If you’re seeking soft and lustrous hair, try reaching for a jar of coconut oil. Suited to nearly all hair types, this natural oil is packed with fatty acids that may help repair everyday damage, improve texture, and restore health and shine to your hair.
Healthy hair depends on protein, which is your hair’s main component. However, chemical processes like dyeing and highlighting—and even daily activities like washing and styling—can damage protein and wreak havoc on your hair. There’s some evidence that lauric acid (a type of saturated fat abundant in coconut oil) may benefit your hair by protecting against protein loss.
In addition, one of the reviewed studies determined that coconut oil was the only oil capable of reducing protein loss for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product. This study also sized up the effects of mineral oil and sunflower oil on hair.
There is evidence that coconut oil can be used to treat a dry itchy scalp and accompanying dandruff. A 2021 study of 140 people in India, 70 with and 70 without dandruff, found that topical applications of coconut oil to the scalp had antibacterial and antifungal properties and a negative effect on dandruff.
There is also evidence that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties and that it can stimulate production of collagen, the chief structural protein in skin and other tissues. It may also play a beneficial role in skin barrier repair. This suggests that coconut oil can effectively treat both dandruff and dry skin.
4 Easy Ways to Use Coconut Oil
One of the most versatile hair-care oils around, coconut oil can work wonders as a pre-shampoo treatment, conditioner, styling aid, or mask. Here’s a look at four simple ways to revitalize your hair-care routine with coconut oil:
- Pre-wash protector: When applied pre-shampoo, coconut oil can stop your hair from soaking up too much water (and, in turn, stave off damage and dryness). Try applying coconut oil about 15 to 30 minutes before you wash, focusing on the midsection and ends of your hair.
- Conditioner: Like any good conditioner, coconut oil may help strengthen the hair shaft and prevent breakage. You can use coconut oil as an alternative to standard conditioners, or just add a few drops of the oil to your usual conditioner to boost its smoothing power.
- Styling aid: Just a dab of coconut oil can go a long way when it comes to taming frizz. For easier absorption and optimal styling, make sure to apply the oil to damp hair.
- Hair mask: For a super-nourishing hair treatment, massage a teaspoon or two through your hair and let it work its hair-softening magic. You can wash the oil out after a few hours, or leave it on overnight for exceptionally dry or damaged hair.
Is It Right for Your Hair Type?
While coconut oil may benefit all hair types—especially dry, damaged, or color- treated hair—there’s some concern that repeated use of coconut oil may lead to stiffness in those with coarse hair texture.
Tips for Using Coconut Oil in Hair Care
Here are a few more helpful hints for making the most of coconut oil in your hair care regimen.
Warm the oil first. Coconut oil may be easier to use if you warm it before applying it to your hair. Put a teaspoon of the oil into a bowl and place the bowl into a container partially filled with hot tap water. The coconut oil will become liquid in a few minutes. Avoid microwaving the oil to prevent it from becoming dangerously hot.
Apply lightly. Even though it’s fairly light, coconut oil can weigh your hair down or lead to a dull, greasy appearance when used in excess. To avoid buildup, start with a small amount—no more than a teaspoon—and gently massage the oil through your hair, starting at the midsection and continuing to the ends.
Don't clog your scalp. Some people find that applying coconut oil directly to the scalp can alleviate dryness, but others struggle with issues like irritation and clogged pores. If you’ve never used coconut oil on your scalp, keep cautious by starting out with a very small amount.
For best results, some hair-care experts suggest using coconut oil about two to three times a week. Shampoo twice. When it comes time to remove coconut oil from your hair, keep in mind that a second application of shampoo may be necessary to completely eliminate the oil.
Make a blend. For extra beauty benefits, add a few drops of essential oils like lavender or peppermint to your coconut oil. You can also blend coconut oil with hair-nourishing natural ingredients like yogurt, honey, avocado, or lemon juice.
Reliquefy it. If your coconut oil has solidified, simply melt the oil by placing a small amount in your palm and rubbing your hands together.
Apply at night on dry hair. It takes time for hair to absorb coconut oil, so if you use the oil in the morning, your hair can wind up looking and feeling greasy. Shampoo in the morning.
Choosing The Best Coconut Oil For Hair
When shopping for coconut oil, select the unrefined variety. If possible, opt for organic, sustainably harvested products.
- Unrefined coconut oil comes from the first pressing of fresh raw coconuts. No chemicals are added to unrefined oil, also called virgin or extra virgin oil. Unrefined coconut oil has a distinct aroma of coconut.
- Refined coconut oils are produced from dried coconut kernels. Unrefined oil is deodorized and bleached in a series of processes.
- Cold-pressed products are a good choice because their oil is extracted without heat or chemicals.
Look for products such as The Garden of Life Raw Extra Virgin Coconut Oil or Dr. Bronner's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil that carry symbols on their label guaranteeing oil of high quality (e.g., Fair Trade Certified seal or a non-GMO verified seal).