Should I Stop Using Oils and Butters in My Natural Hair?

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Founder of The Afro Hair and skin company Ibi in her studio mixing ingredients. With a glass pipette in hand and a beaker with natural oils


There's an online trend that has been causing ripples within the natural hair community. 

The ideas driving this new movement suggest that we should cast out oils and butters completely, if we want healthy hair that grows. Some advocates are questioning the efficacy of oils when it comes to their hair upkeep, with a number of anecdotal experiences suggesting improved hair outcomes using a water only method of moisturisation.

So, should we all now be hopping on this new trend of cutting out oils and butters altogether from our healthy hair routines?

In short, no.

The internet is a place where new trends appear daily. This is partly down to a constant demand for fresh content to consume. This means that people are constantly battling to define a new angle, fresh perspective and even cultivating outrage where there needn't be any. That's not to say there is no validity in these new claims, however the subject is often nuanced and should never be taken at face value. These trends can be more damaging than beneficial. We're taking a closer look at the claims so you can be better informed about what's best for you.

Is there any truth in it?

There is in fact a small amount of evidence to suggest that a particular minority of cases might benefit from a reduction or elimination of the use of heavy oils from their hair routine for a specified period. These people may have pre-existing conditions that can be exacerbated from the use of certain oils. Dermatological conditions such has Sebhoeric Dermatitis and Psoraisis may see improvement when less product in general is used and adequate recommendations from a Trichologist. Outside of this small minority, natural oils still offer huge proven and tested benefits when it comes to caring for Afro Hair. There is no suggestion that for the rest of us the same course of action would be beneficial.



Not all oils are created equally.

It's good to remember that not all oils are created equally. There are oils that have no business being in our hair and can disrupt our delicate scalp balance, leaving the skin clogged and inflamed. While at times worsening undiagnosed conditions. Some oils create an impermeable barrier across hair and scalp that stops the absorption of moisture in the form of water from entering and nourishing the hair and skin, thereby suffocating the hair, leaving it feeling dry and brittle while the scalp is more prone to irritation and flaking.

Oils are not the enemy, bad habits may well be. A little oil can go a long way but there's a tendency to over do it with products usually in pursuit of a particular hair style or texture outcome or under the misguided belief that more equals better.

Oils to avoid.

We now know mineral oils to be the least beneficial when it comes to caring for Afro Hair. It's popularity store bought products is not due to it's efficacy, but it's cheapness. They offer no additional benefit to general lubrication and often suffocate the hair making it difficult for moisture to penetrate the strands when needed.


The right oils can act as sebum support.

Our scalp produces it's own natural oil (sebum) a complex blend of oils and lipids which is excreted from the sebaceous glands to help nourish the skin and hair that grows from it. Sebum also works to maintain the scalps natural pH balance. Typically sebum will nourish the roots of our hair as it grows out of the scalp. But, is unable to adequately move down the hair shaft. A good hair oil should complement and mimic the job of sebum, on the rest of the hair. Continuing the nourishing effect that our body produces naturally.

Hydration alone will not nourish hair.

For Afro Hair to thrive it needs hydration, the best form of hydration is water. However, water quickly evaporates from the hair if there is nothing to hold it there. This is where oils come in. Individually you would struggle to achieve a good balance of hydration using oil or water alone. Particularly for those of us with tighter curls and coils.

Hair harmony comes from regular hydration (with water or Aloe if you're feeling fancy) and the right blend of oils that offers the ability to seal in moisture without completely restricting access to rehydration when needed.

Butters work very much to the same principle however, Hair Butters are richer and slightly heavier than oils. They are better suited to very dry and porous textures as they hold moisture in the hair for longer, while offering extra conditioning benefits.

We believe that it's important to state that if you find a routine that works for you and you believe it's of benefit, then by all means continue on with it. Trends will come and go, but there are long established practices that have stuck around for a reason. The natural hair movement shifted the way in which many of us view and take care of our hair. It gave us a framework, but we must remember that this too was a learning curve and a lot the leading theories are either cemented or cast aside.

The most empowering thing is it gave us permission to seek out what aligned best to our hair and our hearts.


Read next: This Plant Based Butter for Afro Hair is Getting Naturals Excited

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