Guide to using ingredients: Coconut Oil

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?


  1. I love coconut oil because its one of the few oils that I don't mind my hair smelling like for a few hours!

  2. I love coconut oil because it makes my hair feel soft after my hair has been exposed to te moisture in the air.

  3. I love the consistency of coconut oil, how easily it can go from solid to liquid and back to solid!

  4. I love the smell and the way my hair is all soft and stuff after using it. :o)

  5. I LOVE coconut oil b/c it makes my hair soft and imparts a natural sheen. I use it both as a pre/post wash. But I didn't realize it limited the amount of water entering the hair. I actually thought it helped to moisturize the hair. So I'm confused. Also, just to clarify for us slow folks ... does excessive hair swelling = frizz? Thanks JC!

  6. I love the smell and all things coconut! I use it almost daily now and am not sure if that or the shea butter softens my hair - but I like it!

  7. JC Great blog. I first read about coconut oil's ability to penetrate the hair on the Beautybrains(?) blog a year or so ago. This information was in a post on the efficacy of a $50 hair treatment called Ojon (palm kernel oil). In the comments section of this post the Beauty Brains responded to a question on improving the absorption of coconut oil by suggesting that mixing coconut and olive oil in a 50/50 ratio might increase their absorption by the hair due to 'mixed micelles'.

    Could you please clarify what they meant?

  8. Ooo so many questions!
    Tori - Nothing like slow folks! Coconut oil prevents swelling of the hair. Coconut oil is thought also to help moisturise hair because it penetrates into the hair shaft. Frizz is usually caused mainly by dry combing/brushing which separates curls. There are frizz reducing ingredients which essentially help the curls stay together.

    Tidit - Yes I have seen this post on beautybrains. I will do a post after this series to explain it.

  9. I just simply love the scent of coconut oil. I usually appy it about 1 1/2 hours before I wash my hair and mix it 50/50 with olive oil because I read the post on beautybrains as well. Maybe I should consider to wash my hair in the morning and apply it before I go to bed (at least on days where I don't have to go to work early). ;-)

  10. 14 hours??? WOW
    thanks for the info.

  11. I feel like it hardens my hair. Maybe i'm not using it properly. Am I the only one? Any 4C type with the same problem ?

  12. @gillaine, i agree :I love the consistency of coconut oil, how easily it can go from solid to liquid and back to solid!

    its great for oiling my scalp

    i use it in my whipped shea butter

    it doesn't stain my clothes/bedding like olive oil

  13. @kadiane yeah, it made my hair hard too (when I used it everyday). But, when I use it for a pre-shampoo treatment, I don't have that problem.

  14. so if i use it before i shampoo, would it be easier to absorb in my hair if it is damp? Or is applying to dry hair 14 hours before sufficient enough?

  15. @anon - The studies I have reported on apply plain coconut oil to dry hair before shampooing. Coconut oil penetrates hair and does need water to aid it. Infact in my opinion, I would think water would slow the penetration of coconut oil because the oil would be repelled by water (similar to how oil would float on water).

  16. way late on this one, but i love coconut oil because it is a workhorse. it acts as a leave-in conditioner, a moisturizer, and a shine booster. i only need to apply it once every 2-3 days which saves me money and time. plus, i love smelling tropical :o)

  17. should i let it sit overnight using the bagging method or letting it sit overnight with just a hair bonnet would suffice?

  18. BTW I believe virgin palm oil is a good alternative to coconut oil if one is allergic bc its higly saturated so it would penetrate the hair shaft more that olive oil.Downside the red in palm oil stains so its probably best if used as a hot oil treatment and simply rinsed out -pk


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