Argan, jojoba, macadamia… seven hair oils explained

Hair oils have broken into the mainstream market in recent years, and with so many options available, it's safe to say they are here to stay.

"Oils were always seen as very heavy, and more often that not, a negative,” said Schwarzkopf Professional’s education ambassador, Scott Sloan. "But I think there has been a big movement towards seeing oils as an essential part of our bodies and that there are ways we can work with them, particularly to maximise hair quality and health.”  

Bhave’s technical and creative director, Neil Cleminson said it’s important to realise that products have different degrees of oil in them, and some brands are more reliant on silicone in their formulas, which can contribute to that limp feeling some consumers complain of with regular use of hair oils.

"You’ll probably find oils that are weighing the hair down contain a low level of argan oil but a high level of silicone, so next time the consumer washes their hair, all that silicone isn’t washing out, so they get a build-up on the hair," he said.

So to help you on your way of figuring out what's right for you and your locks, below are seven common hair oils explained.

Argan - the healthy oil

This is the oil that started it all. Argan oil is used by a number of successful brands, including AndalouDavroe and Hask.

Another brand that truly knows the benefit of argan oil is Argania, which bases its whole brand philosophy on this one little wonder ingredient.

Argania’s brand manager Aimee Paterson said all truly authentic argan oil comes from Morocco. Argan oil has been valued throughout history in Morocco for its vast medicinal, health and beauty properties,” Paterson explains. The oil is naturally rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids that are fabulous not only for the health and appearance of our hair but also our skin.”

Marula nut - the hydrating oil

"Marula nut oil is predicted to be the next ‘big’ oil for hair and skin treatment,” said Val Zuban, product manager for The Body Shop. "It is said to contain higher levels of antioxidants than argan oil, and some argue that it is a purer oil than the more famous argan oil.”

Zuban explains that this is because a lot of cosmetics companies using argan oil press the entire nut and shell, but when it comes to making marula nut oil, only the nut of the marula is pressed, so it comes in its purest form.

Marula nut oil is also a key ingredient in fan favourite products from 12Reasons and Theorie.

Jojoba - the restorative oil

Long associated with having benefits for the skin, now jojoba oil is being looked upon for its benefits to the hair, too. Sourced from the seeds of a woody shrub known as Simmondsia chinensis, jojoba oil has unique properties that make it structurally similar to sebum.

The structure of this ingredient closely resembles our own natural lipids that nourish, hydrate and protect our hair and skin,” said Julie Gillespie, project manager for Vitafive CPR. "It contains many important nutrients, such as vitamin E, B complex vitamins, silica, chromium, copper, zinc and iodine.”

Gillespie explains that jojoba oil is actually a waxy ester, not an oil, which explains its immense benefits and beautiful non-greasy feel on the hair.

Used in hair care products from brands such as GROWSukin NaturalsA'kin and Wella - jojoba oil repairs and smoothes the hair cuticle, provides long-lasting nourishment, protects against humidity and moisture loss and provides nutrients for healthy, shiny hair.

Prickly pear - the replenishing oil

A potent moisturiser and antioxidant, prickly pear oil makes for an effective inclusion in hair treatments and intensive conditioners. In fact, the oil’s beneficial replenishing properties were recently acknowledged in studies conducted by the Universities of Messina and Montpellier.  

One product that has put this oil on the map is the cult classic, Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask with Prickly Pear Oil. An intensive care mask to repair even the most damaged hair, it is the brand's best selling product as it absorbs perfectly into the hair for deep and lasting action from root to tip.

Almond – the strengthening oil

Featuring a combination of fats and fatty acids, almond oil has the ability to strengthen and nourish the hair. According to Zuban, "almond oil has been used for centuries to treat people who have issues with hair loss or breakage, with evidence of the rather vain Ancient Egyptians massaging it onto their scalp and hair to prevent hair loss and add lustre.”

Containing vitamin E and potassium, Zuban said almond oil helps minimise hair fall-out and breakage as a natural hair loss treatment. It has the added ability to nourish and moisturise the scalp, and remove flakiness.

Brands such as Aveeno Active Naturals and SheaMoisture are big-time fans of the oil.

Kukui nut – the conditioning oil

Cold pressed from the seeds of the Aleurites moluccans tree, Kukui nut oil contains essential fatty acids that are beneficial in conditioning the hair.

"Kukui nut oil has been used for many years throughout the Islands of Hawaii,” explains Zuban. "It is used to moisturise the skin and hair and protect it from sun, salt, wind and other environmental elements. The superior fatty acids in the kukui nut make it a superior moisturising oil.”

Macadamia – the nourishing oil

Not just a delicious addition to a salad dressing, macadamia oil is similar to jojoba in its structural likeness to sebum. "It’s this unique similarity that makes it so effective, allowing the oil to infuse into hair and scalp with extraordinarily fast absorption and penetration; restoring health, softness and shine, and shielding the hair from chemicals, heat and damage through its natural UV protection,” said Tanya Nelson, national educator for Dateline Imports, the distributor of Macadamia Natural Oil.

Nelson said macadamia oil provides instant nourishment, smoothing and long lasting tangle- and frizz-free hair. "It’s also been shown to extend the life of colour treatments by reducing fading, offering natural UV protection, and reduce drying time by 40 to 50 per cent. Macadamia Natural Oil Luxurious Oil Treatment can be used on all hair times to minimise drying time when used on wet hair,” said Nelson. 

Macadamia ProfessionalGarnier Fructis and Sisley Paris all love the smoothing and nourishing benefits of this wonder oil.