Coconut Oil for Hair Growth: Gimmick or Effective?

coconut oil for hair

Liz deSousa for BYRDIE

In the beauty industry, coconut oil is touted as the ultimate go-to and fix-everything product. Dry skin? Apply coconut oil and you'll wake up with an ultra-glowy complexion. Trying to avoid harsh chemicals in your makeup remover? Coconut oil comes to the rescue, effortlessly breaking apart mascara, foundation, and lipstick. Some people go as far as to use it in place of certain cosmetics—opting for a light tapping of light-reflective oil along their cheekbones instead of using a traditional highlighter. Or swiping it across their lips for an all-natural, moisturizing gloss.

But probably the most common use is using coconut oil for hair growth. People (and brands) swear that it speeds up the rate of hair growth, contributing to long, strong Rapunzel-like locks in no time. It's a nice thought, but is it true? There seems to be little scientific evidence to prove it, which is why we reached out to two dermatologists to truly find out: does coconut oil make your hair grow?

Keep scrolling to learn whether using coconut oil for hair growth is effective.

Meet the Expert

  • Shari Marchbein is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU's School of Medicine.
  • Elizabeth Tanzi is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care.

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Of the thousands of supposed uses, coconut oil has been crowned the beauty ingredient of the century. Besides the fact that it's so accessible (and attainable), coconut oil is packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids along with vitamin E, making it perfect for those dealing with dryness and need to trap moisture in. It also has a high lauric acid content—the saturated fat you'd find in milk. For the skin, lauric acid has been found to reduce inflammation and even beat benzoyl peroxide in treating acne.

Beyond its laundry list of beauty benefits, coconut oil has been linked to burning fat (thanks to its presence of medium-chain triglycerides), killing bacteria, and helping with eczema.

Does Coconut Oil Boost Hair Growth?

According to Marchbein, coconut oil doesn't directly affect hair growth, though it might provide benefits that improve the health of your hair overall. "We've all heard about how good coconut oil is for our health, hair, and skin. But can it actually be useful for growing hair? The answer is both yes and no," she says. "There are no credible studies at this point linking the use of coconut oil to faster hair growth."

She notes that while it won't have the same effects as Minoxidil (which is more colloquially known as Rogaine), coconut oil can help to strengthen hair and nourish the scalp (as well as reduce oil buildup). By reducing hair breakage, the hair is less brittle and can appear healthier, which may indirectly expedite the lengthening of your hair, as less breakage might result in longer strands over time. (FYI: there's no evidence supporting the idea that using coconut oil for hair loss is effective.)

Tanzi agrees, adding that coconut oil cannot increase hair growth—that is, unless it's included as a part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Those who have chronic inflammation might see the negative effects of it appear through the health, length, or thickness of their hair. In this way, ingesting coconut oil can help quell inflammation and allow for naturally longer and healthier hair since the body is put back in a healthy state. "Things that affect hair growth come from within the body, not from topical products (unless it’s a product like Rogaine)," she continues. "The bottom line is that coconut oil products are hydrating and smell nice, but I wouldn't expect them to increase hair growth or density."

How to Use Coconut Oil on Hair

There are a number of ways you can use coconut oil for your hair. The most popular one being as a hair mask. To create a DIY coconut oil hair mask, comb a generous amount of coconut oil from the midsection of your hair to the tips, wrap your hair up in a bun, let it do its thing for a few hours (or overnight with a shower cap thrown on), then rinse and wash as usual. If you're prone to tangles, you can also use coconut oil as a detangler. Simply distribute a dime-sized amount through your hair post-washing to help you navigate those tangles better. Finally, you can use coconut oil as you would your regular hair conditioner, though you'll want to make sure you're rinsing it out thoroughly to ensure there's no grease.

Because coconut oil is occlusive in nature, it's best to avoid putting it directly onto your roots, especially if you already have oily hair that's prone to grease.

Possible Side Effects

In general, coconut oil is safe for the hair, but using the right amount is key, especially if you have fine hair. Using too much coconut oil on your hair can result in buildup on your scalp and make your hair look (and feel!) greasy. To make this a non-issue, only distribute it through the midsection of your hair and down to the ends, making sure to avoid the roots and scalp.

Other Ways to Boost Hair Growth

While hair growth doesn't happen overnight, there are some things you can do to help speed up the process. For one, focusing on your scalp. Using a nylon-boar bristle brush like this one from Bestool ($16) encourages more hair growth—the nylon bristles work to stimulate the scalp while the boar bristles evenly distribute your hair's natural oils from scalp to the ends. You can also incorporate a scalp scrub into your haircare routine—we like the Sugar Scalp Scrub ($45) from Cuvée Beauty because it gets rid of product buildup and promotes hair growth.

Certain supplements like Nutrafol ($88) can also get your locks growing quickly all while improving its resilience, strength, and thickness. Just be sure to discuss them with your doctor before incorporating into your routine.

The Final Takeaway 

Don't expect a weekly DIY coconut oil hair mask to dramatically lengthen your locks. That being said, with continued use, it will soften, soothe, and nourish your scalp and strands, which might lead to less breakage and healthier hair over time. 

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)34085-9/fulltext

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25636220/

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15724344/

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