Oh, the wonders of coconut oil. From cooking staple to all-natural lip balm, this all-natural product’s versatility knows no bounds. My sisters swear by it as a deep moisturizing treatment, so I recently tried it on my thick, coarse hair. I applied it after shampooing, and lo and behold, my curls were beautiful that day. Not a frizzy strand in sight! I tried it again a few days later, thinking I’d found my miracle fix. But this time, my strands became dry and brittle – I had zero curls. How could this be? With a little research, I learned there’s a right and a wrong way to use coconut oil for hair.
“Coconut oil is full of fatty acids, and works to moisturize your hair,” Taylor tells First for Women. “But it can also cause protein build-up on some hair types, blocking off moisture and leaving your strands even more dry and brittle than before. This means when you’re washing your hair with coconut oil, it doesn’t get as saturated as it would without.”
Taylor says the phenomenon gets magnified in coarse hair types. “Because you have coarse, thick hair that dries out easily, you’re more prone to experiencing dryness from using coconut oil than those with more porous strands,” she tells me.
Taylor further explains that the oil deeply penetrates the hair shaft, which is why it moisturized my curls beautifully on the first go. However, it’s a double-edged sword. That deeply moisturizing effect can also cause protein to build up, because the protein has no way to leave the hair. Plus, the oil may block essential moisture from reaching the scalp. “Moisture can only come from water, and coconut oil prevents your strands from getting properly saturated, leaving you with dry, frizzy results,” she says.
Are coconut-based products good for your hair?
Good news: Coconut oil still has a place in your hair care routine, especially if your strands need extra moisture this winter. But if your strands don’t take well to treatments with pure coconut oil, it’s time to switch things up.
“Products infused with coconut oil will be kinder to your dried out tresses than pure coconut oil,” Taylor says. “Coconut oil is incredibly versatile and is used in all kinds of hair care products, from shampoos and conditioners to detanglers and defining creams.”
The first place to start is your shampoo. “I recommend Taliah Waajid’s, Creamy Curly Co-Wash in place of your regular shampoo, to gently quench your hair’s thirst with a combination of coconut oil and aloe vera. I’m also a huge fan of the Charcoal and Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo from Briogeo’s Scalp Revival Collection . It works to balance and soothe both dry and oily scalps, supporting the absorption of key vitamins and minerals for long-term hair health. While pure coconut oil can cause product buildup, this shampoo actually detoxifies and removes buildup.”
What about a conditioner? “I love Flawless by Gabrielle Union, a detangling leave-in conditioner spray suited for curly hair ,” says Taylor. This treatment would work well for fine hair types that need a lightweight spritz or coarse hair types that need a detangler before a rich leave-in.
And if you need that rich leave-in, Taylor has another suggestion. “For dry, curly hair that seems unmanageable, I recommend Supercurl Miracle Moisture Creme by Uncle Funky’s Daughter . A mix of almond and coconut oil helps moisturize and keep hair from losing protein.”
What should you do if using coconut oil products don’t work? “If [your hair] doesn’t respond well to anything coconut oil related, then I recommend trying products infused with olive or castor oils which have few proteins,” Taylor adds.
How to Use Coconut Oil the Right Way
Still set on trying virgin coconut oil on your thirsty strands? Fear not: Taylor has a plan. “If using pure coconut oil, I suggest using it once to twice a week depending how dry your hair is,” she says. For thick, dry strands (like mine), spacing out those treatments might be the key to achieving a moisturized style.
If coconut oil isn’t giving you great results, however, it might be time to seek out a different treatment.
“Just like all products, natural or not, coconut oil is not for everyone, and certainly not for every hair type,” says Taylor. “Its effectiveness depends heavily on the porosity of your hair – the less porous, the drier.
“Individuals with extremely dry and/or curly hair will benefit the most from using coconut oil, but products infused with it can benefit all hair types. If you have thin or naturally oily hair, coconut oil will likely weigh it down and cause increased oil buildup.”
In other words, it’s extremely important to know your hair type and pay attention to what your strands prefer. Now that I know a little more about my own hair and what it likes, it’s time to test out Taylor’s suggestions. Frizz-free days can’t be too far away!