Penetrating Oils vs. Non-Penetrating. Which ones are better?

I received a really great question the other day from someone inquiring about penetrating oils versus non-penetrating oils and which ones I thought were better.   The question was so good that I decided to address via a blog post.  So lets talk about this for the next few minutes shall we?

First off, when we talk about penetrating oils, what we mean is how great the oil's ability to penetrate the hair shaft and permeate into the cuticle layer.  I wrote on this subject long ago in this post.  Basically, the individuals who studied this phenomena were looking to determine how much of the oil was absorbed into the strand after time elapsed and through the use of heat.  Based on their findings it was determined that coconut oil and other mono saturated oils performed (or absorbed) better into the hair shaft than their poly saturated counterparts.

Once the news got out, everyone and their momma went clamoring for coconut and other penetrating oils (rightfully so) but in the process, other oils that penetrated more slowly (or not as deeply) were shunned.  In the case of my friend who asked me the original question, she mentioned that she was dealing with some breakage and thought it would be best to focus on penetrating oils like coconut to help nurse her hair back to health.  I completely agreed.

As a matter of fact, whenever my hair starts miss behaving, I often will reach for coconut oil as an overnight pre-poo remedy.  This way I know that my fragile strands are receiving beneficial proteins all the way down to it's deepest core.  Doing this definitely makes a world of difference for me.

But let's talk about the other side of things.  The oils that don't get as much love because because they don't penetrate as quickly or as deeply.  Should we shun them away completely?  I say no.  The topic of conversation came up because she was in the midst of deciding whether to purchase Gleau or opt for coconut oil instead.  My response was that this was not an either or scenario but one where she should choose both.

Reason being is because plant oils all have various God given attributes.  Just because it doesn't penetrate as quickly as coconut doesn't mean there aren't any benefits.  There is a time and place for oils that penetrate a bit more slowly especially if the oil will be used for sealing purposes.  I'm not sure if coconut oil is the best oil for sealing in moisturizer because, as time elapses, the oil moves inside the strand.  What about oils like wheat germ which contain the all wonderful ceramides that our cuticle layers need so dearly?  Let's not forget about jojoba oil which mimics sebum so closely that it protects our hair strand with lubrication like our very own scalp produced it.  Then there are oils like meadowfoam which partially penetrates so some of the goodness enters the strand and some is left to protect it.

Moral of the story is that it's best to be in a position where we can have our cake and eat it too. There is a place for oils that fully penetrate deep down and there's also room to invite others that will also take care of the outer strand.  Although I don't experience really cold winters, I do sometimes travel to cities where the cold weather can be brutal.  Luckily, for me, those trips are short lived but if I had to endure cold, brisk winds, I would certainly opt to incorporate thicker, heavier oils into my regimen during winter time.  I would want a layer of protection against the drying winds at all times.  Long story short, I advise everyone to freely incorporate penetrating oils like coconut, avocado, and olive oil.  Use them to treat the hair and to battle against breakage but don't forget that to incorporate other oils into your routine that can also be beneficial to your strands as well.

Be blessed. 


  1. That was a great insight to both penetrating and non penetrating oils.
    Thanks you

  2. This was very informative. In regards to the coconut oil, how should this be applied to the hair and how often? Can I leave it in overnight to ensure that my hair is moisturized during the winter months?

  3. Hi Jasmine,
    I love leaving coconut oil on overnight as a pre-poo treatment. As a matter of fact, the longer you leave on, the more it permeates the strand. Add a plastic cap to increase heat because that further helps the absorption. The only thing is that coconut oil hardens when it's cold so you will have to warm it up a little first for better application.

  4. Hello Nadege,
    When will the be post on your new moisturizer?

  5. I love the new look of your blog! And this was such a great post, like you said every time new info pops up, we can easily abandon something that has a rightful place in our regimens!

  6. This was such an informative blog that it made me look at oils in a new light. Thanks

  7. Hi, really nice post. Do you mind if I reblog?

  8. Hey Friend :-) Love the post. Very informative.

  9. Hi Nadege,
    Thank you for the pointers! Can the oil be used as a moisturizer or spritz? I have noticed that my ends are dry and would like to remedy this.


  10. Great informative post! Definitely will be sure to incorporate some of these oils in my new regimen. Thanks!

  11. @ Ebony,
    Thanks for the compliment hun. I get bored with the look from time to time and decided to change it up a little.

  12. @ Leillah,
    I'm honored. Yes you may reblog. Please link back to this post.

    Thanks a bunch!

  13. @ Jasmine,
    Yes you can certainly use oil as a spritz. You may want to play around with various types to see which works best for this type of scenario. That way your hair isn't left overly greasy.

  14. thanks for explaining the difference between the two. However, i do prefer oils that don't leave a residue and have a good scent. I use Moroccan oil as it does a fantastic job softening and strengthening it.


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