Taking first place in the poll that we recently had is coconut oil! Therefore your ingredient guide list starts with coconut oil, how to use it, how to not use it and what alternatives you have if you don't want to use it.
How to get the best from coconut oil
1. Time, time, time is key. The oil needs time to penetrate into the hair. Studies usually copy the overnight method used by Indian women. One study suggests applying the oil atleast 14 hours before washing.
2. It is best as both a pre-wash and post-wash treatment to help reduce protein loss (cuticle damage during combing).
3. As a prewash treatment it will later limit the amount of water entering the hair and stop the hair from swelling excessively.
Any notes of caution?
1. As it absorbs into hair, it is not very useful for giving hair shine for a long time.
2. You do need to give it time to penetrate since it needs to make its way between the tiny spaces of the cuticle
3. Coconut allergies do exist
Is there anything better?
There is no other oil as yet which is documented to reduce protein loss to a significant effect.
Are there any alternatives to coconut oil
1. If you are simply after another penetrating oil, then sunflower oil and olive oil are thought to possibly penetrate (note - the study does not not prove the penetration of these oils but suggests they might on the basis that less oil is on the surface of the hair several hours after application and the scientists therefore think the oil has gone into the hair). (International Journal of Cosmetic Science, Pages 78 - 78, 2006)
2. If you want to protect your hair from swelling too much when in contact with water, mineral oil is known to do this (just not as well as coconut oil).
I didn't expect this ingredient to top the list, I really thought water would. Perhaps it is fitting because coconut oil should probably be used before water! Why do you love coconut oil?