Is Coconut Oil Good For Your Hair?
Almost everyone can get on board with the potential health benefits of coconut oil. Used for a variety of health purposes, including healthy cooking, skin moisturization, weight loss, and wrinkle correction, this natural oil does a lot for us. Perhaps one of the most common uses of coconut oil outside of cooking is for hair health. People use it to moisturize their hair, reduce breakage, and even improve their scalp. But does it really work, and more to the point, is coconut oil actually good for your locks? Here, we dive into everything you need to know about using coconut oil for your hair.
Why Coconut Oil Is Hydrating
The primary fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, which makes up about 45% of the product. Lauric acid is easily transported when ingested, making it easy to metabolize and absorb. When applied to the skin and hair, it can penetrate below the protective barriers to provide hydration.
Because of its moisturization properties, coconut oil is often a great natural remedy for dry hair and breakage. For example, people with colored-treated hair may find coconut oil a gentle but powerful approach to reinvigorating their hair. Furthermore, it may help prevent split ends and can even help support hair regrowth by increasing hair proteins.
Other Hair Benefits of Coconut Oil
Hydration is the most well-known component of coconut oil when used for hair care purposes. But its effects can extend well below the surface of the hair, too. Coconut oil is known for its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are chemical compounds that round up free radicals and can potentially prevent disease.
It also has anti-inflammatory effects, which may serve an important role in treating scalp conditions rooted in inflammation, such as seborrheic dermatitis. Many people with dandruff and flaking scalps also use coconut oil to help curb inflammation while simultaneously treating dry scalp.
Finally, coconut oil contains some anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, meaning that it may be able to fight or prevent infections from either pathogen type. Fungal infections in particular can be quite common on the scalp. One of the more common fungi living on the scalp is Malassezia, which is known for playing a role in certain types of hair loss. For this reason, many hair loss shampoos contain antifungal medication like ketoconazole to fight fungal infections and therefore reduce inflammation.
The Downside to Coconut Oil
We know coconut oil has many wonderful natural qualities, but there are also some drawbacks to using this product on your hair. Firstly, it is not always safe for every single person. For example, people with sensitive skin or eczema may find that coconut oil triggers problems. Additionally, people with seborrheic dermatitis may find that the oil makes their scalp, well, more oily, which can increase skin flaking, itching, and inflammation.
Additionally, because coconut oil is so hydrating, it can increase the oil on the scalp, causing build-up and blockage of pores and new hair follicles. And, if you are using a medication to treat a condition like dermatitis or fungal infections, coconut oil may prevent the medication from absorbing into the skin.
Finally, although it is not as common, people who are allergic or sensitive to coconut oil may develop skin allergy symptoms, such as itching, irritation, and in rare cases, hives.
So, Should You Use Coconut Oil or Not?
If you suffer from dandruff or dry hair and do not have any underlying scalp or skin conditions, coconut oil may be a good thing to integrate into your hair care regime. However, it is likely not something you want to use more than once a week, as it can cause build-up on your scalp. If you do use it, one of the best ways you can tap into its benefits is using it in place of your shampoo and conditioner at most, once a week. (And on that note, you should know that coconut oil can block your shower drain as well). Some people also use it like a hair mask and cover it with a shower cap for an hour to allow the moisture to sink into their hair.
But, if you have a hair or scalp condition that requires more attention, it is best to probably pause coconut oil use until it is resolved, or you have the approval to use it from your treating provider.