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Coconut oil gets a lot of attention for its ability to treat and transform hair. It's respected for its ability to hydrate hair and operate as a moisture-locking emollient. While there is no denying the results coconut oil can create, it can weigh finer hair down or be too oily for some. Enter: coconut water. The water found inside of the coconut is rich in many of the same nutrients as its oil, offering hydration without density. Coconut water is easy to find as well, with most supermarkets carrying it in its pure form.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Rachel Nazarian is a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
- Ginger King is a cosmetic chemist, owner of product development firm Grace Kingdom Beauty, and founder of lip care brand Fan Love Beauty.
- Dr. Kari Williams is a trichologist and member of DevaCurl’s Expert Curl Council.
So is hydrated hair just a grocery list away? To find out, we turned to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, cosmetic chemist Ginger King, and Dr. Kari Williams, a member of DevaCurl’s Expert Curl Council to help us understand the potential benefits of coconut water for your hair and scalp.
Coconut Water For Hair
Type of ingredient: Hydrator and anti-inflammatory agent
Main benefits: Hydrates hair and skin, soothes the scalp, and prevents flakiness.
Who should use it: In general, anyone with thin or oily hair who is looking for hydration without weight. Anyone can benefit from the use of coconut water, but those with nut allergies should consult their doctor before use.
How often can you use it: It’s safe to use up to two times a week as a part of your normal hair washing routine.
Works well with: Coconut oil if you have dry or course hair in order to lock in the moisture gained from the coconut water.
Don’t use with: There are no known ingredients that negatively interfere with coconut water.
Benefits of Coconut Water for Hair
Coconut water is the mostly-clear liquid that is found inside of the coconut. It is a popular drink in many cultures and is regarded in the fitness community as a kind of natural sports drink, due to its organically occurring electrolytes and sugars. Coconut water also contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytohormones, which work to provide hydration when applied directly to the hair. Many of these nutrients are similarly found in coconut oil, however the weight of the oil is a deterrent for those with thin or oily hair. Dr. Nazarian echoes this sentiment, adding that coconut oil is "rich in fatty hydrating lipids, the water is much more lightweight and will not weigh down thin or oily hair."
- Hydrates the hair and allows volume: Coconut water works to hydrate your hair, without the weight found in coconut oil. Dr. Williams explains that coconut water can penetrate deep into the hair shaft making it a great source of hydration for the hair. While it does not have the same emollient properties as coconut oil, its lightweight nature allows for hydration and volume.
- Nourishes the scalp: Coconut water is rich in certain vitamins and minerals and is a natural anti-inflammatory agent, Dr. Nazarian shares. She adds that many people find it to be calming to an itchy scalp. Dr. Williams echoes this sentiment, stating that it is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals beneficial for hair and scalp.
- Prevents dandruff: Coconut water works to provide moisture to scalps that flake due to dryness. It also can aid in the treatment and prevention of dandruff due to inflammation or bacteria. Dr. Williams shares that coconut water contains anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for flaky scalps.
- Sleeks and smooths hair: While there are many factors that contribute to frizzy hair, one of the leading causes is dryness. Dr. Williams explains that "[coconut water] has hydrating benefits for the hair, helping it to stay moisturized and manageable". Hydrated hair appears and feels softer and shinier.
- Strengthens hair strands: Dry hair is brittle hair. Brittle hair is more prone to breakage and shedding, two factors that contribute to thinning hair. By providing moisture to the hair and scalp, coconut water can improve the elasticity of your strands and prevent breakage.
- Can promote new growth: Dr. Williams explained that "the hydrating properties combined with the vitamins and cytokinins (a protein found in coconut water) promote hair growth and keep the hair and scalp moisturized." However, Dr. Nazarian does caution that there is not enough evidence to suggest that applying coconut water to the scalp or hair can impact regrowth or loss. She explains that it "may offer a local anti-inflammatory or calming effect, which may subtly improve itch or flaking, but its ability to impact growth has not been supported by any trials."
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that coconut water is safe for all hair types, including color-treated hair. If you're looking for a solution for adding moisture without sacrificing volume, you've found it in coconut water.
Dr. Williams adds that coconut water can be used on all hair types and is gentle enough to be incorporated into any hair care regimen.Those who have tried coconut oil and found it too dense for their thin or naturally oily hair will appreciate the lightweight moisturization made possible by coconut water. Those with course, curly, or dry hair may not feel the same effects as these hair types require deeper hydration. Dr. Nazarian explains that "those with dry hair would benefit more from a coconut oil product, rather than the fat-depleted water."
How to Use Coconut Water for Hair
Coconut water can be easily found in most grocery stores. However, it's important to ensure that any coconut water you purchase to apply to your hair does not have any added sugars or flavors. Organic, raw coconut water will provide the most benefits to your hair without becoming sticky. There are also benefits to drinking coconut water in addition to applying it to your hair, as many of the nutrients found in coconut water are needed to promote hair growth. Dr. Williams does caution that "coconut water is generally safe, but I recommend consulting with a medical professional if you have a nut allergy, taking medication for blood pressure, pregnant or nursing; especially if you are planning on consuming it."
- Apply as a rinse: Coconut water can be used as a rinse following shampooing to provide extra hydration. Dr. Williams says that you can safely apply coconut water directly to the scalp and hair without diluting it with other products.
- Add to shampoo or conditioner: Coconut water can be added to your shampoo or conditioner. Dr. Williams recommends mixing ¼ cup of coconut water with any of your favorite products.
- Create a hydration spray: Coconut water can be left on the hair when used as a daily hydration spray. Simply mix ¼ cup of coconut water and 1 cup of water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Mist over damp hair and scalp before combing through hair.
- Create a bespoke leave-in treatment: Dr. Williams recommends creating your own leave-in treatment. "Try blending it with your favorite oils; shake well before use and refrigerate the product to prevent it from spoiling. Use your homemade leave-in within 7 days of creation," she explains.
- Drink coconut water: Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes and many vitamins and minerals. As such, it can be beneficial to your overall health when consumed. Dr. Williams shared that "drinking coconut water definitely provides better results for hair growth. Healthy hair growth is from the inside out, so a healthy body produces healthy hair. The antioxidants, lauric acid (fatty acids), cytokinins (proteins) and essential vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron and B vitamins are most effective in the bloodstream. These nutrients provide active hair cells the nourishment and support needed to form strong follicles and promote hair growth."
The Best Hair Products With Coconut Water
As King explains, "coconut water can help moisturize scalp area." With that in mind, try spritzing this product on strands and massaging it into the scalp to reap the most benefits.
This detangling treatment works best on damp hair. Just spritz it and comb it through strands to gently loosen tangles.
This defining product works to shape curls, control frizz and provide added moisture to hair.
Infused with sunflower, milk proteins and chamomile, this lightweight curl spray hydrates and revitalizes, control frizz and offering a light hold to help maintain styles.
This deeply cleansing shampoo works deep (but without harsh chemicals) to prepare hair for styling, providing weightless moisture so hair isn't heavy or weighed down.
Do you apply coconut water to wet or dry hair?
Coconut water can be applied to dry hair, the same way you'd apply traditional water to strands (or try spritzing some on damp hair).
Should anyone avoid using coconut water on their hair?
Coconut water is safe on all hair types and hasn't demonstrated any adverse effects.
Does coconut water make hair oily?
Coconut water can help moisturize the hair, but shouldn't lead to excess oil (though always check that your product doesn't contain additives that could lead to oil in the hair).
Zelman KM, MPH, RD, LD. The truth about coconut water. WebMD.
Kalman DS, Feldman S, Krieger DR, Bloomer RJ. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9:1.