THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS of applying coconut oil are vast—from reducing fat to boosting skin health to even lubrication. Coconut oil can benefit your hair, as well. While it does not have a high concentration of vitamins and minerals, coconut oil is filled with lauric acid and other fatty acids that can positively impact your hair’s health and appearance.
Coconut oil can be found in many hair products including shampoos, conditioners, and pre-shampoos. But before you swap out your current hair routine for an all-coconut-oil suite of products, it’s best to understand whether or not the benefits of coconut oil will solve your hair’s challenges, and which products to choose.
Benefits of Applying Coconut Oil for Hair
It’s rare to come across an ingredient that has the versatility of coconut oil for your hair, skin, and overall health. Lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties, makes up 47% of the fatty acids in coconut oil that can help protect against harmful microorganisms.
Reduces Hair Damage
If you have damaged hair due to environmental stressors such as the sun and smoke pollution, applying coconut oil can be a great place to start. It “penetrates the hair shaft and protects the hair from protein loss to reduce hair damage,” says Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City.
Fights Dry, Itchy, Dandruff
Dry, itchy scalps and flakey dandruff are common issues often solved with shampoos heavy in chemicals. Why not opt for the all-natural solution? “Coconut oil is great for repairing the skin’s natural moisture barrier, which is beneficial for those experiencing dandruff or dry, itchy scalps,” Green says.
Improves Hair Appearance
Looks aren’t everything, but when it comes to hair, looks matter—a lot. Luckily, coconut oil can in fact support your hair’s overall appearance. “Using coconut oil can also decrease the appearance of frizz,” says Green.
According to New York-based certified trichologist Penny James, coconut oil will “give the hair a lovely shine and hydrate the skin.” She also added that “coconut oil will help maintain the shine on the hair shaft and close the cuticles.”
Can Coconut Oil Fight Hair Loss?
The million dollar question for many is “what will help in hair regrowth?” As for coconut oil, not so fast, says Chris Bustamente, aesthetic nurse practitioner and founder of Lushful Aesthetics. “There really isn’t much evidence-based publications supporting the usage of coconut oil in regards to improving hair growth or slowing down hair loss.”
There is a role coconut oil can play with combatting hair loss, however. “It can be used as a carrier oil to mix with rosemary oil, which does have some evidence behind it in regards to improving hair growth and density,” the New York-based doctor added. Men’s Health has recently done a deep-dive into the topic of rosemary oil for hair growth.
Risks of Applying Coconut Oil to Hair
While coconut oil provides valuable benefits to hair, it can pose some issues for users. “There is no known health risk,” James says, but added that you should not apply too much coconut oil. “Coconut oil can make the hair look greasy and clog the follicles.”
Dr. Green added that “while coconut oil can be great for preventing hair damage, buildup can lead to clogged pores and irritation at the scalp.” Those with fine hair may want to use coconut oil starting with a very tiny amount. They may find that “coconut oil weighs down their hair and creates a greasy, flat appearance.” She also says that “using coconut oil on low porous hair can result in dry hair strands, as the coconut oil penetrates the strands and does not allow for enough water to enter.”
Another potential risk of using coconut oil in hair is when the oil trickles down. Bustamente says that “coconut oil can clog pores and lead to acne breakouts, so be mindful of trying to avoid your face, and getting coconut oil on your back if you’re prone to back acne.”
How to Choose Coconut Oil Products for Hair
Though you can technically take a jar of pure coconut oil and apply it directly to your hair, all coconut oils are not the same. There are three main ways coconut oil is extracted from the palm tree fruit: refined, unrefined, and fractionated. Refined coconut oil will not be as effective.
“Always look for a high-quality product. Unrefined or cold-pressed,” certified trichologist James told Men’s Health. “Avoid oil products with these extra ingredients: parabens, petrochemicals, SLS Artificial color or smell, and SLES.”
Coconut oil can be found in many types of hair products such as shampoos, conditioners, serums, and sprays. To find the right coconut oil hair product for you will likely require a bit of trial and error. To start, consider one of the best coconut oil hair care products, recommended by hair specialists.
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Meet the Experts
- Dr. Michele Green is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City.
- Penny James is a board-certified trichologist in New York City.
- Chris Bustamente is an aesthetic nurse practitioner and founder of Lushful Aesthetics in New York City.
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Ehab is a contributing commerce writer. He has covered consumer products for various publishers throughout the years including Forbes, Digital Trends, The Manual and US News & World Report.