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Over the last few years, coconut oil has grown massively in popularity as a health supplement, in skincare products and even in shampoos, conditioners and other hair treatments.
Coconut oil’s popularity as an ingredient in shampoos and other hair products isn’t just the result of good marketing -- there’s quite a lot of scientific evidence showing that coconut oil can, when used correctly, be good for your hair health.
However, just like with many other hair products, there are also some claims about coconut oil -- particularly its supposed ability to prevent hair loss -- that might not be completely accurate.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the science behind coconut oil as a hair health and hair loss prevention product, from its effects on reversing and treating hair damage to the potential for coconut oil to slow down or prevent hair loss.
Coconut Oil and Hair Health
Search for “coconut oil hair” on Google and you’ll find page after page touting the benefits of coconut oil for improving the health, thickness and strength of your hair.
Over the last decade, coconut oil has gone from a product most people avoided to a popular ingredient in everything from health foods to shampoo. While the supposed nutritional benefits of coconut oil are debatable, most people seem to agree that coconut oil is good for your hair.
However, the science behind coconut oil and hair health doesn’t always match the claims you might see on blogs and in magazines. In fact, there’s very little real science behind many of the claims made about coconut oil and hair.
Below, we’ve looked at the real, proven scientific data on coconut oil and hair health to try and separate the facts about coconut oil (many of which are positive) and the claims you might see on blogs, in magazines and on discussion boards.
Coconut Oil and Hair Damage
Coconut oil is often marketed as a great “damage prevention” product for hair, helping to stop or reverse the damage caused by sun exposure, salt water, combing and hair styling products.
Study data backs up some of these claims. In a 2003 study, coconut oil treatments were found to prevent combing damage to various types of hair when used both pre-wash and post-wash as a grooming product.
In the study, participants that used coconut oil had the lowest rate of hair protein loss. Protein loss is a common issue for people that heat, straighten or comb their hair often, as well as for people that frequently use hair treatments and other products.
The scientists speculated that this is likely because coconut oil is a triglyceride of lauric acid, increasing its affinity for hair proteins and allowing it to travel inside the hair shaft more than other commonly used oils.
Now, does this mean that coconut oil can cure any hair health problem? Not exactly. Hair is made up of protein, just like other parts of your body. However, many coconut oil advocates claim that it’s an effective cure-all for just about any hair problem, which simply isn’t true.
Coconut Oil and Hair Growth
Another common claim is that coconut oil causes hair to grow faster. Unlike the first coconut oil hair health claim -- that coconut oil is good for improving general hair health -- there’s very little scientific evidence to back up this idea.
According to Shari Marchbein, MD and board-certified dermatologist, there are currently “no credible studies linking the use of coconut oil to faster hair growth.” Most of the claims online about coconut oil are unsourced, with few articles bothering to link to real scientific data.
Of course, a lack of scientific proof doesn’t mean that something isn’t true -- only that it hasn’t been scientifically proven to be true or untrue. As a result, it’s best to be skeptical if you see a blogger, health guru or beauty expert claim that coconut oil absolutely will help your hair grow.
Coconut Oil and Hair Loss Prevention
Just like with hair growth, it’s common to see claims online and in magazines about coconut oil acting as a powerful substance for preventing hair loss. Some blogs even recommend applying coconut oil to your scalp in place of proven, effective topical medications like minoxidil.
While there is scientific proof that coconut oil can reduce protein loss in hair, there’s no scientific evidence to show that coconut oil has any effect on preventing male pattern baldness caused by DHT.
However, this hasn’t stopped people from making claims about coconut oil’s “ability” to prevent hair loss. Many articles use the hair protein loss study we mentioned earlier, but twist its findings to associate hair protein loss with hair loss, which is very different.
Like we said earlier, a lack of evidence doesn’t mean that something isn’t true. However, at the moment, there’s no real scientific evidence to prove that coconut oil has any positive impact on preventing hair loss -- only conjecture and speculation.
Should You Use Coconut Oil as a Hair Treatment?
Coconut oil is easy to find in shampoos, conditioners and other hair care products. It’s also a pleasant substance in general -- it smells good, makes your hair shine and has a great feeling after it’s applied to your hair and scalp.
For the most part, these coconut oil products are completely safe to use, provided you closely follow the instructions and don’t use the products excessively.
However, remember that many of the claims made about coconut oil as a hair health and hair loss prevention treatment aren’t backed up by science. As such, it’s best not to think of coconut oil as a medically proven, effective way to regrow your hair or reverse the effects of hair loss.