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The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Avatar • Dec 21, 2011

Coconut Oil as Protein and Moisture Support

The Marico Industries researchers also found that using coconut oil as pre-shampoo treatment is better than using it post-wash. This is partly owing to the fact that coconut oil only seems to penetrate wet hair fibers. The constant swelling and shrinking of the hair fiber in response to typical washing, conditioning, and drying stresses the hair. According to Rele and Mohile, when coconut oil is used on the hair as a pre-treatment, a small portion of coconut oil is absorbed into the hair fiber when the fiber naturally swells. The authors suggest that some coconut oil residue may even be able to penetrate into the hair’s cortex, but were very vague about the feasibility of this claim. The authors suggest that this penetration effect is minimal on undamaged, healthy hair. Damaged, or porous hair, is the best candidate for coconut oil penetration because the cuticle is vulnerable and already relatively open. Coconut oil protects the hair by binding to the hair’s inner proteins which reduces the hair’s ability to swell in response to water. Ruetsch et al. found that coconut oil actually reduces the hair protein’s chemical ability to bind to water molecules which keeps water swelling in the hair fiber down to a minimum.

Black hair, which is more susceptible to damage and high porosity problems, tends to take in more water during the washing process. This causes it to swell considerably more than normal, healthy hair when wet. The hair must then shrink back to normal size during drying, but the cuticle can fray, split, or crack as this happens. Damage may be especially pronounced when the hair cuticle is contracting from a state of intense swelling as in porous hair. Coconut oil helps reduce this water uptake and swelling by binding to the proteins and keeping excess water out. This results in less trauma to the hair fiber as it naturally contracts to dry.

Summary

Coconut oil is an excellent hair oil for black and textured hair types. Research shows that coconut oil performs better as a pre-treatment before the hair is shampooed, but also works excellently as sealant on dry hair. Many black women suffer from hair porosity issues as a result of our styling choices. Coconut oil’s ability to prevent protein loss and reduce hair porosity makes it a valuable oil for those who chemically relax, regularly heat straighten, or permanently color their hair.

Ladies, do you incorporate coconut oil into your hair care routine? How do you use it? How does it compare to other oils you currently use or may have used in the past?

Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).

For more insight from The Science of Black Hair— relaxed, natural or in between, visit us on the web at www.blackhairscience.com and on facebook & twitter.

References
Rele & Mohile. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science.
Ruetsch, SB. Kamath,YK. Rele AS, Mohile, B. Secondary ion mass spectrometric investigation of penetration of coconut and mineral oils into human hair fibers: Relevance to hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science.

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JennyM
JennyM
8 years ago

I really wanted to love coconut oil for my hair but I had to give it up as far as my hair is concerned after using it consistently and experiencing really bad breakage which I couldn’t understand at first until I realized that it was the only new thing I had added to my hair regimen. Once I stopped using it, the breakage stopped. I still LOVE it on my skin and with cooking but it is a no no for my hair.

dom
dom
8 years ago

ok, i’m sold now! i have been hearing so long about i should be using coconut oil. i see i’m going to have to try it now lol.

Jc
Jc
8 years ago

I loved and blogged about both of these papers cited in this piece because they deal with surface analysis which is really my materials science speciality I think that there is an error in this sentence here: ‘while wet hair is able to absorb trace amounts of coconut oil residue into the hair fiber, coconut oil is only able to act on the surface of dried hair with no penetration into the hair fiber’ The actual experiment on penetration of oil into hair(Ruetsch, Kamath et al) was performed on dry hair (coconut applied, left overnight and then hair washed to… Read more »

tiredofthebs
tiredofthebs
8 years ago
Reply to  Jc

Hi JC,

Although every head of hair is different, please tell me when and how you apply coconut oil.

I apply it after I spritz it, to dampen my hair, or when my hair is dry. It makes my hair soft and shiny. However, I am wondering if this is from the moisture that I already have in my hair (when I apply it to dry hair), or if the coconut oil is actually moisturizing it on it’s on, despite science saying that it can’t.

Please advise. Thanks!!

Jc
Jc
8 years ago
Reply to  tiredofthebs

lol I liked your first line because it is true. Now because you ask about me, I normally use coconut oil in two ways: 1. As a prewash — I apply the oil liberally to dry hair, sleep with it overnight and then wash my hair as normal the next day. When I am swimming, I also apply it to my dry hair, swim and then wash my hair as normal. After washing and conditioning my hair, I will reapply a very small amount of oil. 2. As a ‘sealing oil’ — I use it in the same way you… Read more »

Tiredofthebs
Tiredofthebs
8 years ago
Reply to  Jc

Thanks!! N lol@ first line. Have a great holiday 🙂

df
df
8 years ago
Reply to  Jc

i want to use coconut oil as a pre poo but I was wondering how long you have to leave it in? I HATE sleeping with product in my hair overnight and if i leave coconut oil and a shower cap on my hair for too long, it starts to get wet and my scalp starts to itch. Thanks!

Lalala
Lalala
8 years ago
Reply to  df

df, I am the same way. When I do pre poos I leave the oil in for at least half an hour and no longer than an hour and 30 minutes. My scalp is sensitive so sleeping with products coating my hair is very uncomfortable. Hope this helps

Amayou
8 years ago

Great Article, especially the scientific references. Now for my question, is there a difference between Coconut oil you buy from the store and what you buy from the beauty supply store? (BTW I haven’t been able to find 100% pure coconut oil in a BSS, any brand suggestions would be greatly appreciated)

Gemlocs
Gemlocs
8 years ago
Reply to  Amayou

You have to go to a health food store to get 100% pure coconut not a bss.

Rebecca
Rebecca
8 years ago
Reply to  Amayou

If you are in an area that has a Trader Joes market they sell organic virgin cocnut oi1. $6 for a 16 oz jar. That sized jar lasts me about 4 months if I use it once a week

Amayou
8 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Cool Thanks 🙂

OHR
OHR
8 years ago

Since my early natural days, I’ve used coconut oil as a prepoo and sealant mixed w/sunflower oils. Vatika oil [a coconut oil available at Indian supermarkets] is a wonderful product, as it is infused with small amounts of amla, henna and lemon. As my hair has low porosity, the best way this works is to leave it in and either let your body heat help it penetrate or use a bit of heat. Bottom line, for my hair and scalp, you can’t beat coconut oil.

tiffani
tiffani
8 years ago

I LOVE coconut oil and use it religiously as a hot oil treatment — I sit under my steamer with it every week. I also keep a few drops in my spray bottle. Can’t live without it…

sosoulful_0125
sosoulful_0125
8 years ago

I am sorta questioning coconut oil some days it works great then others it blah.…love it on the skin though

Bela72
Bela72
8 years ago

I incorporate coconut oil in my daily spritz and shea butter mix in that way I can get it every day without neglecting my hair’s needs. This is a good subject to share and I agree with the benefits of using pure coconut oil on our hair. You can buy it at any grocery or health food store at a reasonable price.

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kg.sunshine
kg.sunshine
8 years ago

So I think I finally understand. It helps to allow moisture in, but it doesn’t moisturize. Well, at least, it has never moisturized my hair.

Women Are Gamechangers

I have just started to use Coconut Oil this month. I buy mine from Whole Foods. I use the virgin Coconut Oil. It is actually working. I use it before I shampoo my hair. I let it sit on my hair for about 30 minutes, then rinse it out and do my normal routine. It has really helped with my dandruff problem. I know longer have to hide flakes because they are no longer there. So hopefully this routine will help train my hair and keep my scalp clean.

Musickalmars
Musickalmars
7 years ago

I just started using coconut oil myself and the biggest benefit I’ve seen is dandruff control too, a lot more effective for my head than tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar! I’m still seeing if I like it as a pre poo or if I’ll go back to my burt’s bees pre-poo, but either way, I’m definitely adding it to my routine to control the flakes.

NancyM
NancyM
8 years ago

I really like coconut oil. I use it as a prepoo treatment and on dry hair as a moisturizer and sealant. I mainly use Vatika Oil (from the Indian store) for prepoo and extra virgin coconut oil (from the health food store) for dry hair.

Nita
Nita
8 years ago

Okay so this is great! I have heard so many great things about coconut oil I’m about to go hunt for it. Is there a specific name brand that is better or should I just look for the 100% pure coconut oil? Also when you all talk about a pre-poo oil rinsing is your hair damp or dry?

P
P
8 years ago

The funny is that my father used to make coconut oil when I was a kid. We usually kept it in a large jar in a dark corner of the room or under the dresser. My parents would bring it out only when we got sick. They would break a piece of camphor and melt it in the coconut oil. Then, they would rub it in our heads or on our chests to “break up the cold.” WE NEVER THOUGHT OF USING AS A HAIR PRODUCT. Little did we know, we were sitting on a gold mine.

Trini
Trini
8 years ago
Reply to  P

LOL! This sounds all too familiar. I don’t recall anyone making it — coconut oil — but I do remember being rubbed with it, in addition to camphor and Vicks. I really should ask for a bottle.

HoneyNut
HoneyNut
8 years ago
Reply to  P

Trini, I’m assuming you are, but P, are you from the Caribbean? (If so, which one?) Only here I does hear them talk about “breaking up cold” haha. My mother grew up making coconut oil as well, and she used it to cook. I don’t know about for cosmetic/healing purposes though.

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mangomadness
mangomadness
8 years ago

I love coconut oil as a pre-poo/detangler. I apply it to stretched, sectioned (8–10 parts), dampened hair (via a spray bottle) and finger-detangle. It leaves my hair soft and sheen‑y after cleansing my scalp. That’s saying alot because I don’t use rinse out conditioner after shampooing–I just go straight to my leave-in conditioner.

JJ
JJ
8 years ago

Glad the moisturisation part was cleared up. It only makes sense to me that moisture (water) moisturises. I have not been getting consistent results with coconut oil. Since my jojoba oil is almost finished I think I will replace with coconut oil and see what happens.

CurlDiva
8 years ago

Great information on the benefits of coconut oil. I recently moved to a city that doens’t have a Whole Foods Market but I was able to find 100% Coconut oil in the organic aisle of Kroger for 6.00.

Annetta
Annetta
8 years ago

I make my own coconut oil from scratch. I purchase 20 coconuts from the supermarket. Remove the juice (if any). Grater the hardened jelly and then boil it in water (a large pot) until the oil forms on the top. I then remove the oil, bottle it, and refrigerate it. It takes about 2 days to finish the process, but 100% natural and worth the effort. This lasts me about 1 year 🙂 If you don’t have time to make coconut oil from scratch, in my experience and research, Barlean’s makes the BEST organic coconut oil (that doesn’t need refrigeration).… Read more »

HoneyNut
HoneyNut
8 years ago
Reply to  Annetta

Ooh Annetta, that sounds really good! I think i want to try using coconut oil for cooking. I’ve never heard of Barlean’s brand, not that i’m looking for a different brand to try.

tay
tay
7 years ago
Reply to  Annetta

ok,annetta, so the coconut oil we cook with is the same that goes on the hair…i can get the barlean kind and put on my hair?

bsbfankaren
bsbfankaren
8 years ago

I started using Coconut oil a few months ago, and I love it. I have never used it as a pre-poo treatment, but I do put it on my hair right after I wash, while the air is still wet, and also do so whenever my hair feels dry between shampoos or cowashes. I like that my hair no longer feels greasy and that a small amount goes a long way. Finally, my product of choice is the Afrikan Republic Organic Virgin Coconut Oil.

ariella taylor
8 years ago

Ok. So I’ve been hearing different things about coconut oil: its absorbed into the air, its not absorbed, its a sealeant, its a moisturizer, bla bla. And frankly, its all getting a little confusing. All I know for sure is that its good for black hair. So ill just explain my routine, pls let me know if im doing something rong I jus big chopped, so my gair is about an inch. I co-wash, then use. Some cholestrol (by organics, africa’s best), then I rinse that out. Then I use some coconut oil with comes mixed with shea butter(emily millionaire),… Read more »

HoneyNut
HoneyNut
8 years ago
Reply to  ariella taylor

Hey Ariella, yes your routine sounds fine. but you’ll have to determine how it works for you based on how your hair responds, you know.

By the way I checked out your blog. I love it!! Your little bio on the side is hilar! haha

i wish you all the best with your haircare routines and all other aspirations. Law student?! you go!

ariella taylor
8 years ago
Reply to  HoneyNut

Hahahah. U actually checked it out. Yeah well, what can I say, I’m a little off my rocker. Lol!
Well, I hope my hair likes the routine. Ill b totally clueless if it doesn’t! Haha
Thank u sooo much ?!

Jelisa | Blogging Ever After
Jelisa | Blogging Ever After
8 years ago

I have an entire jar of this in my cupboard {my husband and I use it for cooking}. Thanks for this information!

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South Africa
8 years ago

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hair dandruff
8 years ago

I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this web site. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

Jelli
8 years ago

Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I used your photo for a blog post (with a link back to you, of course!) I’ve heard great things about using coconut oil to condition and smooth hair. I also love it as eye cream and lip balm. Cheers!

Got alove for ma hair
Got alove for ma hair
8 years ago

Coconut oil itches my scalp , any others that are just as effective?

Roz
Roz
8 years ago

I have been using organic virgin coconut oil for over a year now. I am two years natural. I use it daily on my hair! I love it and my hair loves it!
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tay
tay
7 years ago

is there a particular type of coconut oil you purchase for the hair?because i know there is cooking coconut oil, is it the same one or no?

Tameka
Tameka
7 years ago

I think the Organic Coconut Oil is the best. I use the Nutiva brand; Organic Extra Virgin and that works fine so far. And that is also used for cooking. I think also the thing you want to remember is what might work for some may not work for others. This also includes not just products but the way you use the products. Some people work better with using oils for pre-poo. My hair however never really took to the whole “pre-poo” ritual, it just didn’t, and that fine. My hair does however love the basic moisture/seal combo that I… Read more »

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Annabel
Annabel
7 years ago

I just brought trader joe’s brand of organic coconut oil and im excited to start using it, well once i research the most effective way too.

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Neva
7 years ago

I love coconut. Every shampoo and conditioner is based on coconut. 😀

Andreas Karry
Andreas Karry
7 years ago

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Throughout the tropical world, it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its stability, it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant to rancidity, lasting up to two years owing to the high saturated fat content.-

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laddu
laddu
7 years ago

i love coconut oil.it is a complete feed for hair

Yas
Yas
7 years ago

Great article. Coconut oil is amazing. It’s literally like the miracle oil and has so many great uses. I put in my Mud washes, and my hot oil treatments. I use it before I pre-poo and after I de-tangle as well. You can use it as an post-shower oil and cook beautiful Thai inspired dishes with it. You can even use it to cleanse the teeth (oil pulling). When anyone asks me what type of oil they can use to start their natural journey, I ALWAYS recommend Coconut Oil above all others. Love the stuff.

Taylor
7 years ago

I just discovered the joys of coconut oil. I use it on my hair, my lips, my skip. It’s really nice when added to lotion or vaseline for a body moisturizer.

Yohance
Yohance
6 years ago
Reply to  Taylor

Get off the petroleum/coal based products. Coconut Oil is the best because of ease of access. All you need is a coconut tree, no digging, mining, no hard work. The Creator is not wicked or jealous, so anything that is hard to get is not for us. Mammonmoney on the otherhand, makes us work really hard for the basics.

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Kadie
Kadie
6 years ago

Ok not recommending the coconut oil at all. If you have thin hair don’t do it, way too heavy 🙁 I’m using the argan oil leave in conditioner and that I can recommend :)Heat protectant Theres an argan oil one by Pro Naturals that I use thats really good because it makes hair nice and soft. Its not greasy or anything, lol. People get scared at the word “oil”. Salons use it and I got it online, its awesome and it’ll last for ages if you get a bottle of it. You use it after a shower and leave it… Read more »

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