Oiling your hair before bed is a popular hair care ritual. Some people swear by it for soft, shiny hair while others avoid it thinking it may lead to more damage. So should you sleep with oil in your hair or not? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of this practice and get into the details.
Pros of Sleeping with Oil in Your Hair
There are some potential benefits of applying oil to your hair before bed. Here are the main pros:
1. May lead to softer, more conditioned hair
Applying oil and letting it soak in overnight can help deeply condition your hair. Oils help retain moisture in your hair and scalp. This can lead to softer, more conditioned tresses, especially if you have dry or damaged hair.
Some natural oils that can condition include:
- Coconut oil – Has fatty acids that penetrate hair. Can reduce protein loss.
- Argan oil – Rich in vitamin E and fatty acids. Hydrates hair.
- Olive oil – Contains antioxidants. Seals moisture into hair.
2. May boost shine
Some natural oils have emollient properties that help smooth down the hair cuticle. This seals the hair and makes it look shinier. Oils also add a glossy look themselves.
Good options for shine include:
- Jojoba oil – Mimics natural oils. Imparts shine and softness.
- Almond oil – Lightweight oil that smoothly coats hair.
- Grapeseed oil – Non-greasy oil with vitamin E for luster.
3. May help with frizz control
Securing moisture in your hair with oil can help tame frizz and flyaways. The lubricating qualities of oil help smooth the hair shaft. This keeps hair looking sleeker and less frizzy.
Oils that can control frizz:
- Moroccan oil – Argan oil-based blend with antioxidants. Smooth flyaways.
- Marula oil – High in antioxidants like vitamin E. Softens and detangles.
- Avocado oil – Contains vitamins A, D, and E to hydrate.
4. Convenient overnight treatment
Sleeping with oil in your hair lets the oil soak in for hours. This allows it to thoroughly treat your hair as you sleep. It’s like getting a deep conditioning treatment overnight.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Use hair oils 1-2 times per week at most
- Apply to damp, freshly washed hair for best absorption
- Focus oil on ends if hair is fine or oily
- Use a shower cap and/or satin pillowcase
5. May improve scalp health
Natural oils can moisturize and soothe the scalp. This helps reduce dryness and itching. It may also help calm irritation from conditions like dandruff.
Some soothing, anti-inflammatory oils for the scalp:
- Tea tree oil – Has antimicrobial qualities that fight dandruff.
- Rosemary oil – Stimulates circulation in the scalp.
- Lavender oil – Calms and moisturizes the scalp.
Be sure to dilute essential oils like tea tree and mix them with a carrier oil before applying.
6. Easy to apply before bed
Applying oil before bedtime is super quick and easy. You can distribute it through your hair in just a couple of minutes. The oil stays put as you sleep versus applying it in the morning before facing the day.
Follow these tips:
- Warm a small amount of oil between your palms
- Start at your mid-lengths and ends, and work up
- Use a wide-tooth comb for even distribution
- Focus extra oil on dry ends
Cons of Sleeping with Oil in Your Hair
While oiling your hair before bed has some upside, there are also a few potential downsides to consider:
1. Oil may transfer onto skin and bedding
Sleeping with oiled hair runs the risk of getting oil stains on your face, neck, shoulders and pillowcases or sheets. Even if you tie your hair up, some oil can still escape and transfer.
To minimize oil transfer:
- Use the least amount of oil needed
- Blot excess oil with a towel
- Put your hair in a loose braid or bun
- Wrap hair in a silk scarf or shower cap
- Use an old pillowcase
2. Can look greasy if overdone
It’s easy to go overboard with the oil before bed. Using too much can make your hair look flat, limp and greasy. This leaves hair weighed down instead of feeling moisturized.
To avoid greasiness:
- Only use a tiny amount – start with a dime size
- Focus on mid-lengths to ends
- Apply lightly to roots and scalp if needed
- Don’t pile hair on top of head
3. Could clog pores and lead to breakouts
Having oily hair resting on your face and neck overnight can result in clogged pores and breakouts. This is especially true for those with acne-prone skin.
To prevent skin issues:
- Tie hair back in a low ponytail or braid
- Use a shower cap to create a barrier
- Place a towel over your pillow
- Wash face/neck after waking up in the morning
4. May attract dirt and require more washing
Oil attracts dirt, dust, and other particles. This can make your hair look dull and feel gritty. You may need to wash oiled hair more often to prevent product build-up.
Wash oiled hair every 2-3 days max. Use a clarifying shampoo 1-2 times per month to remove residue.
5. Can seem inconvenient
Having to prep your hair before bed and then wash it the next morning may feel like too much effort for some people. It takes time and requires changing up your normal routine.
Keep it simple – pick 1 rest day per week to oil overnight without anywhere to be in the morning. Or only oil mid-lengths to ends.
6. Risk of staining light-colored hair
Certain natural oils like coconut and olive oil can stain and discolor light or blonde hair if left on too long. This results in a dingy, yellowish hue over time.
To prevent staining:
- Avoid oils known to stain lighter hair
- Mix in lemon juice to help brighten hair
- Don’t over-oil your lengths and ends
- Use clarifying shampoo to remove buildup
Pros and Cons Summary Table
|May improve moisture, softness||Oil may transfer onto skin, bedding|
|Can boost shine||Can look greasy if overdone|
|Helps control frizz||Could clog pores, cause breakouts|
|Convenient overnight treatment||May attract dirt, require more washing|
|May soothe and improve scalp health||Can seem inconvenient|
|Easy to apply before bed||Risk of staining light-colored hair|
Should You Do It? The Verdict
So should you sleep with oil in your hair or not?
If you have dry, damaged hair: Yes.
Sleeping with oil can help replenish dryness and improve the overall condition of your hair. Just be mindful of how much you use.
If you have an oily scalp: Use caution.
Focus the oil only on your mid-lengths to ends and avoid putting oil directly on your scalp. Also, tie hair back and use a shower cap.
If you have fine, thin hair: Use sparingly.
Only use a tiny amount of lightweight oil like grapeseed or jojoba. Too much can make hair look limp and greasy.
If you have acne-prone skin: Maybe not.
Consider applying oil to damp hair and letting it absorb for 30 minutes before bed – then shampooing it out. This avoids direct contact with skin overnight.
If you have blonde or light hair: Do a strand test first.
Some oils can discolor light hair. Try a small section first and leave on for shorter time periods to test. Avoid oils known to stain like olive and coconut.
The bottom line…yes, you can sleep with oil in your hair as a moisturizing treatment if you account for your hair type and take some precautions. Use a moderate amount of oil on damp hair, focusing on ends. Contain hair in a braid, bun or shower cap. Wash it out within 12 hours. Done right, it can hydrate hair beautifully.