Think about effective scalp treatments. Ingredient lists dotted with charcoal, tea tree oil, and rosemary oil likely come to mind. Now, think about hydrating hair care. You’re probably going down the list, checking off shea butter, honey, aloe vera, and jojoba oil. So we have to ask you: What about coconut oil? Believe it or not, the kitchen staple is present in more shampoos, conditioners, scalp treatments, and masks than you might realize.
Meet Our Expert
But is it really worth intentionally incorporating into your routine? We chatted with two celebrity hairstylists to find out.
What Is Coconut Oil?
“Coconut oil is a rich, fatty oil extracted from the meat of coconuts,” says Cooper. “It has a very distinctive sweet, nutty fragrance.” In addition to being a superfood, Cooper points out that it’s an antiviral ingredient found in a variety of beauty products—namely, haircare.
Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair
According to Sims, who has worked with America Ferrera, Lupita Nyong’o, and Tracee Ellis Ross, coconut oil is an incredibly beneficial haircare ingredient. “Coconut oil can act as a protective barrier to protect your hair and/or scalp from bacteria and other irritants,” he says. “In addition, coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has a unique ability to penetrate the hair shaft quickly and smooth the cuticle to provide moisture, help heal breakage, and prevent frizz.”
But that’s not all. Cooper says that coconut oil works wonders for amping up the shine. “Dry hair benefits the most from coconut oil use, however, all hair types can use it,” Cooper adds. “The one thing to keep in mind is the amount of oil that you use.” After all, if you use too much, you risk weighing down your hair, triggering build-up, and potentially clogging the sebaceous glands on your scalp.
How to Use Coconut Oil for Hair
Sims says that the best way to use coconut oil for hair depends on your mane goals. If you want to use the raw, unrefined ingredient, he says to buy a jar, scoop some out, and apply it directly to your hair from roots to ends, to serve as a hydrating, shine-enhancing DIY hair mask. If you don’t want to deal with that potentially messy situation, though, you can simply update your current haircare routine with coconut oil-infused formulas, like our picks below.
When to Avoid Coconut Oil for Hair
As mentioned, coconut oil is beneficial for all hair types, but you have to be mindful of how much you apply. According to Sims, if you have fine, greasy hair, coconut oil can quickly weigh it down and make matters worse. Because of this, Cooper says to start sparingly. “You can always add more if needed,” she says. “[Overall] anyone with a fine hair texture would need to use far less than someone with thick or curly hair.”
In addition to how heavily you apply coconut oil (and coconut oil-infused products) to your hair, Cooper says to be cognizant of timing. “Pure coconut oil is heavy and can clog follicles, so do not use raw coconut oil on your scalp as a leave-in treatment,” she says. “Instead, massage the coconut oil into the scalp, leave it on for 10 to 20 minutes, and then shampoo your hair. This will leave your crown with the nourishment given by the coconut oil without weighing down your hair.”
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can you leave coconut oil in your hair?
“If you are using raw coconut oil, you should leave it on your hair for 10 to 20 minutes before washing your hair,” Cooper says. “If you are using a product that has coconut oil as an ingredient, it can be left in the hair until your next shampoo.” (Unless otherwise stated in the product’s directions, that is.)
Does coconut oil help with hair loss?
Coconut oil won’t prevent hair loss, nor does it regrow hair. However, it does strengthen hair, which leads to less breakage. “The omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E that are found in coconut oil help treat dry and damaged hair, preventing breakage,” Cooper says. “So, it ultimately helps with hair loss by keeping hair hydrated enough to retain length.”
Should you put hair oil on wet or dry hair?
You can apply coconut oil however you’d like to. Coconut oil-infused haircare products will have specific instructions. As for raw coconut oil, Sims says it’s best applied to dry hair, as it can better adhere to strands.
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