Three Reasons Why Coconut Oil Helps Dry Hair

young woman with shiny hair full of purple and white flowers

Can Coconut Oil Really Help Dry Hair?

There are dozens of videos and websites praising the benefits of coconut oil and how it can help soften, smooth and condition your hair.

Coconut oil is a popular ingredient used in many personal care products.  You can now find it being used skin lotions, lip balms, face masks, shampoos and conditioners.

And while many of these articles talk about why this oil is so good for your hair, most of them don’t tell you exactly how it really works.

Here we’ll take a closer look at the science behind coconut oil and why it’s so good for your hair.

You’ll also learn the best way to apply coconut oil to your hair and how to choose the best type.

How Coconut Oil Helps Dry Hair

Studies have shown that the fatty acids in coconut oil can help dry hair in three main ways: Reducing, Strengthening and Protecting.

1. Reduces Protein Loss in Hair

A study conducted in India found that coconut oil can help prevent protein loss in the hair shaft, which may help strengthen and fortify the hair.

Having strong, thick healthy hair is one of the first steps to avoiding and preventing hair breakage and split ends.

Researchers compared how well coconut oil and other hair oils could help in preventing hair damage.

The scientists chose hair oils that were traditionally used by many popular hair products sold in India:

  • Mineral oil – This is used in many hair oil formulas in India because it is reported to be non-greasy and is low cost.

  • Sunflower oil – This is the second most widely used base oil in many hair oil formulas. It’s favored for its  low freezing point and is odorless at room temperature.

  • Coconut oil – This tropical oil is made up of special fats which are attracted to hair proteins. Researchers believe that this action will allow the oils to actually penetrate the hair shaft.

During the study, the three oils were applied to hair samples and then microscopically analyzed to determine if there were any noticeable changes in their structure and appearance.

Researchers reached following conclusions:

“Among three oils, coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product…”

“Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft.”

2. Strengthens the Hair Shaft

A study published in the May 2011 Journal of Cosmetic Science showed coconut oils can make your hair stronger and lessen the chance of breakage.

Improperly caring for your hair, sun damage, coloring and chemical treatments can actually change the physical make-up of your hair.

Scientists can use several methods to measure this hair damage, such as microscopic techniques, measuring protein loss and the tensile strength of the hair shaft itself.

One method used for assessing hair damage is called the Hair Breakage Index (HBI). It’s based on measuring a ratio of actual diameter changes in the hair shaft, from the base root to the very tip.

In this study, 30 participants were asked to apply coconut oil to their hair every day for 16 weeks – while another Control Group didn’t use any oils.

At the end of the study, the study participants showed a higher Hair Breakage Index due to having thicker and stronger hair.

3. Protects Against Water Damage to Hair

back view of woman with coconut oil on her long shiny black hair

Whenever you wash your hair, or get it wet, the hair cuticles will swell and the hair shaft becomes thicker from the water. When your hair begins to dry, the swollen hair cuticles will contract and the hair shaft becomes thinner.

In our quest to stay clean, some people may wash their hair 3 or 4 times a week, or even every day.  Washing your hair too many times can lead to a condition called hygral fatigue.

Once the hair shaft becomes overwhelmed from all the frequent washing and drying, it may become more prone to stretching and breaking.

A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science concluded that coconut oil is better than mineral oil for protecting damaged hair against hygral fatigue.

Researchers in the study found that the oil has a strong attraction to hair proteins. This causes the moisturizing oils to deeply penetrate the hair shaft which can protect it from further water damage.

Easy-Follow Dry Hair Treatment Guide:

If you’d like to try using coconut oil for dry hair, follow these step-by-step instructions.

Before beginning this treatment, you’ll need a couple of items to prepare.

You’ll also need about one hour to do this deep hair moisturizing treatment. It’s important to allow for sufficient time for maximum results. The longer you allow the oils to soak into the hair and scalp, the better the results you’ll achieve.

You’ll need the following items:

– One jar of virgin coconut oil

– Plastic shower cap


  • Shampoo, rinse and then and let dry until slightly damp.

  • Apply a quarter-sized amount of the product to your palms and rub hands together to coat your fingers and palms.

  • Run your fingers through your hair. Concentrate on coating the entire hair shafts from root to tip with the oil.

  • Take the plastic shower cap and cover your head. This keeps your hairs in place and helps retain heat to increase absorption.

  • Leave on the shower cap on for about one hour, then remove and rinse the oils from your head.

How Many Often Should You Do Hair Treatments?

woman shampooing dry hair with coconut oil and shampoo

The overall condition of your hair will help you determine how often to use coconut oil.

For best results, you could try an initial treatment to gauge how much actual oil to use and the type of response you get.

You can then adjust accordingly to get the most from this treatment.

If your hair is colored, you have a perm or use lots of heat styling, then you may need to repeat this treatment more often to condition and moisturize your hair.

What are the Best Coconut Oils for Dry Hair Treatments?

jar of garden of life coconut oil for dry hair

It’s recommended you only use virgin, organic coconut oils, such as Garden of Life 100% Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.

Other brands include Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and Spectrum Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil For Body & Hair.

Only virgin coconut oils are made from fresh, organic coconuts. Many of these products will contain ‘cold-pressed’ oils which retain all of the healthy fatty acids and nutrients your hair needs for maximum conditioning, moisturizing and protection.

Not all products are the same. Please see our guide How to Choose the Best Coconut Oils and learn more tips to choosing the best products.

Aside from using the pure oils, you can also get ready-made products, such as coconut oil shampoos. These products have the shampoo and plant oils combined into one bottle for the added convenience. The only disadvantage with these types of products is you may not know how much actual oil you’re getting in the product.

And another great option for conditioning and protecting your hair is using Natural Leave-In Hair Conditioners.  Many of these specialized hair care products have plant and seed oils that can help improve hair moisture, provide heat protection and maintain curls and waves long after washing your hair.

Actual Coconut Oil Dry Hair User Reviews:

Here are testimonials and reviews sent in from people who’ve have tried using coconut oil for conditioning their hair.

Coconut oil for Processed Hair
I research everything and even with all the wonderful things I’ve heard about coconut oil I was reluctant to try it. The only disappointing thing I have…

Using coconut oil for gray – almost white hair
Has anyone with gray or white hair used coconut oil? How well did it work? Here’s my story. I used to dye my hair with henna, but when I ran out I…

Using Coconut Oil on Dry, Damaged Hair
I did a bit of research about the benefits of coconut oil last night and was surprised to find that it could repair dry and damaged hair. I blow dry and…

Benefits of Coconut Oil on African American Hair
Coconut oil is great for dreadlocks and braids. My daughter wears her hair in braids. For the past three years, I have used organic unrefined virgin…/p>

Coconut Oil on Frizzy, Curly Hair
I grew up in an Indian household, where coconut oil was used a lot. Unlike the rest of my family, I was a bit skeptic to use it. I started getting a slightly…

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