Is Scalp Oiling A Do Or A Don't?

Let’s talk about one of the great hair debates in the textured hair community, which is applicable to both natural and relaxed hair. 

That debate is whether or not you should oil your scalp.

Now it’s not a really hot debate but it’s one that keeps popping up in my social feeds and hair groups so I decided I should dig into it.

Now full disclosure, I sometimes oil my scalp. I don’t do it on a daily basis or even consistently on a weekly basis. I do it when I feel like it could be beneficial. But is it really?

one hand using an oil dropper to get drops of oil on open hand to be used for scalp oiling
(This post includes some affiliate links. Should you click an affiliate link and make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

What is scalp oiling?

Scalp oiling is applying oil to the scalp and massaging it in. This is also sometimes called oiling the scalp or even sometimes greasing the scalp. The oil can be either washed off a short time after it’s applied or left on the scalp for a few days before it’s eventually washed off.

Why do scalp oiling?

There are a few different reasons that people do scalp oiling.
  • The first reason is hair growth. There are some oils that are massaged onto the scalp that can increase blood flow to the hair follicles which can help with stimulating hair growth.
  • The second reason is to alleviate itching. Some oils have properties that can help soothe an itchy scalp.
  • The third reason is for moisturizing the scalp using oils that have more nourishing properties.

My experience with scalp oiling

When I was growing up oiling the scalp was standard practice in our house. I’m not 100% sure why, I think it was to keep our scalps from drying out. Or it could just be what my parents did when they were growing up. Until now I never questioned it because it was just what we did when I was growing up. Also, I didn't have any knowledge about hair care that didn’t come from my parents.

Scalp oiling was a weekend routine for me for years until I became an adult. Fast forward to a few years ago I started back up with scalp oiling because I was dealing with drying and flaking on my scalp and I thought that applying some oil would help.

And it did help. I would apply the oil the day I washed my hair, right after drying it. Over time my dry and flaky scalp issues slowly went away.

Since then I’ve continued that practice off and on and have used a few different oils during that time: 

The benefits and negatives of scalp oiling

Currently, though I’ve been questioning whether or not scalp oiling is something that I should continue doing. The reason for my questioning is that I’ve now read several articles and write-ups against scalp oiling and how it can be harmful to the hair and scalp.

Some of the reasons these articles provided against scalp oiling are

  • Reason 1: Scalp oiling can cause buildup on the scalp if too much is used. The buildup could then clog the hair follicles which would negatively impact hair growth.
  • Reason 2: Scalp oiling can make the hair look and feel greasy when too much oil is used. This makes it hard to style the hair and you want to wash it more often.
  • Reason 3: It can make scalp issues worse. One example provided is if the scalp is flaking, putting oil on top of the flakes just makes them stick to the scalp and that can make the issue causing the flaking even worse. 

On the flip side, those who are for hair oiling say that 
  • It can strengthen and protect hair follicles and hair strands
  • It conditions and hydrates the scalp
  • It helps with reducing dandruff
  • And when coupled with a scalp massage scalp oiling can help relieve stress, help with relaxation, and promote blood circulation

Tips for scalp oiling

If you decide that scalp oiling is right for you, your hair, and your scalp here are a few tips for doing it.
  • Tip 1: Apply the oil on a clean and exfoliated scalp because that’s when your scalp is best ready to receive the benefits from the oil.
  • Tip 2: Try to avoid applying oil on a dirty scalp as it’s just going to mix in with the dirt and hold the dirt close to the scalp potentially causing irritation..
  • Tip 3: Avoid using oils that are heavy and clog the pores like mineral oil and petrolatum (pe - tro - lay -tum).
  • Tip 4: Select an oil or oil product that won’t irritate your scalp.
  • You can determine whether or not the oil could irritate your scalp by doing a patch test somewhere it can’t easily be seen.
  • Tip 5: Don’t be heavy-handed when applying the oil, use the oil in moderation by applying a light layer.
  • Tip 6: Only use the pad of your fingers to massage the oil. You want to avoid using your nails so you don’t scratch and hurt your scalp.

How to do scalp oiling

There are two typical methods for scalp oiling. The first is on freshly washed and dried hair by applying a few drops of oil on your scalp and massaging it using the pads of your fingers. The key is to not apply a lot of oil so your scalp and hair get really oily because with this method it’s not being washed out.

The second method is right before you wash your hair, kinda like an oil-based pre-poo. Apply a few drops on the scalp and massage it in with the pads of your fingers. For added benefit, you can also apply some oil to the length of your hair paying special attention to your ends. After a little bit of time, about 20-30 minutes, shampoo your hair and continue with your regular wash day.

I’ve personally used both methods.  I’ve found the best way to control how much oil I’m putting on my scalp is either to use a dropper or put the oil on my fingertips.

There are a few different oils that can be used on your scalp. When trying any oil or oil product on your scalp do a patch test first to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to it.
This oil is a little on the heavier side. Some ways to thin it out are to mix it with a lighter oil or get a Jamaican Black Castor Oil mix like the Jamaican Mango & Lime Peppermint Black Castor Oil or Jamaican Mango & Lime Vitamins A D & E Black Castor Oil. When I’ve used it I try to only apply it after washing my hair and scalp.

This is a lightweight, non-greasy, and gentle oil blend. I used it for several months and had no issues with buildup, greasiness, or irritation.

Jojoba Oil
This is a great natural oil to use on the scalp because it’s very similar to sebum which is the natural oil that the scalp creates. 

Tea tree oil
It's a good option because it has antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Don’t use tea tree oil straight because it’s strong and will cause irritation. Take it from me because I did a little test to see if this was true. And it was. 

Like other essential oils tea tree oil needs to be mixed in with another one so you could mix it with some Jamaican black castor oil, or jojoba oil.

My conclusion

So what is a girl to do? Do you or don’t you do scalp oiling?

After going back and forth with all of this info and taking into account my own experience with scalp oiling I’ve decided that I’m going to continue doing it. Oiling has been helping my scalp, I haven’t noticed any issues, and I regularly clean my scalp so buildup isn't an issue. I think if I went longer than a week between hair washes I would have to rethink putting oil on my scalp to avoid any buildup issues.

When it comes to whether or not you will oil your scalp take this information, do some additional research for yourself, and figure out what will work for you. That’s really what being on a healthy hair journey is all about.  It’s not about doing everything I do or some other hair influencer does. It’s about figuring out what’s best for you, your hair, and your scalp and doing that.

What’s your experience with scalp oiling? Are you a fan, or are you not a fan?