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How to Use Essential Oils in Hair Care: Your Comprehensive Guide

The latest trend in the world of personal wellness is hair care routines influenced by skin care. It entails incorporating skin care ingredients into hair care regimens, such as adding essential oils to shampoo and conditioner. The trend acknowledges the importance of hair care, which is often overlooked when it comes to personal grooming. 

Many hair care regimens recommended online tend to involve multiple steps and require putting in substantial time. However, incorporating essential oils into hair products is a convenient, yet effective way of sprucing up your hair care regimen. Many essential oils and carrier oils are proven through research to improve scalp health, and help grow thicker and healthier hair.

Unfortunately, it can be confusing to figure out which essential oils to use and how to use them in your hair care regimen. Luckily, we’re here to make it simple.

Benefits of Using Essential Oils for Hair Health

essential oil added to dark hair

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that contain the aroma and therapeutic effects of the plant they are derived from. The oils are generally extracted through cold-pressing or steam distillation, methods that yield pure plant oils without any synthetic chemicals. Using essential oils for hair care has several benefits. 

Firstly, essential oils are versatile and can be used in multiple ways. You can simply add them to your hair care products or create your own essential oil blend to customize the therapeutic effects. Additionally, they can be used in both leave-in and rinse-out products, giving you the flexibility to use them however desired. 

Moreover, essential oils have been widely researched in scientific studies and are proven to help improve hair health. Many studies conducted involve testing on human participants, indicating the dosage of the essential oil required and its healing potential. This means that they can safely be used alongside over-the-counter products for hair care. Studies have proven the efficacy of essential oils for issues such as hair loss, hair thinning, hair graying, dullness, dandruff, and scalp infections. 

Above all, a hair routine using essential oils is highly customizable and can be tailored to your liking. If you enjoy elaborate, multi-step routines, then you can use multiple essential oils and add them to different products and blends. If you find that you cannot commit to a detailed hair care ritual, just adding essential oils to your everyday products can improve your hair health greatly.

Using Essential Oils Vs. Carrier Oils for Hair

When you browse the internet in search of the perfect essential oil for your hair health woes, you will find both essential oils and carrier oils. Before using them on your scalp and hair, it is necessary to understand the difference between the two in terms of their properties and usage.

Essential oils are aromatic plant compounds that have a strong scent and potent potentially curative properties. Due to how concentrated they are, essential oils should not directly be applied to the skin and should always be used in small amounts. Essential oils have a thin to viscous consistency and are not oily to the touch. When applied topically, essential oils are absorbed well and are quickly metabolized, often yielding therapeutic benefits.

On the other hand, carrier oils are lipids that are mostly extracted from the nuts and seeds of plants. Carrier oils have a much subtler scent and are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Compared with essential oils, carrier oils do not easily absorb into the skin and can be used on their own. 

Carrier oils and essential oils work best when mixed together, yielding a synergistic effect. This is because essential oils are potent and need to be diluted before being used for aromatherapy or in topical applications. Carrier oils serve as the perfect vessel for dilution as they complement and amplify the therapeutic effects of essential oils. 

Best Essential Oils for Long, Healthy, and Shiny Hair

Essential oils have been heavily researched as part of studies, trials, and reviews. As a result, there is a defined list of essential oils that have been identified for their great effects on hair and scalp health. The following sections discuss the best essential oils that can be used by all hair types and their properties. 

Rosemary Essential Oil

This essential oil has been studied quite extensively for its benefits for hair thickening and growth. Rosemary essential oil is derived from the leaves of the Salvia rosemarinus plant through steam distillation. The essential oil has a thin consistency and a bright, herbal scent with a hint of sweetness. 

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology confirmed the efficacy of rosemary essential oil in promoting hair growth. The study focused on the treatment of alopecia, a genetic condition that causes hair fall as a result of hormonal imbalance. The research found that rosemary essential oil worked through the mechanism of suppressing DHT, a hormone that thins hair and causes it to fall out. The application of rosemary essential oil was shown to inhibit the production of DHT and restore hair growth. 

Rosemary essential oil is also proven to be just as effective as the popular hair fall treatment minoxidil. Multiple studies have been conducted to confirm this, including human research trials. Research also suggests that using rosemary essential oil may be better than minoxidil as the essential oil did not cause any irritation or side effects. 

Hence, rosemary essential oil can be used to strengthen the hair follicle, potentially improve alopecia symptoms, and promote hair growth.

Cedarwood Essential Oil

Cedarwood essential oil has several benefits when applied topically to the hair and scalp. It is derived from the wood of Cedrus deodara, a species of trees native to the Himalayas. Cedarwood essential oil appears light in color and has a balsamic, woody scent.


The oil largely constitutes ‘cedrol,’ a compound that is reported to increase hair growth activity. Research published in 2016 shows that cedrol was more effective in increasing hair growth when compared to 2% minoxidil. The use of cedrol not only promoted hair growth but also increased the length of the hair follicle, improving the hair growth cycle. 

Additionally, cedarwood essential oil has been tested for its hair growth properties in a 1998 clinical trial. Results were demonstrated through a photographic assessment of the subject’s hair. It was found that cedarwood essential oil yields better results in comparison with carrier oils in stimulating hair growth. 

Due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties, cedarwood essential oil is also beneficial for scalp health. It can improve symptoms of conditions such as scalp acne, dandruff, and scalp eczema.

You can use cedarwood essential oil to enhance hair growth while also maintaining a healthy scalp. 

Peppermint Essential Oil

This essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and flowers of the Mentha arvensis plant. Peppermint essential oil has a light texture and smells refreshingly minty. It consists of menthol, menthone, and cineol. These chemical compounds have cooling and vasodilating effects on the hair follicles, stimulating hair growth. 

A study conducted in 2014 found that topical application of peppermint essential oil increased the thickness and length of the hair follicles. Researchers compared peppermint essential oil to minoxidil and confirmed that the former had similar benefits without unwanted effects such as irritation or inflammation. 

It was found that peppermint essential oil works by enhancing the synthesis of alkaline phosphatase, a substance that plays a key role in the regulation of hair growth. It also increases the expression of IGF-1, an important gene that controls the growth and survival of hair cells. It is important to note that these changes in the hair growth bio-markers were observed over a 4 week period, signifying the importance of consistent use.

Incorporate peppermint essential oil into your hair care routine to stimulate hair follicles and hair growth. As evidenced by research, consistent use over a period of at least a month is vital for experiencing any visible results. 

Lavender Essential Oil

Among other applications, lavender essential oil is great to use for maintaining thick, healthy tresses. It is derived from the flowers of the Lavandula hybrida plant and has a floral, woodsy scent with powdery notes. Lavender essential oil has several benefits for hair, including promoting hair growth, cleansing the scalp, and treating head lice. 

In a study published in the Journal of Toxicological Research, lavender essential oil was applied topically, once per day for 4 weeks. At the end of the study, significant hair growth was seen in the subjects, confirming lavender essential oil’s role as an effective hair growth agent. 

In addition to this, lavender essential oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. This makes it excellent for calming and cleansing the scalp, reducing irritation and potentially improving issues such as dandruff and scalp eczema. 

To use lavender essential oil for hair care, mix it with a carrier oil or add it to your hair care products. Lavender is safe to use topically when diluted and generally does not exhibit adverse effects. 

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea tree essential oil is effective for addressing scalp concerns and for conditioning hair. It is steam-distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant and consists mainly of terpenes and terpenoids. These plant compounds are commonly used in cosmeceutical products intended for enhancing hair and scalp health. 

Scientific research has not directly investigated the role of tea tree essential oil in hair growth and stimulating hair follicles. However, studies have shown its effectiveness in treating scalp issues, which may, in turn, help hair growth. 

A randomized study conducted in 2002 showed that tea tree oil can effectively be used to improve dandruff on the scalp. Tea tree oil was used by subjects in the study every day for 4 weeks. At the end of the trial, subjects reported a significant decrease in the itchiness and flakiness of the scalp without any adverse reactions.

Due to its conditioning properties, tea tree essential oil can also be used to reduce greasiness in the scalp. If you have an oily scalp that requires frequent washing , mixing a few drops of tea tree essential oil in your hair products may control sebum. 

Best Carrier Oils for Hair Health

Carrier oils are extensively used in hair care for their conditioning and nourishing effects. These effects can be strengthened if carrier oils are used in conjunction with essential oils. Hence, if you plan on incorporating essential oils into your hair routine, it is important to have carrier oils on hand for their dilution. The following list curates the most helpful carrier oils to use for hair care. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is used most popularly in hair care, found in all sorts of formulations such as shampoos, hair masks, hair conditioners, and hair oil blends. It comprises fatty acids including capric acid, lauric acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid. These constituents give the oil a chemical structure that allows it to be easily absorbed into the hair follicle. 

Coconut oil has several benefits for hair health, including moisturizing hair, hydrating hair, and preventing hair breakage and hair loss. A 12-week-long study conducted in 2021 tested the effects of regularly applying coconut oil on hair and scalp health. Results demonstrated that coconut oil reduced dryness, dandruff, and chances of fungal infections on the scalp. 

To use, blend coconut oil with a few drops of any essential oil of your choice, such as rosemary essential oil. When beginning to incorporate coconut oil into your hair care, start with a small amount as coconut oil may weigh down your hair or clog your scalp. To remove coconut oil from your hair, you may need to wash your hair twice with a gentle shampoo. 

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is an incredibly moisturizing carrier oil that is derived from the seeds of the Simmondsia chinensis plant. Jojoba oil is chemically classified as a wax ester; however, this does not take away from its application as a hair oil. The chemical structure of jojoba oil prevents it from penetrating the hair shaft, a property that yields many benefits. 

Since jojoba oil does not permeate the hair shaft, it sits on top of the scalp sealing in any moisture. It is a light oil that mimics the sebum secreted by our skin, making it suitable for both heavy and fine hair types. Unlike coconut oil, it does not weigh down hair supporting its use as a scalp moisturizer. In fact, a 2013 review on the cosmetic and therapeutic applications of jojoba oil found that it had the potential to soften and hydrate hair and scalp for up to 24 hours.

You can use jojoba oil as a hair moisturizer, applying it to your hair on its own, or mixing it with essential oils. It can also be applied as a mask to hydrate and restore dry hair. 

Argan Oil

Rightly referred to as ‘liquid gold’ in the world of hair care and styling, argan oil is a versatile carrier oil that has many applications in hair care. It is obtained from the kernels of the argan fruit and consists largely of oleic and linoleic acid. Additionally, argan oil is also rich in vitamin E, a nutrient that reduces hair cell damage.

Argan oil can be used to reduce mechanical and chemical hair damage as a result of lifestyle and environmental factors. The fatty acids that the oil contains have a protective effect on the tresses, reducing breakage and formation of split ends. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetics found that using argan oil before hair dye treatment significantly reduced hair damage. 

Another advantage of using argan oil is that it protects hair from damage caused by UV exposure. Sun damage can dry hair the hair strands and even cause graying. Antioxidant properties in the oil can help reverse some of the effects of UV exposure and even prevent further harm. A 2013 study provides scientific evidence for argan oil’s sun-protecting properties. 

When applying argan oil, apply it away from the scalp as it can be a bit heavy for oilier hair. Used as a mask, leave-in conditioner, or styling product, argan oil strengthens hair, protects it from damage, and provides nourishment. To enhance these effects, you can combine argan oil with essential oils of your choosing.

Castor Oil

Anecdotally, castor oil is lauded for its ability to strengthen hair follicles and enhance hair growth. It consists of fatty acids and other biologically active compounds including phenolics, tocopherols, and phytosterols. 

While scientific research has not provided evidence for the potential of castor oil for hair growth, it can create a healthy scalp environment that may stimulate hair growth. Castor oil has important nutrients that can nourish the hair and scalp and provide moisture. A 2022 study shows that castor oil may be used to increase shine and luster in hair.

Since castor oil is dense and can be sticky, it can help to combine it with other oils before use, such as jojoba oil or tea tree essential oil. 

How to Use Essential Oils for Hair Care

With hair care products becoming popular, it is a great time to venture into using essential oils for hair care. They are natural compounds that can be incorporated into your hair products or can be used to DIY your own hair treatments. The advantage of introducing essential oils into hair care is that they have no long-term side effects and are scientifically proven to work. 

There are several ways you can use essential oils to tackle all sorts of hair issues. The simplest approach is to mix essential oils into your shampoo, conditioner, or leave-in products. For a standard 16-ounce bottle of product, you can add about 40-50 drops of essential oils. Combine the oil with the product thoroughly and use as you normally do. 

Another way to use essential oils is to blend them into a pre-wash hair oil. Pre-washes are meant to provide moisture to the hair and scalp before washing so that it stays hydrated. If you already have a pre-wash oil product, add your chosen essential oils to it. Alternatively, you can combine essential oils with any carrier oil and apply as a pre-wash.

Essential oils can also be used in hair masking. Hair masks are versatile and are much-needed solutions for all sorts of issues from hair fall to dry hair. Essential oils can improve the efficacy of hair masks and deliver enhanced nourishment. 

Another use for essential oils is using them as a heat protectant. Heat protectant sprays are applied to the hair before styling to shield the hair from thermal damage. Regular heat protectant sprays use silicones to coat the hair. By switching to an essential oil heat protectant spray, not only can you style your hair without damaging it, but you can also condition and hydrate it. 

Essential Oil Recipes for Hair and Scalp

Blending essential oils and carrier oils together can significantly increase their effectiveness. These recipes combine essential oils to synergistically tackle various hair concerns such as dull hair, thinning, hair fall, and dandruff. 

Essential Oil Hairspray for Shiny Hair

This hair recipe calls for 4 simple ingredients: lavender essential oil, rosemary essential oil, glycerin, and distilled. Combine ¼ cup of glycerin with an equal amount of water and mix well. Blend in 3 drops each of lavender essential oil and rosemary essential oil into the mixture and stir again until combined well. 

Glycerin works to add shine and moisture to the hair, while the essential oils strengthen the tresses while adding luster.

The hair spray can be used for all hair types but will work best on dry hair. Simply spritz it on slightly damp hair and brush through the strands to spread evenly. 

Essential Oil Mask for Hair Thickness and Growth

This essential oil mask combines high-impact essential oils to deliver the best results. To make, mix 2 tablespoons each of argan oil and jojoba oil. Into this blend, add 3 drops of rosemary essential oil and 3 drops of cedarwood essential oil. Once blended together, apply on slightly damp hair. 

This mask consists of nourishing and conditioning carrier oils, providing the hair and scalp with a healthy environment for hair growth. The essential oils included in the recipe are scientifically supported as hair growth promoters, known to be as effective as minoxidil. 

The key to ensuring optimal results is using the mask consistently. Use once every day for at least four weeks for noticeable hair growth effects. 

Essential Oil Treatment for Cleansing Scalp and Hair

Scalp issues such as eczema and dandruff are a result of natural buildup and imbalances in the scalp microbiome. This hair mask consists of ingredients that gently cleanse the scalp of any buildup while also delivering antifungal and antibacterial effects. 

Start preparing by slightly warming 4 tablespoons of coconut oil in a heat-safe bowl. In the warm coconut oil, incorporate 3 drops of tea tree essential oil and 3 drops of peppermint essential oil. Combine the oils together and apply in a thin layer to your hair and scalp, leaving it on for about 30 minutes. Ensure that you wash the coconut oil properly from your scalp and hair to avoid irritation.

The mask treatment can be used 2 to 3 times a week, depending on how oily your scalp is. If you experience excessive sebum production, start by using only once a week and adjust according to your comfort. 

Tips for Safely Using Essential Oils for Hair Care 

While introducing essential oils in hair care has many merits, it is important to research the specifics of each essential oil or carrier oil you intend to use. This is because certain essential oils or carrier oils may have specific recommendations that must be followed to ensure a positive experience.

A general rule that applies to the application of all oils is to patch test before use. Some oils may cause allergic reactions in certain individuals, or irritate the scalp. Additionally, make sure to follow methods that suit your hair type. For example, if you have fine hair with heightened sebum production, avoid using heavy oils too often as they can weigh the hair down. 

With essential oils, it is important to dilute before use as they are highly potent and may cause burns when applied directly. To ensure precise and measured dilution, use a dropper when adding essential oils to mixtures or blends. For blends consisting of multiple applications, shake the product each time before use so that the essential oil can be distributed evenly. 

Final Words on How to Use Essential Oils in Hair Care

essential oils applied to curly hair

Introducing essential oils in your hair routine is a highly customizable and natural way to enhance the quality and health of your hair. It can also be a fun experience as you combine different blends and create recipes to suit your hair. 

To ensure the best experience, use pure, high-quality essential oils that have been certified. Essential oils with synthetic additives or dubious sourcing may not be as effective. 

If you intend to use essential oils to address a medical concern such as alopecia, always consult your health practitioner prior. 

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