Coconut oil has virtually become the kitchen sink solution of all skin, hair, and wellness woes within the beauty industry. We spot the wildly popular ingredient within countless haircare, makeup, and skincare labels, and it's become the go-to one-ingredient homeopathic elixir whenever we're trying to rehab dry, decrepit-looking skin or parched, split strands.
Of course, coconut oil isn't for everyone, and personally, I can't put it on my acne-prone face as it instantly clogs my *super-small* pores. (I know, so sad.) But, due to its unique and special composition, there's a reason it can work wonders on our hair, and why slathering our roots and ends with the stuff has become beauty lovers' favorite Sunday self-care ritual. It works.
Depending on your hair type or texture, some might love coconut oil for hair perks more than others, but science doesn't lie, and as cited in a study published in The Journal of Cosmetic Science, coconut oil is actually more effective than other oils (like mineral or sunflower) at keeping our strands strong, shiny, and beautiful.
According to the study, coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce protein loss for damaged and un-damaged hair alike when used as either a pre- or post-wash beauty treatment. "Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft," the report says. Thus, you now have the official go-ahead to apply it all over your strands—but there's some strategy involved. (For instance, putting it on wet hair is pretty much useless.) Below, we're outlining our favorite ways to use coconut oil for our hair and including all of our favorite formulas along the way. Keep scrolling!
1. Have a Sleepover
We don't know about you, but as beauty editors, we're constantly on the hunt for any product or treatment that will leave us prettier come morning than when we cuddled under covers the night before. Plus, there's something blatantly luxurious about sleeping in a beauty product, especially because we're rarely allowed to do so. (PSA: Please don't sleep with your makeup on!)
According to Nunzio Saviano, owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in NYC, warming up coconut oil and applying it at night is one of the best ways to use coconut oil to your hair's advantage. "The best time to use coconut oil is at night, and it works best on dry hair," Saviano told my former beauty editor co-worker Maya Allen at Byrdie. "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 to coconut oil to be warm (not hot) to open the hair cuticles, which allows the molecules to penetrate the hair."
For even distribution and less mess, we recommend sliding a wide-tooth comb through your strands from roots to ends and then tossing it up with a scrunchie or shower cap to ensure you don't get skin-clogging product all over your pillowcase.
2. Gloss Your Shampoo
Due to coconut oil's protective structure we mentioned earlier, when added to your hair before you shampoo, it can act as a protective gloss or sealant to lessen dry-out. By nature, shampoo (even the moisturizing kinds) can strip and dehydrate your strands—they are cleaning them after all—but prepping them with some extra TLC beforehand can come in handy.
For best results, this article from The Cut, recommends applying a quarter-size amount of coconut oil to dry hair one hour prior to your shampoo. Comb, shampoo, and condition as normal afterward, but more likely than not your hair will dry softer and shinier than it looked pre-shower.
3. Cure a Bad Hair Day
Sure, braids, ponytails, and hats are nice, but there's something super-chic about a clean slick-back. And whether you tie your ends back into a chignon or leave them to hang out after the fact, taking a blob of coconut oil and working it through your scalp, roots, and mid-lengths will lend style and shine alike. If you don't feel like using the stuff from the grocery store, we're also equally obsessed with these two coconut oil-–infused elixirs too.
4. Upgrade Your Conditioner
Sure, our conditioners are meant to add back in the moisture our shampoos strip out (see tip above), but there's no harm in taking the benefits even further by enriching your favorite formula with even more luster-boosting perks courtesy of coconut oil. For maximum results, either add a (softened) spoonful to your dollop of conditioner or go ahead and add it as a second lacquer after applying.
As The Cut explains, coconut oil is occlusive, so it will essentially act as a trap door, sealing in your conditioner's healthful ingredients so your hair reaps the most benefit. Said ingredients will penetrate the hair shaft more effortlessly and will also yield longer-lasting results in the form of hydration, shine, and softness.
5. Mend Your Ends
After I landed my dream job as a beauty editor here in Los Angeles, celebrity hairstylist Cervando Maldonado was the very first (very magical) person to cut and trim my strands. And he's been the only one to cut and trim them since. I'm devoted.
Now, the first time he ever saw me, I was fresh off of a damage-inducing extension habit, which, in addition to my equally damaging highlight habit, had dealt a not so great hand to my fragile strands. My hair was shorter than I would have liked, and the ends especially were sparse and practically transparent. I yearned for long and healthy hair, and the first piece of advice Maldonado gave me was to start using either coconut or avocado oil on my dry hair as a quick treatment with special attention to my ends.
Coconut won't actually bind splits and snares back together, but ever since heeding his advice and slathering the oil on my parched strands whenever possible, my hair has grown, and grown, and grown. (A coincidence I think not.) I especially love working coconut oil through my ends prior to styling with a pretty braid.
6. Super-Charge With Sparkle
Shining, shimmery strands and glow-inducing coconut oil go hand-in-hand. We've been super-inspired lately by all of the major sparkling hair accessories we see on Instagram—our fave hairstylist Justine Marjan serves up the best inspiration—so we're only too pumped to add a few actual pumps of coconut oil to our next accessorized hair look. We love this affordable leave-in option from Shea Moisture to achieve ultimate styling and conditioning benefit.
Want more? Keep scrolling for even more of our favorite coconut oil-infused beauty products!