Olive oil is a powerhouse in the kitchen, adding silky richness to a soup, delivering a peppery punch to a pasta, and making salads glisten. On top of the taste, olive oil brings some serious health benefits to your meals.
It doesn’t stop at dietary health though – the benefits of olive oil can also be used for healthier hair.
If you’re looking for luscious hair that’s silky enough to star in a shampoo commercial, you’ll need two key elements: moisture and nutrients. We often deplete our hair of these two elements with hair color, blow dryers, irons, and harsh shampoos. Sun and pollution from the natural environment can also damage hair.
Once our hair is damaged, it can be downhill from there. According to Mind Body Green, damaged hair becomes more porous, which causes it to lose moisture more quickly. This is where olive oil can help. Here’s how to add olive oil to your hair care regime, and why eating more of it (and its nutritious fatty acids) might lead to healthier hair, too.
Topical Olive Oil Benefits For Hair
Olive oil has held cosmetic purposes since the days of the ancients. After centuries of innovation in the cosmetics industry, olive oil is still a beloved ingredient in the world of natural hair.
Why? Oil is an essential element of the LOC method. In the LOC method, you apply products to your curls in this order: leave-in conditioner, oil, and cream. But which oil is best? In this article, we delve into the case for olive oil.
1. Olive oil helps hair retain moisture.
Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, also known as one of the “good fats.” In a 2005 study, researchers looked into the ways hair absorbs oils. They found that certain oils, like mineral oils, are not absorbed into the hair, and sit on top of it instead. Monounsaturated fats, however, can be absorbed by the hair.
As such, olive oil can help hair retain moisture, working as your all natural beauty product hair treatment to easily bring some much needed hydration to that dry scalp. However, as hairstylist Gabrielle Cormey explained to Mind Body Green, only water-based products actually moisturize your hair and fight dryness. “These oils have many hair benefits, but they work best when in conjunction with a water-based hydrating cream.” As with using oils in skincare like the always popular castor oil or jojoba, these work best when they are combined with a moisturizer.
2. Olive oil makes hair feel silky.
When it comes to haircare, an emollient is a substance that forms a silky layer that softens and smooths the surface without leaving a greasy or sticky texture.
As trichologist and founder of Alodia Hair Care Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris told Byrdie, “Olive oil is one of the top emollients because not only is it packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats, it makes for the perfect relief to a dry, itchy scalp.”
3. Olive oil is antibacterial.
Another reason olive oil might be good for the scalp? Olive oil is packed with ingredients that have powerful antibacterial properties. Why does that matter for hair care?
As Dr. Chambers-Harris explains to Byrdie, “olive can also help fight bacterial infections while strengthening the hair, which makes it an ideal addition to a hair mask, deep conditioner, or as a hot oil treatment to boost hydration and soften your coils.”
4. Olive oil is high in vitamins.
As you know, olive oil contains many vitamins that may promote hair growth when consumed, such as vitamin E. Some research shows that vitamins in olive oil also lead to healthy hair when applied topically.
Studies show that vitamin D, in particular, might help fight hair loss. While the research points to the hair-healthy benefits of eating vitamin D, there may be positive effects for topical application, too.
5. Olive oil contains antioxidants.
We know that olive oil contains many antioxidants. But did you know these antioxidants can also help protect the hair?
According to Mind Body Green, damage from free radicals can also affect the hair. “The oxidative stress can actually cause hair to age faster, according to one study.” Applying antioxidants, via something like olive oil, can help neutralize those free radicals.
6. It may prevent breakage when wet.
Olive oil can also help prevent breakage and even split ends. How? As it turns out, our hair (and hair shafts) are at their most vulnerable when it’s wet. As this is also when we add chemicals in the form of shampoo and conditioner, and then scrub, which causes friction, the hair has many opportunities to break. This friction affects the cuticles, making splintering more likely.
To combat this phenomenon, those with curly hair can try applying olive oil prior to washing for extra moisturizing power.
Side Effects of Olive Oil on Hair
When researching the benefits of olive oil for hair, you might come across some conflicting stories. This is to be expected – everyone’s hair is different.
Here are a few side effects some users report.
- Some users report that oils cause build-up on the scalp and hair, making the scalp more irritated.
- In more extreme cases, some say that olive oil can cause dandruff. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe told Mind Body Green, “Dandruff is caused by a yeast on our scalp, and if you use olive oil, you are feeding that yeast, which might make dandruff worse.” That said, she has no qualms about using olive oil on the ends of the hair.
- People with naturally oily hair may want to proceed with caution. Using too much olive oil may weigh down curls.
The takeaway? It’s best not to overdo it. To avoid unwanted side effects, apply olive oil minimally when you first begin. You can add more over time until you find the perfect balance for you.
How to Apply Olive Oil to Hair
- If you’re a follower of the LOC method, you already know the drill: leave-in conditioner, olive oil, then cream. As mentioned above, the olive oil will help lock in the moisture from the leave-in conditioner.
- Start applying your products and massaging them in right after showering, when your hair is still wet.
- Keep it light. You don’t need to apply too much olive oil to experience the benefits. Too much olive oil might weigh down your hair.
Who Should Use Olive Oil For Hair?
Olive oil is a great choice for those with very dry hair and/or kinky and curly hair textures. These hair types are more porous, which means they lose moisture more easily.
Additionally, due to the shape of curly hair, there are many more points at which it’s easy to break. That means it needs extra moisture, especially when washing and detangling.
What Kind of Olive Oil Should Be Used for Hair?
While any olive oil will deliver a boost of moisture to the hair, those looking for the most concentrated dose of vitamins and nutrients should stick to extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).
As Dr. Chambers-Harris suggests, “I would recommend going for an organic, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) that's unrefined and not treated with any chemicals or heat—it's the highest-quality available, and much healthier for your hair.”
Looking for a place to start? Try the Frantoio Di Santa Tea Evoo Green Olives Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Hair Products Made With Olive Oil
Would you rather keep the good stuff in the kitchen? We don’t blame you.
Here are a few hair products made with olive oil that come recommended by customers and experts.
- Dr. Chambers-Harris recommends African Pride Olive Miracle Growth Oil. “[It's] infused with a signature blend of olive and tea tree oils, [and] it is versatile in usage and good for all hair textures and types,” she told Byrdie.
- Popsugar recommends the Fekkai Brilliant Gloss Conditioner, a nutrient-rich conditioner made with French olive oil and designed for thick, curly hair.
- Another recommendation from Popsugar is the Eco Style Professional Olive Oil Styling Gel. A mainstay for many naturals, it moisturizes while keeping hair in place.
Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet For Hair
Eating olive oil brings many health benefits, and one of them might be for hair.
Olive oil is packed with health-promoting monounsaturated fats and nutrients that may help with all sorts of ailments from improving brain function to cancer prevention. Research shows that these benefits might extend to healthier hair.
While olive oil on its own delivers vitamins and nutrients, you’ll see better results if you eat olive oil as part of a larger healthy diet. The diet that consistently tops the U.S. News & World Report's list of best diets is the Mediterranean diet.
Based on the eating patterns of those who live in countries like Greece, Italy, and Croatia, the diet features vegetables, fruits, fish, and, of course, olive oil.
Results of a 2018 study suggested that a diet high in raw vegetables and fresh herbs, such as the Mediterranean diet, may reduce the risk of female and male pattern baldness. While these findings were not tied back to olive oil in particular, olive oil factors heavily in the diet (and makes those raw veggies and herbs far more delectable).
So, whether your olive oil helps your hair directly or indirectly, we hope you enjoy the benefits of this truly multifunctional oil!