Coconut offers the aroma of paradise. The fruit of the coconut palm is a delicious ingredient of macaroons and piña coladas. Coconut oil is produced when the coconut meat is removed from the outer hard shell and pressed. Lately, coconut oil is being touted as a panacea for all sorts of ailments, from indigestion to asthma to autism. Now, some are suggesting a link between coconut oil and hair growth, but is there any truth to these claims?
The Myth About Hair Growth
Can taking coconut oil stimulate new hair growth? The short answer is: no. At this time, there are no studies from any credible sources that prove that coconut oil can restore your hair.
“A lot of people put coconut oil on their skin for tanning,” says Dr. David Belk, an internist practicing in Alameda, California.
“People have hair follicles all over their bodies,” he explains. “If coconut oil really did promote hair growth, I could only imagine that more than a few of them would complain of hirsutism (excessive body hair) if they spread coconut oil on their bodies. This is what happens to people who put minoxidil (Rogaine) on their bodies or take it in pill form.”
Give Me a Head with Hair, Long Beautiful Hair
While coconut oil may not get you a healthy head of hair, there are a number of promising new drugs currently testing phase. At this time, however, only two drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that minoxidil, a topical application, slows balding and stimulate hair growth. It’s most effective for men younger than age 40 who have receding hairlines, rather than men who are totally bald. It can also be used by women and children who have lost their hair due to alopecia or chemotherapy.
Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar)
Finasteride, in pill form, is used to treat male-pattern hair loss by blocking the hormone that causes hair loss in men. Finasteride can be used only by men.
The Real Potential of Coconut Oil
Lauric acid is the primary saturated fat in coconut oil. Lauric acid is also found in palm kernel oil, breast milk, and in sebum, which our bodies produce naturally.
When used topically, studies show that lauric acid can slow the growth of certain types of harmful bacterial, fungi, and viruses. Lauric acid also has anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, coconut oil offers a number of benefits to our skin.
Researchers at the Makati Medical Center in the Philippines have found that lauric acid is both effective and safe as a skin moisturizer. In addition to being a good (and good-smelling) skin moisturizer, coconut oil is a natural pre-shampoo conditioner for hair.
A growing body of research indicates that lauric acid is effective as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent for treating acne. A 2009 study suggests that lauric acid might be used as an alternative to antibiotics for acne.
Eczema and Psoriasis
If you have eczema or psoriasis, coconut oil offers the dual benefits of a moisturizer and as an agent to fight the spread of staph infections. These often accompany psoriasis, eczema, and related skin conditions.
Coconut oil is a great moisturizer. It’s also proving effective as an antibacterial agent. So for now, slather your skin with that rich coconut oil. But if you’re looking for new hair growth, it’s probably a waste to put coconut oil on your head. If you want to try coconut oil, look for products labeled as virgin, organic, or cold pressed.