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A Dermatologist's Guide To Hair Oils and Their Benefits

A Dermatologist's Guide To Hair Oils and Their Benefits

Oils are commonly found in haircare products because of their moisturizing benefits and ability to enhance smoothness and shine. Oils can also be used on their own as treatments for dry, damaged hair. Researchers have taken a closer look at the benefits a variety of naturally-derived oils may provide for the hair and scalp, often referencing their use for hundreds or even thousands of years in Chinese, Ayurvedic, and other indigenous traditional-medicine practices around the globe.

Yet Harvard-trained dermatologist and founder of SEEN, Dr. Iris Rubin, cautions that those with acne-prone skin should carefully weigh the pros and cons of using hair oils. “Although some oils may have benefits for the hair, many oils that are commonly used for haircare can be comedogenic. This means they can clog pores and cause acne, which is why SEEN avoids all comedogenic oils and opts for skin-friendly moisturizing ingredients like squalane.”

Common oils with haircare benefits

While some enjoy using oils like a hair mask, others may prefer to get these nourishing ingredients from their haircare products. Among the most commonly used are coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and almond oil. Studies have shown some oils’ ability to penetrate the hair shaft—especially in bleached tresses. 

It’s important to note that essential oils are in a category all their own. These are often added to the aforementioned “base” oils in an effort to reap additional hair benefits. For example, rosemary oil may stimulate the scalp to promote hair growth.

And, finally, there are synthetic oils, too. They are often listed on ingredient labels as cyclomethicone or cyclopentasiloxane—and these are actually forms of silicone. Silicones aren’t necessarily bad for the hair, but they may be more likely to build up on the scalp and strands. This is why SEEN opts for a lightweight, plant-derived alternative called hemisqualane (which appears in ingredient lists as C13-15 Alkane).

The effects of haircare oils on the skin

Although not all oils are bad for the skin, some can clog the pores and potentially lead to breakouts. In the case of silicones, these ingredients may be more likely to clog pores when combined with other comedogenic haircare ingredients—which is why SEEN uses plant sugar-derived hemisqualane (C13-15 Alkane) instead.

Essential oils can cause unwanted skin side effects as well, as some (but not all) have been shown to be a potential contributor to allergic contact dermatitis. Although many think of essential oils as “pure,” they are actually very complex, and can contain several potentially allergenic compounds that can lead to a skin reaction. In fact, common essential oils like lavender, tea tree, peppermint, and ylang-ylang are among those that are generally included in standard skin testing for allergies.

SEEN was created with your hair and skin in mind

SEEN is all about harnessing the power of natural ingredients so long as they do not have a negative impact on the health of the skin. We’re not against oils, but our goal is to create haircare for all hair types that won’t clog pores or irritate sensitive skin. If you’ve discovered a hair oil that works for your hair without compromising your skin, keep doing what you’re doing! But remember, SEEN is here with shampoos, conditioners, styling products, and more that deliver gorgeous hair and healthier-looking skin every step of the way.