Coconut oil has many benefits for hair and well supported by Scientific Studies ( Rele & Mohile, 2003 ) as well as colloquial knowledge. The research has led to the better understanding of how coconut oil working to improve hair’s health and strength. These studies tell us that coconut oil works best as a pre-shampoo treatment for hair since the oil penetrates into the hair shaft only when hair is wet. However, coconut oil is also an excellent sealant on dry hair. Many women, especially to those with curly hair types or those who have chemically treated hair (relaxer or color) suffer from hair that is damaged and or porosity. The ability of coconut oil is to bind into protein and reduce it loss from hair makes it an excellent oil for those who have regularly heat styling, chemically relax, or use permanent hair color.
The benefits of coconut oil
- It helps maintain the moisture level of the hair (seal in moisture) and
- It promotes strength (by binding to the hair’s natural protein) making hair resistant to breakage.
Types of coconut oil
Unfortunately, there is no coconut oil police ,so companies largely call it‘oil virgin’, or ‘organic’ and one title does not mean the same across different brands. It means important to check your ingredients list and if it is necessary, it can be checked through company literature to find out exactly what type of coconut oil you may be used on your hair. Let’s take a brief for looking at a few different classifications of coconut oil.
Extra virgin coconut oil
Extra virgin coconut oil is considered to be the least processed and best form of coconut oil.The oil is obtained by cold pressing (also called first press) the meat of fresh coconut.
Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil is expeller pressed (the second pressing). Expeller pressed oils will differ across the brands. The term virgin is really for nutritional purposes and the oil has only been subjected minimal processing and therefore will retain all natural flavor and nutrients.
Pure coconut oil
Pure coconut oil is subjected to some degree of processing, but not limited for refining and filtering.
Extra light coconut oil
Extra light coconut oil has been considerably processed and will only have a mild coconut flavor.
It is important to note that the benefits of coconut oil to the hair come from its fatty acid composition. Coconut oil contains a high concentration of fatty acids such as lauric acid, which is a medium length fatty acid. Buying higher quality coconut oil makes sense, however, the oil is not contaminated. Additives and or contaminants may potentially retard hair growth. Therefore, it should be avoided at all costs.
How coconut oil benefits hair
As oils go, coconut oil is rather unique in its effects on hair. Coconut oil has hydrophobic (water hating) properties which means it repels water. This property means that coconut oil will not allow atmospheric water to enter the hair strand which means less frizz and longer lasting hairstyles. As has been mentioned before, coconut oil also has an affinity for hair protein and bonds with it to make hair stronger. Hair that has its proper protein alignment is better able to retain its natural moisture, which means that though coconut oil itself is not a moisturizer, it supports the hair’s ability to remain moisturized. Healthy hair has a proper balance of protein and moisture. Coconut oil is an excellent hair product to help achieve this balance. Coconut oil also has antibacterial and antifungal properties which makes it helpful and efficient in the treatment of dandruff.
Uses of coconut oil
Coconut Oil as a Sealant
Research (read full article here) has told us that wet hair can absorb small amounts of coconut oil residue into the hair shaft. When hair is dry, coconut oil behaves like most other oils and sits on top of the hair without penetrating into the strands. This act of sealing the hair is very important as it reduces friction between strands, adds shine, makes hair more pliable and traps moisture within the hair strand.
Maintaining the Protein –Moisture Balance
Rele and Mohile’s research also found that using coconut oil as a pre-shampoo treatment provides more benefit to the hair than using it after shampooing. This is only partially due to the fact that coconut oil only seems to penetrate the hair shaft when hair is wet. The washing process involves continuous expansion (swelling) due to water absorption and contracting (shrinking) as the hair dries back out. This swelling and contracting stresses the hair and in and of itself can result in damage to the hair. But what can you do? Neglecting to wash your hair is definitely not an option.
Luckily, when coconut oil is used as a pre- shampoo treatment, tiny amounts of coconut oil enter into the hair shaft as it swells. If hair is a bit healthy gets in, damaged hair is able to let in oilier instead due to the breaks that already exists in the cuticle of damaged or porous hair. Damaged or porous hair is the best candidate for penetration of coconut oil into the hair shaft. Coconut oil protects the hair by binding to the hair’s proteins which retards the hair’s ability to expand (swell) and so the hair absorbs less water. The study found that coconut oil actually reduces the hair protein’s chemical ability to bind to water molecules due to its hydrophobic nature and this reduces the extent to which water swelling can occur in the hair strand.
Curly hair includes of 4 types (afro textured hair), which is more susceptible to damage and high porosity problems, tend to take in more water during the washing process. This causes it to swell considerably more than normal, healthy hair when it is wet. The hair must contract and return to its usual size as it dries, but the cuticle can split, crack or fray as this happens. The damage may become much more extensive when the hair cuticle contracts from a state of intense swelling as in porous hair. Coconut oil helps in minimizing the amount of water, which absorbed by the hair and the resultant swelling by binding to the hair’s proteins thereby repelling excess water. This results in less damage to the hair shaft as it naturally shrinks and dries.
Coconut Oil and Hair Growth
Hair cannot thrive if scalp is unhealthy nor will growth be maintained if hair is weak and breaks easily. Fortunately, coconut oil is able to not only keep scalp healthy and moisturized but it is also able to strengthen hair and therefore reduce breakage. Here’s how coconut oil helps to promote hair growth
It Shields Hair Protein – Coconut oil binds to the protein in hair and helping to protect both the roots and strands of hair from breakage.
It Can Improve Blood Circulation – A scalp massage using coconut oil will lead to improvement in blood flow to the scalp which will turn into result on the hair follicles getting more nourishment.
It Provides Nutrients – Coconut oil is rich in vitamins E and K as well as iron. It effectively boosts hair growth and fights dandruff. Coconut oil also provides antioxidant protection from environmental stresses
It Has Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties – Coconut oil’s anti fungal and anti bacterial properties help prevent the growth of microorganisms that make the scalp unhealthy and stunt hair growth.
Repair for Damaged Hair – Porous, damaged hair is particularly receptive to the penetration of coconut oil due to the gaps already present in the outer layer of hair. Once inside the hair strand coconut oil can bind with the hair’s protein to increase hair strength and of course promote hydration of hair, which is particularly necessary since damaged, porous hair is typically dry. Heat from curling irons, flat irons and blow dryers break down the protein within the hair as do relaxers and permanent hair color. It means the hair which loses much needed protein that keep it strong, that is why coconut oil is particularly helpful for these hair types.
Incorporating Coconut Oil in Your Hair Regimen
Using coconut oil as a deep conditioning treatment will strengthen hair, add shine, boost the health of your scalp and combat breakage. The treatment is best done on clean hair so that other products do not inhibit the ability of coconut oil to enter into the hair strand. Here’s how to do it.
– Section hair to ensure proper distribution of oil onto the strands
– Take a small amount of coconut oil, rub between palms, then apply coconut oil into your hair and scalp (length and thickness will affect how much you use).
– Apply more oil to the drier sections of your hair. Usually the crown area and ends need more TLC.
– If your coconut oil is solid simply rubbing between the palms of your hands should be enough to melt it down
– Remember to start with small amounts of all, you can always add more if necessary.
– Cover hair with a plastic cap and let the oil sit for at least half an hour. The more damaged your hair is the longer you should let it sit.
– Curly hair types and afro hair types that are very porous should leave the treatment overnight is possible.
– If you have a heating cap or a conditioning cap then use it. The heat will help to open up the hair cuticle so as much oil as possible oil can get into the hair strand. You may also sit under a hooded dryer for a few minutes if you do not have a heat cap.
– Condition hair as usual. There is no need to shampoo again as your hair should have been clean when you started.
Again, this is really great for those with damaged tresses. You should definitely use this treatment if you apply heat to your hair regularly. After a while you will get the hang of exactly how much oil to use on your hair.
How to Use Coconut Oil as a Styler and Detangler
Apply a small amount of coconut oil every few days to hair and pay attention to your ends. Comb and style as usual. You can also use a bit of oil to hair for shine and gloss.
What’s in Your Kitchen?
Got eggs? Milk? Honey? Yogurt? Mayonnaise? Get creative and add a bit of coconut oil and any or all of these ingredients that you are likely to have in your fridge or kitchen cupboard and see how your hair reactsSuch as eggs, honey, milk, yogurt and mayonnaise are all beneficial to hair and are components in many homes made hair masks.
Coconut Oil and Honey Hair Mask
– Combine a half and half mixture of honey and coconut oil in a small bowl. If necessary, heat on low flame until coconut oil melts. Remember that you will be adding this to your hair so it shouldn’t be heated to too high temperatures. You also do not want heat to degrade the components of your oil or the honey for that matter.
– The mask can be applied to dry or wet hair. Try those ways and see which one of your hair seems to respond better . It will be easier to apply mask to hair that is already wet as water will help to spread it evenly through the hair.
– Always work in sections so that you can evenly coat each strand and see the areas of your hair that are most damaged and need more attention.
– Start at your ends and work the product up the hair strand.
– Cover with a plastic cap or wrap hair up in a bun. Let sit for as long as possible, then wash it and use the conditioner as normal.