Coconut oil has been used on hair for thousands of years to help keep it strong, nourished and protected. Excessive use of hair products can strip away natural oils in the hair, leaving it weakened, damaged and dull. When hair is damaged, it starts splitting up the hair shaft and it breaks off little by little. Coconut oil’s fatty acids help to moisturize and protect the hair follicles, preventing breakage, damage, and split ends.
What nutrients are found in coconut oil?
The main reason that coconut oil is so good for your scalp and hair is because it is composed mainly of saturated fatty acids. A good percentage of these are medium chain fatty acids. Lauric acid accounts for half of these and it binds easily with the protein in the hair. Coconut oil also contains Vitamin E, Vitamin K and iron. Vitamin E is helpful in maintaining the integrity of the cell membranes of the hair follicles.
Refined or unrefined?
Natural unrefined coconut oil has a pale yellow appearance at room temperature and becomes firmer and whiter at lower temperatures. It starts to melt at +25° C. When it is refined it becomes more transparent and has less odor. For this reason, some people prefer using refined oil on their hair. However, others recommend using only extra virgin, raw organic oil.
5 Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair
1. Prevents breakage
Hair dye, blow dryers, and styling products cause damage to the hair, making it brittle and dry. The medium chain fatty acids in the oil of the coconut are able to penetrate the hair follicles. They bind with the natural protein found in the hair, thus helping to protect the strands and roots from breakage.
2. Retains moisture
Coconut oil helps to retain moisture because it does not break down or evaporate easily. These moisturizing properties keep the hair shaft strong, lessening chances of breakage and damage. It does not just keep moisture in but also helps to protect against heat and impurities in the environment.
3. Improves softness and shine
Some shampoos can leave the hair dry and brittle, even preventing a comb from going smoothly through it after shampooing.The fatty acids found in the coconut oil helps to deal with dry or frizzy hair and improves softness and shine. When we age, our gray hair can seem coarser because the oil glands produce less sebum. This means that it becomes drier and more roughly-textured. Coconut oil can help to keep it soft and manageable as it is much like the sebum found on the scalp. Gray hair is also more vulnerable to sun damage because it does not have as much melanin, and here again, coconut oil can help to protect it.
4. Boosts blood circulation
Massaging the head with coconut oil helps to stimulate circulation. This enables more nutrients and oxygen flow to the hair follicles. Sebum build-up is removed, the scalp is nourished and hair growth is stimulated.
5. Deals with bacteria and fungus
The hair and scalp are full of bacteria. In the presence of certain enzymes the fatty acids in coconut oil are converted into antimicrobial and anti-fungal agents. These agents offer protection against dandruff and lice, potential problems that can cause hair loss and limit new growth.
How to apply coconut oil
Different hair types respond differently: It is not surprising that different hair types respond differently when applying oils. If your hair is naturally healthy and has enough moisture, it is better to apply coconut oil before washing. Some people have hair that becomes greasy with even a little of the oil and they should also apply it prior to washing. Those who have very dry or unmanageable hair may benefit from applying it after washing.
Amount matters: It is better to start with a small amount. See how hair reacts and apply more if necessary. Slathering too much onto the hair may be counterproductive.
Heat oil: Heat the jar gently in warm water until liquid.
Dampen Hair: Use warm water to dampen your hair thoroughly.
Massage in: Spoon a tablespoon of the warmed coconut oil into your hands and begin to apply to your hair. Massage it in with your fingertips for at least three minutes. You will usually use one to four tablespoons depending on the length of your hair. It spreads quite easily over your scalp and a little goes a long way.
Cover: Cover your hair with a shower cap and wait for about twenty to thirty minutes.
Rinse, wash and dry: Rinse with warm water, wash with a natural, sulfate free shampoo and towel dry.
Repeat: Do this three times a week for the best results.
TIP: Add 4 drops of rosemary essential oil. This also helps to increase circulation to the scalp, prevent hair loss and encourage new growth.
Some product suggestions
Choosing a particular brand can be difficult as there are so many different ones, all of which differ in aroma, consistency and color. The following two brands have been given excellent reviews by well over 5000 customers on Amazon. Nutiva is cold-pressed and never refined, deodorized, or bleached. It is USDA Organic and Non GMO project verified. Viva Labs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is a best seller on Amazon. It is made from unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil. It is USDA certified organic, kosher and gluten free. It is also free of pesticides, bleach and trans fats.
The bottom line
Coconut oil has been used as a hair oil for thousands of years for good reason. Its fatty acids keep the hair strong and the scalp nourished, preventing breakage and hair loss as well as keeping it shiny and soft. Although it should not be thought of as some miracle potion that makes your hair grow faster overnight, there is no doubt about its many benefits for the hair.
Adding essential oils, like Rosemary, which is known to encourage hair growth, can be very effective.
Remember that it is no good to just try to solve problems from the outside – be mindful of your diet too. Good nutrition will go a long way towards keeping your hair in the best possible condition.