Because kinky, coily afro hair is prone to dryness and breakage, it's super important for us to keep it well-oiled and moisturized. Regularly sealing in moisture with oils is critical to any healthy natural hair regimen, and the benefits can be super-charged with weekly or bi-weekly hot oil treatments. But many naturalistas complain that they don't have time for hot oil treatments, which can last anywhere from half-an-hour to overnight. If you're short on time but still want to give your hair a boost, keep reading.
WHAT'S A HOT OIL TREATMENT?
Oils like coconut, castor, and jojoba are fantastic for locking moisture (water) into natural hair. They do this by repelling water molecules, thereby trapping them inside the hair shaft. When oil is heated, it helps the cuticles (scale-like coverings) along the hair shaft open up so the hair can better absorb the water and nutrients in the oils.
WHAT'S THE POINT?
As previously mentioned, hot oil treatments encourage our hair to absorb moisture and nutrients. If you use a light enough oil you might not have to rinse it out after, but one of the main advantages of doing the treatment is that it serves as an excellent pre-poo. A pre-poo is a treatment that's done before shampooing. Many shampoos contain ingredients that are very drying and strip the hair of too much oil, which can weaken the strands and lead to knotting and breakage. A pre-poo, such as a hot oil treatment, ensures enough oil remains in the hair and on the scalp to prevent dryness.
SO HOW DO YOU DO ONE?
There are many different ways you can do a hot oil treatment, but generally you want to use at least one carrier oil and, if you like, one or more essential oils. A carrier oil is necessary to dilute essential oils, which can be so potent they can burn you if used in high concentrations. For this reason, you only need to put a few drops of essential oil into a tablespoon of a carrier oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.
Speaking of burns, be careful to not heat the oil too much. Ten to fifteen seconds in the microwave or 5-10 mins in a hot water bath should be enough. If it's too hot to touch with your fingers, wait for it to cool down. Spritz your hair with a moisturizer like water and/or aloe vera juice, then apply the hot oil treatment to your hair and scalp. Most people typically leave the treatment in for at least 20-30 mins, and some even wait until the next day to rinse it out.
WHAT IF YOU'RE SHORT ON TIME?
Waiting around for the oils to work their magic can be a deal-breaker for those of us on tight schedules. Here are a few ways you can speed up the process:
- Spritz your hair with warm instead of cold water so the cuticles open up sooner.
- Use oils that are known to penetrate the hair shaft more easily, such as coconut or olive oil.
- Avoid thicker oils that have trouble penetrating, like castor or sweet almond oil.
- Reduce the number of oils in your treatment so you don't have to worry about blending too many.
- After spritzing and oiling, section your hair into big twists, braids, bantu knots, or a bun – whatever's fastest for you.
- Cover your hair with a plastic bag or shower cap. Then wrap a warm hand towel around your head. This will further encourage absorption of the moisture and oils.
- Give your scalp a nice little massage to stimulate blood flow to your scalp and make sure the oils travel to every part of your hair and scalp. You can even do this while inverted (hanging your head upside down) to get even more blood flowing to your scalp, but only try it if you're comfortable.
- If you don't have time to rinse the treatment out, you can and cover it with a scarf until you're ready to shampoo.
This may seem like a lot of steps, but with practice you'll likely be able to do the whole process in under ten minutes. Depending on how your hair is styled, you might even be able to get away with not taking your hair down before applying the treatment. Just make sure you focus on your scalp and your own hair, rather than any extension hair, and rinse it out properly to avoid product build-up.
How do you save time in your regimen? Share your tips in a comment below!