Coconut oil has had something of a revival in the healthy eating corner. Health enthusiasts have been extolling its virtues on cholesterol lowering powers and its ability to help with weight loss. It’s even had its time in the spotlight as the medium of choice for oil pulling. A method taken from Ayurvedic medicine, it’s where you swish the oil around your mouth with the goal of improving your dental health. Perhaps not for those with sensitive taste buds or an aversion to oil.
However, if you’ve not yet tried coconut oil for your hair, be enthused. Be very enthused.
Rich in vitamin E and vitamin K, coconut oil is an excellent conditioning agent. If you regularly expose your hair to heat, as in blow drying, lauric acid, a key component, protects against protein loss. This strengthens the hair so you get less breakages. If your hair is dry, coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft, repairs damage and moisturizes from within. Coconut oil is also anti-fungal and anti-bacterial so it protects you from dandruff and lice.
Coconut oil used to be available only from old-fashioned pharmacies and Asian grocery stores. Now, thanks to the health food industry, it can be bought from health food stores, although if you’re near an Asian store, you get a larger tub for less money! It is solid white, but liquefies on contact with the skin, where it goes clear. For hair, it is easier to use it in its clear liquid state.
Note: you might also see fractionated coconut oil which is literally a fraction of coconut oil. It has been processed to leave a purely saturated oil that is liquid and richer in capric and caprylic acids. Used more for aromatherapy and cosmetics, it is more expensive than its solid state.
To melt the solid coconut oil, put a couple of tablespoons in a small bowl and float this in a larger bowl filled with hot water. How much you need depends on how much hair you have and how thick it is. Alternatively, you can give it a few seconds blast in the microwave. In very hot weather, you will find the coconut oil melts on its own. While the oil is warm, apply it to dry hair. If the oil is hot it could damage the skin on your scalp. Stroke it through to the ends if you have split ends. Massage into the scalp to improve blood circulation. Then cover your hair in a shower cap. Cover the shower cap with a small towel and use a clip (like a clothes clip) to hold it in place. This helps keep some of the heat in and also ensures you don’t look like you have a plastic bag on your head. Then leave the oil in your hair for a minimum of 30 minutes up to several hours, or when you remember to wash it off.
If you find the oil hard to wash out, next time, rub in shampoo first before wetting your hair. Some people like to apply a little coconut oil on the hair after shampooing, to give it a shine. Be aware if you do this that oily substances on the hair will attract dust and make your hair look dirty. You might also be guilty of leaving an oily patch on the chair, the wall or whatever you lean against!
Some people swear by coconut oil as an aid to hair growth. Certainly, massaging it into the scalp is good for getting blood flow and nutrients going through but it could be that the shine and improved condition of the hair can make it seem that there is more of it. Otherwise, I don’t think we would have a growing surgical hair growth industry. Having said that, pure coconut oil is free from silicones, dimethicones, myristates and all the other ingredients you get in hair conditioning treatments, which is why it is the conditioner of choice for many who want to reduce their intake of chemicals.
TIP: apply a smidgeon of solid coconut oil on your cuticles and massage in.
The best coconut product I've found is from Bayhouse Aromatics. Monoi de Tahiti Gardenia is an infusion of gardenia flowers in coconut oil. It's bliss in a tub.