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An oil rinse is a hair treatment used primarily on black, or African American, hair. Natural oils like coconut, olive, or almond oil are applied from the root to the ends of the hair shaft after shampooing and before conditioning, left on for several minutes, and then rinsed out. Depending on the texture and degree of dryness of the hair, some choose to leave the oil on the hair overnight while wrapping the head in plastic. Many African Americans have found that using an oil rinse of one or more oils together is effective at smoothing and moisturizing hair and improving hair appearance.
African American and mixed-race hair can be very thick and dry and usually requires special hair-care products. Many people rely on chemicals to relax hair, but a growing number of African American and mixed-race people are wearing their hair naturally, or chemical-free. This creates challenges when managing curly or dry hair.
Although moisturizing conditioners specially formulated for African American hair can help, an oil rinse can be very effective at combating damage from chemical procedures, shampooing, and heat styling. Nearly any type of natural oil can be used, but some of the most popular are grapeseed, olive, and almond oils. Heavier oils like shea butter and coconut oil also work well. Many people experiment with different mixtures of oils to find the right formula for their hair.
The oil rinse is usually applied in the shower after shampooing. Some people do not use shampoo due to the texture of their hair and wash with conditioner only. The oil is applied to the scalp and worked into the ends of the hair.
At this point, the hair can be detangled with the fingers or a wide-toothed comb specially designed for African American hair. The oil rinse will work well if left in for only a few minutes, but some prefer to leave it in overnight. Wrapping the hair in plastic and securing with a towel works well to protect bedclothes from oily residue.
Once the hair is rinsed out, a conditioner will help to remove excess oily residue. Oil-rinsed hair should be left to dry naturally and should not be heat styled. Although an oil rinse is usually used on natural, unrelaxed hair, it can be used on relaxed hair as a moisturizing hair treatment. The only types of oils to avoid are mineral-based oils, which act as a sealant, not a moisturizer.