Is Scalp Oiling the Secret to Shinier, Healthier Hair?

Experts break down this popular hair treatment and all its benefits.

Hair Oil

Getty Images

The road to stronger, shinier, and overall healthier hair may seem like a neverending journey, but one method might be the key to getting all of that and more: scalp oiling. Currently a hot topic of discussion after TikTok influencer Alix Earle caused a frenzy with the Mielle Organics Rosemary Hair Oil, taking care of the scalp has never been more important. 

According to Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City, scalp oiling is the practice of using an oil such as castor, coconut, or avocado oil on the scalp so that it penetrates the roots of the hair. This is done to stimulate growth, moisturize the hair, and help prevent dryness and irritation. 

Not to be confused with hair oiling (which consultant trichologist at Philip Kingsley Zoe Passam explains involves oil being applied to wet hair), scalp oiling is done to stimulate growth, moisturize the hair, and help prevent dryness and irritation. 

Sounds too good to be true? To see what Dr. Engelman, Passam, and other experts had to say about scalp oiling. 

What are the benefits of scalp oiling?

As mentioned before, scalp oiling has many benefits. Dr. Engelman explains that it helps moisturize the scalp by adding vitamins and minerals to the roots. She says this will help seal in moisture, which can then promote hair growth. She adds that scalp oiling is another way to promote blood stimulation to the scalp and soften the skin cells to reduce inflammation and irritation. It also has the added benefit of protecting hair from any damage that might occur in the shampoo process. 

It can be done by most people, regardless of hair type or texture. Trichologist Bridgette Hill adds that’s especially beneficial for those who wear protective styles. 

Does scalp oiling have any side effects?

Dr. Engelman says that using too much oil or scalp oiling too often can create buildup, which can result in dandruff and irritation. She adds that certain scalp oils might disrupt the balance of the healthy bacteria that already live on the scalp, which can lead to more buildup and other scalp issues. So moderation is key. 

You’ll also want to be mindful of what types of oils you’re using. “Oiling the scalp with improper oils, pomades, or greases that feed bacteria, are not anti-microbial or anti-fungal by nature, and have to absorb into the skins cells disrupt the microbiome and can create an unwanted condition [that can] negatively impacting scalp health and hair fiber growth,” trichologist Bridgette Hill says.

Passam believes that is far more beneficial to treat the underlying cause of scalp and hair concerns. One example of this is if you’re dealing with flaking. She explains these conditions, which include dandruff and seborrheic eczema, occur when there is an overpopulation of certain yeasts on the scalp that feed on oils. Applying oil to an already flaking head could exacerbate the problem. 

While she wouldn’t recommend scalp oiling, she especially cautions against it for those with fine or thinning hair. She says applying oil when your hair is already so fragile and thin will likely result in the hair looking flat and greasy. She adds that some types of oil in their purest form, such as castor oil, can be very difficult to wash out. Hill says anyone managing chronic medical scalp conditions should tread lightly when using any type of natural herbal oils or products, so consult with a dermatologist or a physician before trying it.  

So while it is generally safe to do for most people, remember to do it in moderation and ask your trusted dermatologist or medical professional if it’s the right method for you. 

How to use a scalp oil:

Scalp oiling is pretty simple to incorporate into your hair routine. First, it should be done as a pre-shampoo treatment. On dry hair, Hill recommends massaging an oil throughout the entire scalp, starting at the nape of the neck. Using both hands, work upwards towards the crown of your head. Then move over to the base of the ear to work towards the top of the head again and repeat on the other side. This should take three to five minutes of massaging to cover the entire scalp, but she says to take your time as it’s a lot of area to cover.  

Dr. Engelman says to let the oil set for about 45 minutes to an hour before washing, or you can do it the night before a wash day. But this is also all dependent on your hair type and what types of results you’re looking for. She says those with dry, brittle hair or living in cold, dry conditions would benefit more from letting oil set in overnight. If you have oily hair or live in a warmer environment, scalp oiling about an hour before you wash it off is best. 

When it comes to determining how often you should be doing it, the most important thing to consider before starting is your hair type. Dr. Engelman recommends that everyone start out oil scalping once a week to see how their skin and hair respond to it. She says those with thicker or coarser hair might be able to add another day or two per week if they’re not seeing any immediate results. For fine hair, she says one week should suffice as too much oil can weigh hair down and make it look flat and greasy. 

Next, she says to cover your head with something like a shower cap or cotton wrap, and once you’re ready to rinse, go and shampoo. She adds that you may need to shampoo twice to ensure hair is not left looking greasy, but not to worry about over-drying your hair with a double cleanse; she says that the oil that you massage through should protect your hair if you need to shampoo twice.  

What types of scalp oils should you use?

In general, Hill recommends staying away from using any mineral oil or comedogenic oils like olive oil, as those can cause buildup. She says to look for oils to enhance circulation and decongest the scalp, such as peppermint, tea tree, avocado, Argan oil, and citrus-based oils. 

Dr. Engelman adds that you’ll want to look for scalp oils that are mixed with carrier oils, which are oils that are normally derived from seeds or plants and used to dilute essential oils for safe use. Products that have an essential oil mixed with a carrier oil are the best combo when looking for something that will lock in moisture and stimulate the scalp, she says.  

So, if this piques your interest and you’re not currently dealing with any chronic scalp issues, it’s definitely worth a shot. Below are a few products to try out if you want to try scalp oiling for yourself.

Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil

Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil


To shop: $10;

This hair oil from Mielle has been a haircare staple long before the TikTok blew it up. It contains nourishing ingredients, such as rosemary, mint, and biotin, to soothe dryness, help treat split ends, and keep hair healthy and strong. 

indē wild Champi Hair Oil

Scalp Oiling Is the Secret to Shinier, Healthier Hair

Inde Wild

To shop: $29;

Dr. Engelman recommends this oil because it contains 11 active ingredients, including castor oil to stimulate blood flow at the scalp and antibacterial basil tulsi, and five powerful carrier oils to make nourish the scalp and soothe any irritation. 

NatureLab. Tokyo Perfect Clean Scalp Balancing Sake Rinse

Scalp Oiling Is the Secret to Shinier, Healthier Hair

Nature Lab

To shop: $19;

“This is a great product to couple into your oiling routine to use either after oiling or as another day totally separate from your oiling,” says Dr. Engelman. “It is formulated with rice water, which hydrates the hair and seals in moisture, all while removing product buildup from the scalp.” 

NOW Solutions Castor Oil

Scalp Oiling Is the Secret to Shinier, Healthier Hair


To shop: $6;

Dr. Engelman also love this one from NOW solutions. Made with hero ingredient castor oil, this scalp oil stimulates blood flow for the scalp and is at an affordable price point. 

Ceremonia Aceite de Moska

Ceremonia Aceite de Moska

To shop: $28;

“This product is packed with vitamin-rich lightweight oils, such as pataua, babassu, and chia seed oil, and is enhanced with a fast-spreading, active delivering technology that makes for a non-greasy nourishing experience,” says Mateo Acosta Media, product development manager of Ceremonia. This best-seller comes with a dropper applicator so that you can easily apply it directly to the scalp. Media recommends using a few drops (“A little goes a long way,” he says) and massaging it in for about 10 to 15 minutes to really set it. 

Related Articles