And finally? “Coconut oil can also be used in your styling routine as a natural heat protectant to reduce hot tool damage,” says Fitzsimons. He’s right: coconut oil’s penetrative properties condition hair, seal the cuticle, and lock in moisture, protecting hair from potential damage that comes with your go-to dryers and irons. The oil also helps to tame frizz, resulting in sleeker, softer styles.
Can Coconut Oil Damage Hair?
Though coconut oil is cure-all for many’s hair woes, it’s not necessarily a universal, and certain application factors should be considered before you start slathering strands in the fatty oil.
“As a person with a fine texture of hair, it’s actually my arch nemesis,” says Illeisha Lussiano, hairstylist and owner of New York’s The Way. “It often causes fine hair to become brittle and break.” These undesirable results occur when coconut oil is unable to penetrate the hair, whether due to natural texture or too much of a good thing. “Be careful not to use it in excess,” cautions Fitzsimons. “Coconut oil will sit on top of your strands, which will not allow essential nutrients to penetrate the shaft and cause your hair to feel dry and brittle—the opposite effect of what you’re looking for.”
Even if breakage does not occur, coconut oil applied too liberally or sans strategy can result in hair that looks greasy and grimy rather than well-tended.
Unrefined Coconut Oil versus Refined Coconut Oil
When selecting a beauty-ready coconut oil, choosing an unrefined (or virgin) option is your best bet. Unlike refined coconut oil, a processed iteration derived from the dry kernels of the coconut, unrefined, pure coconut oil is crafted from the fruit while it’s fresh and is largely chemical-free.
Think of coconut oil as you would green juice: a cold-pressed option will be much closer to the source (and its benefits) than one made from dried, chemically-treated ingredients.
How to Apply Coconut Oil to Hair
Applying coconut oil to hair is all about finding what works best for you, a process that will likely involve some trial and error. One person’s high-shine hack may be another’s hyper-greasy hair day, so be sure to start with diminutive amounts, and allot time for potential restyling.
For most treatments, experts recommend rinsing coconut oil out post-use—though a small amount used as a styling oil offers an exception. We suggest starting with an overnight mask or scalp treatment to see how your hair responds. Here, five easy ways to start incorporating coconut oil into your mane routine.
Coconut Oil Hair Mask
Rather than relying on coconut oil as a finisher, Fitzsimons opts to use the ingredient—or products containing it—as an easy, DIY mask that works while you sleep.