From smoothing strands to fighting dandruff, coconut oil might just be the hair MVP you never knew you needed.
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Coconut oil is known for its high fat content and nutty flavor. It's a popular and extremely versatile cooking oil that can be used in everything from stir-fries to peanut butter cookies. And coconut oil isn't just popular in recipes—it can also provide some impressive benefits for your hair and skin.

Coconut oil is great for hair in particular because it has a high concentration of lauric acid, a kind of fat that your hair can easily and quickly absorb. Lauric acid provides moisture to help nourish hair and tame frizz so you can maintain a glossy sheen and healthy texture.

"It's quite normal for untreated hair to dry and become brittle, and hair, especially long hair, can rarely provide itself with enough moisture and nutrients from within," says Monica Davis, a professional men's and women's hairstylist and founder of the blog My Straightener.

Plus, if you're an avid hot tools user (think: hair dryers, curling irons or flat irons), roughly brush your hair or spend time in the sun, you're likely causing more damage to your hair. Treating your hair regularly with coconut oil or using a coconut oil hair mask are good solutions for adding much-needed moisture to your locks.

"All these stress factors drain the 'vital energy' from our strands and make the use of moisturizing products (including conditioners, masks and oils) necessary for maintaining a healthy balance," says Davis.

A woman running her hands through her hair on a designed background of coconuts
Credit: Getty Images / triocean / joji

Benefits of Using Coconut Oil for Hair

Coconut oil is a hero for repairing damaged hair, which can be caused by hair malnutrition (being deficient in protein, biotin, zinc and healthy fats, in particular), excess heat exposure, aggressive pulling or brushing, overusing hot tools and more. Here are some benefits of using coconut oil for hair.

It Can Help Repair Split Ends

When your hair gets super dry and brittle, you're more likely to notice the ends start to break apart and split, which is where the term "split ends" comes from. Research shows that using coconut oil for hair can help heal those split ends and also help prevent them from occurring.

It Contains Vitamins and Fatty Acids

Lauric acid, coconut oil's main fat source, will impart shine to hair and give it a smooth, soft touch. Plus coconut oil also has other vitamins and fatty acids to help hair look and feel healthy and get rid of any sebum buildup.

It Can Help Fight Dandruff 

In addition to hydrating and repairing hair, coconut oil can also decrease the appearance of dandruff. Research shows that coconut oil has an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect, and it can also help with repairing the skin barrier. Dandruff can be caused by a variety of things (such as dry scalp, dermatitis, fungus and more), but research shows that coconut oil can help treat dandruff by boosting your skin's "good" bacteria, taming inflammation and even fighting dermatitis.

It Strengthens the Cuticle

Coconut oil is great for your hair's overall health because it heals damaged hair by softening, hydrating and strengthening those brittle, broken strands. It also strengthens the cuticle of the hair, which will help protect hair from environmental toxins and keep it healthier in feel and appearance. "As a result, this reduces environmental and heat damage until you wash it out, all because a cuticle that's well saturated with moisture is more resilient to all the external impacts," says Davis.

It Offers UV-Ray Protection

Beyond hydrating, repairing and strengthening strands, coconut oil can also protect again sun damage and UV ray exposure, as it has a natural SPF concentration. "Coconut oil has an SPF of 8, which makes it a pretty effective natural low-SPF UV protector for hair," says Davis. (FYI: It's always worth putting a higher SPF on your scalp and skin if you'll be spending time in the sun!)

It Tames Frizz

Coconut oil in a hair serum or mask can also help get rid of frizz. Davis says, "The cuticle-smoothing properties of coconut oil make it an effective anti-frizz remedy." Using coconut oil on an especially humid day can help your hair stay frizz-free for longer.

How to Use a Coconut Oil Hair Mask

If your hair is over-styled and damaged, you can usually help the problem with a simple hair mask that uses pure coconut oil and sits overnight to maximize absorption and moistening effects. To make a coconut oil hair mask, Davis says, "Rub 2 tablespoons of lukewarm melted coconut oil into dry or damp strands, wear a shower cap and rinse it off in the morning. The oil will deeply penetrate the cuticle if you let it sit for 6 to 8 hours in a row."

It's recommended to use virgin coconut oil (such as this one from Amazon, $7) for a hair mask, and to apply a coconut oil hair mask once or twice a month for best results.

Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil
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Auban Shower Cap
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Coconut Oil and Apple-Cider Vinegar Hair Mask

If your hair starts to look dull, you can mix 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil with 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to create a mask. Then, you'll spread this mask evenly across the hair, starting from the roots and going to the tips, letting it sit for around 15 to 25 minutes.

Coconut Oil, Honey and Aloe Hair Mask

You can also swap the cider vinegar for a tablespoon of honey and then add in 2 teaspoons of aloe vera gel. Both honey and aloe are moisturizing and have anti-inflammatory benefits, which make this mask ideal for a dry, itchy scalp.

Organic Aloe Vera Gel with 100% Pure Aloe
($24.95 save 20%)
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Coconut Oil Hair-Growth Mask

While there's little scientific evidence to back up using castor oil for hair growth, anecdotal evidence abounds. If you want to try it, you can make a mask using 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of castor oil and let it sit in your hair for up to 20 minutes.

Ethereal Nature 99% Natural Hair Oil Blend Jamaican Black Castor
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Once done, rinse the mask out of your hair with your favorite shampoo and then lock in those moisturizing and hydrating effects with a quality conditioner to further soften and smooth strands.