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Coconut Oil Is the Ingredient Your Hair Is Missing—Here’s How to Apply It

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Photo by Anna Efetova / Getty Images

There are so many ingredients within beauty that have versatile uses. One being coconut oil. When it comes down to it, what can't you use coconut oil for? After all, people in coastal and tropical regions have been using the nourishing oil for centuries in everything from cooking to skincare to natural remedies. It's been used as a shaving balm, face and body moisturizer, and touted as a superfood thanks to its naturally high fatty acid content.

But the benefits of coconut oil don't stop there. Adding this natural oil to your hair care routine might be exactly what the doctor (or in this case, hair stylist) ordered to transform dry hair to healthy, bouncy hair in no time. And while it's especially great for curly hair, coconut oil is an amazing hair treatment for any hair type, meaning anyone can add this easy DIY hair product to their haircare routine.

Want to know more about how you can use coconut oil to get healthy hair from the comfort of your own bathroom? Continue reading below for our top tips and tricks for adding coconut oil to your hair care routine. Get ready to achieve the thick, healthy, and moisturized hair of your dreams!

About the Expert:

Evalyn Denis is a hair stylist based in Los Angeles.

The Benefits of Using Coconut Oil on Your Hair

1. It’s incredibly moisturizing.

For starters, coconut oil it's perfect for deep conditioning your strands, says hairstylist Evalyn Denis. It’s one of the easiest ways to add extra moisture to your hair. Consider it nature's hydrating heavyweight. This is because coconut oil helps your cuticle retain moisture by acting as a sealant, preventing any previous moisturizing products you've applied from exiting your hair shaft. The result is smoother, less-frizzy hair that's protected for future styling. Who doesn't want that?

2. It can help with hair growth.

For those with thinning or fine hair, coconut oil helps slow down hair loss by penetrating deep into your hair shaft to prevent protein loss, which in turn prevents breakage. When applied to your scalp, it simultaneously moisturizes and removes buildup around your hair follicles to jumpstart hair growth.

3. It can be used to treat dandruff.

Because coconut oil is so hydrating, it can often be used to treat dandruff. Your dry scalp is no match for the fatty acids in coconut oil, which work to reduce irritation and flakes. But it's not just a temporary fix. Coconut oil helps maintain a healthy scalp microbiome to ensure your scalp is nourished 24/7.

4. It makes your hair look amazing.

Using coconut oil on the ends of your hair can prevent and repair split ends, add luster and shine, and even improve your hair's manageability for styling. Not to mention, it's jam-packed with antibacterial properties and nutrients. Denis calls it a great (and more natural) substitute for hair gel. It can even help you get that Bella Hadid-esque slicked back bun that’s trending right now. All in all, even adding just a small amount of coconut oil to your hair care routine can have some seriously stunning results.

How to Apply Coconut Oil as a Hair Mask

Want to harness the full moisturizing power of coconut oil? Stick to unrefined virgin coconut oil (or even extra virgin coconut oil) for the best results. This just ensures your hair will be getting all the good-for-you nutrients present in the oil's natural form. Denis recommends keeping your coconut oil hair mask on for at least 30 minutes for a quick moisture restoration. If you feel like your hair is damaged or in need of a more long-term repair, you can sleep with it overnight too. Just make sure to sleep with a cap or bonnet (that you don’t mind getting a little gunky) to keep it in place and off of your pillow as you sleep. A plastic cap might work best so you can easily wash it off in the morning.

Tip: Two to three times a week is a good baseline for how often you should use coconut oil as a hair mask, but feel free to experiment to see what works best for you. It ultimately will come down to your hair type and porosity level.

Step 1: Warm the coconut oil.

Coconut oil is naturally harder than other oils, so if it’s solidified or not in liquid form when you first open the jar, don't worry. You can melt it by taking a small amount of coconut oil in your hands and rubbing them together, or by scooping a spoonful into a pan and heating it until it starts to melt. To avoid product buildup, start with no more than a teaspoon.

Step 2: Apply the coconut oil to dry hair.

Use a wide-tooth comb, like this detangling comb from AQUIS, to distribute the coconut oil through your hair. Start at the midsection of your hair, around where your ears are, and continue to the ends of your hair for all-over moisture. If you're concerned about hair loss or want to boost hair growth, you can also take a small amount in your fingertips and massage it on your scalp first before applying it to the midsection of your hair. You can also experiment by blending your oil with other ingredients, such as yogurt, honey, or lemon juice.

Step 3: Leave it on for 30 minutes—or overnight.

For a quick deep-conditioning hair treatment, apply your coconut oil before shampooing and conditioning your hair like you normally would. Simply leave it on for 30 minutes, then wash your hair like normal. Or, for an extra-hydrating hair mask, leave your coconut oil hair treatment on overnight. Simply wrap your hair up in a shower cap (we love the KITSCH Luxury Shower Cap) before sleeping to make sure you don't get it all over your pillow. Then, shower and shampoo when you wake up. You might have to rinse a few times to get all of the coconut oil out, but when you do, you'll be left with silky, soft hair.

How to Apply Coconut Oil as a Hair Oil

Don't have time for a full deep-conditioning treatment, or want to incorporate coconut oil into your everyday hair care routine? We've got you covered.

Tip: While you can use coconut oil as an on-the-go split end treatment for extra-dry hair, this can cause product buildup or excess oil if you use it too frequently. To avoid this, try using coconut oil as a hair oil on wet hair first, after you've showered.

Step 1: Warm the coconut oil.

Since you'll be using less coconut oil than you would be if you were using it as an all-over hair treatment, try taking just a small amount of coconut oil between your palms and rubbing until it's soft and malleable. Of course, you can also heat it up over the stove for a more liquid consistency.

Step 2: Apply it on the ends of your hair.

After showering, run the coconut oil through the ends of your hair, or take it up slightly higher (to the midsection of your hair) to use as a moisturizing detangler. To avoid excess oil or grease, skip applying it to your roots or scalp area.

Step 3: Comb through and style as usual.

After you've applied your coconut oil to the ends of your hair, comb through and dry as you normally would. If you're using a blow dryer, we recommend applying your heat protectant (try the BRIOGEO Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection & Heat Protectant Crème). It’ll help tame flyaways while also protecting your hair from damage. Add the heat protectant on top of the coconut oil to make sure none of the moisture is lost while you style.

Using Coconut Oil for Hair Growth

If you have fine hair or are experiencing thinning, coconut oil puts a stop to hair loss as it penetrates into your hair shaft to repair proteins. By adding it into your scalp care routine, it not only moisturizes but it helps remove buildup from hair products and sebum buildup from your hair follicles so they can have the best environment for growth.

Consider adding a scalp scrub or exfoliating shampoo into your routine that contains coconut oil if you’re trying to strengthen and grow your long locks. We love the BRIOGEO Charcoal + Coconut Oi lMicro-Exfoliating Shampoo for this, it makes your scalp feel super tingly and clean and before long you’ll begin to notice stronger strands and new growth. If you find your scalp overproduces oil causing you to wash more, this is the perfect shampoo to try.

Our Favorite Coconut Oil Hair Products

Not down for the DIY? Don't worry, you can still reap the benefits of coconut oil without putting in any extra elbow work. We've rounded up a few of our favorite hair products infused with the powerful ingredient below.

1. KOPARI BEAUTY 100% Organic Coconut Melt

KOPARI BEAUTY 100% Organic Coconut Melt

This jar of organic, vegan, and cruelty-free coconut oil can be used on every inch of your body. Not only do we apply it to our strands when they need an extra bit of nourishment, but we also love using it as a super-hydrating lotion for our dry skin. During the winter months, this tub is our saving grace—and it lasts forever. Plus, you can even use it as a gentle makeup remover, so there really is nothing this product doesn't do.

2. BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Scalp Revival™ Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Scalp Revival™ Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo

Here's a holy grail product for dandruff and flakiness. The unique formula includes binchotan charcoal, which draws out impurities from your scalp and hair follicles. Vegetable-derived micro-exfoliators slough away dead skin cells and product buildup, while a blend of peppermint and spearmint oils reduces itchiness and tea tree oil reduces irritation and inflammation. It also has coconut oil that seals in moisture and soothes the scalp, bringing pliability and softness back to your hair. This versatile shampoo works wonders for color-treated, keratin-treated, chemically treated, relaxed, and natural hair types.

3. COCO & EVE Miracle Hair Elixir

COCO & EVE Miracle Hair Elixir
Courtesy of COCO & EVE

COCO & EVE offers some of our favorite coconut oil hair products, but their Miracle Hair Elixir edges slightly above the rest. With its ability to restore softness and shine, it's the perfect lightweight oil to mend split ends, boost hydration, and minimize frizz. We also can't forget to mention how it protects from breakage, UV damage, and heat styling.

4. DRUNK ELEPHANT Cocomino™ Marula Cream Conditioner

DRUNK ELEPHANT Cocomino™ Marula Cream Conditioner

This coconut-infused hair conditioner is packed with coconut alkanes, which won’t disrupt the natural ph balance of your scalp. Plus, since it’s also formulated with marula butter and a mix of plant oils, hair will stay hydrated for days and each time you use it you’ll help repair past damage.

Interested in learning about how to take your hair health and wellness to the next level? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
Brittany Leitner
Brittany is an award winning beauty, health, and lifestyle writer and author of the poetry book "23 Emotions." She has eight years of experience writing for brands like Elite Daily, The. Dr. Oz Show, Shape, Stylecaster, Bustle, and more.
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Article Last Updated August 28, 2023 12:00 AM