Coconut oil appears to be the flavour of the day and specifically coconut oil's role in hygral fatigue (Damage due to swelling and contraction of hair due to uptake and loss of water). I think Myss's email sums up quite a few questions that have popped up.
Myss asks - ' How do you suggest using coconut oil when washing/wetting hair? Should coconut oil always be added to water we're putting on our hair? I thought coconut oil sealed in moisture, shouldn't water be applied first and then coconut oil?'
I am suggesting that coconut oil should be applied first before the water. I think science is catching up to what women have done for years. In India, it is quite typical to apply coconut oil to the hair before washing it. It seems a strange concept to apply oil before wetting, but it is not so strange after all.
Science has now shown that this practice could be beneficial. The article I cited in my original article (Journal of Cosmetic Science pg 169-184,2001) is based on applying coconut oil to the hair strands and leaving it overnight. The hair is then washed with an SLS solution and studied. The scientists observe that the coconut oil does penetrate through the strand of hair while mineral oil doesn't. This means that coconut oil could contribute to moisturising the hair.
The second observation is that when the hair is wetted, the coconut oil does prevent it taking up water and therefore stops the strand from swelling. The difference between untreated hair and coconut oil is 48%! Remember that swelling the hair shaft can damage the hair cuticle and cortex which can weaken hair.
So yes oil does repel water but this is not always a bad thing (atleast for coconut oil)! Keep in mind that coconut oil does moisturise itself and it can be used as an oil film after washing to 'seal in moisture. I would encourage you to read my previous article on sealing moisture. I think the concept of sealing in moisture is a little bit exaggerated at times.
How much do you love coconut oil? How do you use it?