10 Essential Oils for African American Hair

Essential oils are often a component of DIY hair products, especially for African American hair. Once you become familiar with the variety of essential oils available, you'll soon develop your own favorites. This isn't a comprehensive list, but it's a good starting point for some of the most common oils you'll find at your local or online health food retailer.

Properties of each essential oil will help you decide if it's something you should add to your latest concoction. Use one, two, or even three of these oils for a personalized product designed for your specific needs. In most cases, 3 to 15 drops are sufficient for your hair care creation.

Essential Oil Safety

Just because a product is natural doesn't mean it's 100% safe for you. Not all essential oils are the same, despite having the same name. For instance, cedarwood essential oil may be distilled from different species of cedar or from different parts of the tree. The oil distilled from the wood chips and sawdust are safe, but the oil from the leaves of the Northern White Cedar is toxic. Purchase from a reputable health retailer and stick to brands you know to be safe.

Also, nearly all essential oils must be diluted in another product, such as a carrier oil or conditioner. Using them directly onto your skin (this includes your scalp) can lead to minor or major irritation. In addition, some EOs aren't compatible with certain medical conditions. Do your research into any EO before using. If in doubt, do not use at all; this is particularly important for pregnant or nursing women, and anyone who suffers from seizures, as well as on children.

Popular for: Growth promotion, moisture retention

If you love strongly scented products, adding a few drops of ylang ylang EO will produce a heady, full-bodied aroma that's quite intoxicating. The unmistakable smell is just one of the good things about ylang ylang. It also helps promote healthy growth. Because of the pleasant smell, it works well to mask the scent of other products you may not be crazy about, either DIY or commercial.

Jamaican Black Castor Oil is one example; while many women love JBCO for its growth claims, some don't like using it because it has its own distinctive, nutty aroma. Adding several drops of ylang ylang to your bottle of JBCO can mask that nutty smell.

Popular for: Promoting growth, fighting grays, relieving dry scalp

Rosemary comes in several forms, including teas, oils and essential oils. Women seeking longer hair often use rosemary since it's touted for growth promotion. Adding a few drops to any DIY mix can also help alleviate a dry, itchy scalp. Its fragrant aroma lends a pleasant scent to hair products as well.

Popular for: Stress relief, dandruff relief

Lavender has long held a place in natural remedies. Not only are lavender-scented products often used to promote restfulness and peaceful feelings, but lavender oil has benefits for the hair, too. Putting lavender EO into your hair mixture can help fight dandruff. With a healthier scalp comes healthier hair growth.

Popular for: Antimicrobial properties, fights hair loss

Combine a few drops of sage with a few drops of rosemary into your hair care mixture if you're interested in stimulating growth. Both of these EOs are also touted for slowing down gray hair growth or darkening the hair naturally.

Popular for: Follicle stimulation, relieves dandruff

Your hair is sure to smell minty clean if you add peppermint EO to a hair product. This is a great oil to use if you love that "tingling" feeling on your scalp -- it definitely makes your head feel clean!

Popular for: Flaky scalp relief, antibacterial properties

This is one essential oil that doesn't need to be mixed into a carrier oil or other product. But, you should still use it very sparingly. You can also mix tea tree EO into a carrier oil and still reap the benefits. To alleviate an itchy scalp, several drops of the oil mixed in the palms of your hands and applied to the scalp via a massage can help a great deal.

Women who only co-wash and have buildup as a result may find this helpful, but it's also a good option for anyone suffering dandruff or a tight-feeling scalp looking for relief.

Popular for: Antiseptic properties, calming effects

The woodsy aroma of sandalwood is just one of the properties many people like about it. Since it's one of the pricier oils (along with ylang ylang), you may want to use it sparingly. It helps add softness to dry hair. Consider adding a few drops to your post-shampoo and conditioner rinse.

Popular for: Relaxation, dandruff relief


The sweet, woody smell of cedarwood combine with its anti-itch properties to make this an ideal scalp soother. It combines well with rosemary, so use these two oils together if you want a follicle-stimulating mix since it's purported to help with growth.

Popular for: Scalp stimulation, strengthening properties

Bergamot essential oil mixes well with other oils, including sage, jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood and rosemary. It adds a nice bit of shine to your tresses, and would be a good addition to a regular application of Jamaican Black Castor Oil. It's also helpful to add it to your shampoo and conditioner. 

Popular for: Dry scalp

A fresh, citrusy scent is one of the hallmarks of lemon essential oil. However, the drying properties of this EO don't make it a good choice for dry hair types (which describes most black hair textures). It is a great option for a dry scalp, though.

To use this oil without drying out your tresses, mix a few drops into a natural carrier oil (like jojoba) and use it only for scalp massage, being careful not to get it onto the length of your hair.