Ever wondered how Moana got her thick, luscious tresses?
Well, it was probably thanks to Monoi oil, a perfume-oil made from soaking Tahitian gardenia petals in coconut oil. Most of us would probably have come across its cheaper, more commonly found alternative – plain old coconut oil. We might have even picked up a bottle ourselves after hearing a friend rave about it – only to find ourselves unsure of how to use it, or even why we should. So here are some handy tips and tricks to help you make the most of your new go-to hair treatment.
Should I apply it before or after washing my hair?
Either way, you stand to gain. Applying coconut oil before a hair wash helps to reduce protein loss. This could possibly be attributed to the chemical structure of coconut oil. Its main component, lauric acid, gives it a long, straight structure – allowing for easier absorption into the hair shaft. Your hair is also less likely to be damaged by water (yes, those strands get structurally weaker and more vulnerable when wet) if you coat it with some coconut oil beforehand.
After a thorough wash, its good to strengthen those locks again with oil, which also gives the added benefits of making your hair look softer, smoother and shinier.
Will it help my hair grow faster/longer?
While coconut oil can improve the condition of your hair and scalp, there is no guarantee that it is directly responsible for hair growth. Shari Marchbein, MD, board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU’s School of Medicine acknowledges that there are no credible sources as of yet confirming this oft-repeated myth. However, she adds that “it (coconut oil) can help to strengthen hair and nourish the scalp (as well as reduce oil buildup)”. With a smaller chance of breakage comes a greater possibility of growing your hair out longer, so you can still keep those Rapunzel fantasies alive.
What other ‘magical properties’ does coconut oil have?
Coconut oil may not be a fix-it-all elixir, but besides the moisturising properties we’ve mentioned above, it has many other benefits as well. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center notes that coconut oil contains plenty of fatty acids, making it a natural conditioner. It can also help reduce levels of yeast on your scalp that can lead to dandruff and contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. And this is only what it can do for your hair!
Coconut oil also works wonders on your skin and oral hygine. Some people swear by it for oil pulling purposes, which involve swishing a teaspoon of oil in your mouth – this apparently helps freshen your breath and improve your oral hygiene.
Okay, I’m sold! But how should I actually use it?
Before you start smearing coconut oil all over your scalp like nobody’s business, take note to only use as much as you need, especially if you have fine hair. Besides making it a pre-and-post-shower ritual, you can also use it as an overnight hair mask.
Using your hands, just be sure to rub it evenly through your hair and pop on a shower cap afterward (so you don’t ruin your pillowcase). The next day, you simply have to rinse it all off. You can also do a simple scalp treatment, if you prefer, by massaging a small amount of oil into your scalp before bedtime and leaving it in to work its magic overnight. If it’s a quick fix you need, smooth a little bit of oil onto flyaway hairs or frizz. The same thing goes for tangled hair and split ends. The road to better, healthier hair has never been easier.
Where can I get my hands on a bottle of the good stuff?
Supermarkets or organic grocery stores should have them, and the recommended type for hair use would be Extra Virgin, so be sure to read the labels carefully. A 500g jar from Redmart’s own house brand costs $12.45 so it is extremely affordable and easy to find.
Before you jump on the bandwagon and wipe out stocks from supermarket shelves, it is always good to do some research and find out if coconut oil is really ‘The One’ for you. There are plenty of other oils in the market, like the aforementioned Monoi, Argan (from Morocco), Macadamia and Almond…the list goes on. Remember, you should only use what makes you feel (and smell) good. But we’ll leave you with an apt reminder from Moana: “Consider the coconut!”.