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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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… 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… 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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