Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Ingredient Spotlight: Coconut Oil

         Coconut oil is my oil of choice. It keeps my hair feeling soft, shiny ,and moisturized. Below are scientific reasons why coconut oil is an amazing oil!

Coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft: 

 Reutsch, Kamath,  Rele, & Mohile (2001) found that after using a secondary ion mass spectrometry (a technique used to analyze the properties of solid objects) to measure the penetrability of coconut oil and mineral oil into human hair, they found that in fact coconut oil is able to penetrate the hair shaft. Very few oils have the ability to penetrate the hair shaft. Coconut oil is able to enter the hair shaft and nourish the hair.

Coconut oil is effective at preventing damage when used as a pre-shampoo treatment: 

Reele and Mohile (1999) found that using coconut oil before shampooing helped to prevent breakage. The researchers applied coconut oil to virgin, color treated, and mechanically damaged hair and recorded the amount of protein lost, damage to the cuticle, and overall appearance to operationally define damage. When compared to untreated hair, coconut oil was effective at reducing the amount of damage on each type of hair tested.  

Coconut oil maintains moisture levels: 

 Keis, Heummer, and Kamath (2008) found that although oils generally block moisture from entering the hair (especially mineral oils), coconut oil still allowed some moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. They found that coconut oil helped to sufficiently seal moisture in the hair while still allowing moisture to enter the hair shaft. This study helps to illustrate why coconut oil is great for daily use. While moisturizing and sealing, ideally we want to partially seal the hair.  We need to seal in enough moisture to keep the hair moisturized, but not seal the hair to the point where no future moisture can be absorbed.
Coconut oil doesn't cause much build-up: 

Keis, Persaud, Kamath, and Rele (2006) found that after studying the amount of time certain oils stay on the hair shaft (coconut oil, olive oil, mineral oil, and sunflower oil), they found that with all of the oils except mineral oil, the amount of oil decreased over time. Coconut oil  remaining on the hair's surface eventually diminished over time; leaving a very thin layer of oil. This is great if you don't like feeling like your hair is weighed down by oil.

  • Keis, K. K., Huemmer, C. L., & Kamath, Y. K. (2008). Effect of oil films on moisture vapor absorption on human hair. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 30(1), 73-74. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2007.00401_2.x
  • Reutsch, S.B., Kamath, Y.K., Rele, A.S., & Mohile, R.B. (2001). Secondary ion mass spectometric investigation of penetration of coconut and mineral oils into human hair fibers: relevance to hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 52, 169-184.
  • Reele, A.& Mohile, R. (1999). Effect of coconut oil on prevention of hair damage, part 1. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 50, 327-339
  • Keis, K. K., Persaud, D. D., Kamath, Y. K., & Rele, A. S. (2006). Investigation of penetration abilities of various oils into human hair fibers. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 28(1), 78. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00304_4.xReele, A, & Mohile, R. (1999). Effect of coconut oil on prevention of hair damage, part 1. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 50, 327-339. 


  1. So I have been doing some hair soul searching ha. I finally came to the conclusion that coconut oil might not be so compatible with my hair. I have noticed that I tend to get a crunchy/ not moisturized feeling at times after putting it in my hair ESPECIALLY right after wash. It only tends to moisturize after I have applied other oils in my hair. I read up on why this might be and some people said perhaps it is the amount put, or perhaps it is due to the temperature since it hardens during cold temperature. Not sure. What are your thoughts? Thanks

  2. I found that when the hair is wet it's hard to tell how much coconut oil you are applying and it can leave a crunchy feeling.Coconut oil, because it is so light, is an oil that can easily be overused.
    If you want to avoid this feeling, wait until your hair is damp, but not soaking wet. This is the case when you apply anything to your hair right after a wash. Your hair can only absorb so much. So, if it is dripping wet and to capacity, the rest will just sit on your hair. When coconut oil sits on the hair it can leave a dry feeling. Like many oils because oil is not a moisturizer.
    As far as freezing in the winter, it is a possibility. Coconut oil does freeze at temperatures below 75 F. I have personally not experienced coconut oil freezing on my hair because my hair is usually covered in the winter time. Hair can literally freeze and break of during cold climates.
    To get the best benefit of coconut oil during winter time, I would suggest combining it with an oil with a much higher melting point, but if anything is freezing on your hair, I would suggest making sure your hair is protected against the elements is a better bet than choosing the right oil.
    Points to take away: protect your hair in winter and don't be very heavy handed with oil and see if things change.
    Hope this helps:D

  3. The idea of only adding oil on hair when damp is a new one to me. From watching videos on youtube, some people would literally just pile on shea butter on wet hair. It's funny how one is constantly learning and RE-learning things in the natural hair community. Thanks, will certainly try this out and see if I get a better result.

  4. Coconut oil is wonderful for the hair. It helps digestive system to function better. It helps to balance Glucose level in blood.