Hair Oils vs. Hair Moisturizers, What’s the Difference?

Hair oils and moisturizers – Are the two interchangeable? Are hair oils and hair moisturizer one and the same?

I was confused because whenever I used ordinary hair oil it just sat on my hair and didn’t make it feel as soft and silky as I know it should. It made my hair shiny but if my hair was dry it remained dry, albeit oily. It didn’t make sense, so of course I went and did some research and also experimented on my own hair until I found the perfect formula for my hair.

The Good and the Bad – Hair Oils

I found out that there are good oils and there are bad hair oils. Good oils are the ones that are obtained from natural plant sources like coconut, olive, castor bean, jojoba, almond etc. Bad oils are petroleum-based oils and mineral oils. Good oils are very beneficial to hair growth; coconut oil for instance is one of the best ways to naturally nourish your hair. It helps in healthy hair growth, ensures that scalp is dandruff free, is an excellent conditioner and it helps in the re-growth of damaged hair.

Olive oil is a natural hair moisturizer that packs a wallop as far as hair care is concerned; it helps in preventing as well as curing hair loss. The presence of antioxidants in olive oil makes it an appropriate hair oil that promotes overall scalp health, it also acts as a natural conditioner by making hair shiny and soft.

Another great oil is castor oil, this oil thickens hair, even hair that is starting to thin out and it reduces and prevents hair damage. It  makes the hair fuller and shinier and prevents dry scalp. This is the oil that I personally endorse because it works for me without fail. The best form of these oils to use is the least processed variety, cold press (extra virgin) oils is ideal.

Moisturizers vs Oils

Water is the best moisturizer for hair. However, the type of water is important . Hard water (water with added chlorine, calcium and magnesium etc.) is  not necessarily good for your hair, it makes the hair dry after extended use. Therefore, the best moisturizers are generally those that are water-based as these more easily penetrate the hair and creates a suppleness in the hair shaft, whilst oils (apart from coconut oil) coats the hair shaft and seals in or out moisture. The best indication that a moisturizer is water-based is if water is the first or second ingredient listed in the ingredients list. Oils and oil-based moisturizers should only be used, to seal in moisture, after a water-based moisturizer is applied.

How to Moisturize Hair

Oils are very important to seal in moisture. Hence, if you use water or a water-based moisturizer, use an oil based product or the natural oil itself to seal in moisture. The bad oils like mineral oil and petroleum-based moisturizers actually blocks the movement of moisture, so if your hair was not moisturized it will be sealed in the dry state.The only oil that penetrates the hair shaft is virgin coconut oil.

There are some good examples of water-based hair moisturizers on the market. I use one or more of them occasionally: Organic Root Stimulator Carrot Oil, Triple Moisture Silk Touch Leave-in, Cantu Shea Butter Grow Strong, Ultra Black Hair and Elasta QP Mango Butter. Sometimes when I am really in need of moisture I use S-Curl Activator very lightly and then seal with my castor oil or you can make your own moisturizer.

Hair Care Tip:

1. Moisturize hair with a water-based product and then seal with a good oil.

About

Brenda is a best-selling author who currently has several books in print. When she manages to dig herself out of the book she is reading or writing, she is usually in the kitchen whipping up a batch of cookies... to satisfy her sweet tooth. +

21 Comments »

  • Leillah said:

    Thanks for the article. saved my hair week after a bad salon experience. I hope you do not mind, but I shared it on NoScrunchie.com with a link back to you of course.

  • denice jones said:

    Hi Brenda, what shampoo would you recommend for dry hair my hair is mostly natural with maybe 2 inches of the ends relaxed. Also the best daily moisturuzer.

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      I recommend shampoo bar soaps made with cold press oils or liquid soaps like Castile soap to wash the hair. They are the best soaps to use for dry hair because they do not contain the drying chemicals that many shampoos have. However, if you can’t find these soaps in your area, you can mitigate the drying effects of regular shampoos by doing a pre-shampoo treatment before washing your hair. I have several recipes under the recipe bar.

  • Ronnell said:

    Where can I find the shampoo sop bar? Also, when I use the Apple Cider Vinegar I do not dilute it with water, am I supposed to? Also, I find that when I use vasoline after I wet my hair it keeps my hair verymoist, I do it daily. Is this good for my hair?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Ronnell,
      Shampoo bars, you can find some good ones one Amazon here’s a link Jojoba and Peppermint Shampoo Bar
      or you can use Castile Soap which is liquid and looks more like shampoo. Yes you are supposed to dilute the ACV. If you wet your hair first, then Vaseline will seal in the moisture. But just remember, that it will build up on your scalp overtime and stifle your body's own natural oil. Eventually this build up will stop your hair from growing. I recommend that you use organic oils as a sealer.

  • zaji said:

    This was very helpful. Thank you.

  • zaji said:

    Thank you for this information. It is very helpful.

  • zaji said:

    Thanks for this article. It is very helpful.

  • Kristina said:

    My daughter has Seborrheic dermatitis and her hair is thinning and breaking. Since she’s at a tender age of 14 she doesn’t want her hair cut. She’s been getting her hair trimmed shorter and shorter to hide the breakage and she gets a deep conditioner weekly. The derm gave us a steroid and anti fungal cream to treat the SD. I’d like to put her hair in pinky width braids because I’m thinking that this will help me apply the meds directly to the scalp without the hair getting in the way. Also, since she plays sports and cares about her appearance, her hair will be neat. My question is, are the braids a good idea? I know keeping the scalp moisturizered while in braids is a must…your thoughts please?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Kristina,
      I would not recommend braids with SD. With SD the scalp needs to be cleaned regularly and the braids will hamper a proper washing. Fore go the braids for now, maybe you can consider them when she does not have a flare up.

  • Sabrina said:

    Dairy and gluten caused my SD to flare up or caused it all together. The doctor said it was a type of autoimmune disease, I compared it to being allergic to my own hair and she said I was correct my body was fighting it as if it were foreign. Like Brenda said, I had to get serious about keeping my scalp clean (I’m natural with a short fro), sleeping in a bonnet every night and taking vitamins at night. Not sure why doing everything at night was such a big deal but it worked. I take Raw One for Women, a calcium supplement and Vit D3. Probiotics have helped my body breakdown those foods that I’m allergic to but sometimes can’t avoid. Kristina do your own research on the vitamins I’ve mentioned I came up with it from a food allergy standpoint and it’s worked for me. If I remember correctly D3 is an i anti inflammatory. I remember the pain and bleeding caused by the slightest touch of the scalp and how hard it was not to scratch. The doctors will only prescribe the antibiotics for a little while. Good luck! Glad I found your site Brenda. Great info.

  • Diane said:

    I loooooove your articles and consider finding your site a serious BLESSING and NOT luck, as I have been praying about how to properly take care of my natural hair and my mom’s permed hair. I still have trouble figuring out how to mositurize permed hair. Won’t it then revert and make the curls go limp? Does the moisture for permed hair come from the DC with EV Olive oil before one washing and with EV Coconut oil the next? Can I over do the DC in trying to repair her once VERY damaged hair? I have been doing it for her for aout 5 months now and it is slowly but surely “coming back this way,” as the old folks would say.

    As for me, I am about 26 months ALL natural since the BC down to 1/2 inch so I have no permed hair at all. I just finished my last drop of MJ Baby Buttercreame and thought my hair loved it but saw your warnings on using mineral oils and petroleum on our hair…which are MAIN ingredents in their products! Now I need to find really good (C) creamy butter to put over my LO (liquid and oil) to insure my cottony soft, thick, fine strands of 3s & 4s textured hair stays hydrated. I know…sounds like a hot mess but my hair is soooo curly that when I used to ger perms the hair dressers would “fuss at my hair” because it would start to curl just after a drying it (and getting a NEW touch-up)!!! :-)

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Diane,
      You are welcome. No the hair won’t revert. It might go limp if you use too much moisturizer but not revert. Once every week is fine for the DC. Congrats on your big chop. All the best.

  • Toytoy406 said:

    I’m having a problem when I comb my hair alt is combing out what should I do

  • es said:

    Hi as can you give examples of oil moisturizer? Also what can be used to moisturize the the scalp (olive oil does not work for me period for my skin or for my relaxed hair).

  • La Neka said:

    Hi Brenda,

    I have a 15 month old little girl and I can’t seem to find the right product to keep her hair moisturized I’m currently using kids organics products, and I really don’t know what to look for to make sure the products are helping her hair… can u please offer me some suggestions.

  • elaine said:

    hi Brenda.my ? is can you mix these four very important oil together and used on the hair. thanks

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