Does the idea of slathering cooking oil all over your head seem kind of crazy-lady-insane? While it might seem pretty strange, consider that using coconut oil for hair is common in many countries around the world, and has been for ages.
Coconut oil, which is highly nutritious when eaten, is also one of the best beauty treatments around, especially for hair. Still need convincing? Let’s take a step back and look at our collective brainwashing about hair washing.
Why Use Coconut Oil for Hair?
First things first: washing your hair daily is not only unnecessary, it’s also putting you at risk for hair damage, and it’s probably draining your bank account a bit too.
Our current preferences for hair care products favor the fragrant, lathery, fancily packaged. This fascination began in the modern era when eschewing tradition, even when those options were most effective, was preferred in favor of products that relayed our status in a fast-paced glamorous world.
Just a hundred years ago it was not uncommon to leave hair unwashed for a month. But this wasn’t profitable for hair care companies. So they began luring us into the bi-weekly hair washing, which soon turned into the daily lathering and rinsing (and repeating), that most of us consider necessity.
Not only that, but we continue to equate quality with excessive price tags when often there’s little (if any) difference between salon hair care items and those on Target’s shelves. And that’s not saying any of them are doing your hair favors: The common denominator in virtually all of them, though, is that they strip—rather than replenish—vital oils from the scalp and hair. This creates a problem that cannot be remedied by more of the same kinds products, no matter how fancy or how delicious they smell.
A clinical study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found that compared with other oils such as mineral and sunflower, coconut oil was the only one that decreased protein loss in hair, whether the hair was already damaged or not.
Coconut oil is hydrophobic, which means it repels water. When applied to the hair before washing, the oil can penetrate the hair more deeply as the hair swells with moisture once washed. This is due to the presence of a rare fatty acid called lauric acid, which is naturally drawn to the hair proteins. Coconut oil application also helps to prevent frizz and promote shine.
In India, coconut oil is also used also to keep hair from turning gray by massaging it into the scalp for 10 to 15 minutes per day. Some people even report turning gray hairs back to their normal color with this technique.
Coconut oil is also antifungal and antimicrobial–which means it may help keep your scalp free and clear of less-than desirable conditions that can cause itching and flaking.
How to Use Coconut Oil for Hair and Scalp
Image of woman with blonde hair via Shutterstock
If coconut oil for the hair still sounds too good to be true: remember that this a tried and trusted ancient hair care technique used in most coconut-producing regions of the world. But nothing is as effective as giving it a try yourself, right? And unlike chemical hair products, there’s no risk of exposing yourself to harm by giving a coconut hair treatment a whirl.
The end result is shinier, more manageable hair, a softer scalp, and less money spent on expensive hair care products (while coconut oil is a bit pricey, it’ll still cost you a lot less per ounce than most shampoos or moisture-treatments).
First, you’ll need to select a high quality coconut oil from a glass jar (oils leach plastic and the harmful chemicals such as BPA can enter your body through the scalp). Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade Coconut Oil comes in glass jars and is a high quality oil. Nutiva also distributes coconut oil in glass.
- Start with a teaspoon size amount of oil in the palm of your hand. Note: coconut oil will turn to liquid at 76 degrees Fahrenheit. It is easier to use when it’s in its solid white state. You can refrigerate it for a bit to get it to this consistency if needed, but note that very cold (or frozen) coconut oil will be difficult to scoop out. So let it sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes instead of trying to scoop straight out of th fridge.
- Warm the oil in your hands a bit so that it starts to turn back into liquid and begin massaging the oil into the ends of your hair first, working up towards the scalp (enlist a friend to help especially if you have long hair).
- For thicker hair, you may want to use clips to separate out and make sure you get all of the hair saturated with the oil. Thicker hair will also require much more oil than thinner hair.
- Once you get up to the scalp, massage the coconut oil in as you would a shampoo. Work evenly and thoroughly using more oil as needed.
- Comb through the hair. Leave on for at least ten minutes—or even over night (commonly done in India). Repeat as needed. Applying coconut oil to the hair can be done daily, so you can’t really overdo it!
- Shampoo and condition as normal.
Worried about greasy, flat, and oily-looking hair? The secret to using coconut oil for hair is all in what happens once you rinse the oil from your hair. If you don’t get it all out, or if you have naturally very fine hair, you may need to rinse it a few times to remove the oil. But once the hair has dried and is oil-free, you should notice softer and silkier locks that don’t look greasy.
Have you used coconut oil for hair? What are your favorite tricks or tips?
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Coconut in hand image via Shutterstock