Is sesame oil good for hair? The answer is yes. But that could be the answer if you asked the same question about avocado, olive, castor, rosemary, jojoba or peppermint oils – and just about all the other oils out there.
My question is, "What’s special about sesame oil for hair?" What makes it different? What gives me a good reason to choose it above all the others? The answers that I found made me decide to add a good quality sesame oil to my shopping list.
Why Natural Oils Are Good for Your Hair
Let’s start with why natural oils, including sesame oil, are generally good for your hair.
Oils are classified as "conditioners", because they make hair smooth, manageable and shiny. They help to stop static in your hair - so stop frizzy hair. They also prevent tangling, as the cuticle (the overlapping scales on the surface of each hair shaft) is protected. Remember to add oil to damp hair before you start to comb it.
Natural oils, including sesame oil, are generally good for hair
Oils cannot "moisturize" hair. Only water can moisturize. But oil certainly helps for dry hair. Hair can become dry if water escapes from inside the hair. Oils that coat the surface of the hair can stop this moisture loss. On the other hand, hair can be damaged if it absorbs too much water too quickly, for example from washing or swimming. (The repeated swelling and contracting is known as hygral fatigue.)
Oils that penetrate the hair shaft help to make it "hydrophobic" – water resistant – and stop it from splitting. Generally, monounsaturated oils (like avocado oil) penetrate better than polyunsaturated oils (like flaxseed oil). Sesame oil has almost equal quantities of mono- and polyunsaturated oils, so some will stay on the surface and some with be absorbed – this makes it a good choice.
Oils are particularly good for African hair, which tends to be very fragile and can be very dry because the tight curl prevents natural sebum getting to the ends of the hair.
Facts About Sesame
Sesame seeds are called the "queen of oils seeds" because they are absolute powerhouses of nutrients: about half of the seed, by weight, is oil. It contains protein, iron, zinc, copper, Vitamin E, Vitamin B, calcium, magnesium and manganese. Then we add sesamin and sesamolin – these are unique lignans found only in sesame seeds – and sesamol, sesaminol and sesamolinol that are formed during the refining process. These add powerful antioxidant power. Sesame seeds are also anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
Sesame oil is thought to be the oldest oil used by man and there are references to it over thousands of years. It is part of Hindu and Chinese culture and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Sesame oil is still used for abhyanga, the daily Ayurvedic self-massage – especially for "Vata Dosha" mind-body types.
Today, sesame oil is added to massage oils, cosmetics, hair care products, soaps, perfumes and sunscreens. It moisturizes, soothes and softens.
Sesame oil may be pricey, because harvesting it is such a labor-intensive activity. However, it is also a high-quality oil. It is one of the most stable edible oils, even to heat and light. It has a shelf life of about 4 – 6 months after opening, although this can be extended to 2 years in the fridge.
How to Find the Best Sesame Oil?
The extraction method matters. Research done by the Korean Food Institute showed that the lignan content – and therefore the antioxidant activity – of sesame seeds was almost non-existent after methanol extraction and even worse for hexane extraction. Cold pressing or expeller pressing are best.
Depending on the cultivar, sesame seeds range from brown to black, and creamy white to beige after they are husked. Oil may be light golden colour. Darker oil is from seeds that have been roasted, and this oil has a much stronger flavor.
There are usually no side effects of using sesame. However, some people are allergic to it - this ranges from itching and nausea to full anaphylaxis. Sometimes, people who are allergic to nuts may also be allergic to sesame seed. However, it is safe for cosmetic purposes, according to the International Journal of Toxicology. (It’s always a good idea to do a skin test if you’re trying something for the first time.)
It’s probably not a good idea to use sesame oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, because of its possible hormone-inducing effects.
5 Properties That Make Sesame Oil for Hair a Great Choice
#1: Sesame Oil Stimulates Hair Regrowth and Prevents Hair Loss
This is a big deal! Many people make claims about other oils, but, in most cases, it takes a bit of a stretch of the science! However, for sesame seeds and oil there is direct and specific research that shows how effective it is.
A study undertaken at Keimyung University, and published in the Journal of Biomedical Research, compared sesame oil to Mioxidil, which is the topical medication most prescribed to slow hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth. Black sesame oil was found to be just as effective as Mioxidil!
One of the main causes of hair thinning and hair fall is nutritional deficiency. Sesame seeds taken orally, together with palm oil, addresses this. To understand this, we need to understand a bit about Vitamin E (You can read more about Vitamin E here)
- There are 2 main forms of Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), and each of them have 4 sub-types.
- The tocotrienol form of Vitamin E has been shown to be particularly effective in dealing with oxidative stress that is one of the causes of alopecia (early baldness). The best source of tocotrienols is palm fruit oil, taken as a supplement.
- However – and this is the exciting part – when sesame seeds are added to the supplementation, they boost the effectiveness of the tocotrienols. As a result, the palm oil is even more effective – and that means less hair loss and less baldness.
#2: Sesame Oil Protects Hair From Aging and Going Gray
Research backs up this claim and links it to the very high anti-oxidant levels in sesame oil. This strong anti-oxidant power comes from the synergy between the lignans and the gamma-tocopherol form of Vitamin E found in sesame seeds.
There are anecdotal accounts of sesame oil making gray hair dark again – and there is reference in Chinese herbal medicine to it taking 2 years to do this. However, I could not find any research findings about this claim. Nor could I find any proof that it would make blonde hair darker.
#3: Sesame Oil Is Easily Absorbed in the Skin and Penetrates Through Your Tissues (and Even Into Bone Marrow)
Sesame oil molecules are recognised by your liver as "friendly" and are not removed from the blood. This makes it a great choice for scalp massages and as a treatment for dry hair and scalp. In fact, sesame oil is used as the base oil for many body massage oils all around the world, and is usually the base oil for Ayurveda medical oils.
Massaging your scalp is the best way to use sesame oil and will give the best results.
#4: Sesame Oil Is a Skin Detoxifier
Oil soluble toxins are attracted to sesame oil molecules. Ayurveda medicine uses sesame or coconut oils, with some turmeric added, to "pull" toxins from the skin. This works because oils are lipophilic – they attract other oils. So, the sesame oil attracts the fat-soluble toxins that are often dumped in the fatty layers in our skins. (Many people swish the oil around inside their mouths for the same reason – this is called "oil pulling")
This property makes sesame oil particularly good for scalp treatments – to clean scalp, clear hair follicles and to deal with minor infections and dandruff.
#5: Sesame Oil a Natural Sunscreen
Studies show that it protects hair and scalp from up to 30% of UV rays. This can be compared to the 20% block out offered by coconut, peanut, olive, and cottonseed oils. This is important to protect hair from aging and from drying.
How to Use Sesame Oil for Hair Treatments
Apply Sesame Oil Depending on Your Hair Porosity
Before I give you some ideas of how to use sesame oil for hair treatments, just a quick comment about hair porosity. Some hair has low porosity – this means that the overlapping scales of the cuticle are very tight and closed, and so don’t easily let moisture out or water (and treatment products) in. Some hair has high porosity, with the scales further apart or more open. Both can be healthy and in good condition, but need to be treated differently.
If your hair is very porous, it is likely to absorb too much water when you shampoo or swim. Repeated swelling and then contracting of the cortex results in "hygral fatigue", loss of protein, and eventually breakage. Remember that the hair cortex may also have been forced open by treatments such as bleaching, perms or hair straighteners. You will need a deep penetrating oil treatment to make sure that enough oil is absorbed into the hair under the cortex to "waterproof" it. You might need to leave treatments on your hair for several hours or overnight. And, you will probably also need more oil per treatment than someone with low porosity.
Low porosity hair can get dry from exposure to the elements and repeated shampooing. It will also benefit from oil treatments to improve hair flexibility and softness – but you may need to leave the oil on for a bit longer to make sure that some of it has been absorbed. It’s a good idea to add some heat – warm the oil or wrap your head in a hot towel. You probably won’t need a leave-in conditioner – and be careful that products don’t build-up on the outside of the hair shaft.
So, test your hair, and adjust the way you use a treatment product
How to Check for Hair Porosity
- You want to see whether your hair absorbs a lot of water or not.
- Pull a few hairs out of your head and drop them in a bowl of water.
- Leave for a few minutes.
- If the hairs float on the top of the water = low porosity
- If the hairs sink to the bottom = high porosity
Recipe 1 - How to Use Sesame Oil as a Pre-wash Treatment
Recipe 2 - How to Use Sesame Oil as an Anti-dandruff, Anti-hair-loss Treatment – a Secret Egyptian Recipe
I hope that you enjoyed finding out about sesame oil for hair – and that you’ll try it. I was especially pleased to see that taking sesame oil as a supplement was good for hair. This means that if I buy a good quality oil (pure, unrefined, virgin, cold-pressed), I can have smooth, shiny and healthy hair by rubbing some of it into my hair, and pouring the rest over my salad!
Please let me know what your experiences have been with sesame oil for hair. I found a few products you might try
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