retains more of those hair-loving nutrients through the extraction process. It's also full of moisturizing oleic and linoleic fatty acids, which will help protect hair from damage from hot styling tools and UV rays. Because it's a relatively light oil with smaller molecular makeup that is still able to penetrate deep into the hair shaft, it's also a great conditioning treatment for both fine and thick hair. According to studies, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help with soothing dry scalps and reducing the appearance and effects of psoriasis and dermatitis. This argan oil is USDA-certified organic and comes with a pump for easy dispensing.
One reviewer's take: “Pura d'or is the best oil I've used for my hair. I love that it absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy feel and when my hair dries, it doesn't weigh it down. I'm planning to also use as a carrier oil by adding a few drops of peppermint oil. It's definitely with the money. I'm a pure d'or user for life!”
2. Pumpkin Seed Oil: The Best For Stimulating Hair Growth
While there's been quite a bit of buzz around castor oil and its alleged abilities to help stimulate hair growth, it can be a potential irritant and feel unpleasantly sticky on the scalp. Pumpkin seed oil, on the other hand, is chock full of many of the same hair-softening properties (a mixture of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and minerals), but it has studies to back up claims that it can have a positive effect on hair growth. In addition, Amazon reviewers report that this particular pumpkin seed oils absorbs well, feels comfortable, and smells great. The bottle, which comes with a handy dropper, contains 100% cold-pressed and USDA-organic pumpkin seed oil that's free of fragrance, alcohol, and preservatives.
One reviewer's take: “This is hands down the BEST oil for afro-natural hair. I add this to every other hair cream, pudding, leave-in, etc that I own. Additionally, I use this by applying directly to my hair if I have any problems with drying. I use a lot [of] EOs in my skin/health/hair routine and this is the best for softening and conditioning my dry and sometimes-coarse type 4C hair."
3. Moringa Oil: The Best For Extending The Life Of Your Color
This moringa oil is rich in vitamins C and E, which help fight free radicals that can cause hair to weaken and lose its color. Though it has a lot of similarities to olive oil, moringa oil is completely colorless and won't tint processed hair. It's also high in moisturizing oleic acid and keratin-boosting zinc, which are great for strengthening and conditioning hair. On top of that, it's naturally antimicrobial, which means it may help fight inflammation on your scalp (in the form of eczema, psoriasis, or dandruff), and you can use it on cuts and scrapes, too. This SVA Organics oil is cold-pressed, USDA certified organic, and hexane- and alcohol-free.
One reviewer's take: “I read a few reviews before I decided to buy this item for my hair. I have very thick hair plus dry scalp. The very first time I used it I was surprised to see the difference in my hair. My hair feels much softer and is now frizz free. I also noticed a significant reduction in my dry scalp. This is now my new 'go to' oil.”
4. Grapeseed Oil: The Best For Fine Hair
One of the most lightweight (but moisturizing) carrier oils available, grapeseed oil is an excellent choice for people with fine or thin hair. It's also very absorbent, and this Sky Organics cold-pressed formula is fragrance-, hexane-, and preservative-free. The bottle comes with a cap and a pump for dispensing, which gives you more control if you're mixing oils in a separate bottle. The popular pick has more than 500 five-star reviews on Amazon, with many touting its ability to soften hair. One person also provided this handy tip: Put a tiny bit of grapeseed oil into your hands and run through dry ends to revive them between washes.
One reviewer's take: "Wonderful product that I first began using on my hair. It is so lightweight and absorbs quickly leaving my hair very soft and moisturized. I have also begun using on my face as it is so lightweight and smooth.”
5. Jojoba Oil: The Best For Soothing Dry Scalps
What makes jojoba oil great for dry, flaky, itchy scalps is its antibacterial properties, which can help calm inflammation. Apart from being super soothing, it's also moisturizing, and because it's actually a wax ester, it's less heavy than most traditional oils, which means it won't weigh down hair, making it another great option for fine hair and anyone who wants to smooth frizz but still have bounce. This Leven Rose oil is cold-pressed and unrefined, and the amber-colored bottle and glass dropper will help extend its shelf life and keep out contaminants. This pick is also incredibly popular among Amazon fans who have given it a 4.7-star rating across more than 13,570 reviews. Besides using it as a hair treatment, many people also mention applying it on their body and cuticles in place of moisturizer/cuticle oil.
One reviewer's take: "I use this product after I get out of the shower. I put 4-7 drops in my hand then use it scrunch the underneath part of my hair. I have naturally curly hair and the underneath part can get really frizzy. So far I've been pleased! It's a part of my nightly routine and I definitely recommend it!"
6. Coconut Oil: The Best For Strengthening Hair & Infusing Shine
When it comes to choosing coconut oil for your hair, you'll want one that's fractionated, like this one from Pura D'Or, which is 100% pure and certified organic. Unlike the solid kind in a jar that you've likely used for cooking, fractionated means it always remains in a liquid form, no matter how cold your space gets. That lightweight texture and the natural lauric acid help the coconut oil absorb deep into the hair shaft to provide nourishment and deliver moisturizing fatty acids. According to studies, it may also help prevent protein loss in hair, thus further protecting it from damage from things like hot tools. Reviewers boast about its ability to leave hair shiny and reduce frizz, as well. The pump bottle design will also make it extra easy to distribute the exact amount you want into your hands or a glass jar for mixing. More than 1,755 Amazon shoppers have given it a perfect five-star rating because it has such a low price for such a high-quality product.
One reviewer's take: "I used this product as a recommendation from my hairstylist. I mix it with argan oil in my hand and rub into my scalp at night and then brush it through to my ends twice a week. Has made a HUGE difference! My hair looks and feels healthy, plus it actually is growing faster than ever!"
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Rele, A. S., & Mohile, R. B. (2003). Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of cosmetic science, 54(2), 175–192.
Cho, Y. H., Lee, S. Y., Jeong, D. W., Choi, E. J., Kim, Y. J., Lee, J. G., Yi, Y. H., & Cha, H. S. (2014). Effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2014, 549721. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/549721