What happens when you peel an orange? You get the refreshing, orangey scent.
And what about when you drive past the lavender farm, you can smell the heavenly floral scent for miles….
If you or your neighbour is mowing the lawn, you get the scent of ‘fresh cut grass’.
The thing is all fruits, flowers, leaves and barks have their distinct smell. You can call it ‘plant perfume’. But technically it’s known as essential oils. And these oils are volatile and ethereal, so they evaporate fast, infusing the air with a lovely fragrance.
But essential oils are more than just nice smelling oils. They have tons of therapeutic and beauty benefits. And in this article, we will see some useful essential oils for hair and scalp.
Before that, I want to talk about a common question…
What’s the Difference between Essential oil and Regular oil?
Well, there’s a big difference.
Essential oils are not actually oils. If you have ever used essential oils, you know it does not feel like your regular oil (coconut or almond). It’s light to touch and evaporates quickly without leaving any trace (of course there are some exceptions to this rule like myrrh, patchouli and vetiver).
Basically, essential oils are extracted from the ‘non-fatty’ parts of the plants, such as leaves, flowers, fruits, stem and bark.
Whereas the regular vegetable oils are derived from the fatty parts of the plants, such as seeds, kernel or nuts. And that is why they are heavy and greasy.
Another big difference is that although essential oils are ethereal and delicate, they are very potent or concentrated extracts and often described as life-force of the plant. This is the reason you need to use a small amount to experience results. When applying to your scalp or skin, it’s usually best to dilute with vegetable oil that serves as a ‘carrier oil’. Okay, those were the differences between essential oils and regular oils.
Now let’s find out the best essential oils for hair and scalp.
There are plenty of choices, such as lavender, rosemary, chamomile, ylang ylang, khus etc. These oils are easily absorbed into the scalp skin and depending on their properties, produce various benefits. Essential oils such as lavender and rosemary have a stimulating effect on hair follicles and enhance hair growth. Oils like chamomile and cedarwood can be helpful to soothe a dry, irritated scalp. While ylang ylang oil can help balance scalp oils.
Essential oils can work wonders on your hair and scalp. You can use them to:
Pick the oil to suit your hair’s needs. You can also combine two or three essential oils for an enhanced effect. Without further ado, here’s a selection of the best essential oils for hair care and hair growth, and how to use them…
Lavender oil is one of the most popular oils for hair. And for many reasons.
Lavender oil works for all hair types — it moisturises the scalp and balances sebum production.
Lavender is useful in hair growth. It stimulates the hair follicles and enhances denser and thicker hair. Lavender oil is also very healing and therapeutic. It provides relief from skin conditions such as dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
Besides, you will feel relaxed after applying it on your scalp and hair. That’s because of lavender’s calming and de-stressing effects.
How to use: mix 5 drops of lavender oil with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Massage into your scalp and hair and let it sit for a few hours before washing it out.
Scent: It has a sweet, floral scent and herbaceous-woody undertone. The oil is extracted from the fresh flowers of Lavandula angustifolia shrub.
Blends well with: clary sage, geranium, cedarwood, vetiver or patchouli oil
Khus reminds me of summer months in India – mats made of khus roots are used in evaporative air coolers; they are also hung in a doorway or on the windows to keep the house cool. And it makes the whole house smell amazingly fresh.
This cooling property is also highly beneficial in hair loss (as in against hair loss) that occurs due to high body heat (seen as baldness on the top of the head). Khus is also known for its antiseptic and tonic action and helps treat acne and oily scalp.
And like lavender oil, khus is calming and soothing for the mind, helping with nervous tension and anxiety. So it’s often called ‘oil of tranquillity’.
How to use: mix 10 drops of khus oil with 2 tablespoons almond oil and massage into your scalp and let it sit for few hours.
Scent: It is a dark brown or amber colour oil with an earthy-woody odour and a sweet persistent undertone. The oil is extracted from the roots of a grass of vetiver or Chrysopogon zizanioides.
Blends well with: sandalwood, lavender, ylang ylang, jasmine or patchouli oil
Rosemary is another superb essential oil for enhancing hair growth. It stimulates the scalp and increases local blood circulation. Rosemary also has powerful antioxidant effects. It helps to fight free radicals – that are responsible for thinning of hair as well as greying.
Rosemary is beneficial for greasy, oily scalp. Because of its astringent effects, it helps balance sebum and keeps hair oil-free and manageable between washes.
How to Use: blend 10 drops of rosemary oil with 2 tablespoons olive oil and apply to your scalp and hair. Do this twice a week for best results.
Scent: It has a strong, minty-herbaceous scent and a woody undertone. Rosemary oil is obtained from the plant of Rosmarinus officinalis.
Rosemary oil blends well with: lavender, peppermint, basil, thyme
Rosemary fact: this aromatic oil is said to lift your mood. Try taking a sniff if you are feeling dull and low.
Chamomile oil comes from chamomile flowers — which are daisy-like with white petals. Chamomile is excellent for scalp conditions such as dry skin, dandruff, eczema and psoriasis. And that’s because of its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
By keeping the scalp in good health, it promotes strong and healthy hair growth. Chamomile oil also conditions the hair and improves its softness and lustre.
Scent: It has a sweet, fruity-herbaceous scent. The oil is extracted from flowers of Matricaria recutica (German chamomile) or Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile).
You can combine chamomile oil with: jasmine, rose, geranium or lavender oil
This fragrant oil is my favourite for hair. Native to tropical Asia, it has been traditionally used as a scalp stimulant to encourage hair growth. Another way ylang ylang oil promotes hair growth is by relaxing the tight scalp muscles, which can lead to hair loss.
Ylang ylang oil helps to treat dry, dull hair as well as overly oily hair by balancing the scalp oils.
How to use: mix 5 drop ylang ylang oil and 5 drop khus oil with 1 tablespoons castor oil and 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Massage into your scalp and hair and let it soak for few hours before washing it out.
Scent: Also known as poor man’s jasmine, this oil is highly valued in perfumery. It has intensely sweet, soft, floral, and slightly spicy scent. The oil is extracted from the flowers of cananga odorata tree.
Blends well with: jasmine, khus
Peppermint oil with its cooling, tingling sensation is great for head massages.
Its stimulating properties increase blood flow to the scalp, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles. Which means your hair will grow stronger and healthier.
Peppermint oil also has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s beneficial in scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. It also reduces oiliness of the scalp and hair and brings relief from scalp acne.
Scent: The smell is fresh, crispy and minty! The essential oil is made from peppermint leaves.
Blends well with: rosemary, cedarwood, tea tree oil
Cedarwood oil has a beautiful woody aroma. This oil is well-known hair tonic and has been used for centuries to treat thinning hair and alopecia.
Besides, cedarwood oil is purifying with anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. It’s an excellent remedy for dandruff due to fungal infection. It may also help with scalp acne and eczema.
Scent: warm, woody, camphoraceous aroma with a sweet-balsamic undertone. The oil is obtained from the wood of the Cedrus atlantica tree
Blends well with: juniper, rosemary, ylang ylang, lavender
Clary sage is a herb native to Mediterranean region. It’s a short plant with large hairy leaves and small blue flowers.
The essential oil is high in antioxidants and phytoestrogens, which makes it particularly beneficial for female pattern baldness. Clary sage is also said to be calming and relaxing. So it may be useful in stress-related hair loss such as telogen effluvium.
Also, clary sage balances natural scalp oils, making it useful for both oily and dry scalp.
How to use: mix 5 drops of clary sage with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Massage into your scalp and hair and let it soak for an hour before washing it out.
Scent: This oil has a sweet, nutty herbaceous scent. The oil is extracted from the flowering tops and leaves of Salvia sclarea.
You can blend clary sage with: lavender, geranium, cedarwood, or frankincense oil
Petitgrain is a lovely cleansing and uplifting oil obtained from the leaves and flowers of the orange tree.
Its cleansing action opens up clogged pores, this means your hair can grow and thrive happily. Petitgrain also has moisturising and scalp balancing properties, making it beneficial for scalp health.
How to use: mix 5 drops of petitgrain oil with 2 tablespoons almond oil. Massage into your scalp and hair and let it soak for an hour before washing it out
Scent: It has a fresh-floral citrus scent and a woody herbaceous undertone. The oil is extracted from the leaves of Citrus aurantium tree.
Blends well with: rosemary, lavender, palmarosa, geranium, jasmine, or clary sage oil
As I said earlier, you don’t use essential oils the same way as coconut or olive oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated and potent extracts of the plant. Therefore you need to mix them with a base oil.
As a general guideline, add about 1% of essential oil to the base oil. You can use the following proportions:
Base Oil for fine, thin hair: Use sunflower, coconut, grapeseed, almond – these will nourish and add volume to your fine hair.
Base Oil for dry, coarse hair: Use rich oils such as: avocado, olive, sesame, almond – these are valuable hydrating treatments.
Here’s a couple of hair growth recipes that I like. But you can go ahead and create your own blend.
There’s some evidence that applying a combination of cedarwood, lavender, thyme and rosemary essential oil to the scalp improves hair growth in people with alopecia. In this study, 44% participants who applied this oil blend showed significant improvement in hair growth. Here’s the recipe…
This is the recipe I like to use on my hair. But feel free to add or subtract oils. Every scalp and hair is unique, so it’s good to try various combinations to see what works best for you.
Mix the oils in a bowl. If you like a particular recipe, make a big batch and store in a glass bottle.
Massage the lovely homemade oil blend into your scalp and hair, leave it on for an hour, or overnight for more conditioning. Wash with a homemade natural shampoo or your favourite shampoo and let your hair dry naturally.
What are the safety precautions: If you are pregnant, lactating, suffer from epilepsy, high blood pressure, or any other medical condition, seek the advice of your doctor, midwife or a qualified aromatherapist before using essential oil. Children have delicate and sensitive skin, there are a limited number of essential oils you can use on them. Check with the aromatherapist.
For people with sensitive skin, it’s best to test a small area then wait for 30 minutes before applying to scalp and hair.
Buying Suggestions: Always buy essential oils that are pure, undiluted and stored in glass bottles. Also, when you make oil blends using essential oils, use a glass bottle to store them. As plastic may react.
Which is your favourite essential oil for hair? I would love to hear from you!