I’ve been a fan of coconut oil for a really long time. It is a highly nourishing oil with hundreds of uses, and lately I’ve run across many sources touting the benefits of coconut oil for hair. It can certainly be beneficial for certain hair types when used correctly, but many sources recommend using it in ways that may do more harm than good.
Before you go pour coconut oil all over your head, make sure to know how to use it correctly to get the benefits without harming your hair!
Why Use Coconut Oil for Hair?
The idea of putting oil directly in the hair can seem counterintuitive, especially to anyone with naturally oily hair. Yet nourishing hair oil treatments have been used for thousands of years.
By using a certain ratio of beneficial oils, hair oil can add life and moisture into hair. It is also not meant to be an everyday product.
But why coconut oil?
Coconut oil is the richest natural source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), special types of fatty acid with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that are very nourishing to the body. It is especially high in the C12 chain of MCFAs known as lauric acid.
Coconut oil’s properties allow it to penetrate hair in ways that other oils are not able to, which is why some people notice amazing results relatively quickly when using coconut oil for hair.
This is because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain structure, which reduces the protein loss for both undamaged and damaged hair.
For best results, studies suggest coconut oil is best used before or after shampooing.
Could Coconut Oil Harm Hair?
There is no doubt that certain oils can be beneficial to hair. Yet many of us strip out beneficial oils from over-shampooing, leading the body to increase natural oil production to compensate. This is one reason for the rise of so-called no-poo methods.
Due to over-shampooing and poor diet, many of us are also missing vital nutrients we need to build healthy hair in the first place, but is adding oil to the hair the solution?
Certain oils do seem to be pretty much universally beneficial for hair, but coconut oil isn’t always one of them. For instance, castor oil is an age-old beauty secret for increasing hair growth. I use it on my hair and eyelashes and have seen amazing results, and hundreds of commenters have had a similar experience.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, gets mixed results. Some people report immediately healthier and smoother hair, while others claim that their hair fell out by the handful after using it.
So so how can a person know if putting coconut oil on their hair is going to be beneficial or cause problems?
Coconut Oil Isn’t for Every Hair Type
Not surprisingly, different types of hair respond to oils differently. Coconut oil won’t work for every hair type.
Because it helps the hair retain its natural protein, it can be helpful for those who lack enough natural protein in hair follicles.
Typically, those with fine to medium shiny hair will see good results from coconut oil and notice stronger, shinier hair with more volume.
Those with coarse or dry hair may not struggle with low protein at all and coconut oil may lead to more brittle hair and hair loss.
These people may benefit more from other types of oil like marula oil or argan oil.
It should go without saying, but anyone with an allergy or reaction to coconuts or coconut oil should not use these products in hair either, no matter what hair type.
How to Safely Use Coconut Oil for Hair
Those who think that coconut oil may be beneficial for their hair types can benefit from using it, but there are some best practices when using coconut oil for hair:
- Avoid the scalp: Though coconut oil seems to be beneficial for those who struggle with dandruff that has a fungal component, others may see negative effects from using coconut oil directly on the scalp. Coconut oil may clog pores and cause irritation for some scalp types (just as it does on certain skin types), and is best used directly on the hair and not the scalp (of those with the right type of hair).
- Start with small amounts: You’ve probably heard the saying “too much of a good thing,” and this absolutely applies when it comes to using coconut oil in hair. Start with a small amount and see how your hair responds. For best results, try just rubbing a small amount of coconut oil between your hands to warm it up and work through hair gently. This should help tame frizz and make hair shiny without the negative effects.
- Add other ingredients: Adding other oils can change how coconut oil affects hair. For instance, coconut oil doesn’t seem to make hair dry or brittle when combined with the monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil or when mixed with argan or marula oil (both great for hair). The simple sugars in honey can nourish hair and make it naturally smooth and frizz-free. As a deep treatment, blending coconut oil with honey and yogurt may offer more benefits than coconut oil alone.
- Combine with the right hair products: Many homemade hair products do not contain the chemical detergents and surfactants that many commercial shampoos and products do, making it difficult for them to remove excess oils from the hair, especially in large amounts. I recommend a store-bought clarifying shampoo for this purpose, like my Wellnesse Shampoo for All Hair Types or this organic clarifying shampoo.
Best Hair Care Tip: Eat Coconut Oil Instead!
Hair doesn’t have the ability to digest or metabolize coconut oil like the digestive system does. For this reason, try eating coconut oil instead of putting it on your hair for the most benefit. Coconut oil’s natural health benefits can help improve the rate of hair growth from the inside out.
Finally, just like the skin, hair is a reflection of internal health. Hormones can affect it (one of the reasons women lose hair after pregnancy). Focus on balancing hormones and nourishing the body to improve hair. Address factors like diet, supplements, and sleep and you may find your body thanks you with healthier, stronger, shinier hair!
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board-certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Do you use coconut oil on your hair? What results have you experienced? Share below!
Discussion (204 Comments)
My son has eczema and I did not like the idea of the creams the doctor would prescribe. I melt coconut oil and put it on him as a lotion after his bath. I started doing this everyday and now I only use it once a week and the eczema has cleared up.
Alicia, I make luxury oi, soaps and also do a special one for psoriasis and eczema. Use just a 1/3 c of coconut oil, j\heat it and then infuse rosemary into it – either in the sun which is time consuming or – I do it in the slow cooker on very low heat for 6 hours. Then use this base and mix with straight coconut. If you bet it like you would cream it bulks it a lot and it also does not go hard in cold weather like it usually does. The rosemary helps a lot with eczema and as a healer. Also good for hair.
I love coconut oil! I just made homemade lotion bars and lip balm for the first time and they are awesome! My husband does most of the cooking so he uses coconut oil in place of other oils that may not be as healthy. And as far as treating yeast infections goes, coconut oil is my life saver!
I haven’t seen any difference in my hair seems it made it more dry .
What hair type do you have?
Love your blog, Katie! For the month of January, I tried giving up grains, but had intense sugar cravings like I’ve never experienced before (prior, I ate very little sugar, refined grains, or processed items). I ended up indulging in a little too much candy, and have been experiencing what I think is my first yeast infection, though I have no frame of reference for one. That leads me to two questions:
1. I’ve been reading The Schwarzbein Principle, which states that the body can’t produce insulin or serotonin entirely on its own, and that healthy sources of grains can be one of the only ways to provide it (meats and veggies don’t produce insulin, according to the author). I read that diabetics are especially prone to yeast infections, and wondered if it was the insulin issue. That said, my hypothesis, for my body at least, is that I was craving sugar in refined because I wasn’t receiving it in better forms from carbohydrates. Do you know if these cravings, as well as yeast overgrowth, can be an effect of going off of grains? Any recommendations? I’ve reintroduced brown rice and quinoa in the last week and feel much better.
2. I’d like to try the coconut oil treatment for the yeast–is it applied topically or taken internally?
Thanks so much!
Both internally and externally. Plain organic yogurt also helps when used externally. You might be craving carbs, but it is possible to produce insulin from some veggies (especially root veggies) and fruits… Have you ever read the book “Deep Nutrition?” It addresses both the diet side and explains the yeast connection…
Sounds like you have a candida overgrowth. when you give up sugar and grains you are starving the candida and it makes you crave it to feed the candida. dont give in to it!
Getting enough refrigerated probiotics took away all my cravings. After several months I can maintain healthier levels with kefir, yoghurt and homemade saurkraut. Hope you’re doing better by now.
Eating a lot of sugar can cause yeast infections. I mean, it won’t just cause them every time, but a lot of sugar (and I mean more than just a few pieces of candy here, a few pieces there, but you did say you had over indulged, so I’d say the yeast infection makes sense) will produce more yeast in your system. Since the ph in our bodies naturally needs some yeast to balance out, it will always be there. When we eat a lot of sugar the overproduction of yeast can result in a yeast infection. I wouldn’t jump into saying you are not being hygienic enough, but you have to remember our *who-whoos* are wet all the time and open, so hygiene is so important! You probably are pretty healthy which is why this is the first time this has happened for you, but lost women will have a yeast infection at least once in their life, it’s very normal because they are so easily effected. But we have some great systems in our bodies because naturally they fight off infection and drain it out in its own. The sugar thing plus little things LIKE ANYTHING like keeping bathing suit on too long, having too tight of pants, working out and sweating and not changing quick enough or shaving and not cleaning enough can cause a yeast infections when the yeast is overproduced due to many things one of them being sugar overintake. Hope problem clears up soon! Wouldn’t depend on coconut oil, though I have not personally tried it. I hear it takes a while, so if you want a fast solution, the creams even over the counter at the drugstore should work. 🙂
I have found, for me anyway, taking turmeric after 3 meals daily takes care of yeast infections without using anything else. I take 500mg capsules each time. When I had a yeast infection, I also took a dose at bedtime to keep it at bay for a few days. I saw quick results. Since taking turmeric daily, I have not had any more yeast infections.
Look into the blood type diet. I know it sounds ridiculous but I read into it and I think there is something to it!
It works great to get rid of cradle cap- rub it in, leave for 10 minutes, and comb it out!
I just recently started using Coconut oil to cook with after going grain free, in part because of your article. Now, after reading more of your posts I use it as a shaving cream and lotion. It has only been a few days but I love how I smell and how soft my skin feels. I have been a little apprehensive to use it as a lotion on my face because I tend to be oily towards the end of the day, but will give it a try this weekend and see how it goes! Thanks for all your awesome advice and ideas!
I stopped using Coconut oil as a cleanser because of damage it could do building up in our drain pipes. It only melts at 78 degrees and we have a septic system that relies on good bacteria, so an anti-bacterial oil is not helpful, if it makes it to the septic in the first place. I’ve switched to washing my face with a little EVOO at night and so far, so good.
I use it on my oily face and it seems to help it not be as oily and it evens out my skin tone. After using this for a week I actually went out without makeup, which I never would have done before!!!!!
i make a natural sugar scrub with coconut oil and white sugar , and aloe to exfoliate your face, neck, legs, etc,its wonderful!
Do you need to refrigerate homemade scrubs?
I make one with coconut oil, brown sugar and just a little tea tree oil ( I have acne prone skin) and I don’t have to refrigerate it, I find if I do it gets much too hard and I have to warm it up just to use it! I just make it in small batches so it doesn’t have to sit around for a long time, and I’ve never noticed anything wrong with it. But if you’re making something water based, or with raw fruit ingredients, I’d definitely recommend refrigerating it, and not making more than 2 or three applications at a time, because mould could occur.
Cam you tell me how you make this recipe for skin prone to acne? It would be much appreciated!
Hey my son suffers from bad acne. I would really appreciate that recipe of yours so he can try it. I have open sores on my scalp and was wondering if I can use coconut oil or should I wait until they are healed up? Thank you this has all been very helpful
Do not use coconut oil on acne prone skin!!! It’s a very heavy oil and can clog pores. Use a combination of salicylic acid and retinol in a skincare routine.
Gina, I do not know about coconut oil, but I do know about acne! I am allergic to benzoyl peroxide; however, I promise you when I used Proactive as a teenager it completely cleared my face until I realized it was causing me to itch my face and had to stop. I was devastated. I used other benzoyl products from the store and it made my skin itch too. I used salicylic acid BUT IT DID NOT WORK. The Murad infomercial stuff claimed benzoyl peroxide is drying but guess what their products did not work! The benzoyl peroxide is what drys out the acne and cleared my skin. Fortunately I grew out of it and my face is clear. But trust me I went from having a massive breakout with 32 pimples all over my face and it was hideous and painful! I rushed ordered proactive and used it as directed and within 48hrs my skin stopped making more pimples and dried up the acne and was healing. After a week it made a huge difference and after 2 weeks of faithfully using it every day and night my skin was clear. But again I developed an allergic reaction and had to quit. I now use Clinique’s tiny little blue bottle of acne spot gel of salicyclic acid when i develop the occasional pimple like if i stupidly sleep in my makeup. It works pretty well. It is the next best thing.
For sores on the scalp:
A 1/2 cider vinegar/ 1/2 water rinse after shampooing is a big aid to soothing and healing them.
Coconut oil: seems to depend on the type of hair one has and the type of scalp problem. My hair is fine and grey, significantly I suffer with Folliculitus. A little coconut oil; a scant 1/2 teaspoon added to my regular store bought conditioner and an equal dollop of aloe vera gel well blended together and worked into the scalp and any left over smoothed over the length of hair and left in 5 to 10 minutes has been a huge help in helping control the yeast infection.
Do you hear this scrub prior to using it?
How would I go about using coconut oil in a liver cleanse?
You don’t. No one needs to do a liver cleanse or detox of any kind. Your body does all that for you. That is the function of your liver and kidneys. Healthy eating is key. Have a read of this https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/detox-diets
I simply consume virgin\unrefined Coconut oil daily in my matcha latte.(coconut matcha latte)
My dog gets yeast infections in his big floppy ears. Instead of a chemical in his ears to treat it, I put a dollop of coconut oil in his ear canal and then massage the area. Works great, no chemicals and smells good too.
Oh dear! You saved me:)
EVERYTHING is chemicals including (gasp) coconut oil!
There are natural and artificial chemicals just as there are natural vitamins and minerals found in foods and vitamins and minerals concocted in a lab.
Coconut oil cleanses the liver, and is the only oil that can be actually absorbed by the skin (other oil particles are too large).
For the hair treatment – do you wet your hair before putting it on, or just put it on dry hair and then wash in the morning?
Water and oil do not mix, so having wet hair before applying any oil treatment is counterproductive. I put the coconut oil on my ends before I take a shower to avoid stripping too much oil when I shampoo.
Actually, you do want to have damp hair before you apply any oil. Because oil and water don’t mix, if you’re going for moisturizing your hair, you seal the moisture (i.e. water) in when you add oil to damp hair. This is why conditioners often say to apply to slightly damp hair.
Water does not tend to be moisturizing to the hair as I understand. You use coconut oil to seal in your natural oils and supplement them and BLOCK the water and detergents in shampoo from stripping them away from the shaft. You want the coconut oil to be absorbed. The molecular makeup of coconut oil is such that it is more readily absorbed by the hair shaft than any other oil. Also, consider your water source. Some areas have better water sources than others and I would imagine that part of the reason that water is not moisturizing to the hair is in large part due to the chemical treatments applied at water treatment facilities moreso than the water itself.
Can you use during the first 48 hous of a perm?
As a professional hair stylist, water is one of the most damaging things to our hair. Our hair is acidic (having a pH of around 4.5) and water is more alkaline (pH of 7). What happened is when you add an alkaline solution to the hair it makes our cuticle expand and causes damage. Bleach for lightening hair is also alkaline (pH of around 9) and also blows up the cuticle which is why hair can feel stripped and dry after being lightened. You want to allow the hair to absorb nourishment from oil so applying it to dry hair is best.
Wellness Mama, I have done it both ways. I found I got more mileage from massaging the warm oil into a damp head of hair, after a refreshing rinse with tap water and just removing excess water moisture by squeezing handfuls together and lightly wringing the water off in the drain. It is then an easy task of applying the warmed oil to my hair and scalp, combing it through, and pinning it into a twist knot to leave in overnight. Then it is rinsed with warm water, shampooed well, rinsed out thoroughly, and lastly given a kinder “final ‘shampoo’ with any natural instant conditioner” to effectively balance out the residual remaining traces of the intensive oil conditioning process. I do this once a week. It’s the only time I need to use shampoo in my hair routine because my hair is the healthiest it’s ever been with this maintenance since it is at it’s longest length with NO damage.
This may be a random place for a random comment coconut oil is ok but I swear by mayo!! Yes it’s gross and it smells but after one use my hair is crazy shiny manageable soft and better then any other crazy expensive conditioner and home remedy I have curly 3b but very fine hair I’m Caucasian… just to give you an idea of my hair type.. anyways nothing has worked better I’ve tried it on dry and wet hair added other products use alone and please ladies so worth it.. what works best in my experience room temperature organic mayo a tablespoon of x virgin olive oil a cup of mayo, and if u want to mask the scent (I don’t) but I can add a few drops of lavender oil of your favorite leave in conditioner.. I apply this to damp hair in small sections work through until hair is saturated tie in a loose bun put a bag over it.. then here the magic.. apply medium heat on a low setting.. I like to use a diffuser so the heat is distributing evenly and gently o do this for five minutes about three times this allows every thing to break down and really get deep in your hair I leave in for as long as I can 4 hrs sometimes I even sleep with it wash only ounce!!!! Just rinse well first with warm water for ten minthen shampoo very small amount of conditioner will be needed … at this point your hair will feel like the finest silk.. it’s like a hair miracle I promise do this you will love it.. I no hair dresser but I’ve been obsessed with hair and ways to make it as healthy as can be for six years now.. I promise u won’t regret it if your hair is fairly healthy and not flory I’d skip the oil other then and leave in maybe for anth or two and start at ponytail length.. good luck and your welcome ??
I agree with putting the oil on dry. If you have non-filtered chemically treated town water you are showering with, the chemicals are drying to hair. Ever smell bleach when turning on your water?
I was told to melt the coconut, add to hair, wrap it with a warmed towel, leave over night and the only way to really take the oil from hair is to start working in the shampoo straight away without water as oil and water makes it really difficult. Then start adding water and shampoo and condition as normal.
I put it on wet or dry and my hair isn’t dry anymore! I sleep with it on my hair and wash in the morning. No more fried looking hair from the flat iron!
When you say wash do you mean just with water?
Put on dry hair and put on after I wash my hair
Either. COCONUT OIL is good internally and externally. BUT not palm oil because of it’s negative effect on the environment and already critically endangered animals. Read you labels, you want COCONUT OIL, Palm oil is found in half of all consumer goods on the shelves today in Western grocery stores, from chocolate, ice cream, and baked goods to soaps, lotions, and detergents. Forest clearing for palm oil, including in peatlands, has pushed iconic species like Bornean orangutans and Sumatran elephants and tigers to the brink of extinction, and has added hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere. But change is on the horizon, I just hope it isn’t too late. Just saying.
The solution is actually way more simple…people need to just stop breeding already…stop creating more resource suckers so the planet doesn’t continue to get raped by selfish people…but this comment will probably not go well on a “mama” blog.
Katie - Wellness Mama
The solution is to raise and teach our children to be problem solvers, not to stop having children. If you think it’s selfish to have children then you shouldn’t have any, but to tell someone else what they should or should not do when it doesn’t concern you is very conceited…
You can do either or bit damp hair seem to be best as it opens the hair follicles when your hair is wet with warm water allowing the oils to penetrate