Is Coconut Oil Good for Your Hair? Hairstylists Weigh In

Allow our experts to walk you through how coconut oil can transform your hair.

coconut oil for hair benefits
(Image credit: Delmaine Donson)

There are so many oils out there, it's impossible to keep up—but many consider coconut oil the HBIC of all oils, especially when it comes to hair oils. It's gained such a glowing reputation because there aren't a lot of things coconut oil can't do. Not sure what all the hype is about? Well, coconut oil has the power to fight off bacteria, seamlessly remove makeup, work as a whitening toothpaste, and more. We could go on and on about its uses, but today we're here to talk about hair, and the many ways coconut oil can benefit your hair.

So, how exactly should you be using coconut oil to transform your hair? Celebrity stylist to the stars Cynthia Alvarez, along with master stylist and colorist at IGK salon Stephanie Brown, share the many ways they put this magic oil to use. 

Does coconut oil make your hair grow faster?

Yes, indeed it does. "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 favorite coconut oil-infused mask.)

Alvarez agrees, adding that incorporating coconut oil into your routine creates the optimal environment for hair growth. "The vitamins and essential fatty acids also helps to remove sebum build-up from hair follicles, which speeds up growth," she explains.

How should I apply coconut oil to my hair?

It's no secret that harsh ingredients found in many shampoos can strip your hair of its natural, good-for-you oils. "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 suggests. Try massaging coconut oil into your hair from root-to-tip before you shampoo to prevent this.

No matter your hair type, a little bit of coconut oil won't ever hurt. But depending on the specific condition of your hair, you may not be able to tolerate the same amount of coconut oil each time. When in doubt, start with a little bit and add as needed. 

What are some other benefits of coconut oil?

Protection From Bleach

"I like to tell certain clients to put a little coconut oil in their hair before getting major highlights or going platinum because it helps protect the hair from bleach," Brown says. 

Detangling

"Coconut oil provides a great slip to the hair, making detangling feel like a breeze," Alvarez explains. 

Shine

For added shine,  Alvarez recommends using a bit of coconut oil throughout your hair. Use a light hand so your hair won't look too greasy.

Protection From the Sun

Plus, it's basically sunscreen for your hair. "Coconut oil is a natural SPF and will protect your hair and skin from the harmful rays of the sun," says Alvarez.

Can coconut oil deal with dandruff?

Coconut oil can also stop those pesky dandruff flakes from making a home on your hair. "If you want to combat dandruff, put coconut oil on your scalp for about five minutes, and then shampoo it out," Brown explains, which she says to continue to do until you start to see less dandruff. Alvarez adds that massaging in coconut oil can scalp health and reduces flaking.

Will coconut oil fix my split ends?

If running to the salon to solve your split end problem is not going to happen any time soon, consider coconut oil your right-hand man for a quick fix. Before we go any further though, sorry, you still have to go to the salon eventually to really get your split ends taken care of—by no means is this a permanent solution.

"Coconut oil will help smooth the cuticles on your split ends, so your hair doesn’t looked frayed at the end. It also helps tame frizz due to split ends or humid weather." It actually can control frizz on your whole head, not just on your split ends. "It prevents frizz because it's great for replenishing moisture in your hair," Alvarez adds, so you should use it on the driest parts of your hair.

Should I use coconut oil as a leave-in treatment?

"I love using coconut oil as a leave-in treatment in the summer," Brown suggests. "The heat from the sun will open 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."

In other words, you're going to need it this summer (and the rest of the year), so keep some in your beach bag too.

Can coconut oil get rid of lice?

If you're dealing with lice, Brown recommends rubbing coconut oil throughout your scalp and your hair from root-to-tip as an initial step to kill lice. Then, follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse. "Be sure to do an apple cider rinse to kill all of the eggs or nits left behind," Brown advises.

Alvarez recommends employing tea tree oil as well, and agrees that coconut oil alone can't fully get rid of lice. "Coconut oil can't completely kill the nits that lice lay in your hair," Alvarez explains. "Mixing a few drops of tea tree oil in coconut oil could help kill the lice and neutralize their eggs." Always consult your doctor for their recommendations, too.

Is it safe to use coconut oil on all 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 recommends not 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."

A general rule of thumb: Coconut oil can be applied whenever you feel your hair lacks moisture and shine, according to Alvarez. She emphasizes that more isn’t always better, so start with a small amount and pay attention to how your hair responds. Both stylists recommend using cold-pressed virgin coconut oil that is raw and unfiltered to maximize the benefits. Amazing hair days are ahead of you.

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Maya Allen

Maya Allen is the former Digital Beauty Editor at MarieClaire.com where she covered makeup, skincare, haircare, wellness, you name it! She has a 15-step skincare routine, owns over 200 red lipsticks, and enjoys testing the latest and greatest in beauty. On most weekends, you can find her at her happy place, which is her makeup vanity. There, she’s usually blasting her speakers while singing along to lyrics at the top of her lungs, and making sure her highlighter is on point. Before joining MarieClaire.com, she held positions at Byrdie.com and Cosmopolitan.com.