Beauty
Fact-checked

At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is an Oil Rinse?

Jennifer Voight
Jennifer Voight

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.

Grapeseed oil, which can be used for an oil rinse.
Grapeseed oil, which can be used for an oil rinse.

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.

A heavier oil such as coconut oil can also work well for an oil rinse.
A heavier oil such as coconut oil can also work well for an oil rinse.

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.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

lluviaporos

You shouldn't use hair treatments that will heat up your hair at any point, let alone when you've just covered it with oil. Some hair types can handle it without taking too much damage, but the kind of hair that needs an oil rinse will not thank you for even a little bit of heat.

I still remember my sister ironing her curls out when she was in high school. She went from having quite sleek, pretty hair to hair that wouldn't sit flat if she layered it with gel. She basically fried it.

Not that I haven't done the same thing over the years. But I've sworn off it now and my hair looks so much better and is so much easier to handle now.

An oil rinse, like many other treatments, is good for your hair but it's not going to undo years of damage. The only way you can handle that is to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.

browncoat

@KoiwiGal - I wouldn't try it if you're heading out to a special occasion. Do it on a weekend when you don't mind playing with your hair afterwards, because it can really weigh hair down and it doesn't suit a lot of hair types.

I think everyone should experiment with their hair, but just be aware that it might not look wonderful when you've done it.

KoiwiGal

I have extremely fine, curly hair and it goes terribly frizzy if I don't care for it properly. It's not quite the same texture as African hair, but I've found many of the same tips can help. I don't use shampoo on it at all now. I only wash it with conditioner, for example, and I try to massage the scalp as much as possible when I'm washing it.

I have had an oil treatment at a hairdresser and it worked really well, but I've never tried doing it myself at home. I always thought you had to use special kinds of oils, but I might just try it with coconut oil and see what happens.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Grapeseed oil, which can be used for an oil rinse.
      By: Anson
      Grapeseed oil, which can be used for an oil rinse.
    • A heavier oil such as coconut oil can also work well for an oil rinse.
      By: alexmisu
      A heavier oil such as coconut oil can also work well for an oil rinse.
    • An olive oil relaxer uses olive oil to straighten and condition the hair.
      By: and.one
      An olive oil relaxer uses olive oil to straighten and condition the hair.
    • People with damaged hair should look for a rinse that contains almond or another natural.
      By: Laurent Hamels
      People with damaged hair should look for a rinse that contains almond or another natural.
    • African American women typically have thick, dry hair that benefits from an oil rinse.
      By: spotmatikphoto
      African American women typically have thick, dry hair that benefits from an oil rinse.
    • An oil rinse is usually applied in the shower after shampooing.
      By: Alliance
      An oil rinse is usually applied in the shower after shampooing.