Coconut oil was the first plant oil to be used by humans for its beneficial properties. Thousands of years later, we still depend on this oil to bring hair back to life. And if you’re a surfer, you know that coconut oil can mean the difference between a tangled, matted knot and soft, strong hair during your surf session and after.

Here’s Part 1 of our primer on coconut oil. Today we’ll be covering the science behind this trendy treatment and its long list of uses for your hair and scalp. Check back soon for Part 2!

Why you should use coconut oil in your hair

The science

Coconut oil is extremely high in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), especially Lauric Acid. Lauric Acid gives coconut oil a long, straight structure that is easily absorbed into the hair shaft. It also promotes cellular health and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

In fact, one study found that coconut oil is better at protecting your hair than sunflower and mineral oil. The researchers discovered that when applied either before or after hair was washed, coconut oil was better for preventing protein loss.

Why does this matter?

Your hair is composed entirely of protein. When you wash, dry, style, or color your hair, you damage the cuticle, the outermost protective layer of hair. This makes it easy for the loss of fibrous proteins from your hair’s cortex, the thick layer beneath your cuticle that gives your hair its color. Protein loss causes brittle, dry hair that’s prone to breakage – not the foundation you want for any hairstyle.

By protecting your hair from protein loss and damage, coconut oil will help you achieve healthier, fuller hair.

More benefits

  • Moisture retention – Coconut oil is very stable and won’t evaporate or break down easily. This means that once it’s applied, it’ll stay in your hair and prevent moisture from escaping.
  • Deep conditioner – If your hair is particularly dry, you’ll benefit from combing a small amount into your hair and leaving it on overnight. Coconut oil will penetrate more deeply and faster than other oils and conditioners.
  • Hair styling – Coconut oil is a common ingredient in pomades and other hairstyling products. It melts easily in the heat of your hands (or your scalp), so it spreads evenly. Once it hits room temperature, it condenses for lightweight hold and shine. Plus, you’ll get the added benefits of hydration and fortification.
  • Dandruff treatment – Coconut oil protects hair and scalp from bacterial and viral infections. Because dandruff can be caused by an overgrowth of yeast or fungus on the scalp, you can use coconut oil as an antibacterial. Fatty acids, in combination with Vitamins E and K, sooth inflammation while de-flaking your scalp.
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal – Coconut oil helps prevent folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicles, as well as scalp fungal infections, such as ringworm.
  • Split end treatment – Use coconut oil as a regular treatment to seal split ends while preventing future ones from forming.
  • UV filter – Studies have found coconut oil to have a SPF of 8, so it offers mild protection from UV damage.
  • Hair growth – By protecting your hair from damage when it’s wet, reducing breakage and split ends, and acting as an environmental shield, coconut oil encourages healthy hair growth.
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