Hot Oil Treatments, Do They Work?
We all remember when using hot oil treatments were considered the "deep conditioner" miracle for dry or damaged hair. But what we never asked ourselves was, do they really work?
Well let's first break down and examine the process of using a hot oil treatment. We start by washing our hair and then applying the hot oil treatment. Well according to science, the nature of oil is to repel water not mix with it. Also the molecular structure of oil makes it just way to big to penetrate the shaft of your hair, but it i also important to note that oil is not capable of "hydrogen bonding" which is really what causes the oil and water to repel each other. So the oil can not get into the hair because it is being repelled by the water and the oil is literally just sitting on the surface of your hair.
To further complicate the matter, we put the hot oil in our hair and then we place a plastic cap on our hair afterwards, this further draws out the moisture that we are trying to put in our hair. To better understand this concept,think about when you go into an enclosed steam room. The steam makes us sweat, drawing out the "moisture" from our bodies much like the plastic cap is doing when the moisture inside the cap heats up. Some of this moisture converts to a gas state not benefiting our hair at all. While a bit of the oil mixture may adhere to the hair, most of it gets washed down the drain when you rinse your hair after.
When the oil is applied to dry hair it does coat the cuticle of the hair shaft, which is the outer layer of your hair but it is NOT being absorbed into your hair. The test for this is to run your fingers through your hair a few hours after oil is applied then check your hands. We also think that our hair is "soaking up" the oil, but check your pillow cases, headrests and hair scarves to see where the oil is really going. Now here is where the real problem comes in when you apply the oil to dry hair. The oil acts as a barrier preventing hydration, repelling needed moisture thus resulting in dehydrated, dry and brittle hair.
Hair would not be dry if we gave it what our natural hair texture really craves which is MOISTURE to flourish. Ever notice how much easier your hair is to comb while it's wet? Moisture lubricates and hydrates our hair strands, Since we can't walk around with water spray bottles, an excellent alternative is a professional conditioner with moisture retention properties that has a good balance of protein (important for strength and elasticity) and preferably of food grade quality. Your hair will stay moisturized longer and be more manageable.
Oil's true place in our hair care regime is to use it as a styling aid to maintain control and sheen on the hair only (not the scalp) rather than as a conditioner. But use caution here because oil can buildup on the hair causing dehydration if not shampooed and clarified off the hair regularly. Oil can be a good complement to your natural hair management system but only if used sparingly and only AFTER a moisture treatment.
Look good. Love your hair!