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Coconut oil is touted as a hair miracle.
You see it talked about everywhere. A quick google search will bring up all sorts of supportive articles for the praises sung to it, and also some that claim it is detrimental. When you read the content behind the headlines though, you find that even the negative posts do agree that coconut oil isn’t bad for hair, it just might not be for all hair types.
Coconut oil—NOT bad for hair, but it may not be for every type of hair.
Coarse, dry, stiff, or brittle hair may not do well with coconut oil.
It really boils down to porosity of hair.
Porosity describes how readily hair soaks up water, how sponge-like your hair strand is. Over time all hair becomes more porous. The ends of hair are always more porous than roots, unless a chemical has been applied and damaged the strand.
The inner structures of hair swells up when wet, and then contracts when it dries. This swelling action causes damage over time called hygral fatigue. It’s kinda like how a paper clip bent back and forth weakens the metal until it just breaks. Coconut oil helps reduce water uptake, which also helps keep hair healthier and stronger, or at least reduces damage.
It is easy to find posts on social media by hair stylist recommending people swear off using coconut oil because it lays on the hair strand, coats it up, and the scalp too, and will cause a host of problems. I will say that anything left on the hair and scalp and not washed off will over time do this, so it isn’t a concern unique to coconut oil. This is why washing your hair with a cleansing surfactant shampoo is essential. And no, it doesn’t take strong, abrasive sulfate shampoos to do it.
What is know and backed up by research:
Contrary to some popular beliefs, Coconut oil indeed DOES have the ability to penetrate into the hair strand. This is because of the shape, size, and weight of the molecule, and that it has Lauric acid in it, a triglyceride that has an affinity to natural hair protein.
What is PROVEN is that coconut oil does reduce protein loss in hair. Protein is important because it gives strength and structure to your hair strands. Meaning healthier, shinier hair. Less protein loss means more strength, naturally. This is great for fine or medium hair and hair that lacks hair protein.
Coconut oil increases the hydrophobicity of hair. Undamaged hair is water tight. It doesn’t absorb water quickly, and holds on to moisture naturally because of the naturally occurring lipid layer. That layer is damaged and lost over time and by chemically treating hair, heat styling and just the ravages of time. It is the loss of this layer that makes hair susceptible to water uptake, because hair becomes more porous, just like the kitchen sponge.
Porous hair treated with coconut oil soaks up less water than untreated hair.
This does not mean that water vapor can not penetrate into the fibers.
Studies prove that a considerable amount of vapor is able to enter the hair, and that treated hair has higher moisture retention at low humidities compared to untreated hair showing that there is a beneficial effect. It has also been shown that coconut oil performs better than other oils tested such as mineral oil and sunflower seed oil.
Coconut is chock full of rich fatty acids, and has many beneficial properties. Even though hair can not metabolize anything, that doesn’t mean hair in general can not benefit from external application of the fatty acids. It could be that your hair type isn’t able to reap the benefits.
Here is a link to a great article on oils that penetrate and benefit, or not… with a chart for visual reference http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/oils-which-ones-soak-in-vs-coat-hair.html
If your hair is dry, brittle, stiff, or coarse, you may find that coconut oil dries the crap out of your hair.
There are other oils that coconut adverse hair can benefit from, like Argan, Marla, castor.
6 other oils that can benefit your hair.
It penetrates and conditions scalp, may fight dandruff and helps prevent thinning
Has a longer shelf life, and is heavier in consistency which is perfect for hair types that are naturally drier, requiring more moisture.
It is rich in anti oxidants, vitamin A & E (good for DHT fighting)
It is great as a detangler, conditioner, styler, and carrier oil.
Grape seed oil:
Moisturizes scalp, promotes blood flow, promotes growth. It is lightweight on hair. High in omega-6 linoleum acid makes it a perfect hydrator for dry scalp and brittle strands.
This is a classic that is one of the healthiest for hair. It conditions, moisturizes, fights bacteria, adds strength and thickens, it even offers some repair to damaged hair. Being High in saturated and monounsaturated fats, it is a great choice as an outside in hair moisturizer. It is a good mimic to sebum, the oil our bodies produce naturally and protects against irritation and bacteria.
Use this diluted with water and a carrier oil for safety and comfort. This can be intense!
Helps stimulate hair growth, balances pH, reduces oily skin and moisturizes strands. It increases oxygen and stimulates circulation. Tea tree is an alternative that is less intense.
This is a ‘break out star ready to dethrone the queen Coco!” According to maneaddicts.
It strengthens strands, increases elasticity, and adds vibrancy.
Is higher in poly unsaturated and monounsaturated fats meaning moisture and shine will last longer in your hair. It is also praised for the non greasy feel.
It is super rich in vitamin E, amino acids, minerals, lecithin and potassium.
The legend known for its dense consistency and powerful effect on growth and hydration
It will smooth frizz, lock in moisture, and reduce hair loss effect.
Since it is so thick, a little dab’ll do ya.
It is a natural antibacterial and anti fungal so it helps prevent scalp issues. It is also rich in minerals, vitamin E, omega-6 and 9 fatty acids which help retain moisture all day.
Other oils like Moringa, Manoi, Baobab, Abissynian, Pequi, are all known for their benefits to hair and skin because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, anti-aging and other healthy elements.
If coconut oil isn’t a good fit for your strands, there are other options. Your hair care specialist can help point you in the right direction.