As a beauty editor who's obsessed with caring for her dry, brittle, and chemically treated hair, I have a not-so-small collection of products sitting under my bathroom sink. You name it, I've got it—my small arsenal includes shampoos, conditioners, hair masks (my favorite), shine-enhancing rinses, and more. While I love these products and count on them to breathe life back into my hair, there's a rather nondescript jar that sits among them, and it's full of unrefined virgin coconut oil.
I've been using pure coconut oil in my hair for years. It's the heavy-duty hair moisturizer I count on when my hair feels too rough, my split ends become too numerous, or my strands look a little too lifeless for my liking. I swear it works, and according to hair experts, I'm right. Take it from celebrity hairstylist Becca Mader, who says, "Coconut oil is one of the top oils to use in your hair." And while it can give you longer, stronger, and shinier hair, you should know that there's some strategy involved. Keep reading to learn how to use coconut oil the right way, according to industry experts.
The Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair
Mader says the benefits of coconut oil are numerous, and it's perfectly suited for all hair types. "Coconut oil provides hydration and helps repair broken or damaged hair," she says. "It's also amazing to use on your scalp for extra moisture, especially during the colder months."
Celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Fruits Hair Lab and Good Dye Young Brian O’Connor agrees, saying "The main benefit of coconut oil is moisture! It really helps the hair stay hydrated so it doesn't become dry and brittle." That's why he formulated it into his Good Dye Young Products, like the brand's Lightening Kit ($16). "Bleaching the hair is a naturally drying process, so adding coconut oil into our Lightening Kit helps to replenish some moisture that's being drawn out by the bleach."
Before you douse your hair in coconut oil, know that both experts say it's best to use it in moderation. "Too much coconut oil can go from helping hydrate your hair to causing a buildup of oil and dirt on your scalp," O'Connor warns. "In addition, if your hair is dry and brittle, it could be because your hair has more protein than it needs. Coconut oil tends to reduce protein loss, which means your hair will hold on to the protein even more with the coconut oil."
Healthy hair is all about a balance of moisture and protein. Some good old experimentation and trial and error could be useful to figure out which one your hair needs more of.
How to Use Coconut Oil on Hair
"If you are looking to start using coconut oil in your hair routine, I suggest determining the density of your hair first so you don't apply too much," Mader says. "If your hair is on the thicker side, you want to use more than someone who has hair on the finer side."
The goal is to evenly coat your hair with a thin layer of coconut oil. You don't need to completely saturate your hair. (If you do, washing it out will be way harder.) "I suggest using coconut oil one to two times a week, depending on how often you wash your hair," Mader says. "I find it's best to use it the night before you wash your hair, and use it as you would a hair mask on your scalp and ends."
O'Connor, on the other hand, says it can be used anywhere from one to three times per week, with coarser and curlier hair being able to use it more often than finer, straighter hair. "Coarser hair can be used more like three times per week, while fine hair should use it less often," he says.
He also avoids using it on the scalp. "It's best to apply in sections on your mid-lengths to ends. I like to skip the roots to avoid a greasy hair look for the next couple of days. Plus, the roots are the healthiest part of the hair, as they are new regrowth and typically don't need as much love as the ends do," he explains.
One more thing. If you want to reap the benefits but you don't want to use heavy, pure coconut oil, O'Connor has a suggestion. "I prefer using products that contain coconut oil—like Good Dye Young DYEposit ($19)—rather than using straight coconut oil. These types of products disperse the coconut oil evenly so you are less likely to end up with oversaturation of oil."
As for Mader, she suggests using a few expert-formulated products in tandem with coconut oil instead of using coconut oil alone. She recommends Unite 7Seconds Masque ($42) and 7Seconds Detangler ($33). "Both products are extremely nourishing and hydrating for your hair, and leave your ends feeling so soft," she says.
Shop the Best Hair Products Containing Coconut Oil
This color-depositing product will leave a gorgeous champagne tint behind (while nourishing strands with coconut oil).
This nutrient-dense pre-wash treatment contains coconut oil as well as squalane, rosemary, and basil root extract.
Lift away product buildup while moisturizing and rebalancing a dry or oily scalp.
This oil smooths and moisturizes the hair while effectively sealing split ends.
Detangle, smooth, and protect your strands.
Use this coconut-oil-infused gel-cream to add texture and hold when styling your hair.
With coconut and avocado oils, plus amino acids, this shampoo is formulated to give hair a glossy shine.
With quinoa, coconut oil, and vitamin E, this conditioner is formulated to rehabilitate dry hair.
This leave-in product reduces breakage and split ends.
Kaitlyn McLintock is an Associate Beauty Editor at Who What Wear. Although she covers a wide range of topics across a variety of categories, she specializes in celebrity interviews and skincare and wellness content. Having lived in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, she recently relocated back to her home state of Michigan where she works remotely. Prior to Who What Wear, she freelanced for a variety of industry-leading digital publications, including InStyle, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Hello Giggles, and Coveteur. Before that, she held a long-term internship and subsequent contributor position at Byrdie. When she's not writing, researching, or testing the latest and greatest beauty products, she's working her way through an ever-growing book collection, swimming in the Great Lakes, or spending time with family.
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