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Do I Need to Oil My Scalp?

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Close-up of a young woman having her hair done George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Question: Do I Need to Oil My Scalp?

This scenario may sound familiar: A child sitting between a mother's knees, as the mother parts and oils the scalp in preparation for hairstyling.

Many of us remember this ritual from childhood. Maybe you had that ubiquitous jar of Ultra Sheen (blue or green) sitting in your bathroom; maybe your mom used something different. That was the rule back then: to oil the scalp.

Do you still need to do that today?

Answer:

It's really up to you whether or not you want to oil your scalp. For some people, it just feels good to apply a light oil to your fingers and massage the scalp before styling the hair. Other people have dry scalps that benefit from the moisture.

However, it's not necessary to oil the scalp. You may have an oily scalp that doesn't need any additional oil; yes, you can have dry black hair with an oily scalp. It may not be the norm, but it happens. Your hair is what requires moisture, which is why you apply products to it and not necessarily your scalp.

If you like the feeling you get from oils applied to your scalp, feel free to do so, keeping these points in mind:

  • Don't use products with petrolatum: Be your own hair care advocate and look at the list of ingredients on every product you buy. All too often, you'll see petrolatum listed as a top ingredient. It's that old "hair grease" that many of us grew up using, but it doesn't do anything for black hair besides coat it and attract dirt. Don't put this stuff on your scalp unless you want to clog your pores and weigh your hair down.
  • Use natural oils: Visit your local health food store or organic market. You'll probably find many items perfect for your hair, including natural oils like jojoba and coconut. Jojoba oil is very similar to the sebum that your scalp produces; not only good for your hair, you can apply this oil to your entire body as a moisturizing treatment.
  • Oil as needed: You may not need to oil your scalp every day, even if this was common practice for you as a child. Learn to recognize your hair's particular needs, which may differ season to season and can be very different from other people in your own family. Examine your scalp: Is it tight? Does it itch? Then maybe you could benefit from a light application of oil. If it feels smooth, it's not flaky and it's clean, then skip the oil. You may need to oil your scalp once a week or once a month. Winter might see a weekly scalp oiling, while this is a practice you skip in the summer.
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