Coconut oil is on the short list of things that can penetrate your hair's cuticle. When it penetrates into the cortex, it helps condition and strengthen your hair. Coconut oil helps your hair retain protein when used in a prewash treatment. If you are protein sensitive, you may want to avoid coconut oil because it can help your hair retain protein. Coconut oil also helps prevent hygral fatigue when used in a prewash treatment. What is hygral fatigue? You know how if you stretch a rubber band, it returns to the same shape. But, if you stretch the rubber band over and over and over, it no longer returns to the same shape. When your hair is wet, the weight of the water makes it stretch. Then your hair dries and goes back to the original shape. Eventually, your hair will no longer return to its original shape. That is hygral fatigue. Coconut oil (in a prewash treatment) prevents your hair from soaking up as much water, this prevents hygral fatigue. Since coconut oil prevents the hair from swelling with water, it may also prevent the cuticle from opening as it swells (becoming porous/damaged). Coconut oil can cut down on friction while combing, therefore cutting down on damage.
Much of the above info is from this link.
Coconut allergies are rare, but they do exist. You may want to do a patch test.
How can you use coconut oil for hair?
My favorite way to use coconut oil is for prewash treatments. I'll explain how to do one later in the post. You can mix coconut oil into conditioner to make it into a deep treatment or simply to make conditioner more moisturizing. You can use coconut oil to seal. (see below) I mix some coconut oil into my gelatin protein treatment. You can add coconut oil to flax seed gel. You can rub a very small amount of coconut oil on you hands to scrunch out the crunch. I use coconut oil as a pre-hair dye treatment. This helps keep your hair in better condition when you dye it. You can coat your hair with coconut oil before swimming to protect it from chlorine damage. Some people add some coconut oil to their ends at night to keep them moisturized. For many, their hair will soak up the coconut oil before morning. For me, alas, my ends are still oily in the morning.
How do you use coconut oil to seal hair? Sealing is adding a very thin layer of oil to seal in moisture (dry weather/low dew points) or seal out humidity and prevent frizz (humid weather/high dew points). Add the coconut oil after your leave in conditioner. Use very little oil, like a few drops. Rub a small amount of coconut oil in your hands and smooth it over your hair. Many people find it easier to do this by going one section at a time. Style as usual.
What kind of coconut oil should I get and where do I find it?
Coconut oil is sold in the cooking oil section of most grocery stores, health food stores, some Walmarts, and many places online. What kind should you get?
ORGANIC OR NOT ORGANIC?- IMHO, the soil it is grown in and the ground water will be able to tell if your coconut oil is organic. Your hair will not be able to tell.
EXTRA VIRGIN- From what I've read this term is meaningless for coconut oil. It is just a marketing ploy.
REFINED OR UNREFINED? Unrefined coconut oil has a lovely coconut scent. Refined coconut oil doesn't smell like coconuts. If you don't like the coconut scent, go for the refined. Many of the studies done with coconut oil use the refined coconut oil, so the refined coconut oil will work. My personal opinion from my experience is that the unrefined works much better. I can add more unrefined oil to my hair before it looks oily. This says to me more of the unrefined oil is penetrating the cuticle better and therefore it is working better. Refined coconut oil works, but I believe unrefined works better.
In India, they use Vatika oil. Vatika oil is coconut oil plus some ayurvedic herbs including henna and amla. I haven't tried this yet, but it gets good reviews. You can buy this online, or possibly at an Indian grocery store.
How do I do a coconut oil prewash treatment?
Ah, the coconut oil prewash treatment. This is the whole reason I love coconut oil so very, very much.
Add coconut oil to dry hair. Add enough coconut oil to make your hair look like you have had the flu for a week and haven't had time to wash it. (That is a stupid description, but it is the best I can do.) Your hair should look oily, but it does not need to be an oil slick. Leave the coconut oil in your hair 20 minutes to one hour before washing your hair. You can choose to leave the coconut oil on as long as overnight. If you leave it in overnight, either use and old pillow case or wrap a scarf around your head to protect your sheets. The longer coconut oil is on your hair, the more the oil is able to penetrate into the hair's cortex.
How easy or difficult coconut oil is to remove varies from person to person. I can remove it with a water wash followed by a rinse out conditioner. Many people can cowash coconut oil out. For others, a low poo will not remove the coconut oil from their hair. For this reason, I suggest you do a strand/small section test the first time you try a coconut oil prewash treatment. After you have washed your hair, continue with your regular routine. Some people find a cowash removes coconut oil better then a low poo.
Here is my Youtube video that shows how your hair should look with coconut oil in it for a prewash treatment.
Here is a Wavy Hair Community link to my video on how to do a coconut oil prewash treatment. You must be a member to view the link. This is the video that I filmed before starting my Youtube channel. I was having issues getting videos to upload directly to blogger, so I started a Youtube channel. There is no info in this video that isn't in this blog post or the above Youtube video, but I thought I'd leave the link anyway.
How do I do my first coconut oil prewash treatment?
I suggest you do a strand/small section test the first time. For some people, coconut oil is hard to remove. If you are one of them, you don't want to end up with an oily head of hair. I'd also suggest starting with 20-30 minutes and working your way up to more time if you wish. The longer coconut oil is on your hair, the more coconut oil will penetrate into your hair's cortex. If it turns out coconut oil is hard to remove for your hair, you'll be glad you left it on a shorter time.
How do I use coconut oil to prevent damage from hair dye?
Add coconut oil as done in the prewash treatment. I've only done this a few times, but I feel it keeps my hair in better condition after being dyed. In the giant thread from The Long Hair Community, many people believe coconut oil pre-dye treatments help hair dye take better and more evenly. They even suggest using coconut oil pre-dye treatments for resistant gray hair. The Long Hair Community thread says that coconut oil (and argan oil) chelate copper. A proctor and gamble study shows that chelating copper can help with dye uptake. I can't comment personally on the better dye penetration since I changed my hair dye at the same time I started adding coconut oil pre-dye treatments. I do an overnight coconut oil treatment before I dye my hair. These links, especially The Long Hair Community link, have more and better information on using coconut oil before dying hair.
The Long Hair Community- Possible way to protect hair from conventional peroxide damage.
Curlies Curl Forum- Pre-oiling with coconut oil before chemical colour to help prevent damage.
There has been talk on the internet about coconut fading color, especially red hair color. I've never found this to be true. Here is a Beauty Brains link on the subject. Spoiler alert: They don't know if coconut oil fades color either.
Beauty Brains: Does Coconut oil fade hair color?
How do I use coconut oil to help prevent chlorine damage from swimming?
Science-y Hair Blog says to add coconut oil similarly to the way you would add it for a prewash treatment, but you should be able to use a little less oil, and then swim cap. The Natural Haven suggests you apply coconut oil, soak hair with tap water, wait 15 minutes, apply more coconut oil, put on a swim cap, swim.
Science-y Hair Blog- Your Hair on Chlorine. (there are pics of hair under a microscope)
The Natural Haven- Swimming Questions
How do I use coconut oil to prevent dry scalp?
Basically you just massage coconut oil into your scalp 30 minutes to overnight before you wash it. I've added a video by Waterlily716 on how to do this.
What else can I use coconut oil for?
I use coconut oil for several other things. Before I tell you about them, let me caution you, coconut oil is slightly comedogenic (pore clogging). If you are acne prone, test a small area first to see if it clogs pores for you (varies from person to person). Coconut oil has been shown to have a low SPF when tested in some studies (To my knowledge, the evidence is not conclusive.). What does this mean to you? It means that if you add coconut oil to your skin and go out in the sun, you might be adding some SPF and you probably aren't making matters worse. You aren't turning your self into a rotisserie chicken. One more thing. Just for the record, I'm not a person that thinks just because something is natural, it is automatically better. My routine is filled with natural and decidedly not natural products. I choose coconut oil because it works.
Chart that shows SPF's of oils.
The Beauty Brains thinks Coconut Oil's SPF is around 7.
Can I Use Coconut Oil as a Sunscreen?
I use coconut oil as a after shower oil. Some people have replaced their lotion with coconut oil. I use coconut oil as a cuticle oil. A woman at the Wavy Hair Community with very dry skin shaves her legs with coconut oil occasionally. I also use coconut oil as a under eye moisturizer. It can be used as a facial moisturizer. I use it as a make-up remover. Dr. Oz (doctor with a TV talk show) says it is very good for chapped lips and also has health benefits when eaten. It is great for popping popcorn. Coconut oil has a high water content, so it steams like crazy when you pop popcorn. It will look like it is burning, but it isn't. It makes your house smell like a movie theater. I haven't tried yet, but really want to use coconut oil to make homemade magic shell for ice cream (I'll probably skip the added spices in the recipe).
I'd love to hear about all the ways to use coconut oil that I haven't mentioned in this post.