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Coconut Oil for Hair: Potential Benefits and How to Use it

BY Jana Russick

Many hairstylists and beauty gurus love to rave about using coconut oil for hair and skin. After all, it has a delicious, moisture-rich texture and a tropical vacation-like fragrance that few oils can compare to. It’s even fun to cook with!

With so many uses, it’s not surprising that coconut oil is added to so many different hair products and treatments. But what exactly does coconut oil do for hair and why has it become a go-to ingredient for those seeking beautiful, shiny, healthy hair?

Whether in its purest unrefined form or as an ingredient in hair styling products, coconut oil can make hair feel softer and smoother. It’s one of the few ingredients in nature that can almost instantly transform even the frizziest of locks.

Let’s examine why coconut oil works so well with hair, how it can be used to tame damaged or unruly locks, and which coconut oil products and treatments can help you benefit from its extraordinary qualities.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a substance that’s created by pressing fresh or dried coconut meat. If you cut open a coconut, you’ll see that the meat is the white layer attached to the inside of the hard brown shell. 

Refined and unrefined are two common types of coconut oil. Refined coconut oil is produced using already dried coconut meat. After the machine presses out the oil of the dried meat, the oil is then steamed in order to deodorize it and filter out the impurities and bacteria. The result is flavorless, odorless coconut oil.

Unrefined coconut oil is created by heating the fresh meat of a matured coconut and quickly drying it. A machine is then used to press the oil out of the meat. Unrefined coconut oil can also be produced by directly pressing the fresh meat, which produces an oil and coconut milk mixture that can be separated using fermentation, enzymes, or a centrifuge machine. 

Since unrefined coconut oil is minimally processed and still contains all its beneficial nutrients, it’s better to use this variety on your hair than refined coconut oil. Also, unlike oils such as castor oil, olive oil, and tea tree oil, coconut oil doesn’t have to be diluted before it’s applied to hair. You can apply it directly as-is. (Although that doesn’t mean it can’t get a bit messy and greasy.)

Why Is Coconut Oil Good for Hair?

A fresh coconut with coconut oil

While oil is one of the major ingredients used in hair products and strengthening hair treatments, coconut oil has specifically been found to reduce the swelling that occurs when hair is wet. The reason why swelling is bad for hair is that it can fatigue the strands and lead to damage. Coconut oil works to reduce the damaging effects of swelling and prevent the hair from hydration loss. 

Scientifically speaking, coconut oil fills the gap between the cuticle‘s cells and reaches far into the inner layers of the hair. This can help combat the damage shampoo can do to the structure of the hair. Habitually using coconut oil in your hair helps lubricate the hair shaft post-shower and can help prevent breakage

Coconut oil has a remarkable ability to combat protein loss that can lead to hair damage. The primary fatty acid of coconut oil is lauric acid. As such, it’s attracted to hair proteins and is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft in order to hydrate the strands. This counteracts the oil-stripping that can occur when harsh shampoos (such as those with sulfates) are used to wash the hair. Coconut oil fights off this stripping by getting inside of each hair strand and attaching to proteins, basically preventing them from harm. 

Coconut oil can be used as a pre- and post-wash moisturizer to help reduce strength loss that occurs in the shampooing process. It basically provides protection against the damaging effects of friction that occurs when hair is washed, styled, or groomed and encourages overall hair health and wellness.

How to Use Coconut Oil for Hair

Because coconut oil can penetrate many layers of your hair, it’s often used in detanglers and deep conditioning treatments. It’s especially helpful for those with damaged or dry hair. Dryness often occurs when hair has high porosity, meaning it absorbs product easily but cannot hold onto it. Coconut oil allows those with dry hair to better retain moisture, also preventing any previously applied moisturizing hair products from escaping. This can be especially helpful for taming dry and frizzy hair.

DIY Coconut Oil Hair Treatments 

Although there are many hair products that contain coconut oil, you can also take advantage of the nourishing powers of coconut oil by using it in its purest form. This can be done by adding a DIY coconut oil treatment to your weekly haircare routine:

  • Use “cold-pressed” or “extra-virgin” coconut oil for your hair. These terms mean that the oil is unrefined. 
  • Measure a teaspoon of unrefined extra virgin coconut oil. Warm up this small amount of coconut oil by rubbing it in your hands to make sure it’s easily spreadable.
  • Apply the oil to dry hair, combing from mid-shaft to the ends of your hair strands. 
  • Leave it on for 30 minutes and then wash it out. This will keep your hair from looking sticky or permanently wet when you try to style it. 

This coconut oil hair treatment will provide your hair with a blanket of moisture that’s especially beneficial if you tend to have dry hair or split ends. The relative lightness of coconut oil allows it to easily seep into dry hair strands. And unlike some hair styling products that are quickly absorbed into your locks, coconut oil stays on your strands until you wash it out, allowing your hair to soak up all the softness and hydration that coconut has to offer. 

Another great way to moisturize your locks and enjoy soft, shiny hair the next day is to leave coconut oil on your hair overnight. Simply apply the coconut oil treatment to your hair and cover with a shower cap when you go to sleep. Then in the morning, shampoo and rinse to remove the oil. To avoid buildup, it’s best to use this DIY treatment no more than two to three times a week.

Hair Products With Coconut Oil

If you want to implement coconut oil into your haircare routine, you’re in luck. There are numerous hair products that include coconut oil as an ingredient, including Function of Beauty’s customized hair mask. When you choose “hydrate” as one of your hair goals, the formula can include coconut oil to promote your hair’s moisture balance. 

This hair mask also includes naturally derived and synthetic ingredients like Japanese sake extract, argan oil, and jojoba ester oil. 

To use the hair mask, simply follow these steps:

  • Apply to damp hair after shampooing and conditioning
  • Evenly coat your strands from mid-shaft to ends
  • Rinse after leaving it in for the recommended time for your specific hair type 

This hair mask is one of the best coconut oil hair products because it can work as a deep conditioning treatment for any hair type. So whether you have straight, wavy, coily, or curly hair, this mask will provide your natural hair texture with the hydration it needs. It’s especially helpful for those dealing with damage, dryness, or frizz and can be used in lieu of conditioner. For optimal results, we recommend using the hair mask once or twice a week. 

Create Your Own Coconut Hair Care Routine

Coconut oil is so good at supplying softness and hydration, you’d think that it was grown exclusively for hair care! This versatile fruit’s ability to penetrate the inner layers of each strand and lock in essential moisture is unparalleled.

Unlike other oils, coconut oil can be directly applied to wet or dry hair, making it appear silkier and smoother than before. If you struggle with damage, dryness, or overall lackluster locks and dream of achieving the look of healthy hair, consider adding coconut oil into your haircare routine

Take our hair quiz to find a custom formula that’s aimed at providing your unique hair type with the TLC it needs to enjoy its best life.