6 DIY Olive Oil Hair Masks: Recipes, Tips, Benefits & More
You simply must love a good multipurpose ingredient, no? Olive oil certainly falls into that category, as it's a kitchen staple and beauty product mainstay. Not only do product formulators use it regularly in products, but at-home beauty enthusiasts rely on it for body and face oils—and hair masks.
Making hair masks at home is a simple joy we can get behind (seriously, we love a DIY hair mask around here). Extra-virgin olive oil has plenty of hair-healthy benefits, making it an ideal ingredient to add in or use as a base for your hair treatments. Before we jump in, do make sure your oil is high quality (check out a simple test here if you're not sure), as you'll likely not get any of the benefits below if it is not.
Why olive oil is good for hair.
Like many natural oils, olive oil has a very nutritious profile full of antioxidants and fatty acids. To start, olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. Hair actually has the ability to absorb monounsaturated fats1, according to research, so while not all of the oil will penetrate the strand, there's good reason to believe some will. This is important because this way, your hair can utilize the antioxidant powers.
Olive oil is notably high in vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that has impressive free-radical-fighting abilities. This likely accounts for the fact that studies have shown the oil has anti-inflammatory properties2, which can help your scalp health as well as help hair deal with external aggressors, like pollution. This is an important benefit, as inflammation and oxidative stress is one of the main causes of hair loss and premature graying3, according to research.
And upon application, the oil can help in two ways. First, it helps condition hair thanks to the vitamins and fatty acids noted above. Second, it acts as a protective barrier, thanks to the occlusive properties. "It acts both as a moisturizer and a sealant, which helps to keep moisture locked in after the olive oil has been applied. Incorporating olive oil into your hair routine can help to improve elasticity and result in less breakage," says hairstylist Miko Branch, founder of Miss Jessie's. In fact, some research has even shown that using olive oil as a hair lubricant can reduce breakage4.
So olive oil's benefits for hair aren't just anecdotal (although, there's plenty of that too); there's real science backing up these claims. Translation? You can feel good about slathering it on your strands.
6 DIY hair masks to try.
"While olive oil can be applied directly to the hair, mixing it up into hair masks and deep conditioners can enhance the benefits of that product through infusing additional antioxidants and benefits from the olive oil," says Branch. Here, our favorite blends.
Before we begin on any of the below: Wrap your shoulders with a towel so if any of the application process gets messy, it won't get on your clothing.
Honey + olive oil
This popular combo adds the soothing benefits of honey, ideally manuka honey. It can act as an anti-inflammatory5 for the scalp, reducing irritation. And it also has humectant properties (i.e., its ability to attract water to the surface of the skin and hair as well as deliver hydration to the deeper layers), so it helps your hair and scalp retain moisture6.
- In a small bowl, mix together 3 parts olive oil to 1 part honey.
- Using your fingers, work the mixture into your hair, starting at the ends and working your way up to your roots (since the honey can help your scalp, you'll want to make sure it touches the skin).
- Let it set for 10 to 30 minutes (even longer!), and then wash out with shampoo.
Avocado + olive oil
Avocados aren't just a tasty treat, they do wonders for skin and hair. Since avocados are also full of fatty acids and antioxidants, this blend will be extra nutritious for your strands.
- Mash up a small, ripe avocado and add in a healthy splash of olive oil. Blend until consistent.
- Carefully work through your hair, in sections. Wrap in a plastic cap, and let it sit.
- Shampoo out of your hair.
Tea tree + olive oil
Tea tree is a popular astringent that has many uses for hair and skin (it's often formulated into toners, acne treatments, shampoos, and more). You can totally make your own at home, using olive oil as the base. The mixture may help with scalp acne, product buildup, balancing sebum production, and adding shine.
- Mix together 4 to 5 drops of tea tree oil into 1 fluid ounce of olive oil.
- Starting at the scalp, comb the mixture into your hair.
- Let it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse out.
Banana + olive oil
Bananas are rich in silica7, a natural molecule that closely resembles silicone. Silicones are often used in hair masks and leave-ins as they help smooth frizz by sealing down the cuticle. So by swapping silicones for the banana-derived silica, you'd get similar benefits without the issues of silicones. Not to mention, bananas have significant antioxidant properties8, too.
- Mash together 1 banana and a large drizzle of olive oil
- Work the mixture into your hair, root to tip. (Things may get messy!)
- Wrap your hair in a plastic cap so no clumps fall. When you're finished, shampoo the mixture out.
Rosemary + olive oil
For this scalp mask, you're essentially using olive oil as your carrier oil base for the rosemary. Carrier oils are the oils you blend with essential oils before applying EOs cosmetically. Rosemary oil is a known scalp stimulant, and many believe it may help hair growth.
- Add 7 to 12 drops of rosemary essential oil per 1 fluid ounce of olive oil.
- With gentle massaging motions, work the mixture into your scalp, letting it seep down the strands. (Bonus: Scalp massage helps stimulate growth too.)
- Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, and rinse.
Conditioner + olive oil
Oftentimes people wonder if they really need both conditioner and masks. Here's the thing: Masks are going to be more potent, dense, and hydrating—it's why the texture is different and usually why they are more expensive. However, if you don't feel the need to purchase both, you can make your go-to conditioner into a deep conditioner by using it as a base, in which you add additional oils, like olive. This is super simple too:
- Simply squirt the normal amount of conditioner you'd use into the palm of your hand. If you use a lot of conditioner—like more than a simple handful—you can apply your mask in sections.
- Drizzle in a small amount of olive oil, and mix together with your fingers and palms.
- Apply throughout the hair, let it sit, and rinse as normal.
Just some general guidelines for olive oil masks to keep in mind:
- Be diligent about your shampoo after—olive oil can easily cause buildup. "Since olive oil is an ingredient that can easily sit on top of the scalp, it's important to thoroughly wash out any residue following application," says Branch.
- If you have an oily scalp, start coating hair at the mid-shaft to the ends. For some, using oil at the roots will be too heavy and not needed (as your natural sebum is doing the work there).
- Avoid olive oil if you have dandruff. According to board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., "Dandruff is caused by a yeast on our scalp, and if you use olive oil, you are feeding that yeast, which might make dandruff worse."
- Make any mask an overnight treatment by wrapping the hair in a plastic cap, securing it so it doesn't slip throughout the night, and then washing your hair as normal in the morning.
Deep conditioning hot oil treatment.
One of the more popular ways to use the oil is through hot oil treatments. If you've never done one before, these are long-beloved rituals used in several cultures for years. It involves warming up various oils, safely applying them to hair, letting them sit for an extended period of time, and then rinsing them out.
The oil is heated because it is thought to help open the cuticle and let the oil penetrate deeper. "The idea with heat is that it breaks down the bonds and helps coat it better," says board-certified dermatologist Doris Day, M.D. "I get the theory behind it, but there isn't data to prove it. But it's been done for a long period of time, and we haven't really seen damage from it."
There are several variations with hot oil treatments—there's no "correct" way you must do it. However, you should follow some safety guidelines so you don't burn yourself. Here, a simple guideline.
How to do a hot-oil treatment:
- In a small glass bowl, heat a few tablespoons of oil (it will depend on how long your hair is, but you don't need a lot) by microwaving it for 10 seconds, followed by 5-second increments until the temperature is right.
- Always test the temperature on your hand before—never directly apply to your scalp or hair. When in doubt, err on the side of cool; you can let the oil sit for a while if you've realized you've gone too hot.
- If the temperature is warm but comfortable, simply start pouring it over dry hair in small doses, stopping to massage it in at the scalp and pull it through the length of the strand.
- When your head is sufficiently coated, wrap it in a shower cap or plastic wrap and let it sit for upward of 30 minutes. (Towels or other fabrics will absorb the oil, so avoid those.)
- After, you can either rinse it out with just water or a sulfate-free shampoo.
Olive oil products we love:
You can also find olive oil in some pretty great conditioners and leave-ins. Use these alongside your DIY masks, or in place of them if you're not the do-it-at-home type.
There are plenty of reasons to use olive oil in your hair care routine. To start, it's very nutritious and has a host of hair-health benefits. Second? Well, it's just so easy to make a DIY mask at home.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.