By Audrey Siva­sothy, author of The Sci­ence of Black Hair: A Com­pre­hen­sive Guide to Tex­tured Hair Care

Coconut oil has many ben­e­fits for black and tex­tured hair types. Over the years, con­sid­er­able research has been con­duct­ed to bet­ter under­stand the oil and its ben­e­fits in hair care. Recent research points to coconut oil’s ben­e­fits as both a sealant and hair pro­tein recon­struc­tor of sorts. The­se pro­tein recon­struc­tor ben­e­fits are espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing in black hair care appli­ca­tions. Solid at room tem­per­a­ture, coconut oil has been used for gen­er­a­tions by wom­en of col­or in those trop­i­cal par­adis­es around the world where coconuts are indige­nous and grow freely. If their hair is any tes­ta­ment to the pow­ers of coconut oil in hair care, then coconut oil had me at hel­lo.

Tout­ed ear­ly on as a nutri­tion­al pow­er food, coconut oil enthu­si­asts quick­ly began to look into some of the oth­er ben­e­fits of coconut oil. This arti­cle will give a brief sum­ma­ry of cur­rent coconut oil research find­ings and dis­cuss impli­ca­tions for black hair care.

How Coconut Oil Benefits the Hair

Coconut oil is a very unique hair oil. This ver­sa­tile, low mol­e­c­u­lar weight oil is able to lever­age its tra­di­tion­al oil sta­tus to seal the hair, but com­ple­ments this seal­ing capac­i­ty with a strong affin­i­ty for hair pro­teins not found in oth­er hair oils. Because mois­tur­iza­tion and hydra­tion are char­ac­ter­is­tics of water, coconut oil can­not right­ful­ly be called a mois­tur­iz­er in and of itself. It does how­ev­er great­ly sup­port the mois­tur­iza­tion of the hair fiber in ways that oth­er oils can­not and have fal­l­en short.

Coconut oil ben­e­fits black hair in two impor­tant ways. First, coconut oil’s hydropho­bic oil char­ac­ter­is­tics allow it to inhibit the pen­e­tra­tion of water from the sur­round­ing air and envi­ron­ment. Sec­ond, coconut oil is able to bind to the nat­u­ral pro­tein struc­ture of the hair. This helps the hair retain its nat­u­ral mois­ture con­tent and rein­forces the hair fiber, mak­ing it stronger.

Coconut Oil as a Sealant

Rele and Mohile, sci­en­tists at Mari­co Indus­tries, found that 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. In its sealant capac­i­ty, coconut oil acts as oth­er oils. It sim­ply coats and con­di­tions the out­er cuti­cle lay­er enhanc­ing shine and increas­ing the hair fiber’s pli­a­bil­i­ty. It also reduces fric­tion and sta­t­ic elec­tric­i­ty between the hair fibers.

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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67 Comments on "The Benefits of Coconut Oil"

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NancyM

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.

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

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.

kg.sunshine

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.

Bela72

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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sosoulful_0125

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

tiffani

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…

OHR

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.

Amayou

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)

Rebecca

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

Cool Thanks :-)

Gemlocs

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

The Natural Haven
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 remove coconut… Read more »
tiredofthebs

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!!

The Natural Haven
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 describe. I… Read more »
df

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

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

Tiredofthebs

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

dom

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.

JennyM

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.

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