The only coconut oil present in my current hair regimen is that found in my Cantu Shea Butter. Based on my reading, jojoba and coconut oil are first-equal as my favourites.
Coconut oil is derived from the coconut palm (cocos nucifera).[i] It is one of those oils that has been heavily researched.
1. Of the fatty acids in coconut oil 91% are saturated (these can completely penetrate the hair shaft) and 6% are monounsaturated (recently scientifically proven to penetrate human hair fibres).[iii] This gives hair fibres more structural strength thereby protecting hair from damage.
2. When hair is wet, it absorbs water and swells. As it dries it releases water and shrivels. The shrinking and swelling can lead to hair damaged called hygral fatigue. Coconut oil prevents hair damage from hygral fatigue by reducing the extent to which the hair swells. Mineral oil and sunflower oil, analysed in the same study, were not found to prevent protein loss.
3. Researchers have also found that coconut oil reduces/prevents protein loss from the hair fibre in both damaged and undamaged hair. Losing hair protein is what causes hair to look weak and damaged.
4. Coconut oil helps to retain moisture from inside the hair shaft. This helps to maintain hair elasticity. By conditioning and moisturising hair from within you reduce the likelihood of hair damage from styling, heating and environmental pollution.
5. Coconut oil is nutrient rich and as such helps to nourish the scalp creating an optimal environment for hair growth. Its skin moisturising qualities can help to treat dandruff problems.
6. It is remarkably also antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral due to the presence of medium chain fatty acids, notably lauric acid which forms 50% of the fatty acids found in coconut oil.
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[i] Coconut oil (wikipedia)
[ii] Coconut Oil – What Your Hair Truly Deserves!; Secondary ion mass spectrometric investigation of penetration of coconut and mineral oils into human hair fibers: relevance to hair damage.; Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage.; Health Oils from the Tree of Life;
[iii] Investigation of penetration abilities of various oils into human hair fibers