Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Rithi Choudhury (Journalist) on 24th Sep 2020

Why Is Coconut Oil Best For Scalp Nourishment And Hair Growth? 

Best For Scalp Nourishment

The versatile coconut oil is a staple in every Indian household, be it for oiling the hair, moisturizing the skin, and in the southern part of the country, for even cooking.

Coconut oil has been an integral part of the Indian culture and the quintessential Indian way of relaxing, which is ‘champi’ or a hot oil massage of the scalp. Even after introducing the relatively new to the Indian market, argan oil, jojoba oil, etc. coconut oil never fell out of vogue and rightly because things of excellent quality are always timeless. 

Benefits Of Coconut Oil For Hair

1. Reduces Protein Loss: Coconut oil is made of medium-chain fatty acid called ‘lauric acid,’ which gives it a long, straight chemical structure that penetrates deep into the hair shaft. Studies have found that coconut is superior at reducing protein loss from hair that can leave it looking dull, dry and brittle. By preventing this protein loss, coconut oil helps in keeping the hair strong and healthy. 

2. Aids In Hair Growth: Coconut oil protects the hair from environmental stresses by forming a protective layer over the hair cuticle (tough, protective outer layer of the hair). It also moisturizes the scalp and stimulates the hair follicles, reduces breakage, and results in less hair fall and more hair growth.

3. Provides Sun Protection To Hair: If you think only skin needs sun protection, then think again. UV rays are not biased, and it wrecks hair as well as your skin. Therefore a sun protection formula for your hair is a great idea to protect it from damage. Coconut oil luckily is a natural sun protectant with an SPF of 8.

4. Deeply Conditions The Scalp And Hair: Studies show coconut oil to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, it helps maintain a healthy scalp and treats scalp conditions due to bacteria and fungus like psoriasis, eczema, etc. Its molecular structure is absorbed better by the hair shaft compared to other oils and therefore is the best oil for moisturizing the hair.

5. Helps Prevent Frizz: Frizz in the hair is because of uneven absorption of moisture in the cuticles. Applying some coconut oil on your hair creates a protective coating that seals in moisture and protects the hair from uneven swelling that leads to frizziness.

6. Protects From Heat Damage: Coconut oil has a high smoke point and is an excellent heat protectant. Rub a few drops on your strands evenly before heat styling to minimize damage.

7. Helps Repair Damaged Hair: Coconut oil treats several scalp conditions, leading to better hair quality. When applied before and after shampooing, it helps protect the essential oils in the hair and minimizes hair breakage while pulling, combing wet hair. It also minimizes protein loss of hair from washing and pollution exposure. Thus it is an excellent oil for repairing dry and damaged hair.

8. Helps Combat Dandruff: Studies have found coconut oil to be antifungal, and therefore it helps treat dandruff.

9. Treats and Prevents Lice: Coconut oil is also useful in preventing and treating head lice infestation.

10. Makes The Hair Glossy: Hair has a shiny/glossy appearance owing to the sebum it produces. But harsh sulfates in shampoos/frequent washing can strip this natural sebum (oil) and leave them lackluster. Coconut oil penetrates the hair deeply and replenishes this oil loss, making the tresses glow, which is Instagram worthy. 

Refined or Unrefined (Virgin or Extra Virgin) Coconut Oil 

Coconut oil for scalp

Coconut oil delivers a plethora of benefits to the hair but choosing one type of coconut oil can be overwhelming with various options available in the market from the readily available refined coconut oil, departmental virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil.

There are no clear studies yet on which type of coconut oil is the best for your hair or if one type is superior to the other. But both refined and unrefined coconut oil provides the same moisturization to the hair.  

  • Refined Coconut Oil: This oil is obtained from copra (dried coconut kernel meat), and the end product is a refined, bleached, and deodorized oil. This oil undergoes filtration processes to get rid of the impurities and make it more stable. Thus, it is suitable for higher cooking temperatures. The refinement process makes the oil tasteless and strips away the natural coconut aroma. From a nutritional standpoint, it is not as great as unrefined (virgin) coconut oil, but if it is for more cosmetic purposes like hair and skin, it will deliver the same moisturizing benefits.

    However, the extraction method (whether it is cold-pressed, expeller-pressed or centrifuged) and the stabilizing, preserving chemicals added is important for not all refined oils are created the same. Try to go for non-hydrogenated refined coconut oil instead of the hydrogenated varieties to reap maximum benefits. This type of oil is mass-produced and therefore is cheaper than its unrefined counterpart.  
  • Unrefined Coconut Oil: Unrefined or raw coconut oil is often marketed as ‘virgin’ or ‘extra-virgin’ coconut oil.  

The extraction method of coconut oil can be either cold-pressed, expeller-pressed, or centrifugal. Flavor-wise, this oil can be mild or intense (if exposed to more heat during extraction) depending on the extraction method.

Since no additional chemicals are added, and it is unrefined, the oil retains its nutritional value, and therefore, from a completely nutritional standpoint, it is superior to the refined varieties. 

Coconut Oil Controversy

As is the case with every cosmetic ingredient, coconut oil works excellent for some while not so great for others. Generally, it is safe for use on the hair and skin without any toxic effects. However, it is high on the comedogenic (pore-clogging) scale, which means using too much or too frequently can cause a product buildup and clog the hair follicles, which will hinder hair growth.

But as long as the oil is washed off after about an hour or two, that should not be an issue. 

Freewill Tip

While buying coconut oil go for transparent bottles as you will be better able to see its color and texture. Good quality coconut oil is a white solid in low temperatures, and at high temperatures, it is a colorless liquid. Any discoloration or cloudy appearance means it is contaminated.