How to Use Coconut Oil for Shiny, Healthy Hair, According to Experts

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How to Use Coconut Oil for HairTunaru Dorin / 500px - Getty Images

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While the best hair oil or hair serum can work wonders for strands, coconut oil for hair has a slew of benefits—often for a fraction of the cost. In fact, your local market could hold the key to shiny, healthy tresses for all hair types and textures.

Coconut oil can be great for lots of people, “Particularly those with dry/damaged or curly/textured hair,” explains Janiene Luke, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Loma Linda University’s Faculty Medical Group in CA.

“Coconut oil is made up of a fatty acid called lauric acid,” Dr. Luke explains, allowing the oil “to penetrate the hair shaft which [results] in decreased protein loss, water absorption, and greater hair shaft strength in studies.”

If you’re skeptical about applying oil to your hair, you can always start small. And, it’s important to note that your strands and scalp already naturally produce oil. Sometimes we just need a little bit extra, explains Karan Lal, D.O., M.S., F.A.A.D., double board-certified adult, a pediatric, and cosmetic dermatologist with Affiliated Dermatology in Scottsdale, AZ.

“It’s what we do to our hair that strips the hair of its natural oils. So drying the hair [with heat], certain shampoos, hairstyles, and treatments can all dry out your hair,” Dr. Lal explains. “This can make your hair susceptible to injury and fragility.”

Ahead, experts explain the benefits of coconut oil and the best ways to use it for your healthiest, shiniest hair ever.

Benefits of coconut oil for hair

Coconut oil has a lot of health benefits. It can provide moisture to dry hair by helping to tame frizz and over time heal any breakage,” explains Kieron Justin, celebrity hairstylist. “The oil is easily absorbed when working into the hair and is easy to use and apply.” Justin notes that coconut oil has properties rich in natural fats, is good for your scalp, and can improve the feel and look of the hair through its restorative properties.”

More coconut oil hair benefits include:

Addressing dandruff or dry scalp

Coconut oil also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, “Which may be helpful in those with dandruff or dry, flaky scalp,” Dr. Luke explains. It’s also very easy to apply to the scalp, Dr. Lal adds, making it a great oil to use for overall scalp health.

Managing frizz

If you’d like to combat frizzy hair, coconut oil can help since it “acts as an emollient,” Dr. Luke says, “coating hair strands, sealing the cuticle, and trapping in moisture which can help reduce frizz.”

Increasing shine

The moisturizing, emollient properties of coconut oil also help “impart shine” on the hair, Dr. Luke notes. Just a dab of coconut oil on the ends of the hair will help create shiny strands, as too much can make the hair appear oily or greasy.

Reducing breakage

The fatty acids found in coconut oil help the oil to deeply moisturize the hair. “And providing the hair with moisture can help make the hair more manageable and less prone to breakage,” Dr. Lal explains.

Promoting hair growth

Using coconut oil “promotes hair and scalp health by nourishing the scalp and strengthening the hair at the roots which can also encourage hair growth and prevent hair loss,” Justin explains.

How to use coconut oil for hair

There are many ways to use coconut oil for hair. “While some people prefer to DIY when it comes to coconut oil, you can also use products that are formulated with the ingredient,” explains Dr. Luke. If you’d like to use plain coconut oil, Justin suggests picking a jar that is 100% organic virgin coconut oil (this one has over 95,000 reviews on Amazon!).

Below, find a few expert-approved ways to add coconut oil, or products containing coconut oil, into your routine.

Pre-shampoo treatment

Applying coconut oil to your hair and/or scalp before shampooing is one of Dr. Luke’s recommended methods. “You can massage coconut oil into your scalp (if you have a dry, flaky scalp) or apply coconut oil to your strands prior to washing,” she explains. Doing so will help reduce the potential damage that can occur when washing and styling wet hair.

Warm oil treatment

Similar to a pre-shampoo treatment, Justin recommends using coconut oil before showering. For this type of treatment, heat the coconut oil in the microwave for about 30 seconds. “You want the oil to become soft, but not too runny or hot for an easy and straightforward application,” Justin explains. Then, apply the oil to your hands and gently massage into the hair and scalp before wrapping the hair in a shower cap for 30 minutes or longer. Then cleanse with your favorite shampoo.

Leave-in treatment

Applying coconut oil to wet, clean hair is one of the best times to reap the oil’s benefits, Dr. Lal says. He recommends massaging a dime-sized amount of oil through the hair and scalp, almost like a leave-in conditioner. However, “A little goes a long way,” Dr. Lal explains.

There are many coconut oil-infused hair products on the market, from shampoos to conditioners to leave-in treatments to styling creams. For those looking for hair products infused with the oil, check out some expert-approved picks below.

Who should avoid coconut oil for hair

Overall, experts agree that coconut oil is a beneficial, multi-use ingredient for hair health. However, Dr. Luke warns that “people with oily scalps or fine hair may want to avoid using coconut oil,” as it can sometimes leave the hair looking and feeling weighed down or greasy.

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