What Olive Oil Can Do For Your Hair Health

Many of us unknowingly subject our hair to a lot of damage every day, from chemical treatments to sun exposure. Even detangling hair can cause split ends and breakage. While keratin treatments can reduce frizz and improve the appearance of hair, they often require the use of more chemicals, which can have harmful side effects (via Healthline). So, what other options do we have?

For those who prefer natural remedies, the kitchen pantry can provide some possibilities. Many people use coconut oil to moisturize their hair, but olive oil is also a great choice. However, there are some caveats to keep in mind before reaching for the EVOO bottle. First, applying olive oil directly to the scalp can exacerbate or cause dandruff. "Olive oil can potentially encourage the growth of yeast that lives on the scalp, so it is best to avoid applying directly to the scalp, especially if you're dealing with seborrheic dermatitis," dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick told Marie Claire. "If you are acne-prone, it is best to avoid a leave-in product which can contribute to worsening breakouts if the oil comes into contact with the skin on the forehead or back. This can contribute to clogged pores and breakouts."

While you'll want to skip the scalp massage, olive oil still has many potential benefits if you want a natural treatment for your hair ends.

Olive oil masks may hydrate dry hair

Just like your face, your hair needs to be a part of your self-care routine. If your hair looks dull and lifeless, weekly conditioning treatments can help. Olive oil, with its omega-3 fatty acids, may lock in moisture and prevent hair from drying out. While the topic needs more scientific study, the emollients oleic acid and squalene in olive oil also show promising hydrating effects for hair and skin, according to Insider. "Olive oil is rich in fatty acids and antioxidants ... The hair itself is composed of dead keratin, so the olive oil helps coat the hair and create softness and shine," dermatologist Dr. Audrey Kunin shared with Women's Health.

You can apply olive oil directly to your hair and leave it on for 30 minutes before washing it off, or make a DIY hair mask at home. It's best to use high-quality extra virgin olive oil that hasn't been heated or processed. A variety of food items work well with olive oil as a hair mask, so feel free to experiment. To get started, simply mix two tablespoons of EVOO with half an avocado, a cup of yogurt, or a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice or honey. Apply the mixture to the ends of your hair and cover your head with a shower cap. Leave the mask on for at least 15 minutes before washing it off. You may need to shampoo twice to remove the oil, but your hair should be left smoother and sleeker.

Olive oil may be most beneficial for conditioning thick or curly hair

Olive oil is known for its great moisturizing properties. However, if you have fine or thin hair, it's best to avoid applying the product to your strands. Dermatologist Dr. Anar Mikailov explained to Shape, "Those with thinner hair may find olive oil to feel heavy and weigh their hair down. It's better for dry, thick, or coarse hair." While there are products that contain olive oil, if you want to apply EVOO directly to your hair, Dr. Mikailov advised only using it to the ends, echoing the words of Dr. Garshick. "Since fungus really thrives in olive oil, it's not recommended for any scalp-related use such as shampoos, pre-wash scalp oils, or leave-on scalp products," he added.

Olive oil can penetrate the hair shaft instead of just laying on top of the surface, making it an ideal moisturizer (per Naturally Curly.) If you want to give your thick or curly strands an extra boost of hydration, mix ¼ cup of olive oil with ½ of your daily conditioner and apply it to dry hair, being careful not to get too close to your roots. Work the mixture into sections of your hair and leave it in for 15 minutes before rinsing it off thoroughly with warm water.

Olive oil could protect your hair from environmental stressors

According to Dr. Mikailov (via Shape), "Olive oil is rich in fatty acids [such as] oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid, as well as lipids and antioxidants." The oil also contains squalene (per Insider). Along with the antioxidants, squalene helps counter damage from free radicals produced by our body in response to stressors in the environment, as stated by Healthline. Our bodies naturally produce squalene, but the amount decreases after the age of 30. Using olive oil on the hair may help replenish the loss and prevent further damage from environmental stressors.

Olive oil also contains vitamins E and K, which are antioxidants that may help protect hair from oxidative stress, a condition that can result in the breakdown of cells and tissue (per WebMD), similar to oleic acid. Along with squalene, these vitamins could help reduce free radicals that can cause stress and hair fallout. According to a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Trichology, oxidative stress can lead to alopecia or make your hair age faster. If you have thinning hair, applying olive oil to your strands may help prevent breakage, which happens when you tug your hair while brushing or blowdrying.

Olive oil can be used as a leave-in conditioner

If your hair is feeling thirsty and you need a leave-in conditioner, olive oil works great in a pinch. It's all-natural, contains no other ingredients, and has little odor. Apply extra-virgin olive oil to damp hair to lock in moisture and keep your hair hydrated all day. This is especially important during drier months when your hair tends to be brittle. The oil will also prevent flyaways and static electricity, which many of us experience during the winter months. If your hair is already dry, apply olive oil to your ends. "Olive oil can add shine and luster to the hair ... A few droplets on the palms rubbed together can help to tame flyaways and add overall shine," dermatologist Dr. Kaveri Karhade shared with Mane Addicts.

As a reminder, you should not apply olive oil too close to your scalp, or it may look greasy and potentially cause dandruff. If you're prone to acne, avoid using EVOO as a leave-in conditioner, as it can cause breakouts along the hairline, chest, back, or neck area. Also, note that you should not heat-style your hair after applying extra virgin olive oil, which has a smoke point of 350 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. You don't want to burn the oil with your curling or flat iron. You want your hair to look smoking hot, but not in the literal sense!