K, I'm gonna go ahead and bet that you've at least heard of argan oil. The mainstream oil has been around for a minute, and just like castor oil, coconut oil, and olive oil, it's kinda a game changer for your hair routine. Yep, the same argan oil that you use on your face also does wonders for your hair—which is probably why it's earned the nickname "liquid gold." But how exactly do you use it on your hair? And which argan oil products work best? I turned to trichologist and colorist Bridgette Hill with Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa to find out everything you gotta know.
If you're curious to know who should use it, how you should use it, and what kind of argan oil you should be using, keep reading for all the answers below. Sorry for the spoiler, but trust me when I say argan oil deserves both a gold star and a permanent place in your haircare routine.
What are the benefits of argan oil for hair?
Argan oil is loaded with unsaturated fatty acids (oleic and linoleic acid) and antioxidants (vitamin E and polyphenols), which helps this overachieving ingredient to hydrate the hair, prevent water loss, and neutralize free radicals to protect both the hair follicles and the scalp from damage. So what exactly does that mean for your hair? Think: shine, hydration, softness, protection, and elasticity. Sign me up, please.
Is argan oil a sealant or moisturizer?
Trick question! Argan oil is both a moisturizer and a sealant, which means it can penetrate the hair and also seal the strand on the surface (just add that to the long list of reasons why this hair oil is so cool). Hill points to a finding in a 2015 study by the International Journal of Trichology that says hair absorbs saturated and monosaturated oils (like argan oil) better than polyunsaturated oils (like sunflower oil). Because of this, argan oil penetrates the hair and reduces the amount of water it absorbs, which impacts how much the cuticle swells. And what happens when the cuticle is swollen? Hair shrinkage and frizz.
"Argan oil is both a lipid and lubricant, two essential qualities that are beneficial to hair fibers and overall hair health," Hill explains, adding that this oil's molecular structure is small enough to penetrate deeper into the cuticle to form a protective barrier around your hair cells. Pretty cool, right?
Which argan oil is best for hair?
Sorry, all you bargain hunters—this isn't one of those times where you want to cheap out. The long and multistage process of getting that "liquid gold" from the seeds of the argan trees in Morocco and into your hands (and your hair) is why this hair oil is a pretty pricey one.
While you can find some inexpensive versions, Hill says quality is key here. "Most cosmetic-grade argan oils put their oils through a damaging heating and deodorizing process," Hill explains. "This weakens the healing properties and benefits of the oil." So how do you spot quality, authentic argan oil? It shouldn't have a strong, fragrant smell (but rather a "nutty" scent) and it needs to have a light amber tint.
So in order to get all those aforementioned amazing benefits, you need to use a high-quality product that's been perfectly processed, properly packaged (in a dark bottle to stop the light from degrading it), stored correctly (in a cool, dark place to protect it from heat), and applied the best way for your hair type and texture (more on that in a sec).
How to use argan oil for hair:
Argan oil is so beneficial for your skin and hair that you might be tempted to pour it all over yourself, but no need to do that (remember: it ain't cheap). When it comes to the application process, your hair type and texture is key. Below, a few options that allow you to get the most out of this expensive oil so you don't waste a drop of it.
1. As an overnight pre-shampoo treatment
Hill says all hair types and textures can benefit from using argan oil as a pre- shampoo hair treatment (although those with severe scalp concerns, like plaque psoriasis or dermatitis, should consult a dermatologist before trying anything). For this treatment, apply the argan oil to dry, unwashed hair and work in small sections at a time to ensure that every little strand gets thoroughly and evenly coated. Hill says sleeping with the oil in your hair overnight is the ideal scenario to give it plenty of time to absorb (just make sure to protect your pillowcase with a hair bonnet or designate a specific pillowcase for pre-poo nights).
2. As a scalp soother
A weekly massage with argan oil not only feels good, but it also does good by combating inflammation, increasing cellular turnover, and soothing the scalp, says Hill. Start your massage at the nape of the neck, and with both hands, work your fingers up your head until you reach the crown. Then, move from the base of your ears to the top of your head on both sides. Hill recommends spending up to five minutes massaging to soften skin cells, exfoliate and remove debris, and encourage blood flow.
3. As a hair styler
Remember: You'll get the most benefits out of an argan oil that's 100 percent pure. That said, you can also cocktail it with other hair oils, which you're likely to find in styling products like shampoos, conditioners, hair serums, and heat protectants. In the video above, this YouTuber uses a curl cream containing a mix of oils, including argan, for an easy (and hydrated) twist-out.
4. As a sealant
For medium textured straight hair to thick, coarse straight hair, Hill suggests using argan oil as a sealant (think of it like reapplying hand cream after washing your hands). After cleansing your hair, smooth on a dollop of argan oil through mid-shaft to ends to ensure you are retaining and reinforcing the moisture bonds in the hair fiber.
5. As a flyaway smoother
And for those with curly to coily hair types, Hill says argan oil can be applied to damp and wet hair to lock in the moisture molecules to prevent flyaways and shrinkage. The tighter the curl, the more liberal you can be with the amount of oil you use.
Is argan oil bad for hair?
As I mentioned above, oils seal the hair to lock in the needed moisture and to block out the bad moisture (think: humidity that causes frizz and shrinkage). But, Hill says if the hair fibers aren't retaining proper moisture, lipid, and humectant levels before you coat your strands with argan oil, you could be left with hair that still feels dry and wondering where the heck you went so wrong.
"All oils have the potential to be drying if they aren't used on the proper hair type and texture, or if they're used on hair fibers that are severely parched or dry," Hill says. "For hair fibers that are dry and parched, I prefer using water- and cream-based moisturizers on wet or damp hair prior to applying an oil. By using argan oil in this method, we are ensuring that argan oil is in fact sealing in existing moisture and lubricating the hair fibers for optimal health, shine, and elasticity."
The general rule of thumb? You should be layering your hair oils the same as you would your skincare products: Apply all your humectants and moisturizers first, then seal it with your occlusives (in this case, argan oil) last.
The final word
As long as you're using it correctly—i.e. paying attention to both your hair type and the order you apply it—argan oil is a great addition to most haircare routines. Just remember to buy an authentic argan oil to really reap the benefits, alright? IDK about you, but I plan on keeping my argan oil extra close this winter to prevent that inevitable dryness.