What Is the Difference Between Different Essential Oils for Hair?

We all have them at times; one of those terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days that leave us on the edge of a complete meltdown. 

A little self-care and pampering are in order, and it's as easy as locating a few of your favorite essential oils and preparing a hair mask. For those not in the know, a hair mask is a beauty treatment for your hair and scalp that leaves you feeling spoiled, relaxed, and with a wonderful scent by the end of it all. 

Your average DIY hair mask will likely consist of simple ingredients like raw unrefined coconut oil, raw sugar, honey, mashed avocado, and your choice of scented essential oils. Once your chosen ingredients are mixed into a paste, you carefully comb it through the hair or apply it to the scalp in sections until it's evenly coated. After the mask is applied, all that's left to do is give yourself (or bribe a friend, family member, or willing significant other) a solid head massage to ensure everything is evenly coated and wait for a bit of time. Finally, after some time has passed, you are free to hop into the shower and thoroughly rinse and wash your hair as normal with shampoo and conditioner. 

Sounds simple, right? It is, right up until you find yourself wondering what scent you should choose or what combination of scents gives you the maximum impact.

We love the smell of citrus – especially first thing in the morning or during that mid-afternoon slump at work – for a little pick-me-up or stress relief. Citrus essential oils are known for their refreshing, invigorating properties. If you're stressed out, anxious, or just in a funk, citrus is absolutely the way to go for your hair mask. 

With choices ranging from a clean-smelling lemon to a mouth-watering orange and the heady perfume of neroli or bittersweet aroma of bergamot, there is a citrus scent for everyone out there.

Before we dive right in, please note that it is ill-advised to use the essential oils themselves directly on your skin without diluting it to an appropriate level. Essential oils are very concentrated and very strong, and they can cause chemical burns and other nastiness when directly applied to the skin.  To dilute an essential oil, you need a carrier oil.  A carrier oil is a neutral oil, something that doesn't have a strong scent itself, and that is safe to use on the skin.  Good carrier oils include vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, or shea butter. 

You want a fairly low concentration of essential oil in your carrier.  Somewhere between 1-5% is a good concentration for aroma and therapeutic effects without risking toxicity or chemical burns.  That means only a few drops per 10mL of water in your oil carrier.  This post is a great guide with a calculator for essential oil dilution.

With that word of warning out of the way, let's get started and look into what the differences are between the different kinds of essential oils out there and what scents are right for your needs. 

Citrus Scents

First up on our list is the array of citrus scents available in essential oils.  When you think of citrus, you probably picture orange, lemon, lime, and maybe grapefruit or tangerine.  With essential oils, you can get even more!  Citrus comes in more than just your basic fruits.

Citronella: This citrus oil is sharp in scent as well as potency. A little goes a long way with this one. While being known for having antibacterial and antiseptic uses, it also has the bonus of being a well-known insect repellent.

Bergamot: A very popular and bittersweet scented fruit, this oil is well known among tea aficionados as being an essential ingredient in Earl Grey tea. Strongly scented, some people find this oil a little strong but particularly enjoy pairing it with rose or lavender for a soothing, sweet combination that helps promote calm. A perfect scent for an end of the week rush.  Bergamot essential oil is packed with beneficial compounds like pinene, linalool, and geraniol, which you can read more about over here.

Lemongrass: This is a favorite across the board because of its cheerful, pleasant scent. Light, airy, and clean smelling, Lemongrass is known for promoting calm, releasing the tension, and offering a little bit of balance in the state of things. 

Tangerine: Sweet and soft, Tangerine is a popular choice for helping troubled teenagers and children alike settle down a little. A light but potent scented oil, this one is excellent for when you just need a little reminder that everything will be okay for a moment. 

Neroli: One of the most powerfully scented citrus oils made from orange blossoms, Neroli is the heavyweight and packs quite the punch to the senses. Neroli helps promote peace, relaxation, and can even be used alongside a scalp massage to increase circulation to the scalp. Whether or not it can help hair growth is an open question, but it certainly isn't going to hurt in a hair mask.

Something to keep in mind regarding citrus essential oils, however, is to be very careful when going outdoors after application. Exposure to sunlight can lead to a sunburn or even blistering as a result of a process called phototoxicity, and is a risk for about twelve to eighteen hours after application-- so definitely get that mask on at the end of the day and before bed for maximum efficiency. 

Citrus oils are popular for a reason and pair very well with several other scents out there. Some common match-ups are ginger, black pepper, clove, ylang ylang, sandalwood, amber, and lavender. So, if you're unsatisfied with a purely citrus scent, look into a multi-oil blend to find that perfect balance that's best suited for you. 

When blending essential oils, remember to keep your dilution level down.  If you used eight drops of oil for your bottle or carrier, and you want to use two different essential oils, use four drops of each (or another division of eight, like six and two).  You don't want to accidentally make an overly-concentrated mixture without realizing it!

Herbal Scents 

If citrus isn't so much your cup of tea, there's always the popular herbaceous oils available to come and lift your spirits or offer you a moment's respite. As above with the citrus oils, here's a selection of popular herbal essential oils that may be exactly what you need. Some of them may surprise you with their versatility. 

Rosemary: A spicy scented herb that's great for cooking, cleaning, and beauty treatments. Rosemary is excellent for stimulation and for taking care of your scalp. Dry, flaky, and itchy scalps are no match when some rosemary essential oil is included in your shampoo. Some even say it's good to help stimulate your scalp to encourage hair growth when the oils are used in a massage.

Basil: Believe it or not, basil is not just a delicious herb to use in cooking - it also has a wonderful series of benefits with its scent as well. Basil essential oils offer some relief from a case of the blues, helps with anxiety, and even has antibacterial properties! If you're having trouble focusing, staying awake, or you just want something clean smelling around you, Basil is a good option. Basil also pairs very well with several of the citrus options above.

Peppermint: Cool and refreshing, Peppermint has a long history of uses in gum, tea, flavoring foods and drinks, and also being a powerful and soothing solution for use on the skin (when properly diluted of course). A popular scent on its own or paired with another herb, Peppermint knows how to get the job done. Stress relief and muscle aches are just two of the popular reasons why people use this scent to help them out. It also leaves your scalp feeling cool and fresh when massaged into the scalp!

Sage: Another fresh scent with a hint of a minty undertone commonly used in cooking. Sage has been known to help relieve anxiety and helps promote focus when anxiety is giving you a hard time. A good massage, like with Peppermint and Rosemary, will help stimulate the scalp and can help encourage more hair growth. Sage pairs very well with lavender and geranium for a sweeter, more luxurious scent combination.

Floral Scents

Okay, so maybe citrus isn't your thing and the herbal scents just didn't cut it for you. The world of floral scents awaits with any number of possibilities ranging from sweet to sensual to almost woodsy. Let's look further into the benefits of using floral essential oils in our hair masks and what they can do for us – other than smelling amazing, of course! Some of the most popular floral scents include:

Rose: A very popular scent around the world that ranges from sweet and light to sensual and heady. Rose scents are well known for their ability to make you feel as beautiful as you smell by helping to mitigate and reduce your stress levels. Some who have used Rose in combination with Chamomile or Lavender before bed report having increased sleep quality compared to not using it.

Lavender: A popular choice in hair masks, bubble baths, and hospital settings because of its gentle, soothing scent, Lavender is considered a staple in the aromatherapy world. Have an itchy and dry scalp? Lavender is an excellent choice to help with that and combating dandruff. Stressed, anxious, and having a hard time falling asleep? Lavender to the rescue. Add a few drops to a homemade cleaner and your house not only looks clean but smells amazing as well.

Ylang Ylang: A potent, heady scent with a sweet note, Ylang Ylang oil is used in luxury brand perfumes like Chanel. Not only does this scent leave you feeling like you've indulged in luxury, but it's also known for helping people lower their blood pressure during stressful times and can even help repel those pesky insects that buzz around. If you have a dry scalp, massaging some of this oil can help stimulate your scalp's natural oils to start producing again.

Chamomile: A gentle, light scent, Chamomile is often paired with Lavender for a one-two punch to that pesky anxiety or a constant state of stress. Popular in tea due to its penchant for promoting peace, calm, and focus, this scent really can put your mind at ease. It's also soothing for a troubled stomach. When paired with a hair mask, the anti-inflammatory properties kick in and offer a soothing balm against conditions like eczema or dermatitis, or dry and flaking skin.

Wrapping Up

While we have only touched the tip of the iceberg known as the world of essential oils, we hope to have given you a basic introduction to the world of aromatherapy when paired with a hair mask. Personal preferences aside, the biggest differences between the different types of essential oils boil down to what they are commonly used for. Be it citrus scents for energy, herbal scents for peace and focus, or floral scents for special occasions or for relaxation and calm, essential oils have been used for generations to add a little something special to our daily routines. 

Whether you're a citrus cheerleader, a floral fan, wistfully woodsy, or even just wanting to smell nice and clean like a sun-warmed garden, there is an essential oil out there with your name on it just waiting for you to claim it.

As always, please make sure to do a skin patch test to make sure you do not have a poor reaction to the essential oil in question and consult a medical professional before exploring the wonderful world of essential oils. Essential oils are also not to be used in place of or as a replacement for professional medical care; please talk to your doctor about adding them alongside your current or future treatment plans as an additional supplement.

Be it a solitary scent or a blend, the possibilities are endless.  Which of the scents in this article are your favorites? Have you had any success with using essential oils in a hair mask or in general to boost your mood or offer a little relief? Let us know in the comments below!

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