Can Coconut Oil Be Used As a Leave-in Conditioner?

Can Coconut Oil Be Used As a Leave-in Conditioner?

It’s difficult to not find coconut oil in any beauty store. It comes in various brands and may be one of the best oils for skin and hair care. So many people swear by it and see it as the ultimate miracle oil that does everything.

But the big question is can coconut oil be used as a leave-in conditioner? Let’s find out what coconut oil is and why it’s so popular in the beauty community.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is the oil extracted from the kernel of a matured coconut. This oil is quite rich in antioxidants especially vit E. It also contains lauric acid which has antimicrobial properties.

Coconut oil has a wide range of uses in both health and beauty. For example, the presence of medium chained fatty acids in coconut oil makes it easy to digest as it is carried directly to the liver, where it is metabolised to produce energy and not fats.

Coconut oil is a good skin moisturizer. It’s antioxidant properties makes it a good anti-ageing product as it aids in stopping wrinkles and skin irritation. When used on the skin, coconut oil can help get rid of cellulite.

Coconut oil is also a good source of healthy fats. About 50% of the fats in coconut oil is lauric acid, which can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. Coconut oil is also stable and doesn’t easily break down at high temperatures.

Coconut oil increases bone strength by boosting calcium and magnesium absorption. In addition to that, coconut oil can also boost hormone production when consumed regularly and can aid in maintaining a healthy thyroid function.

The antifungal and antiviral properties of coconut oil can help fight against candida and flu infections respectively.

Coconut oil can also be used around the home. For example in making homemade natural bug repellant and lotion bars and soften and condition real leather, etc. But how does it benefit your hair?

Benefits of using coconut oil leave-in conditioner on your hair

Coconut oil has been used for several centuries as a beauty staple. It’s fat composition makes it a nourishing oil for hair and a natural remedy for dandruff.

Coconut oil has a high affinity for hair proteins and a unique ability to penetrate the hair shaft. This penetrating ability aids in limiting the amount of water absorbed into the hair.

Coconut oil is also capable of reducing protein loss when used as a pre-wash or post-wash hair care product. When used as a pre-poo, coconut oil can protect your hair from being stripped of all it’s natural sebum.

Coconut oil can help strengthen the hair shaft, stop hair loss and reduce breakage. It also stimulates hair growth by getting deep into the hair follicles.

Coconut oil is also good to be used as a styling product as it helps tame away frizz and adds shine to your hair.

Types of coconut oil

When it comes to selecting what type of coconut oil to use on your hair, the entire process can be a little challenging because there are several choices.

1. Unrefined coconut oil

Unrefined coconut oil is usually referred to as pure or virgin coconut oil, and it is extracted from the fresh coconut kernel. The oil is extracted through the wet milling process in which the coconut kernel is processed into coconut milk.

By boiling or fermenting the milk with the use of enzymes or a centrifuge, the coconut milk is separated from the oil. This method produces coconut oil that has pure coconut flavor since it is not subjected to high temperatures.

This particular type of coconut oil also contains most of the benefits listed above

2. Refined coconut oil

Refined coconut oil is mostly extracted from dried coconut kernel. In this case, the kernel has been bleached and treated to reduce any possible forms of bacteria.

The coconut oil is then treated by a high heat process which tends to remove the flavor of coconut from the oil. Some producers also tend to add chemicals which facilitate the extraction process or may add other chemicals to increase the shelf life of the oil.

You may also come across labels like organic or non-organic coconut oil. Organic coconut oil simply means the coconut plants were grown without the use of pesticides and have not been genetically modified.

To make sure the product is really organic, always endeavor to check the USDA certified organic label which would confirm no pesticides were used when growing the plant.

You may also become familiar with names like ‘extra virgin’ coconut oil. This simply refers to coconut oil produced by cold pressing the oil. The best coconut oil for hair is unrefined, organic, cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil. Check below for the best reviewed coconut oil brands.

So, we get back to the big question: Can coconut oil be used as a leave-in conditioner? Before we conclude, it is also important to note that coconut oil is an oil. But what kind of oil is it? Is it a sealing or a moisturizing oil.

A moisturizing oil is one that penetrates the hair shaft and actually moisturizes it. These oils tend to work efficiently when they are used with water or a water-based leave-in. Moisturizing oils are also great for oiling the scalp and to be used in hot oil and pre-poo treatments.

Sealing oils on the other hand cannot penetrate the hair shaft thus are best used after applying a moisturizer to seal the hair and lock in moisture. Such oils are most useful in styling the hair as they tend to add shine and lustre.

Coconut is both a moisturizing and a sealing oil. Why ? Because it’s molecular structure is small enough to allow it penetrate the hair shaft BUT in limited quantity.

So to solve the mystery of the day, yes, coconut oil can be used as a leave-in conditioner, BUT it would work effectively when used in combination with water or a water-based leave-in conditioner. Why ? Because hair always needs moisture , it is thirsty and coconut oil, though a moisturizing oil cannot provide all the moisture needed to keep your strands well hydrated.

Is coconut oil good for all hair types?

The first time I heard about coconut oil, I was fascinated. Many of my friends were talking about the amazing things coconut oil had done on their hair. I said to myself that this was obviously the ultimate oil I needed for my hair. So I got myself some and gave it a try.

My experience with coconut wasn’t the best. Coconut oil left my hair dry, hard and greasy. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Neither could I imagine that coconut oil was the root cause.

I mean, wasn’t it supposed to moisturize my hair and make it soft? The reaction I got was totally and completely the reverse. Yes, what I’m saying is that COCONUT OIL ISN’T MEANT FOR ALL HAIR TYPES. Each head of hair is different. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you.

After much research, I realized the possible reasons why coconut oil couldn’t bless my hair with it’s amazing wonders was as a result of the following:

1. My low porosity hair.

As mentioned earlier, coconut oil can easily penetrate the hair cuticle and occupy space within the shaft. At this point when you  wet your hair, It doesn’t get as saturated because there’s  less space for water to occupy.

Hair with low porosity has tightly closed cuticles that repel water, therefore adding proteins on top would make wetting hair much more difficult.

However, high porosity hair is less likely to become dry and brittle. Since the cuticles are open, moisture easily gets absorbed and easily evaporates from the strands.

As a result coconut oil is good for porous hair as it prevents too much water from being absorbed into the hair shaft which may cause swelling and undue stress on the cuticle. To know your hair porosity, check here.

2. The fact that lauric acid in coconut oil has a high affinity for hair proteins.

If you have hair that lacks natural proteins, coconut oil may be good for you. But if you’re like me whose hair doesn’t bond well with coconut oil, relax, there are plenty of other oils like argan oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, and olive oil that can still work wonders on your hair.


Coconut oil has been very beneficial for many people. Always experiment on your hair to know it better. If you’ve never tried coconut oil on your hair, give it a try and let me know how it turns out. If you’ve been using coconut oil on your hair, then share your story in the comments section below.

Coconut oil for haircare

Irene Mukoko

Irene is a natural hair lover, healthy hair advisor and DIY enthusiast of hair/skin beauty and home cleaning products. She helps women grow healthy natural hair and maintain smooth glowing skin. She aspires to continue her PhD studies in Chemistry and establish her own hair care line in the near future. During her free time, she enjoys watching movies and working out at the gym.

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