- For Hair Growth
- For Damaged Hair
- Day-to-Day Maintenance
- For Scalp Health
- Leave-In Treatment
- For Lice
- Different Hair Types
- Best Coconut Oil Hair Products
- Best Raw Coconut Oils
- Best Coconut Oil Shampoos
- Best Coconut Oil Styling Products
- Best Coconut Oil Treatments
- Best Coconut Oil Conditioners
- Meet the Experts
There are so many hair treatments out there that go beyond your favorite shampoo and conditioner, it's hard to keep up. Still, coconut oil in particular has gained a solid following, with users touting a myriad of benefits, from cooking to skincare to teeth whitening. Still, we must ask ourselves: Is coconut oil really all that it's cracked up to be? More specifically, can a few well-placed dabs of coconut oil really benefit our hair?
To answer these questions and more, we tapped hairstylist to the stars Cynthia Alvarez, master hairstylist and colorist at IGK salon Stephanie Brown, and Peter Young, M.D., a dermatologist and medical director for Facet. They confirmed that, yes, coconut oil can help hair health in a number of ways. While it's important to start small with this oil (as with all oils) and augment as needed, with the right balance, coconut oil is bound to bring your hair from sad to glad in no time. Read on for our guide on using coconut oil, the ways coconut oil can benefit your hair, and the coconut oil-infused hair products to add to your shopping cart ASAP.
Coconut Oil for Hair Growth
In short: Yes, coconut oil can support hair growth. "Coconut oil will definitely help your hair grow healthier, thicker, and longer," Brown confirms. "The vitamins and fatty acids in coconut oil help nourish your scalp and penetrates the cuticle of the hair. A treatment mask about once every week or two weeks for five to 10 minutes will do the trick." (Keep scrolling for Brown's go-to, and we've also selected our favorite hair growth shampoos and hair growth oils to help things along.)
Alvarez agrees, adding that incorporating coconut oil into your routine creates an optimal environment for hair growth. "The vitamins and essential fatty acids also help to remove sebum build-up from hair follicles, which speeds up growth," she explains.
Coconut Oil For Damaged Hair
It's no secret that chemicals, heat treatments, and pollution and dry out and damage your hair, in which case coconut oil can be just the ticket. Young says that coconut oil "does provide a barrier to protect your scalp and hair, and blocks irritants and bacteria from causing damage. One of the key ingredients of coconut oil is lauric acid, which helps moisturize the strands of your hair to reduce breakage."
"If your hair is feeling a little dry or damaged, coconut oil is a good pre-shampoo treatment to prevent shampoos from stripping all the oils from your hair," Brown adds, suggesting that users massage the oil into their strands from root to tip before proceeding with their shampoo routine.
And if you love spending time outdoors, Alvarez suggests applying coconut oil before spending time in the sun, noting that "coconut oil is a natural SPF and will protect your hair and skin from the harmful rays of the sun." In a similar vein, she says that you can protect your hair from bleach damage by incorporating it into your pre-dye routine. "I like to tell certain clients to put a little coconut oil in their hair before getting major highlights or going platinum," she says, "because it helps protect the hair from bleach."
And you don't just have to take their word for it—a study from the National Library of Medicine found that coconut oil is able to penetrate the shaft of hair strands and, ultimately, prevent hair damage.
Coconut Oil for Day-to-Day Maintenance
Coconut oil doesn't just belong on your bathroom shelf during a hair emergency—it's also a great addition to your daily routine. "Coconut oil provides great slip to the hair, making detangling feel like a breeze," Alvarez explains. She also says that it's a great oil to brush through your hair if you're headed out and looking for a bit of extra shine.
Trying to hide pesky split ends or unruly frizz until you're able to make it to the salon? Coconut oil can help with that, too. "Coconut oil will help smooth the cuticles on your split ends so your hair doesn’t look frayed at the end," says Alvarez. "It also helps tame frizz due to split ends or humid weather," she adds, explaining that the oil prevents frizz in the first place by "replenishing moisture in your hair." Dr. Young also suggests coconut oil over other alternatives, commenting, "Since it absorbs quickly, coconut oil is more effective than other oils in repairing dry and 'frizzy' hair."
Looking to use coconut oil while you're in the shower? Dr. Young says, "Coconut oil is not as effective as shampoo to clean your hair and scalp, but it works very well as a pre-shampoo treatment to condition your hair. So start off your hair care routine with coconut oil, and then use your regular shampoo to wash it out."
Coconut Oil For Scalp Health
If you're dealing with dandruff, scalp irritation, or scalp dryness in general, coconut can help with that, too. Dr. Young says, "coconut oil provides relief from symptoms of scalp irritations, including scalp psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)."
Unsure of how to apply it? Brown instructs, "If you want to combat dandruff, put coconut oil on your scalp for about five minutes, and then shampoo it out," Brown advises, explaining that users should proceed with this routine until dandruff begins to subside. Alvarez agrees, adding that massaging coconut oil into the scalp improves its overall health and, as a result, reduces flaking proactively.
And if you're struggling with a fungal infection coconut oil can help with that too. A recent study from the International Microbiology Research Journal found that virgin coconut oil can help fight and treat fungal infections.
Coconut Oil as a Leave-In Treatment
As a curly girl, I can't live without my leave-in conditioner, and Brown says that coconut oil is an excellent natural leave-in option to consider, particularly during the warmer months. "I love using coconut oil as a leave-in treatment in the summer," she says. "The heat from the sun opens up the cuticle so the oil will penetrate your hair even more. Its ingredients have natural protectants that save your hair from sun damage. Coconut oil also protects the hair from drying out or getting brittle from salt water and chlorine."
Coconut Oil for Lice
First and foremost, it's important to consult your doctor if you're dealing with a case of lice. If they agree that coconut oil is a good option in combatting the lice, then Alvarez recommends "mixing a few drops of tea tree oil in coconut oil [to] help kill the lice and neutralize their eggs." She explains that, by itself, "coconut oil can't completely kill the nits that lice lay in your hair."
After using this mixture, Brown recommends using "an apple cider rinse to kill all of the eggs or nits left behind."
Furthermore, Dr. Young clarifies, "Despite its antibacterial and antiviral properties, coconut oil will not kill lice. It will temporarily immobilize lice, make it more difficult for them to cling to hair and aid in helping to comb out the lice."
Coconut Oil on Different Hair Types
"Coconut oil works well for those with soft and fine, or medium to thick hair," Alvarez notes. "Its protein retention abilities will add body and volume to such hair types, and also minimize damage and breakage while combing and styling." But if your hair is in a dry, stiff, brittle, or coarse condition, Alvarez says to refrain from using it on a regular basis. "With repeated use, coconut oil may cause protein build-up, making your hair even more stiff, hard, and less elastic—less elasticity means more breakage when combing or styling." When you're worried about said build-up, or if you'd like to prevent it, incorporate a clarifying shampoo into your routine.
The Best Coconut Oil Products
- Best Overall Raw Coconut Oil: Viva Naturals Organic Coconut Oil
- Best Overall Coconut Oil Shampoo: Briogeo Charcoal + Coconut Oil Scalp Scrub Shampoo
- Best Overall Coconut Oil Styling Product: IGK Rich Kid Coconut Oil Gel
- Best Overall Coconut Oil Treatment: SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Leave-In Treatment
- Best Overall Coconut Oil Conditioner: OGX Coconut Miracle Oil Conditioner
The Best Raw Coconut Oils
Both Alvarez and Brown recommend this cold-pressed coconut oil. In the words of Alvarez, "apply if you feel your hair lacks moisture and shine."
Pros: organic; clean; effective; affordable; versatile (can also be used on skin and nails); affordable
Cons: strong smell; heavy
Multiple reviewers rave about the smell of this product, which is delicious without being overpowering. One customer, a swimmer, writes, "This coconut oil has saved my hair...This coconut oil will protect your hair from all the nasty chemicals in the pool. Ten out of 10 will always buy again."
Pros: organic; clean; effective; versatile (can also be used on skin and nails); affordable
Cons: very thick, so can be too greasy for thin hair; strong smell of coconut
The Best Coconut Oil Shampoos
One customer says that they're "in love" with this product, promising that it's "not heavy or sticky," that it prevents frizz, and that "it smells WONDERFUL!" I'm sold.
Pros: frizz-fighting; good for curly and natural hair types; curl-defining; vegan; cruelty-free
Cons: thick, so can make thin hair feel greasy
This sulfate-free formula is great for curly hair, according to pleased customers. One rejoices, "Finally, found a shampoo that works well with my curly hair...My hair fails and looks soft, smooth, and shiny."
Pros: affordable; free of dyes, parabens, gluten, and sulfates; vegan; detangling; bleach- and color-safe
Cons: can be too thick for thin hair; strong smell
A number of reviews comment on experiencing noticeably reduced frizz and dryness after using this product regularly. A top review states, "within a couple uses, it just feels softer."
Pros: frizz-reducing; smoothing; clean; free of gluten, parabens, and sulfates; affordable
Cons: strong smell
This option is fantastic for those deal with dandruff and scalp dryness and/or flakiness. One reviewer calls the shampoo "a miracle worker" for how quickly and effectively it healed her young son's painful wintertime dry spots.
Pros: supports scalp health; exfoliating; clean; vegan
Cons: high price
The Best Coconut Oil Styling Products
This gel is a great option for when you're styling your locks quickly and don't have time to blow dry, though one customer advises that "a little goes a long way." As with all hair products, moderation is key!
Pros: free of gluten, parabens, and sulfates; contains aloe vera
Cons: very volumizing, which can be polarizing among users
Again, a little goes a long way with this product. Users also suggest that it works best on straight or wavy hair rather than curly hair.
Pros: silicone-free; works well with curls and coils
Cons: strong smell; can be too thick for thin hair
This product is perfect for tight curls. One helpful reviewer with type 4C hair explains, "I put a generous amount on my hair from root to tip and then, to ensure hold, I place a teaspoon of super firm gel on top. My hair is shiny, well defined. Because it's not overloaded with gel I can spike it up. Great product; very moisturizing, too."
Pros: works well with natural hair; vegan; color-safe
Cons: high price; strong smell
Looking to mask those split ends in the way our experts described? Satisfied customers say this product is just the ticket, with one writing it's "great for dry ends" and that it "lasts forever."
Pros: contains natural ingredients like argan oil and rosehip oil; silicone-free; works on all hair types
Cons: high price for a small bottle
The Best Coconut Oil Treatments
This product was formulated with curly and coily hair in mind, and it shows. One customer raves, "I have low porosity 4C hair that is tough to moisturize which in turn causes a lot of shrinkage. This is definitely deep conditioning and it moisturized my hair so well that my hair didn’t shrink much when I put it into braids to air dry overnight!"
Pros: works on all curl patterns; clean; made with natural hair in mind; works on all hair densities and types
Cons: contains sulfates
Concerned with scalp dryness caused by weather or hormones? One customer with post-menopausal scalp flakiness promises that this product is among the "BEST when it comes to restoring the scalp and hair."
Pros: supports both scalp and hair health; free of silicones, parabens, and sulfates; doesn't weigh hair down
Cons: small bottle for high price
Another great option for people with curly hair, this mask is, by many accounts, effective in defining curls and keeping them soft and moisturized. One reviewer even raves that, when it comes to hair masks, they "will never buy another brand."
Pros: made with curly and natural hair in mind; Black-owned brand
Cons: contains silicones and isopropyl alcohol
This treatment is, according to reviews, great for kids and smells amazing. It's also effective for use on braids and other protective hairstyles.
Pros: works well with natural hair; clean; revitalizes curls and dry hair
Cons: thick, so can make thin hair look greasy
The Best Coconut Oil Conditioners
This conditioner is a great budget option, particularly if you (like me) go through a lot of conditioner. One woman writes that it's not only effective on her daughter's curly hair, but that it also provides lightweight, effective moisture for her straight hair.
Pros: affordable; lightweight; works on all hair types
Cons: strong smell
I personally use this conditioner, and I absolutely love it. It's lightweight, smells amazing, and perfect for remedying post-summertime damage from chlorine and saltwater.
Pros: editor-approved; made with curls in mind
Cons: strong smell of coconut
One customer, who admits that their hair "craves moisture," says that even after trying other similar conditioners, they "return to this product time and again."
Pros: clean; vegan; cruelty-free; free of phthalates, parabens, and sulfates
Cons: can be too heavy for thin hair and/or waves
This product, which boasts a near-perfect online rating, apparently not only conditions, but it also effectively detangles so that you can minimize breakage as much as possible before you even get out of the shower.
Pros: detangling; sulfate-free; works on all hair and wave types
Cons: strong fruity smell; can be too heavy for thin hair
Meet the Experts
Peter C. Young, MD is the Keeps Medical Director and a board-certified dermatologist. Dr. Young had a distinguished career serving as a physician in the U.S. Army for nine years before going on to practice dermatology in Massachusetts for 22 years. In addition to his published medical articles, Dr. Young has also been a speaker at national medical meetings on teledermatology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Young is currently located in Estero, FL.
Cynthia Alvarez is a hairstylist and groomer from New York City whose expertise includes styling, cutting, braiding, and applying creative color to all hair types. She has also advanced wig training and extension methods, and has worked with the likes of Shakira, Becky G, Maye Musk, Dascha Polanco, and Anika Noni Rose.
Stephanie Brown is a hair colorist and stylist based in New York City. Currently, she works with IGK Salons.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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