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25 March 2023 / Laura Garvin Gomez

Is Olive Oil Good for Hair and What does it Do?

Exploring the benefits of using olive oil for hair and whether it truly lives up to its reputation as a miracle oil.

Glass jug of olive oil with black olives in it

At times it can feel like a never-ending battle when it comes to finding the right products for our hair, whether it’s for styling, cleaning or maintaining its condition.

But perhaps taking a more natural approach could help, with olive being one of the most commonly used by people all around the world to add shine, body and softness.

Here we look at whether olive oil is good for hair and explain its potential benefits, how to apply it and how to make the most out of this wonderful liquid fat.

Is olive oil good for hair?

Scientific research into the benefits of olive for hair is ongoing, but it has been used through the ages by millions of people who find that it:

1. Can moisturise their hair

Olive oil is rich in squalene, an emollient used in a wide range of skincare products. It also has high levels of oleic acid that can help to soften and moisturise skin and hair. Once applied to your hair, it is thought that it penetrates the shaft to restore moisture, which effectively moisturises it at the same time.

2. May prevent split ends

Your hair may be strengthened through the long-term use of olive oil, helping to make it more elastic and less prone to breakage and split ends. If you already have split ends, using olive oil won’t be enough to repair the hair, as only a hairdresser will be able to restore your hair.

3. Could help your hair grow

Whilst studies have been carried out that found one of its components, oleuropein, affects the hair growth cycle in mice, there is still some doubt in scientific circles about whether olive oil can help your hair grow. That being said, olive oil does contain vitamin E, which is known for smoothing hair and reducing frizz, which can make hair seem fuller.

How to use olive oil for hair

Follow the steps below to apply olive oil directly to your hair:

  1. Measure the oil: Use no more than a tablespoon of olive oil if you want to moisturise your split hands (remember, it won’t be able to repair them). A ¼ cup of olive oil should be just the right amount for your entire head, although add it slowly to ensure not too much is applied. If you want to boost this hair mask even more, you could also add a few drops of rosemary oil to the mixture.
  2. Massage into your hair: Ensure your hair is dry (as water and oil do not mix well) and massage the oil with your fingertips for a few minutes. Use a shower cap to cover your hair (for about 15 minutes), as this will let the oil slowly penetrate into the follicles.
  3. Comb your hair: Before rinsing out the olive oil, use a fine-toothed comb to gently brush your hair, this will help to untangle any knots and curls and help to evenly distribute the oil.
  4. Shampoo your hair: It’s a good idea to wash your hair twice to ensure you fully rinse out the olive oil, otherwise, it could leave your hair looking greasy and limp. If you typically use a conditioner, don’t worry, as olive oil acts as a conditioning treatment of its own.

You won’t need to use olive oil in your hair every day of the week. Applying it once or twice a week should be enough to start seeing some results. And could always rub a drop or two into your hands as you are getting ready and use it to control any flyaways.

Olives growing on an olive tree with the sum beaming behind the branch

Are there any risks in using olive oil for hair?

Using olive oil for your hair is generally considered to be fine, although it can depend on your hair type. For example, if you have curly, thick and coarse hair that is more likely to dry out, then olive oil could prove helpful. On the other hand, if your hair is straight or fine, applying olive oil could make it feel limp and greasy.

If you have dandruff, experts also advise that you avoid using olive oil in your hair, as it could promote the growth of yeast in the scalp, which would lead to more dandruff developing.

Anyone that uses colour dyes to lighten their hair should probably look for an alternative to olive oil. This is because bleaching opens up the hair cuticle, which makes it more porous, so it absorbs a lot more of the oil.

The golden tone of olive oil can also affect the colour of dyed hair. If olive oil is repeatedly added to your hair it could lighten the hair dye over time as your hair is likely to adapt to the colour combination.

What type of olive oil should I use for my hair?

Any kind of olive oil should be fine to use on your hair. But the quality of the olive oil can make a difference, so it is a good idea to use an organic variant such as extra virgin olive oil. This type of olive oil is usually free from additional chemicals and additives. Another option could be to make a shampoo, conditioner or hair mask that is infused with olive oil.

Illustration of an olive branch

When used in the right way, olive oil could help to nourish and restore hair vitality. However, it is generally suited to curly, thicker hair types, especially when it comes applying to a whole head of hair.

Anyone with straight fine hair should only use olive oil lightly or for managing kinks or fly-aways. Another note of caution to heed is for people with colour-treated hair, as it can lighten the dye and cause your hair to yellow over time.

But as long as you use olive oil with care, your hair should be able to reap the benefits.

Explore other carrier oils for hair health and hair growth or learn about rosemary oil for hair.

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