Can Coconut Oil Make Your Hair Dry?
Here’s Why It Doesn’t Work for All Hair Types
It’s no secret that coconut oil has become a beauty staple many of us keep in rotation year-round. The multi-tasking oil can do it all, including soothing dry skin, acting as a makeup brush cleaner, even moonlighting as a tooth whitener. Is there anything it can’t do? According to some folks on the internet, the answer is (surprisingly) yes.
Reddit user sleepypuff writes, “Does anyone else’s hair get MORE dry feeling from using coconut oil? Everyone LOVES coconut oil but me!” User jelbee adds, “Anytime I see coconut oil hailed as a miracle moisturizer for locks, I remember my own experience. Dead straw hair, the opposite of my goal. If you’ve never used it, beware.” While there’s no denying coconut oil’s versatility, when it comes to your hair, the miracle marvel could perhaps be doing more harm than good. “I can’t use coconut oil. I can’t even buy any hair products that has coconut oil in it,” writes ladyAnderkinky, who had to swear off coconut oil completely. They’re not the only ones who have noticed. Youtube hair guru Naptural85 has done a video on the perils of coconut oil on her hair.
As New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco points out, “Coconut oil indeed penetrates the shaft of hair deeper than most oils. And one study demonstrated that it can reduce protein loss, too.” But that’s benefit is exactly why, for some people, coconut oil can cause dryness.
“The reason some people experience dryness with coconut oil — especially when using it alone as a treatment — is that it can penetrate the hair cuticle, taking up space within the strands,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. “This means that when you’re wetting your hair, there’s less space for water, which means that hair doesn’t get as saturated as it would without the coconut oil.” However, if your hair is on the porous side, you’re less likely to end up with the dry, straw-like consistency that some have experienced.
“Low porosity hair has tightly closed cuticles that repel water (adding proteins on top of this makes wetting out the hair so much more difficult),” Wilson explains. “Hair with high porosity means that the cuticles are open allowing moisture to flow in and out of the strand (sometimes too fast)” It’s possible that your hair’s porosity could contribute to its coconut oil sensitivity.
“It’s great for very porous hair because it prevents water from rushing into the strands too fast causing excessive swelling, which is bad because it puts undue stress on the cuticle by lifting it up,” says Wilson. “But for low porosity hair, it’s hard enough to get water into the strands, so if you have coconut oil taking up space, then hair may not get the moisture that it needs, therefore, it dries out.”
Hairstylist Nathaniel Hawkins mentions that hair oils are supposed to “make the hair flexible, and with flexibility comes strength,” so if coconut oil is not cutting it for your strands, it might be time to revive dry hair with a different natural treatment. Hawkins suggests to “look for oils that are liquid at room temperature, like jojoba and argan oils,” to achieve better results.
But don’t despair if you still love coconut oil and can’t use it on your hair. There are a plethora of other ways to use it in your beauty routine, so that big jar you’ve got stashed in your bathroom cabinet doesn’t have to go to waste.
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