This is what coconut oil does for your hair

Coconut oil isn't just a trendy alternative to other cooking oils. It's also a surprisingly versatile beauty product that can work wonders on your hair. As Helen West, RD, writing for Healthline notes, regular washing, brushing, and styling with heat weakens hair over time, leaving it looking dry and unhealthy. This is due to protein loss, which coconut oil can reduce when applied either before or after washing.  

Coconut oil is predominantly made up of lauric acid, which due to its structure, is easier for the hair shaft to absorb than other oils. Applying before washing can help reduce damage while hair is wet, which is when it's most vulnerable, as the oil reduces how much water is absorbed by the shaft, making hair less prone to damage.

Likewise, applying coconut oil to washed hair can make it softer and smoother, which reduces the amount of friction caused by styling, so hair is less likely to break while you're blow-drying or straightening it. Coconut oil could assist those looking to grow their hair long and luscious, too, by moisturizing it and even acting as a barrier against the elements. 

Speaking to Marie Claire, hairstylist and colorist Stephanie Brown confirmed, "Coconut oil will definitely help your hair grow healthier, thicker, and longer. The vitamins and fatty acids in coconut oil help nourish your scalp and penetrate the cuticle of the hair." As for how often you should apply it, Brown suggested, "A treatment mask about once every week or two weeks for five to 10 minutes will do the trick." 

Using coconut oil before you shampoo also helps prevent products from being too harsh on your tresses. "If your hair is feeling a little dry or damaged, coconut oil is a good pre-shampoo treatment to prevent shampoos from stripping all the oils from your hair," notes Brown. You can even use it before a big dye job, especially if you bleach your hair regularly, to protect it.   

Be careful not to overdo it, though, as too much coconut oil could cause a buildup, leading your hair to look greasy. Begin with just a small amount, increasing over time as necessary, rubbing the oil through your hair from the midsection to the ends and, if you have fine hair, don't put it near your scalp. The general rule is to use a little coconut oil whenever your hair feels like it needs some extra TLC, but less is more.