5 Benefits of Coconut Oil for Your Hair

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on May 1, 2017Written by Kathryn Watson on May 1, 2017

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is the pressed oil produced from the fruit of the coconut palm tree. Coconut oil is relatively unique as an ingredient because it has both hydrating and antibacterial properties. When virgin coconut oil is heated just above room temperature it softens, and you can apply it topically throughout your hair and scalp with a comb or with your fingers.

Coconut oil can work as well, or better, than many commercial hair products at adding shine, smoothness, and strength to your hair. The following benefits of coconut oil may make you consider replacing your traditional hair products with this natural alternative.

1. Strengthens and repairs

The fatty acids stored in coconut oil give it an emollient quality. That means that on a microscopic level, coconut oil will fill in gaps in hair strands that have been damaged. This is the aim of most hair conditioning products, which tend to contain mineral oil. A study found that coconut oil works better than mineral oil at penetrating the hair follicle and making hair stronger. One study found that hair treated with coconut oil over 16 weeks experienced less breakage from environmental damage.

2. Moisturizes your hair and scalp

The coconut plant stores an incredible amount of water in its fruit. When the fruit is distilled into oil, the oil maintains a hydrating ability. This means coconut oil is an amazing moisturizer for dry skin. This moisturizing property means when coconut oil is applied to the hair follicles and skin it soaks in and leaves your skin cells plump and healthy.

3. Reduces dandruff

Dandruff includes white flakes of dull skin and an itchy scalp. A variety of things can cause it. Using coconut oil can address almost all causes of dandruff by killing harmful bacteria that tries to live on the scalp. Coconut oil also moisturizes the skin underneath your hair.

4. Deep cleans the scalp

The antibacterial properties of coconut oil fight against irritants that can lurk on your skin. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which studies show can fight bacteria. This extends to protecting your scalp from bacteria like Candida and Staphylococcus, which can overgrow and turn into an infection. Coconut oil may make your scalp a place where harmful bacteria are less likely to colonize. Some scalp infections treated with coconut oil have completely cleared.

5. Thickens hair faster

Applying coconut oil to your hair may even help it grow faster. But there are no studies that demonstrate coconut oil’s direct effect on hair growth. Having stronger hair that’s resistant to breaking will contribute to your hair’s growth over time. By massaging coconut oil into your hair, you will be directing an increased blood flow to your head. This signals and stimulates hair follicles so hair grows in thicker, according to research from Japan.

Other uses

Coconut oil is becoming more and more popular as a cosmetic. It can be used as a skin cleanser and moisturizer, a makeup remover, and a facial softener. Coconut oil is even catching on as a substitute for butter and lard in cooking because it’s a source of healthy saturated fat. It’s also been suggested as a weight loss tool, a weight gain suppressant during pregnancy, and as a health supplement to take during chemotherapy.

Risks and warnings for coconut oil

As with all plant derivatives, some people are allergic to coconut oil. You should test coconut oil somewhere on your skin (a “patch test”) before you apply it to your hair or scalp. Coconut oil is not a substitute for prescription treatments for eczema, psoriasis, or other skin conditions. If you’re using coconut oil in your hair, make sure to wash your hair thoroughly and frequently. People that tend to experience cysts or clogged pores on their scalp may want to be cautious using coconut oil. It does leave a residue after it’s applied.

If you are using coconut oil as a health supplement in your diet, be aware that it is a source of saturated fat. That means too much coconut oil can lead to higher bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and obesity, just like with any source of fat. But it is interesting that coconut oil has an added benefit of raising good (HDL) cholesterol. Coconut oil is generally safe for topical use.

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