Despite being used as a beauty staple in the east for over 4000 years, it's only been the past decade when we've gone wild for coconut oil in the west. Cooking, cleansing, soothing, hydrating, teeth whitening - you name it, coconut oil has become the holy grail of natural beauty. It's also become heralded as something of a hair hero. Soothing to the scalp thanks to its plethora of vitamins and fatty acids, moisturising for hair cuticles (read: smoother, softer, stronger hair), there's also whisperings that it helps with healthy hair growth.
Quite clearly a multitasking miracle product, celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and Miranda Kerr regularly champion coconut oil while brands have created entire beauty and haircare ranges infused with the stuff.
However, before you reach into your kitchen cupboard and start dousing yourself in the stuff, it's worth taking heed of what the experts say because after news broke that coconut oil could be bad for certain skin types, we were keen to find out whether the same was true for our hair.
We called on those in the know to weigh in on the topic...
Is coconut oil bad for your hair?
Many people swear by coconut oil to rehydrate dry ends, fight off frizz and add some serious shine. This is because it's rich in lauric acid (a fatty acid), which penetrates the hair shaft as well as completely coating each strand, trapping in moisture as well as making it water repellent. In short this means that whatever the weather, humidity isn't going to touch you - come rain or shine, frizz doesn't stand a chance against the coconut oil force field you've created around your hair.
Lauric acid also has antimicrobial properties which have been reported to benefit the scalp microbiome. That said, you can have too much of a good thing and if you over apply coconut oil, it could worsen dandruff as the type of yeast that causes dandruff feeds off lauric acid. It also has the potential to clog pores and create a build up on both the hair and scalp. This is why those with finer hair or already oily scalps may find their hair looks or feels greasy as coconut oil can weigh the hair down leaving it to look limp and lank.
Coconut oil should also be approached with caution by those suffering from damaged hair too. Hair is made up of keratin, a protein that contains bundles of amino acids and serve as building blocks for strong, hydrated and healthy hair. If your hair has broken keratin bonds, from heat damage or colouring, coconut oil could potentially make it worse.
"People often use hair oils to moisten their hair, but in fact, oil and water don't mix," says Ross Charles, Owner of Ross Charles Hairdressing. "Oil actually stops treatments from penetrating the hair shaft. Coconut oil especially tends to seep into every tiny hole in your hair shaft and disguise the real problem by acting as a quick-fix - this won't help your hair in the long-run and is one of the main reasons I advise against using oils in your hair."
Are there any hair types coconut oil is good for?
Coconut oil is super moisturising which is why those with curly, dry or Afro hair tend to see the most benefits as these hair types are notoriously drier. “There are a lot of Afro products that are coconut oil based because it deeply moisturises the hair and penetrates the hair shaft,” explains Luke Benson, celebrity session stylist and owner of Luke Benson Hair.
What type of coconut oil should I use in my hair?
If you do decide to use coconut oil, for things like it's humidity-resistant benefits, it's important to use extra virgin coconut oil, which means it doesn't contain bleach or other chemicals that some other formulas contain and that could irritate the scalp.
Do you put coconut oil on dry or wet hair?
“It can go onto dry or wet hair and you can use it as a pre shampoo treatment by applying it to dry hair before you wash it,” continues Luke. Because it can be used as a detangler, finisher, mask - the benefits you want to get will dictate which is best for you and your hair.
How long do you leave coconut oil on hair for?
If you're using coconut oil as a hair mask you can leave it on your hair overnight or you can wash it off after 20-30 minutes. If your hair is finer, avoid your scalp and only apply it to the ends of your hair where it's especially dry and rinse off sooner.
Can I use coconut oil for hair growth?
In short, no. Coconut oil is a great quick fix for providing instant smoothness and shine and it does have the potential to strengthen hair but it's not the correct ingredient to choose for long-term hair health or growth. “Growth is mainly affected by what you feed it at the roots which means the nutrients in your diet,” continues Luke.
This article was originally published on Glamour UK.