Moisturizing vs Sealing Oils: Which Do You Need?

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Everyone wants healthy and luxurious hair. But sometimes you may find your hair is dry and brittle, especially if you spend a lot of time in rooms with heating or air conditioning, due to there being less moisture in the air.

It’s all about deciding what you want from an oil. Is it just softness that you’re after or do you want more shine? Or a bit of both? The choice of moisturizing vs sealing oils is the one you have to make to nurture your locks.

Hair oils are a staple for many, especially those with curly hair. This is because oil treatments are great for taming curly locks. However, hair oils are a great addition to anyone’s hair care routine. With so many types of hair oils available, though, choosing the right one for you can feel confusing.


Moisturizing vs Sealing Oils

The biggest difference between moisturizing and sealing oils is determined by the level of penetration, which comes down to the size of the oil molecules and how they interact with the hair.

Moisturizing oils inject moisture by penetrating the hair shaft. Coconut oil, for example, which is high in triglycerides, has molecules that are small enough to penetrate the hair’s cuticle layer.

This is why it has become a popular treatment as a hair mask, or even as leave-in hair hydration. It also prevents dandruff.

Sealing oils, on the other hand, basically coat the hair shaft with a thin film that prevents moisture from escaping. These oils contain bulky fatty chains that make their molecules bigger, which means they’re less likely to penetrate the hair shaft.

However, they’re great at enhancing shine.

So, sealing oils aren’t moisturizing to the hair and moisturizing oils don’t seal the hair (although, there are exceptions to this rule, which you can find out about at the end).

Find out what oil will suit you best from those listed below.

Soak It In: Moisturizing Oils

Moisturizing Oil

Give your hair a treat with an at-home hot oil treatment before your shampoo to moisturize your hair and scalp, and help to stimulate growth. Heating an oil before use will also help it to penetrate your hair faster.

After application, pop on a shower cap or heated towel to keep in the heat and wait at least 20 minutes to rinse it out. Your hair will love you for giving it the attention it needs to avoid dry, brittle hair and split ends.

Moisturizing Oil Options

  • Coconut oil — This popular oil can be used for hair, skin and cooking, and is the traditional oil used as a beauty treatment in the tropics. It also has the potential of repairing split ends and dandruff.
  • Palm kernel oil — Containing antioxidants that help to maintain collagen to reduce hair loss, this oil is great for those with thinning, flat or dry hair.
  • Babassu oil — Originating from the Brazilian palm tree, this oil is similar to coconut, but is lighter, so is a great option for those who may find the latter too greasy.

Moisturizing Oil Benefits

  • Penetrates the hair shaft
  • Softens hair
  • Ideal for hot oil treatments

Shine On: Sealing Oils

Sealing Oil

Sealing oils are all about luxurious shine and also provide lubrication, which makes it easier to comb and brush your hair. 

Besides hot treatments, these oils can also be used as a leave-in to reduce tangles.

Sealing Oil Options

  • Rice bran oil — Rice bran oil not only helps to tame frizzy locks, but it also has the added bonus of containing antioxidants that prevent premature graying.
  • Castor oil — This oil not only nourishes the scalp but protects the hair from breakage. Some even use this oil to increase eyebrow growth with impressive results.
  • Almond oil — Almond oil not only seals the hair shaft but also contains magnesium, which helps to prevent hair loss.
  • Grapeseed oil — With its very light formula, this oil is great for those with thinner hair.

Sealing Oil Benefits

  • Locks in moisture
  • Shines hair
  • Great for fine, thin hair

Soak and Shine

The exception to the rules above are these three oils that have the ability to penetrate the hair’s outer cuticle layer, but can also be used to seal and lubricate to increase softness:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Argan oil

The even better news about all of the oils mentioned above is that you can also use them on your skin to great effect. So, in the beauty game of moisturizing vs sealing oils, it’s now time for you to decide which ones are best for you.

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).