Why it’s worth trying coconut oil on your dry or damaged hair

So, hands up who wants beautiful, healthy and shiny hair? Me, me! OK, we all do, and if you’re looking for products that promise to help, you may want to find out more about the claimed benefits of using coconut oil for hair. As a topical agent, applied directly to the hair, it really is worth trying out, especially if you have dry hair that needs a moisture boost.

What are the benefits of using coconut oil on hair?

There are various claimed health benefits linked to ingesting coconut oil, but for use to promote shiny, healthy hair, just applying the oil directly to the scalp or hair has been shown to have positive effects. Studies have shown that only certain types of oil are able to actually penetrate the hair shaft and coconut oil is one of these. It can penetrate and filter deep into the core of the hair, so the oils can help to replace those naturally present that can get depleted over time through washing. The coconut oil acts as re-fatting agent to plump up the hair shaft from within.

This is great news for those of you with dry damaged hair, though you should keep in mind that coconut oil doesn’t do a great deal to the hair cuticle (the outside layer of the hair), so for extra smoothing you will also need to stick with your conditioner of choice.

That’s not all – coconut oil has moisture retaining properties, so once it’s applied to hair it does a brilliant job of stopping moisture from escaping, keeping your hair moisturised, supple and shiny. And although applying coconut oil to hair won’t add extra protein to it, it does provide an effective barrier to stop excess protein loss, helping to keep hair strong and healthy. In fact, studies have shown that, when applied to hair before washing, it reduces the amount of water absorbed by the hair, improving the hair’s structure and reducing breakage and damage caused by combing. That’s pretty impressive, and a great tip if your hair’s already chemically damaged and tends to be particularly fragile when wet.

As coconut oil is a great and safe moisturiser, massaging it into the scalp can also help to keep your scalp skin in great condition, and this can be effective in helping to keep dandruff at bay.

Is it wise to add coconut oil to hair dye?

It has been suggested that adding coconut oil to hair dye can help to nourish your hair and combat damage caused by the dying process. I haven’t read any conclusive evidence to back this up and, as it could alter the results of your dye job, I’d be a bit careful if you want to try it out. I have read a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that pre-treating hair with coconut oil and applying hair dye without first washing the oil out can leave hair beautifully soft, so it’s a technique you may want to experiment with to see if you’re pleased with the results. (And yes, there are a LOT of threads to read through if you follow the link above!)

Refined vs unrefined?

You’ll find many different brands and types of coconut oil for hair out there, so which should you go for?Well, unrefined virgin coconut oil is really the better bet if you can get it. It’s made from the flesh of the coconut and is chemical and additive free.

Refined coconut oil (often labelled RBD: refined, bleached and deodorised) is derived from dried coconut husks (known as copra) and the method of oil extraction often creates a poor quality oil that needs to be processed to refine it before use. A lot of the natural goodness in the oil can be lost along the way, and the oil is left odourless (a real shame if you love the smell of coconut as much as me).

Unrefined coconut oil does have its disadvantages too – remember that it is coconut oil in a raw form, so it may well contain particles of things like dust and isn’t considered as hygienic when it comes to ingesting it, but for use on your locks that really shouldn’t matter. It can be a bit trickier to get hold of than the refined oils, and unfortunately it isn’t cheap due to more costly production methods, but they do say you get what you pay for. Coconut oil can last for ages though, so it may well work out as a sound investment.

And what about extra virgin coconut oil? The term is a bit misleading really, as there are no set rulings on what exactly makes ‘extra virgin’ different from the virgin oil (apart from sounding like it must be better!) Just stick to pure unrefined virgin oil to make sure you’re getting a good product.

Where to buy your coconut oil?

Look out at your local beauty store – for pure unrefined coconut oil, the internet should come up trumps if you can’t find any locally.

Olive oil vs coconut oil

If you like the idea of applying oils to nourish your hair, you may also have tried or read about using olive oil to help keep it soft and conditioned. So which is better? When it comes down to it, it really is down to personal choice. Both oils can be absorbed into the hair, though coconut oil tends to be absorbed more easily, meaning there’s less risk of you ending up looking a greasy mess. Different hair and skin types react in different ways though, so try both out and see which suits you best.

Method for use:

For a scalp massage and hair treatment, just follow these steps:

1. Coconut oil is usually a solid at room temperature unless you’re in a tropical climate, so first you’ll need to scoop some of your coconut oil into a container and put that into a bowl of hot water to gently melt it.

2. If you want to massage your scalp too, you could add some essential oils that have various soothing or antiseptic properties, but do check that you’re not sensitive to them first.

3. Massage your scalp with the coconut oil for a few minutes, then coat the rest of your hair with the remaining oil, making sure it’s thoroughly coated. As you’ll want to leave it on for at least a few hours, to avoid any mess you could cover your hair with a shower cap or saran wrap. For an extra boost you could cover your hair with a lightweight towel and hairdry your hair to warm it up, allowing the oil to penetrate the hair more easily.

4. Once you’ve the left the oil for a few hours (or overnight for very dry hair) you’ll need to wash it out thoroughly with a gentle shampoo. Repeat if needed, to make sure any traces of the oil are removed from the outside of your hair. Voila, you should have wonderfully supple and moisturised hair.

So if you want to show your dry hair some love or it just needs a bit of a moisturising kick, give virgin coconut oil for hair a try to see if it works for you.

Have you got any favourite brands or recommended methods for applying coconut oil? Let me know!

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