Oils hair can absorb

Reblogged from Science-y Hair Blog

Monounsaturated fats tend to be better at penetrating your hair than polyunsaturated fats. (From a chemical standpoint, monounsaturated fats are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled.)

But what that really means is that they penetrate the hair more deeply whereas smaller lipids referred to above may only reside in the cuticle layers of your hair. If your hair needs a great deal of softening and protection from swelling in water, the deeper-penetrating oils are a better choice. But if your hair is easier to maintain in good condition, having oils that only reside in and on the outermost cuticle layers is still going to give you benefits.

So which “oils” are higher in monounsaturated fats? Peanut oil, olive oil, almond oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, canola oil, palm oil, shea butter, sesame oil.

Oils which penetrate hair: These are based on published research. Guess what? There is no study of, say 12 plant oils side-by-side for this, so  the ones that have been tested go here. By the way – oils do not soak into your hair immediately. It happens gradually over the course of many hours – from a few hours to 24  hours or longer.

  • Coconut oil – Coconut oil is quite high in triglyceride content  (60% short-chain triglycerides) and also in lauric acid, a 12-carbon lipid which is small enough to get past the cuticles of your hair. It has polarity which gives the oil an attraction to the proteins in your hair.
  • Ucuuba butter also can penetrate into the hair with a high triglyceride content and myristic acid, a short, 14 carbon lipid. But it does not decrease friction – butters increase friction.
  • Sunflower oil (less penetrating than coconut)
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Capric and caprylic triglycerides (an ingredient made from coconut oil)
  • Castor oil – Maybe. It is high in triglycerides like coconut oil, although they are long-chain triglycerides vs. the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil. Ricinoleic acid is polar – also like coconut oil, polarity helps “attract” the triglyceride to the hair proteins.



Oils which penetrate hair somewhat:(Roughly in order from more likely to have some “soaking in” effect to least .. These oils’ penetration may not be much deeper than the outer cuticle layers, but that isn’t a bad thing because these oils still have great softening and lubricating and dehydration-preventing benefits.

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Apricot kernel oil
  • Argan oil
  • Grapeseed oil (may be similar to sunflower, but no lab tests yet to support this)
  • Rose hip oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Flax seed oil (goes rancid very quickly – bad odor)
  • Perilla oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Canola oil and broccoli seed or mustard seed oil (broccoli/mustard seed oil could irritate sensitive skin)
  • Rice Bran oil (penetrates very little or not at all)

Oils which do not penetrate hair:

  • Mineral oil (I know, I know – that’s not a plant oil)
  • Jojoba oil. Very long-chain lipids. Too big to penetrate hair.

So are you wondering why ‘less-penetrating or non-penetrating oils are used in products? They add shine, they decrease friction for easier combing and fewer tangles. Not everybody needs oils to soak in to their hair. If you wanted an oil specifically for gloss or shine, you do not want it disappearing from the surface of your hair over time.


© Copyright 2014 Patience Ugomma Ukam, All rights Reserved. Written For: Get your Sizzelle on!

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