There's something magical about coconut oil. From making the world's best popcorn to serving as a skin care product, coconut oil has a ton of uses.

But there's one use that may surprise you. Some people have started using coconut oil as part of their hair care routine. Read on for the science behind using coconut oil for hair wellness — plus, find out what products will provide hair with ideal amounts of moisture, volume and protection.

The Many Benefits of Coconut Oil

"Coconut oil is considered an all-inclusive alternative skin care product," said clinical dermatologist and researcher Dr. Enrizza P. Factor. "Moisture is at its core, which makes this oil appealing for dry skin conditions."

Dr. Factor said that many of her patients who use coconut oil in their hair routine suffer from dandruff and enjoy the oil's moisturizing properties. Packed with active ingredients like lauric acid, coconut oil has a host of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits, as well as having mildly sun-protective properties. It's antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral — plus, it's great for using as a general moisturizer for your skin.

For some natural beauty enthusiasts, coconut oil is something of a multitasker. You can use it as a lotion replacement, makeup remover, lip balm substitute and a cleaner for your makeup brushes. Some people also like to use coconut oil to make body scrubs or to treat cracked cuticles. And as if that wasn't enough, coconut oil also can be great for your hair!

Using coconut oil in a hair mask may help soothe damaged hair and prevent split ends. One study also found that coconut oil can be effective for hair suffering from hygral fatigue. Adding a coconut oil hair treatment to your routine may help repair hair damage by increasing hair proteins and moisture, helping reduce hair loss.

But these potential benefits don't mean that this ingredient is suitable for all hair types. According to Dr. Factor, there are some potential downsides to the use of coconut oil.

Shop: ENSO Collection for Fine, Medium & Thick Hair

Coconut Oil Cautions

Although it's a natural oil, coconut oil isn't safe for everyone. "Since coconut oil is a natural product, there’s an assumption that it’s safe for your skin," Dr. Factor said. "While some users respond positively to coconut oil for their dandruff, these products still carry a slight risk of side effects. If you have sensitive skin or eczema, the oil could be too strong for your skin and cause rashes."

Factor also said that people who use coconut oil on healthy hair that suffers from dandruff should be particularly careful. "Many people who have dandruff also have seborrheic dermatitis as the underlying cause. Applying coconut oil could inadvertently cause further irritation in the scalp because it could make your seborrheic dermatitis even oilier, so talk to your doctor about using coconut oil if you’re already on medications for your dermatitis."

Even if you don't have dandruff, coconut oil can build up on your scalp, clogging pores and making your hair oil levels rise, creating a greasy, dull appearance. If you decide to try coconut oil, it's worth investing in a scalp detoxifying serum and scalp massager to gently remove the accumulation of excess hair oils and other scalp buildup while reducing scalp irritation and protecting the skin's natural moisture barrier.

Additionally, Dr. Factor warns that coconut oil has the potential to be an allergen. "Before applying coconut oil to your scalp, test your skin for any sensitivities," she said. "You can do this by rubbing a small amount on your arm and waiting to see if any reactions occur. These include hives, rashes and itchiness. Some reactions may not arise until several hours later, so you’ll want to wait at least a full day to see if any side effects happen before you’re in the clear." You may also want to consult with a hairstylist or trusted dermatologist to make sure coconut oil is a good fit for your hair's needs.

Ways to Use Coconut Oil on Hair

If you've done your allergy test and determined that coconut oil works for you, Dr. Factor has some advice to help get you started.

"The best way to use coconut oil for dandruff is to use it in place of your shampoo and conditioner," she said. If you're using it to soothe a flaky scalp, apply a generous amount of coconut oil to the affected areas as a replacement for medicated shampoos and conditioners designed to ease dandruff.

For all other hair health woes, Dr. Factor said coconut oil is simple to use and can be applied to damp or dry hair. "Apply it directly to the scalp and comb throughout the rest of your hair for extra benefits," she said. "Leave it on for a few minutes to make sure the oil has a chance to penetrate your hair and skin, then rinse it off thoroughly. If you want more of a lathering product, mix warm water with the oil before use," so you can lather your coconut oil like traditional shampoo.

For an at-home coconut oil hair treatment, Dr. Factor said making a DIY hair mask is an option. "Some recipes call for other ingredients, such as essential oils and other plant-based oils like jojoba," she said. "These may be helpful as masks or spa-like treatments that are left in for several minutes. You may consider wearing a shower cap to avoid getting the oils on clothing and hard surfaces before rinsing out."

If your hair is super dry or damaged, you can try applying a DIY coconut hair mask overnight to give your strands more time to soak up all that oily goodness.

"You may notice improved skin and hair right away," Dr. Factor said. But if you're using it for a specific condition, it may take more time. "More severe dandruff may need a few treatments before you start seeing significant results," she said. "See your doctor if you fail to see any improvements after several coconut oil treatments."

Other Ways to Support Hair Health

If coconut oil isn't for you, VEGAMOUR offers a full range of carefully formulated hair wellness products. For example, our new smart hair care line, ENSO, which features intuitive shampoos and conditioners for fine, medium or thick hair, also features the ENSO Overnight Restoring Hair Mask powered by our proprietary Karmatin™ — a vegan silk alternative to keratin. Just like the ENSO shampoos and conditioners, the mask instantly adjusts to the hair on contact, providing ideal amounts of moisture, volume and protection.

ENSO Overnight Restoring Hair Mask

Take a Holistic Approach to Hair Care

While coconut oil is great for some people, it doesn't work for everyone.

No matter if you use coconut oil or not, it's important to take a holistic approach to hair wellness, which includes diet, sleep, exercise, hydration, stress relief and targeted hair care products. If you put in the effort, your hair will thank you!

 

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Photo credit: Pawel Czerwinski/Unsplash

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Disclaimer: Information in this article is intended for general informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician.