There are plenty of people who hail coconut oil as a hair miracle oil, and while it’s not quite magic, it does have some pretty impressive qualities. Coconut oil is one of the most popular natural moisturizers there is, thanks to its hydration properties and how well it targets dryness, both in skincare and for your hair. So how exactly does it work, and what are the benefits of incorporating this wonder ingredient into your haircare routine?
Origins of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is derived from (you guessed it) the coconut, but more specifically it’s derived from the kernel, or meat, of mature coconuts from the Cocos Nucifera tree, which is native to tropical regions including Southeast Asia, India, and the Pacific Islands.The use of coconut oil itself dates back centuries, not only for its culinary and medicinal uses but also for its impressive benefits for the hair and body. While it’s often used in cooking and ingested for various benefits, we’ll be looking at topical applications—especially when used in shampoo, conditioner and hair masks.
What Is Coconut Oil Made up Of?
Coconut oil is made up entirely of fats, predominantly saturated fats, which are made up of smaller molecules called fatty acids. Coconut oil consists primarily of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) such as lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid. It also contains antioxidant vitamins E and K. Coconut oil in high concentrations has antimicrobial and antiinflammatory properties, which is why it’s beloved as a skin-soothing treatment.
What Are the Benefits of Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is beloved for its moisturizing and nourishing properties, especially when it comes to our hair and skin, which is mostly due to the fatty acids it contains. That’s partly because fatty acids such as those found in coconut oil are not water soluble, meaning they don’t break down as you wash your hair, and hence have the ability to bind to and penetrate the hair. Research has found that lauric acid—the main fatty acid in coconut oil—has a unique structure that can penetrate the hair shaft in a way that most other fats can’t.
So while coconut oil doesn’t have the high nutrient content that many other hero ingredients in haircare do, the fats play a key role in helping to hydrate and protect the hair from damage. Despite only containing a trace amount of protein itself, studies have shown that coconut oil can help prevent protein loss (typically associated with hair thinning and hair fall) when applied topically to hair.
Uses for Coconut Oil in Your Hair Routine
Coconut oil can be incorporated into your hair routine in a few ways. You no doubt will have noticed coconut oil being used as a hero ingredient (if not *the* hero ingredient) in haircare such as shampoo, conditioner, treatment masks and leave-in formulas, due to its myriad benefits for hair. Some people like to use it as a DIY treatment, by using pure coconut oil from a jar as a hair mask, pre-wash treatment or leave-in.
Using pure coconut oil can work wonders for hair health, though it’s important to note that coconut oil in this form is incredibly concentrated and high in fat, and will of course remain on the hair shaft until washed off. Try using it as a 20-minute mask, either before your regular wash or as a Sunday-night self-care moment for increased hydration, softness and shine.
Using a shampoo and conditioner containing coconut oil is a great way to reap the benefits of the oil everyday in a way that isn’t going to leave hair weighed down. Coconut oil is a hero ingredient in many of MONDAY Haircare’s lines, especially our lines targeted to hydration, softness and repair, including SMOOTH, MOISTURE and REPAIR.
Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair
Deep Moisture and Hydration:
One of the standout benefits of coconut oil is its ability to penetrate the hair shaft, providing deep and lasting moisture. The unique structure of MCFAs enables them to be readily absorbed by the hair, preventing moisture loss and leaving your strands soft and smooth.
Restores Natural Shine:
Hair feel dull and lifeless? Coconut oil possesses natural emollient properties that help restore your hair’s natural shine and luster. By sealing the cuticle, coconut oil also creates a smooth surface that better reflects light, which means shinier locks.
Protection Against Damage:
Along with helping to prevent protein loss in strands, which can help maintain your overall hair health, coconut oil’s ability to coat and protect your strands has benefits for your hair also. It might not sound ideal for your hair to be ‘coated’ in an oil, however our hair does need a certain level of protection from external environmental factors and heat styling, which natural extracts such as coconut oil can provide. In addition, when hair is left smooth and ‘slippery’ (rather than coarse), it’s less likely to pull and/or knot when brushing and styling, meaning it’s less prone to breakage and frizz. Sealing the hair cuticle also protects it from moisture particles and humidity that can cause additional frizz.
Coconut oil’s antioxidant and antimicrobial properties mean that it can help support the normal health of your scalp. It’s worth noting that using a shampoo and conditioner with an amount of coconut oil in them won’t give you the full microbial effects of pure coconut oil, which some people say helps with conditions such as eczema and dandruff. (If you’re suffering from those hair concerns, it’s best to use a product that’s designed especially to address them.) However, coconut oil is seen as beneficial for your scalp overall, and it can help to keep your scalp ecosystem healthy. A build-up of any ingredient in the scalp isn’t ideal, as this can lead to the clogging of your hair follicles, so it’s an idea to do the occasional deep cleanse (we recommend weekly or fortnightly) to remove build-up and allow your scalp to thrive.