African American hair has specific needs that must be tended to in order for it to be healthy and vibrant. Dry scalp and dry hair follicles contribute to black hair breakage and can become a problem for some individuals. Hot oil treatments can be used to correct damage and breakage for black hair; however, the benefits of hot oil treatments are varied and not all hair types need hot oil treatments.
Hot oil treatments prevent breakage, which is common among people with coarse hair textures, such as African Americans' hair. The need to moisturize the hair follicle with extra oil is born out of a desire to promote continued growth and sheen while maintaining the integrity of the hair follicle. Hot oil allows for necessary oils to be deposited back into the hair to prevent over-drying, which contributes to breakage. Hot oil treatments also create extra body and shine, which can be beneficial for black hair because it is prone to becoming brittle or dull due to its coarse texture.
Castor oil treatments are common and quite beneficial for black hair because of its thick consistency. For individuals with particularly curly types of hair, castor oil can help to loosen curls and create greater wave and texture. Jamaican castor oil is best as it is unrefined, which eliminates unnecessary chemicals that may be deposited in the hair from other types of oils. Castor oil is often mixed with other oils (olive, coconut, etc) in order to create the right consistency for an individual's hair texture. It is best to use castor oil with a light conditioner to help balance pH levels.
Other Oil Options
There are numerous other types of oils that can be used besides castor oil. Olive oil is quite popular because if its silky and smooth texture. Many people use the olive oil from their kitchen supply and heat it to achieve desired results. Coconut oil is beneficial as a daily moisturizer and a hot oil treatment. Jojoba oil is a favorite among some because it helps correct dry scalp and prevent dandruff. Emu oil is used to help with hair loss or for individuals who have hair thinning (perhaps due to hair extensions, weaves or wig use). It's a favorite among hair care professionals and is available in black haircare specialty shops.
Hot oil treatments need to be heated so that the oil thins slightly in texture while still being of a temperature tolerable to the scalp. Many people place oil bottles in hot water as opposed to putting them in the microwave, which can heat oil too quickly. Heating oils in a small saucepan slowly is another popular method. The best way to apply hot oil treatments is to place oil on the hair and scalp and rub it in with your hands. The oil should be applied to the whole head, and special attention should be made to the scalp, which should be equally saturated with oil. A plastic cap can be worn after oil application and should be left on for 10 to 15 minutes depending upon the dryness of the hair. Sitting under a dryer can help to set oils and increase moisturizing effects.
Homemade Treatment Versus Salon Treatment
Many people believe they need to go to a salon for a good hot oil treatment. While salon treatments can be relaxing and beneficial, they use the same oils you can buy yourself at a beauty supply store, or that you have right in your kitchen cabinets. Homemade hot oil treatments are more economical and allow people to tailor oil needs to their particular hair type. A mixture of oils can be used to create the perfect balance and consistency of oil, depending on your haircare needs. There are various hot oil kits available for purchase with step-by-step instructions for application that can help reduce salon costs.
Some people prefer to do hot oil treatments weekly, while others find that they are only necessary every month. This largely depends upon the texture and dryness of an individual's hair. People with dryer scalps should try to do a hot oil treatment more regularly to prevent over-drying and breakage, while some people find that weekly treatments over saturate hair with oils and cause their hair to be limp and greasy. Black hair is typically not washed daily, so the more natural oil that is allowed to be built up, the less frequently one will find a need for hot oil treatment. However, after relaxing treatments or any kind of chemical processing, hot oil treatments can help improve elasticity, moisture and sheen.