Coconut oil has been widely used in numerous ways including hair grooming and skin care for an extremely long period of time. In the early to mid 2000s, it became a star ingredient in many mainstream hair cosmetics such as shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers. During this time, the exodus from relaxed to natural hair was steadily gaining momentum (fun fact, I also grew out my natural hair from a relaxer for the first time in 1999). This fueled the desire for women to use more natural ingredients, in an effort to grow long and healthy natural hair quickly.
In the 2010s, during the infancy of YouTube, channels focused on natural hair journeys and hair regimens started popping up. These channels suggested including raw coconut oil into your hair care regimen to grow long hair like theirs. These hair care videos evolved into length check updates, with creators documenting their journey from a teeny weeny afro (TWA) to bra strap length (BSL) hair.
Coconut oil is a good treatment for both the hair and scalp and has many benefits, which include:
Antibacterial and antifungal properties due to it’s chemical composition.
Is a good detangler, since it lubricates the hair and provides slip between the hair strands making it easier to comb. This lubricating effect helps to prevent hair breakage during the detangling process and also reduces the formation of split ends.
Provides shine to the hair since it flattens the cuticle latyer and improves the appearance of hair. This is more noticeable in straighter hair types since it provides a flat surface for light to reflect off of. Curlier hair tends to not exhibit the same degree of shine due to it’s highly texture nature.
Coconut oil is a good protein treatment. One of the biggest misconceptions about coconut oil is that it has a high protein content, when it does not. Due to it’s molecular weight and structure it is able to penetrate the hair strand and bind to the proteins present in the hair. This infusion of coconut oil helps to reduce protein loss in the hair.
Emollient properties, meaning that the oil coats the hair shaft sealing the cuticle layer of the hair. This results in water being trapped inside the hair strand.
Reduction of hygral fatigue. Hair strands swell when wet and shrink when dry and this repeated action over time can lead to cracks forming along the hair strand. This can cause the hair to become, frizzy, dry, brittle and can result in breakage over time. A coating of coconut oil along the hair strand can help to control the degree of swelling and shrinking of the hair strand, by filling in the spaces between the cuticle scales and the gaps within the hair strand.
Overall, coconut oil helps to prevent hair from breakage in various ways, by lubricating hair during detangling, sealing moisture in the hair and preventing protein loss in the hair. These combined actions can aid in length retention, however, based on many scientific studies there has been no conclusive evidence linking coconut oil to hair growth.
Length retention is an often overlooked part of growing long hair and coconut oil can be a useful tool in preventing hair breakage, thereby preserving hair length. There’s so much more to say about this topic, so look out for my next post titled ‘The Best Way To Use Coconut Oil On Your Hair’. In this post, I'll highlight the dos and don’ts of coconut oil use for hair care.