OLD SKOOL : Alberto VO5

I feel like we need a new category — “Old News” — for stuff you’ve probably heard of but maybe haven’t tried recently. [Ed. : Your wish, my command, etc.] I remember using VO5 Hot Oil way back in my teenage years, when my hair was still sweet and virginal. Sure, it was baby-fine and stick-straight, but it was glossy and healthy and wouldn’t hold a tangle. Literally! If I tried knotting it the knot would slip out on its own! Hairbands — even rubber bands — slid out of my hair. I didn’t own a brush.

Nowadays, my hair is still baby-fine and [mostly] stick-straight, but I’ve broken its spirit via blow-drying and highlights. It’s brittle. It’s dry. (So, so dry.) It frizzes (which doesn’t seem fair given that it still refuses to hold a curl). I have a LOT Of breakage. It’s not like I’m bleaching the heck out of it and putting in new color every month, you know? I just get some highlights twice a year (or less), lifting pieces of it just a couple of levels. I blow-dry it no more than twice a week, and I always use some form of heat protectant. I use hair masks or deep conditioners every time I wash it.

So what gives, hair? Why are you so mean and frizzy and breakage-prone?


I was browsing the clearance section at Rite Aid and stumbled across what I thought was a four-pack of VO5 Hot Oil Treatments for $3 (it can be purchased at Walmart for $6 or Amazon for about $9 ). Overwhelmed by nostalgia, I bought it.

Turns out it wasn’t four individual vials, but the equivalent volume in a single flip-top bottle. For me, this is great — I have to use two vials anyway because my hair is longer — but if you’re someone who freaks out about getting THE EXACT RIGHT AMOUNT I can see why it might be stressful to try to eyeball the ‘correct’ quantity, versus simply having convenient pre-measured vials.

Other than that, nothing’s changed: It still has a weirdly thin-and-oily-yet-kinda-watery-soapy feel to it. It’s still orange and smells faintly floral. You still stick the bottle in a cup of hot water for a minute, massage through hair, leave for one minute (or less — you don’t get extra points for leaving it in longer), rinse, shampoo, condition as usual. Enjoy shiny, hydrated, supple hair.

So, does it work?

To some extent, yes. When I used it on my long, twice-colored, very damaged hair, it was a little shinier, less brittle, and less dry than usual; enough to feel a difference when I play with my hair, but not a miracle. I thought perhaps it would have a stronger cumulative effect with regular use, but two uses on my quite-damaged hair didn’t do much.

I also used it once on my newer, post-Olaplex hair, and the difference was negligible (a tiny bit softer, a tiny bit shinier). I still have one use left and will cheerfully use it, but I don’t consider the results worthy of the price-per-use.


  1. If your hair isn’t as dry, brittle, and fine as mine. I didn’t find this sufficiently hydrating for my hair type.
  2. If your hair has a different texture than mine. Maybe this would work much for coarse, thick, or curly strands. If your hair tends to ‘soak up’ product (rather than it just sitting on top of the hair), this might work great for you!
  3. If you want to deep condition, but don’t have a lot of time. This adds just two minutes to your shower — a lot less time than some of the other masks I’ve tried!
  4. If you enjoy feeling fancy and aren’t too worried about results. Sometimes working hot oil through my hair makes me feel all luxurious! Sometimes a ‘special’ treatment is the perfect fix for a rough week, independent of its effects.
  5. If you have $6 and want to. You’re a grown-up. Make wise choices.
How about you? Have you ever tried this product? Do you have any favorite hair treatments? If it’s $100 per 4-oz tub I don’t want to know about it. (Just kidding. I totally do. Please share!)