9 best hair oils that lock in moisture, prevent damage and add shine

Louise Whitbread
·8-min read
<p>If you’ve been avoiding a hair oil through fear of being left with greasy locks, allow our round-up to change your mind</p> (The Independent)

If you’ve been avoiding a hair oil through fear of being left with greasy locks, allow our round-up to change your mind

(The Independent)

No matter your hair type, from fine and poker-straight to tight coils, it’s worth adding an oil into your hair care routine. While shampoo and conditioner are great for overall maintenance, a hair oil is a treatment that can have a multitude of benefits with regular use.

“Hair oils lock in curls, add in moisture, rehydrate the hair, while adding shine, moisture, prevent split ends and protect from pollution,” Anita Rice, co-founder of East London sustainable salon, Buller & Rice, told us.

If you have fine hair, and not that much of it, you may well have steered clear of anything oil-related for fear it would weigh hair down and leave it looking greasy. On the contrary, Rice recommends all hair types use a high quality, lightweight one, especially something that is a protective and split end sealant.

How you apply it makes all the difference in its effectiveness, she explains: “For finer hair we often recommend applying it to wet locks as the moisture in the hair slightly dilutes the oil and gives you a much more even result. If you have dry, brittle, broken, or highly textured hair we often say that using an oil on dry hair will give you a much more shiny, de-frizzing, moisture-locking result.”

We put a range to the test, from high-end options to budget beauty buys, and were left with our top pick of products that promote hair growth, heal split ends, tame flyaways and are an essential blow drying aid for adding a healthy shine. These are our must-haves for your tresses.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

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Oway nurturing drops

This oil feels closer to a gel in texture – thick, but not gloopy – with not a hint of grease. One pipette is all you need before running through wet strands. We saw a significant improvement to dry ends damaged from styling tools and overall our hair looked healthier with fewer split ends. The formula is rich in marrubium, black quinoa, amla and ethically produced marula and gave our tresses a hint of shine and left it super soft. We found it to be an essential companion during the first lockdown when salons were shut and we were left to fend for ourselves on the hair front.

Buy now £31.65, Amazon

Olaplex No7 bonding oil

Once exclusive to salons, Olaplex has fast become a must have for haircare fiends at home and its range of treatments is a go-to for anyone looking to give lacklustre tresses a new lease of life. Its oil is deceivingly small (no bigger than your palm), but we found it to be well worth the splurge. The texture is weightless, making it perfect for use on dry hair and the stopper ensures you never over apply, with only three pumps needed for our medium-length strands, meaning it will last ages. With regular use it fast added shine, left locks soft and got rid of flyaways in seconds. Travel friendly and lightweight, it’s another winner from the well-loved hair brand.

Buy now £26.00, Space NK

Moroccanoil treatment

We can’t include this product without mentioning the incredible scent from the formula packed with argan oil. Once applied, the fragrance lasts all day too, and we can’t get enough of it. It comes with a handy pump dispenser which helps to control application and not apply too much, which could cause finer hair types to become greasy. It’s a brilliant product to suit all hair types in need of a moisture boost without weighing it down and comes in handy to detangle if you’re prone to knots. It’s versatile too, doubling up as a body oil for a post shower treat to leave you smelling luscious.

Buy now £32.85, Feel Unique

Neighbourhood botanicals age of Aquarius hair oil

While in an ideal world we’d give up our curling wands and straighteners, the next best thing is ensuring you have a routine that’s as protective and preventive as possible. Describing itself as a hair serum, the formula features camellia oil, jojoba wax and shea butter and is a heat protectant that’s super silky to touch, helping repair damage. Working best on damaged, wavy and coarse hair, we loved the glossy shine and curl definition it added, and the spray atomiser makes careful and even application a breeze. It’s a vegan-friendly and gluten free formula with no synthetics and best of all the bottle and cap are easily recyclable.

Buy now £29.00, Neighbourhood botanicals

Michael Van Clarke 3” more inches magic oil

Small but mighty, we loved the dropper applicator which makes it almost impossible to use too much product. Using the right amount is key to the effectiveness of hair oil, as using too much on fine hair can make it feel limp and greasy. This silicone and paraben-free serum, created by renowned hairdresser Michael Van Clarke, is lovely and lightweight, and doesn’t leave a sticky mess on the palms of your hands. Three to four drops is plenty, simply apply through mid-lengths and ends and it delivers a glossy, healthy-looking shine. For the best results, we’d recommend using it on damp locks before blow drying.

Buy now £24.50, Van Clarke

Fable and Mane holiroots hair oil

Unlike the other oils we tried, this one is a scalp treatment designed to be applied to dry hair overnight and washed out the following morning or five minutes before you shower for leave-in use. It easily became part of our weekly routine. If you have fine, naturally straighter hair we’d recommend keeping it to once or twice a week, while curly or thick tresses should use more regularly. We didn’t just love it for the head massage we gave ourselves to ensure it was fully absorbed, we noticed that after just two weeks our hair was noticeably softer, particularly around the roots, and lasted longer in between washes. The pipette dropper also allows it to be applied directly onto your scalp without being left with oil covered hands.

Buy now £29.00, Fable and Mane

Charlotte Mensah manketti hair oil

Charlotte Mensah, an award-winning afro hair stylist, created this luxury hair oil that’s been tried and tested on her clients. It’s a blend of manketti nut and ximenia oils that are sustainably sourced and a cocktail of vitamin E and essential nutrients like calcium and protein. Preventing moisture loss, it’s a dull, dehydrated hair saviour that we loved for its weightless feel in our curly hair. While pricey, it's worth the splurge and smells gorgeous but not overwhelming. Keep it close by if you regularly use heated styling tools.

Buy now £48.00, Charlotte Mensah

We Are Paradoxx hangover hair elixir

Irish beauty brand We Are Paradoxx successfully toes the line between fun packaging without the gimmick, creating effective products using vegan, locally sourced ingredients, all while being 90 per cent plastic-free. The formula, housed in packaging inspired by a hip flask, is thicker in texture than other oils, but easy to evenly distribute through wet strands which we found most effective. It gave hair a lovely glossy shine that you usually only find after a salon visit, thanks to its formula enriched with Irish whisky, coconut and soya oils. Just be careful not to use too much, as it dispenses quite quickly, which runs the risk of weighing hair down if applied to dry hair.

Buy now £30.00, Look Fantastic

L’Oréal elvive extraordinary oil

This is an excellent option if you’re new to hair oils and want something simple and inexpensive. It’s part of L'Oréal’s elvive range, designed to treat hair issues across all hair types, whether you’re hoping to protect your coloured locks or focus on improving split ends. This oil caters to all hair types and can be used in a variety of ways. You can use it pre-shampooing to hydrate a dry scalp, add a moisture boost to wet hair or as a styling product to tame flyaways. It has a very subtle scent, luxurious-looking bottle and non-greasy feel that doesn’t cling to strands. Just be careful with how much you apply, for finer hair types we found half a pump was more than adequate. The thicker your hair, the more you can apply.

Buy now £12.99, Superdrug

The verdict: Hair oils

We can’t fault the fast-acting Oway nurturing drops which improved our split ends within a few days of use and left us going back for more throughout lockdowns. A haircare companion worth keeping close no matter what your hair type is like, it’s a surefire way to prevent further damage and extend time between your salon visits.