Strike it Rich: Oils for Beautiful Hair

Inspired by an article In the August "Taste for Life" magazine about natural oil treatments for hair, tasteforlife staffers decided to try out a few themselves. Here's how they fared:

Coconut oil

My test started with gathering supplies and turning on the kettle. I was heating up water to create a bath for my organic virgin coconut oil, which was a lovely, solid white when I took it out of the pantry. I’d previously used this jar to make vegan cupcakes and a killer quinoa main dish that features cauliflower and Marcona almonds. The word “versatile” springs to mind. I measured two tablespoons, dropped them in a small glass, and placed the glass in a bowl of warm water. (The rest of the water came in handy later—it produced the “hot, damp towel” that I wrapped around a plastic produce bag and my treated hair.) I swirled the glass of coconut oil occasionally, watching it melt from opaque solid to clear liquid. There was something meditative about watching that transformation, a restfulness that continued as I worked the oil through my scalp and hair. It was my first oil treatment (and I’m a direction-follower by nature), so I hewed close to the instructions. But even as I double-checked the article, I also found myself zoning out and enjoying the tactile pleasure, the natural coconut scent, and the fun of a mandatory half hour with my feet up on the couch.

The results: For my shoulder-length hair, two tablespoons was too generous. I probably used less than half of the liquid coconut oil. After a single shampoo, my hair is soft and miraculously unfrizzy, but it’s also looking and feeling weighed down with residual oil. I’m thinking that coconut oil, while literally and figuratively delicious, may be too rich for my very fine hair. That, or two successive shampoos were in order. Anyone have suggestions for a different oil to try next time? ~ Johanna Arnone Chief content officer and hair oil newbie

Almond oil

I’d been on the road for days of humidity, wind blowing or, alternately, air conditioning drying my hair. It was a perfect time to test almond oil as a treatment. While preparing dinner, I warmed the oil in a sauté pan (taking what I needed and leaving the rest for the stir-fry), worked it into my hair and scalp, and wrapped a hot towel over it for more than half an hour. (I skipped the plastic) The oil washed out pretty easily, and, though I can’t be sure if was because I’d finally gotten my hands on a blow-dryer, the texture was much-improved. What had become coarse and erratically curly was smooth and contained. Even though I need a haircut, it readily took encouragement to form itself into some kind of style. It wasn’t miracle worker, but my hair felt a lot better after the treatment than it did before. ~ Donna Moxley Managing Editor

Argan oil

I have to say I didn't really notice a remarkable difference from the treatment. I applied a little less than a tablespoon of the warmed oil (organic argan oil runs about $14 an ounce) and rubbed it into my hair and scalp. Being that it's oil, it was very greasy. I left it on, covered with a slightly damp warm towel for 30 minutes. Optimistic about a major shine, I shampooed (the oil came out quite easily) with the anticipation that I was going to see and feel a renewed head of hair … but I didn't really notice either after it dried. My hair does feel good but I don't think I would really repeat the process for the results. Although I was not so impressed with the argan oil as a hair treatment, I think it is a fantastic oil used on skin, both morning and night. ~ Ellen Klempner-Beguin Art Director

Stay tuned for more test drives, and read the story from August's Taste for Life.