First, the OMG-you-have-to-try-it DIY was apple cider vinegar for your hair, and now, it’s olive oil for your hair. I’m beginning to think that all the secrets to soft, healthy hair are hiding in my salad dressing—and, honestly, I’m not mad about it. For something I don’t use all the time, hair masks can be unreasonably expensive, so I’m more than happy to make myself a DIY hair treatment at home…that is, as long as it actually works.
If you ask the internet, olive oil works for evvverything from hair growth to thickness. But before I scurry to the kitchen cabinet and drizzle that bottle of EVOO all over my head, I turned to two trichologists and a dermatologist to find out if olive oil actually has any benefits, or if this hair hack is just another Pinterest fail. Keep reading to find out what the experts have to say about the supposed benefits of olive oil as a hair treatment.
Is it good to put olive oil in your hair?
Guess what? There is some truth to all those rumors about olive oil helping to soften hair, minimize frizz, and reduce breakage. According to trichologist and colorist Bridgette Hill with Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa, incorporating olive oil into your haircare regimen can seal moisture into the hair fiber, which helps with elasticity and results in less breakage.
Additionally, Hill says hair oils can penetrate your hair strand and reduce the amount of water your hair absorbs—which, in turn, cuts down on shrinkage and frizz. Trichologist and celebrity stylist Kari Williams says that although most can benefit from using it, thin hair can be easily weighed down by olive oil, so those people should avoid overdoing it.
Now, as for your scalp? That’s where things get a little trickier. “The one caveat I will give you is that olive oil can directly feed the yeast that grows dandruff on your scalp,” board-certified dermatologist Saya Obayan, MD, explains. To be extra safe, Hill advises against applying it to the area at all. However, it can be helpful for dry scalp by restoring lost ceramides and oils, so if you choose to apply olive oil to your roots, Dr. Obayan recommends using it lightly and not dousing the scalp.
Can olive oil make your hair grow faster?
Although the hair benefits are aplenty, olive oil lacks the scientific evidence to support its use as a hair growth oil for faster, longer strands or hair density. So why does everybody talk about olive oil like it’s a magic elixir for growing really long hair? Dr. Obayan points to a study that showed that there is a component of olive oil called oleuropein that can directly impact the growth cycle, but that study was done on mice, and not, ya know, people. And even then, that doesn’t account for how much olive oil, or how frequently you’d need to apply it for it to be effective.
Can cooking olive oil be used for hair?
Hill and Williams are both fans of using the kitchen ingredient, but stress the importance of choosing an unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. Olive oil is an excellent carrier oil, so Hill says it can also be blended with others like castor oil or black seed oil if you really wanna DIY your hair game.
And, if you do, Williams recommends using olive oil as a hot oil or conditioning treatment, applying them once a week if you dye your hair or you have dry, damaged ends. Just warm 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil (depending on the density of your hair), massage it through the length of your hair, and cover it with a plastic cap. Wait at least an hour to let the oil penetrate your hair cuticle (both Williams and Hill recommend leaving it overnight, FWIW, so longer really is better) before rinsing it out.
What type of olive oil is best for hair?
If your scalp health is a concern, Dr. Obayan says to stick with products that are specifically formulated for use on the scalp and hair, since they’ll be much less likely to stimulate dandruff. Dr. Obayan also recommends looking for a product that combines humectants and moisturizers with oils, like Palmer’s Olive Oil Leave-In Conditioner and ORS Olive Oil Style and Curl Smooth-N-Hold Pudding. If you choose to use a pre-made formula, one pro tip from Williams is to look at the order of the ingredients and choose a product that has olive oil listed as one of the first five to ensure that there’s actually a bunch of it.
Can you use olive oil for hair loss?
“We know that olive oil does have a good anti-inflammatory property to it, which can help calm down some of the inflammation on your scalp,” Dr. Obayan explains. So if your hair loss is due to inflammation, olive oil could, theoretically, help to reduce some hair loss. But—BUT!—this is where your doctor or derm comes into play. If you’re experiencing hair loss or scalp inflammation, you could be dealing with a bigger underlying issue, so please go to a professional before you start self-treating with oil.
The final takeaway
All in all, the hair experts say olive oil is pretty safe to try. Keep your expectations realistic (i.e. don’t anticipate mermaid hair overnight), and you might even be impressed with your results. As for me and my fine hair and sometimes flaky scalp? We’ll be sitting this one out for now.
Brooke Shunatona is a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com.