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We can sing coconut oil's praises for days. When it comes to the hardest-working multitasking oils in the game, not many can compete with its reputation for solving so many ailments. You can apply coconut oil to swiftly remove makeup, hydrate your dry skin, strengthen your nail cuticles, whiten your teeth, grow out your brows, and more.
I've kept a bottle of Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil ($16) close by for years. Growing up with severe eczema, I relied on this all-natural oil to soothe my inflamed, dry skin and haven't been able to put it down since. I also love slathering it on my lips at night (especially in the winter) and waking up to a supple, smooth pout.
To no surprise, coconut oil is equally effective on your hair. I have naturally curly, textured hair, so coconut oil has saved my dry strands many times. When it comes to natural hair, the biggest ailment is dryness year-round. Coconut oil is ultra-moisturizing and soothing to the scalp. According to a review of the health effects of coconut oil published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, "Coconut oil products may also be useful in preventing hair damage due to protein loss during grooming processes and ultraviolet (UV) exposure; however, more studies are needed to confirm this effect."
There's a specific way to apply coconut oil to your hair strands to get it to work best, though. We called on Nunzio Saviano, owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in NYC, to fill us in on the tricks for applying coconut oil to hair. You're going to want to know this for the next time your locks need a re-up.
Meet the Expert
- Nunzio Saviano is the owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York, NY. With over 20 years of experience, Saviano has been featured in New York Magazine's "Best of New York" for his personalized and innovative approach to hair.
- Shari Marchbein, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City who specializes in adult female acne. While operating her practice, Marchbein also lectures of acne and rosacea and is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine.
How to Effectively Apply Coconut Oil to Your Hair
Saviano recommends against using coconut oil in the morning because it takes time to soak up, and your hair can end up looking greasy. "The best time to use coconut oil is at night, and it works best on dry hair," Saviano says. "I recommend warming the coconut oil so it becomes liquified and rubbing it in your hands to lather on the ends of your hair. You want the coconut oil to be warm (not hot) to open the hair cuticles, which allows the molecules to penetrate the hair."
It's best to part your hair and apply the coconut oil in manageable sections to be sure that every hair is coated. Apply more coconut oil to wherever your strands are the driest and most damaged (typically on the ends) and less where your hair is healthiest (mid-shaft and scalp area). If your hair is thin or gets greasy easily, you can skip the scalp so the oil doesn't weigh your hair down.
Allow the coconut oil to sit on your hair for 20 to 30 minutes after application. If your hair is very dry or porous, you can leave it on longer; some people like to use it as an overnight treatment. To increase its effectiveness, cover your hair with a shower cap, and wrap it up in a hot towel fresh from the dryer or apply heat with a hairdryer for a few minutes to open up the cuticle and help the oil penetrate deeper into the strands.
If using the coconut oil as a hair mask, you'll need to thoroughly rinse the oil out of your hair after the treatment, which might take a couple of wash-rinse cycles. For best results, you'll need to experiment with the amount of coconut oil you use and how long to allow the oil to penetrate. If the coconut oil leaves your hair feeling weighed down or greasy, try using less of it or shampooing more at the end of your treatment.
But a mask isn't the only way to apply coconut oil to your hair. You can work a very small amount of it into the ends of your hair after showering as a detangler or daily moisturizer for very dry hair. My favorite thing to do is to use coconut oil as a refresher. On day two or three of my curly styles when I don't have time to start all over with wash day, I lather a generous amount from root to tip of my curls. The shine and hydration factor is next-level.
The Benefits of Coconut Oil for Your Hair
As proven, coconut oil is deeply penetrating for your hair. I swear by massaging a dollop of coconut oil into my roots down to the ends of my naturally curly hair. It leaves a subtle shine, and my hair feels moisturized for long periods of time. But that doesn't answer the much-debated question around coconut oil and hair growth. Byrdie reached out to board-certified dermatologist Shari Marchbein, MD, for some clarity.
She confirmed that coconut oil cannot aid with hair growth: "There are no credible studies at this point linking the use of coconut oil to faster hair growth," explains Marchbein. "It 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."
In other words, you should keep coconut oil around because it'll gift you with soft, shiny strands and salvage hair damage. Here are a few of our favorite organic coconut oil products that'll do right by your hair.
Our Favorite Coconut Oil Products for Hair
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Wallace TC. Health effects of coconut oil-a narrative review of current evidence. J Am Coll Nutr. 2019;38(2):97–107. doi:10.1080/07315724.2018.1497562