You've probably spotted coconut oil popping up in tons of beauty products lately, but it's no short-lived fad. In fact, use of coconut oil as a cosmetic ingredient has grown more than 500 percent between 1986 and 2007, according to a 2011 scientific review. And it's not even necessary to buy it in product form: The pure oil extracted from the meat of the fruit can be used on its own.
"Coconut oil is much more affordable and accessible than the highly-priced commercial products available, and it's one simple ingredient — not inundated with fillers, chemicals, and other undesirable additives," says Julieanna Hever, RD, author of The Vegiterranean Diet and host of Z Living's What Would Julieanna Do? "It's a wonderful, simple moisturizer that can easily be used on anyone's hair, [and it] also happens to smell delicious as an added perk."
How to Use Coconut Oil on Your Hair
If you're ready to try out coconut oil for yourself, Hever recommends using the liquid version so your hair will fully absorb it and so you don't have to melt it with each use. First things first, though: Less is more.
"Coconut oil is an excellent conditioner for all types of hair, but a little goes a long way," says Nunzio Saviano, owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. "I find that using too much can make the hair almost sticky, giving it a hard feel."
He offers the following ways to DIY:
- Shampoo your hair and towel dry it really well. Then, apply a quarter size of coconut oil to the palms of your hands and run it through your hair, coating the entire hair shaft from roots to ends. You can use a wide-toothed comb to distribute the oil through your hair. Cover your head with a shower cap for 20 minutes to an hour, then shampoo lightly and style.
- Another option is to rub a little coconut oil between the palms of your hands to warm it up, then put it on the ends of your hair at night on dry hair before you go to sleep. Just be sure to wash it out in the morning.
- For styling, apply a nickel-sized amount of coconut oil from mid-shaft to the ends of the hair and style as desired, blow drying for a smooth, shiny look, or simply separating curls if your hair is curly. The oil is also the perfect styling aid to apply before setting hot rollers because it helps maintain moisture and shine.
The Many Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair
Science backs up the results that fans of the oil are seeing firsthand. Researchers in a small 2011 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found 30 participants who used coconut oil on their hair daily had less breakage after 16 weeks than those who didn't use coconut oil.
"Coconut oil is touted for its ability to penetrate the hair shaft and deeply moisturize hair, and it has also been found to support healthy hair growth because of its ultra-rich fatty acids," says Hever.
It may also work indirectly by minimizing skin problems, such as atopic dermatitis, that can impede hair growth. In a 2014 study from the International Journal of Dermatology, researchers found patients with the condition who used coconut oil saw a 68 percent improvement in symptoms.
So what are you waiting for?