Olive oil has long been touted as natural alternatives to commercial hair conditioners, but its efficacy has not often been explored by researchers.
In a report published by the Journal of Cosmetic Science, the authors studied hair’s capillary adhesion after being coated in different oils. Capillary adhesion can be seen in action when a glass of water forms condensation; the water around the bottom of the glass can cause it to become stuck to the surface it is resting on, like a table or coaster.
On a much smaller scale, water or oil, when put in one’s hair, can cause individual strands to stick together. This effect may cause hair to tangle or break. However, olive and other natural oils were found to cause less capillary adhesion when used in hair, indicating that they could be successfully used as a conditioner without causing hair breakage.
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The study’s authors hypothesized that because olive and other natural oils are able to be absorbed into the hair shaft, capillary adhesion is weakened over time. The oil eventually forms only a thin coating around each hair, not enough to allow strands to stick to each other. In contrast, mineral oil does not absorb into the hair shaft, and thus the authors observed that it does not cause a reduction in adhesion.
These findings are good information for anyone wishing to use oil as part of their hair styling routine. Olive oil, unlike mineral oil, can be effectively used in hair without causing strands to adhere together. The longer the oil is left to absorb in the hair, the less capillary adhesion will occur.