It’s not vain to want a head full of healthy hair. Straight, curly, kinky, thick or fine, short or long, shiny, manageable hair makes everyone look and feel better. If zero bad hair days is your goal, you’ve probably tried every affordable and maybe not-so-affordable hair products on the market. Moisturizing shampoos, conditioners and hair masks can all make temporary improvements, but few of these products provide any lasting results. Most hair-care products rely on mineral oil—a petroleum product—to create a slick coating that surrounds hair shafts to make them look shinier and feel smoother. Think of the way an oil spill floats on the top of water; that’s basically the same effect mineral oil has on your hair.
Disturbing oil-slick image aside, the problem is that to make a lasting difference, a hair product needs to penetrate the hair shaft in order to repair damage and prevent future protein loss. Hair that’s been harmed from the environment or over-processing, and mature hair, can break and become rough when protein cells are damaged or inadequate. The results are hair that feels and looks dull, dry and lifeless.
Sunflower oil is the second most frequently used oil in the haircare industry and, unfortunately, it doesn’t do much for helping create healthy levels of protein either. What does? You guessed it, humble coconut oil. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information finds that coconut oil reduces protein loss when used before and after shampooing. Especially when compared to the top two oils used in the hair industry, mineral and sunflower, coconut oil actually repaired damaged hair because of its ability to penetrate the hair shaft—not just sit on top of it.
The NCBI study points to the fact that coconut oil is a triglyceride of lauric acid which bonds well with hair proteins. Because of its straight linear chain and low molecular weight, lauric acid is able to permeate hair at the cellular level. In short, what all this science means is that coconut oil is more than a quick fix for dry or unruly hair. It actually improves the condition of your hair from the inside out.
Other Benefits of Using the Best Coconut Oil for Hair
Happy hair protein isn’t the only advantage coconut-oil users enjoy. This superfood offers several benefits thanks to its natural antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, including:
- Eliminating dandruff
- Removing lice
- Improving scalp health
- Treating and preventing folliculitis
- Treating ringworm of the scalp
- Promoting hair growth
- Boosts hair coloring (mix natural coloring agents with coconut oil before applying for deeper penetration)
- Protects from sun damage and chlorine
- Economical and versatile
- Moisturizes dry, fly away hair
- Gentle and safe for everyone in the family
- Scent is appropriate for men and women
- Brings life and shine to gray hair
Of course, the best way to maintain your lovely locks is to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water. A well-nourished body is more likely to produce well-nourished hair. But clean living isn’t a cure-all for everything. It’s possible to eat and drink all the right things and still have damaged hair. Genetics and your environment play a big part in hair health, so does regular blow drying, ironing and curling. Believe it or not, even your efforts to stay fit can adversely affect your hair. Frequent shampooing related to working out can damage hair by stripping it of natural emollients.
In rare cases, extremely dry or damaged hair can indicate a bigger health problem such as hypothyroidism or Menkes syndrome. But barring any unusual health issues, regular use of coconut oil can tame the fiercest frizzies and revive the dullest head of hair.
And the Best Coconut Oil for Hair Care Is…
Individual coconut oil manufacturers may disagree, but there’s really no single brand that’s best for conditioning hair. What does make a difference is how the oil is produced, not which label is on the jar—except for those that say “organic,” “unrefined,” “cold pressed” or “ANH Processed (Absolutely No Heat).” Basically, the best coconut oil for hair care boils down to these two things:
Today, organics are a given for many consumers. Whether you’re eating it or using it for skin and hair care, oil from organically grown coconuts is the healthiest and most responsible choice. Most of the world’s coconuts are grown in island countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Toxic pesticides and other agricultural chemicals can cause severe damage to fragile coastal ecosystems, polluting both land and sea. Also, consider that many coconut-producing regions do not have regulations overseeing the safety of workers who must handle dangerous chemicals or their disposal.
If concerns about the environment don’t sway you, think about all those unknown and possibly unregulated pesticides on your head.
To be clear, unrefined coconut oil doesn’t mean unfiltered. You won’t find bits of coconut shell or palm leaves in your unrefined product. Refined oil is obtained from coconut meat, known as copra, that has been dried, smoked and chemically treated before the oil is extracted. Once extracted, the oil is bleached, deodorized and exposed to high heat in order to remove the color and smell left behind by the drying process. Because the oil has been stripped of its natural preservatives during refining, it must
also be treated with sodium hydroxide to extend shelf life.
Unrefined coconut oil, also referred to as “virgin,” “extra-virgin,” “cold-pressed,” “ANH” or “pure,” is extracted from fresh coconut meat, not dried. Expelling oil from fresh fruit doesn’t require high heat or chemicals. The product remains as close to nature as possible. Unrefined oil retains not only the sweet, light aroma and flavor of coconuts—your hair probably doesn’t care about that—it retains all the antioxidants, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral agents and important lauric acid that makes coconut oil an effective hair product to begin with.
No question, organic unrefined coconut oil is the best coconut oil for hair, and skin, and health and for the environment.
How to Use Unrefined Coconut Oil on Your Hair
No special equipment is needed for using coconut oil as a hair treatment. Some people may find coconut oil too heavy to use as a traditional conditioner. Applying the oil before shampooing results in clean hair that’s manageable and soft without being limp and bodiless. You can warm the oil to melt it or use it straight from the jar. Before showering, simply take a dime-sized dab (more if you have extra-long or extra-thick hair) and massage it into your scalp and hair. Use a fine-tooth comb to disperse the oil through to every strand. Shampoo as usual. No need for conditioning—you’ve already done it.
A weekly coconut-oil hair mask is a relaxing solution to severely dry or damaged hair. Apply the oil as directed above, and cover your head in a shower cap. Now go lay down for 20 minutes. Tough to be you right now, huh? To super-boost your conditioning mask, wrap a warm towel around the shower cap. Shampoo after the 20 minutes is up, or after you wake from you nap, whichever comes first. You should see improvement in the luster and texture of your hair in one or two treatments. Once your hair feels healthy again, maintain your mane with a monthly mask treatment.
Coconut oil is one magical hair treatment that actually has science on its side. Organic, unrefined coconut oil is the best choice for all uses, and it’s versatile. Coconut oil can not only replace your current hair-moisturizing treatments, it makes a perfect skin softener, makeup remover, acne treatment, foot-odor eliminator, personal lubricant and, oh yeah, you can cook with it!