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Benefits of coconut oil for hair

22 Feb 2021

Immense damage can be caused to hair by daily grooming practices like washing, brushing, and styling which also leaves hair looking frizzy, broken and dry. However, regular use of coconut oil can reverse this damage and ensure healthy growth, say haircare experts.

Hair is composed of three key components – the medulla (a soft, central part of the hair shaft), the cortex (the thickest layer of your hair which contains lots of fibrous proteins and the colour pigment) and the cuticle (the tough, protective outer layer). Washing, styling and colouring your hair can damage the cuticle, rendering it unable to protect the central parts of the hair shaft. 

Studies shw that coconut oil is often said to be the best oil to use on your hair to reduce protein loss and keep it looking healthy. Researchers found that coconut oil prevented protein loss better than other oils when applied either before or after the hair is washed. In fact, studies also showed that coconut oil reduced protein loss in hair that was undamaged, bleached, chemically treated and UV exposed. 

Coconut oil is predominantly made up of a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid which gives it a long, straight structure that is more easily absorbed deep into the hair shaft.

Damage when wet

There are a few ways to apply oil to your hair to help protect it from damage.

First, applying oil to your hair before it’s washed can help reduce the amount of damage it sustains during washing and while it’s wet. Hair is said to be most vulnerable to damage when it’s wet. This is because of subtle, structural changes that occur when it absorbs water

When you wet your hair, the thick, central cortex soaks up the water and swells, causing a structural change in the cuticle. The hair cuticle is actually made up of flat, overlapping scales that are attached towards the root end of your hair and point towards the tip. When the cortex of your hair absorbs water and swells up, these scales are pushed outward so they stick up. This makes wet hair much easier to damage, especially when brushing or styling. 

Applying oil to your hair before you wash it can reduce the amount of water absorbed by the hair shaft and the degree to which the cuticle scales stick out. This makes it less prone to damage while it’s wet.

Second, coating your hair in oil after you wash it helps make it softer and smoother. This reduces the amount of friction caused by styling, making your hair less likely to snag and break.

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Other benefits of coconut oil 

Lice prevention: One small study found that when combined with anise in a spray, coconut oil was 40% more effective at treating head lice.

Sun protection:UV filters can help protect your hair from sun damage. Some studies have found coconut oil to have a sun protection factor of 8, so putting it on your hair could be useful.

Dandruff treatment:While no studies have examined coconut oil specifically, it has antimicrobial properties that could be useful for treating dandruff.

Hair loss prevention: Excessive grooming can damage the hair shaft, which in extreme circumstances can cause hair loss. Coconut oil can help keep your hair remain manageable and in good condition.

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