Fact Checked

This Dr. Axe content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure factually accurate information.

With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by our trained editorial staff. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to medically peer-reviewed studies.

Our team includes licensed nutritionists and dietitians, certified health education specialists, as well as certified strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers and corrective exercise specialists. Our team aims to be not only thorough with its research, but also objective and unbiased.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

6 Best Uses of Coconut Oil for Hair


Coconut oil for hair - Dr. Axe

Lush, shiny, manageable and healthy hair can be yours — with the benefits of coconut oil! Have you been tempted to clear out your commercial conditioners, serums and styling products that damage your hair (and possibly your health) over time?

Well guess what? You can replace them with this all-natural solution. Coconut oil is rich in antimicrobial properties, lauric acid and medium-chain fatty acids that strengthen hair, condition the scalp and help hair to regrow.

While we’ve been hearing about the internal health benefits of coconut oil for quite sometime, it’s time to bring light to coconut oil’s other uses, one of which is using it as an all-natural, multi-tasking hair care product. Rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, the nourishing benefits coconut oil for hair keeps your hair strong, shiny and looking great!

Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair

Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, and it has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. This allows coconut oil to improve the appearance, texture and health of our hair. When used on hair, coconut oil is able to:

  • improve hair dryness
  • improve scalp health
  • protect hair from protein loss
  • protect hair from UV exposure
  • fight infections and fungus
  • support hair growth
  • add volume and shine

Research published in the International Journal of Trichology indicates that coconut oil has protective effects on hair damage in the grooming process. This is due to its ability to penetrate into the hair cuticles and cortex.

And study results published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science suggest that is able to reduce protein loss in both damaged and undamaged hair. It can be used before shampooing your hair or as a post-wash grooming product. This coconut oil benefit is due to the oil’s lauric acid content, which has a high affinity for hair proteins, but a low molecular weight, allowing the oil to penetrate inside the hair shaft, according to researchers.

When we regularly shampoo our hair, it extracts hair surface lipid matter and damages the structure of the hair. Plus, conventional hair care products sometimes contain toxic ingredients that can strip the hair and leave it looking dull. If you look on the ingredient labels of many of your favorite cosmetics and hair products, you will find coconut oil listed. However, most cosmetics and hair products also contain other ingredients that can be harmful to your health, while actually damaging your hair and skin. The harsh chemicals in commercial hair care products can leave your hair flat, dry and damaged.

Coconut oil for hair also works to prevent and improve damage caused by ultraviolet exposure, according to a narrative review of current evidence published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

And, of course, diet plays an important role in hair health, too. If your hair is dry and brittle, chances are you’re not consuming enough fresh water. Water helps to keep the entire body hydrated, including hair and skin. As we age, hormone health plays a significant part in the health of hair as well.

Eat for your best hair health by including lots of healthy fats, drinking plenty of water and using natural hair care products, including coconut oil for hair, instead of dangerous chemical laden shampoos, conditioners or styling agents.

6 Ways to Use Coconut Oil for Hair

1. Conditioner

Coconut oil is free of the scary chemicals that lurk in commercial hair products, and is an excellent conditioner, for all types of hair. When researchers tested the efficacy of coconut oil, sunflower oil and mineral oil, they found that only coconut oil was able to reduce protein loss due to grooming. You should avoid all beauty products that contain mineral oil, especially for children, and use coconut oil for hair instead.

It is the protein loss in hair that leads to dryness and breakage. The lauric acid in coconut oil has a low molecular weight and is able to actually penetrate the hair shaft, thereby nourishing the hair with vitamins, minerals and the medium-chain fatty acids.

Coconut oil helps to prevent damage from combing and brushing, and it is safe to use on children. It can be used as a leave-in conditioner or as an intensive conditioner for a couple of hours, or overnight. The key to using all natural coconut oil as a leave-in hair conditioner is finding the right amount for your hair, so keep in mind that a little goes a long way.

DIY Coconut Oil Conditioner:

For short hair, start with just ¼ teaspoon, warmed in your palms. For longer, thicker hair, you may need up to a ½ tablespoon. You want to use sparingly on thinner hair, as it can weigh hair down if too much is used. Pay particular attention to ends and the shaft of the hair. Smooth through hair, and proceed to style as normal.

As an intensive conditioner to restore hair, after washing with a gentle natural shampoo, apply 1 teaspoon (for short hair), 2 teaspoons (for shoulder length hair) and 1 tablespoon (for long hair) after warming in the palm of your hands. Apply to hair shaft and ends, and then rub into scalp. Cover with a shower cap, and leave on for 1-2 hours, or overnight. Wash with gentle shampoo, and style as normal.

For dry or damaged hair, add a couple of drops of sandalwood essential oil and/or geranium essential oil for both leave-in and intensive coconut oil for hair conditioning treatments. These essential oils support moisture retention, and work to increase the moisturizing and conditioning effects of the coconut oil for hair.

How long do you have to leave coconut oil in your hair? About an hour will do the trick, but there’s no absolutely no harm in letting it sit even longer. You can even leave it overnight!

2. Hair Growth

Coconut oil is a safe, effective and reasonably priced solution if you have thinning hair. It can actually help grow hair longer and thicker. The essential nutrients, including the lauric acid, penetrate the hair shaft and improve the overall health of the hair.

The health of hair is often a result of internal issues and incorporating natural hair loss remedies will help without causing further damage. Foods high in Omega-3 fats, pumpkin, chia seeds, flax seeds and green tea, all help support healthy hair growth from the inside out.

Before trying prescription hair growth preparations that only work for 50 percent of individuals and with continued use, modify your diet and use coconut oil for hair conditioning and styling. The harsh chemicals can cause scalp irritation and even hair growth where hair is not desired.

DIY Coconut Oil Hair Growth Treatment:

When massaged into the scalp, coconut oil helps to improve blood circulation, thereby supporting hair growth. It is important to massage the coconut oil into the scalp with gentle pressure for 10 minutes, 3 or 4 times per week. If you want to just focus on scalp conditioning and hair growth, you will only need 1 teaspoon.

However, if you want the benefits of a deep conditioning, follow the steps above. Instead of using sandalwood essential oil, add 4 drops of rosemary essential oilwhich is known to increase new hair growth over 20 percent. Rosemary oil also helps to increase circulation in the scalp, and when used with coconut oil can produce fantastic results.

After massaging the oils into the scalp for 10 minutes, place a shower cap on and allow the heat of your body to work with the oils to improve scalp health. Follow with a gentle cleanser like this Homemade Rosemary Mint Shampoo. It smells great and is gentle on all hair types.

Rich with vitamin K and vitamin E, coconut oil helps to reduce dandruff, and make hair follicles healthy. These treatments are not just for thinning hair; if you are experiencing hair fall while washing, brushing or style, these treatments with essential oils can help.

3. Dandruff

People have used coconut oil for skin for hundreds of years to fight dandruff. This unsightly and often itchy condition can be caused by dry skin conditions, sensitivity to the harsh chemicals in hair care products and commonly yeast-like fungal (Malassezia) infections.

Coconut oil’s medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid and capric acid, have strong antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties that target the fungus and help to kill it, as well as viruses and bacteria that may be lurking on your scalp.

Many prescription and over-the-counter dandruff shampoos can actually make dandruff worse and don’t fix the root cause of the flakiness. If the problem is fungal, or if you are struggling with dry skin, topical applications of coconut oil will make a difference.

Many commercial shampoos contain chemicals that are harmful. These include parabens, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate and many others. Dandruff shampoos are even worse, as they contain ammonium laureth sulfate, magnesium aluminum silicate and selenium sulfide.

And the majority of the time, these preparations simply do not work. The goal is to make the scalp healthier, free from fungus and moisturized — to get rid of dandruff. Treating with coconut oil will not make dandruff go away overnight, but many can see results in just a week or so.

DIY Coconut Oil Dandruff Treatment:

Essential oils including lavender, wintergreen, thyme and tea tree, all help to fight fungus and yeast. For an intensive dandruff treatment, after washing your hair, mix 2 teaspoons of coconut oil with 5 drops of one of the oils mentioned above, or a combination, and massage into the scalp.

Be sure to really work the mixture into the scalp, from neck to forehead, and behind the ears. Cover with a shower cap and if possible, sit in the sun for 20–30 minutes to increase the heat, or simply use a hair dryer on a low setting to heat the cap.

Then remove the cap and wash with a gentle natural shampoo. Repeat this 2 to 3 times per week, or even more often, as desired. Just like with the conditioning or hair growth treatment, you can leave it on overnight, but be sure to wear the shower cap to avoid staining your bed linens.

4. Styling

Yes, coconut oil is a great styling agent, and free from the dangerous chemicals in conventional hair care products! This is one of the most overlooked coconut oil for hair uses. Hair dryers, flat irons, hot rollers and curling irons zap the moisture out of the hair shaft, causing it to be brittle and prone to tangling.

Coconut oil helps to prevent this type of thermal damage and when its used in the proper amount for your hair length and texture, it works to tame fly aways, frizz and more. People with thick, curly hair often fight frizz in humid climates. Coconut oil helps to tame the frizz by penetrating into the curls. It can be applied throughout the day for touch-ups, just be sure to use it sparingly.

DIY Coconut Oil Recipe for Frizzy Hair:

Start with a tiny amount (1/4 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon) depending on hair length and thickness, and warm the oil in your palms. Apply the oil to your hair, from root to tips, and blow dry and style as desired. It will take just a bit longer to dry your hair, but it will be soft, shiny and manageable.

Disguise split ends and nourish them at the same time by using just a tiny bit of coconut oil on just the ends.

DIY Coconut Oil Hair Detangler:

Detangling hair is a chore and can often cause breakage. Coconut oil improves hair breaking by penetrating the hair shaft. It also surrounds the hair and makes it easier to remove knots after washing, or in the evenings.

Smooth a small amount of coconut oil through your hair, paying particular attention to tangled areas and damaged ends. Use a wide-tooth comb, starting from the bottom and slowly working your way up. Using coconut oil for hair regularly will improve the overall health of the hair and help to prevent tangles. You can even use coconut oil for hair overnight to improve its texture and keep it conditioned. If tangled hair is a continuing problem, trimming the damage ends will help.

NOTE: If you have thin or fine hair, apply coconut oil sparingly to hair for styling. Also, do not apply it to the scalp as this can weigh down the hair.

5. Lice Prevention and Treatment

One of the best uses of coconut oil for hair is helping to get rid of lice. According to a study published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, a combination of coconut oil and anise spray is more effective than the commonly used prescription lice treatment permethrin.

In fact, in the controlled study, the coconut oil based spray was 82 percent successful and the permethrin was only 42 percent successful, and 33 of the 50 participants reported scalp irritation when following the conventional treatment.

Another study published in the Israel Medical Association Journal found greater success, although they added ylang ylang oil to the coconut oil and anise oil combination. The treatment was successful in 92.3 percent of children and caused no serious side effects.

Because coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft and the scalp, it helps to repel lice and can keep their eggs from attaching to the hair. With the addition of essential oils including ylang ylang, tea tree and anise, lice don’t have a chance.

DIY Coconut Oil Lice Treatment:

To keep lice at bay, use coconut oil as mentioned above as a leave-in hair conditioner, or to detangle and style hair. If there is an infestation of lice, mix 3 tablespoons of coconut oil with 1 teaspoon of each ylang ylang, anise and tea tree oils. Double the recipe for longer hair; this should be enough for shoulder-length hair.

Apply the solution all over the scalp and massage it in, pulling through the ends. Comb through the hair with a fine toothcomb. Cover your hair in a shower cap and allow it to sit for 2 hours. If possible, sit in the sun or use a hair dryer to periodically warm up the cap. Carefully remove shower cap and seal it in zip lock bag for disposal.

At the end of 2 hours, comb hair once again, prior to washing and rinsing thoroughly, twice. While hair is still wet, combine 2 cups of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup water in a small spray bottle. Saturate the hair, spraying ½ the bottle on the scalp and hair. Lean over the sink and pour the remaining mixture over the hair, massaging lightly.

Rinse thoroughly and comb hair once again with a fine toothcomb. Follow with a light application of coconut oil, cover with a shower cap, or style as desired, and allow to remain on the hair until next washing.

As with most lice treatments, the process needs to be repeated every 5–10 days for a couple of weeks. This helps to ensure that all lice and their eggs are eradicated. Between treatments, comb hair morning and night with a fine toothcomb, and use coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner.

As coconut oil both repels and kills lice, at the first notification of a lice outbreak, start using coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner.

6. UV Damage Prevention

According to research published in Pharmacognosy Research, coconut oil has an SPF value of 8, making it one of the most effective nonvolatile oils in this regard. You can rub coconut oil into your scalp and hair when out in the sun to reduce the risk of UV damage.

On top of that, coconut oil can help to protect your hair from UV damage by providing moisture deep within the structure of your hair and by reducing protein loss.

How to Use Coconut to Protect Hair from the Sun:

Hair, like skin, is prone to sun damage, so it’s helpful to use coconut oil as a natural sunscreen. If you are planning a day out in the sun, use it as a leave-in conditioner for all day protection. And, while you are at it, use it on exposed skin as well. Coconut oil is a safe and effective sunscreen for children and adults alike.

Coconut Oil Hair Recipes

Coconut Oil Shampoo

Here is an effective and all-natural coconut oil shampoo recipe that will leave your hair feeling soft and healthy. As every person’s hair is different, feel free to adjust the coconut oil level to suit your hair needs. For fine hair you may reduce the coconut oil amount as needed to 1/4 cup and for thick dry or curly hair, you may need to increase this amount or add a few drops of avocado oil as well.

  • 1 cup liquid Castile soap
  • 1/3 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 50–60 drops of favorite essential oils

Melt coconut oil and coconut milk together over very low heat, as to not damage any of the nutrients. Pour into a bottle with a secure lid, and top with the Castile soap. Shake well. And then, shake some more. Add 50 drops of your favorite essential oils, and shake again.

Great essential oils for hair include lavender, wild orange, peppermint, lemongrass, rosemary, clary sage and rosemary.

This shampoo will not be as thick as commercial shampoos; squeeze on hair directly from the bottle. Wash, and rinse well.

Coconut Oil Conditioner

This is the perfect recipe to pair with your Coconut Oil Shampoo. It helps to moisturize your hair, prevent protein loss and improve damaged locks.

  • 2/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vitamin E oil
  • 1 tablespoon jojoba oil
  • 10 drops of your favorite essential oil

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a hand mixer until well combined. This may take several minutes. You want a smooth and creamy conditioner. In the shower, after washing hair with Coconut Oil Shampoo, use a teaspoon or two and smooth through hair. Allow to penetrate hair for the remainder of your shower, and rinse very well.

NOTE: If you color your hair, especially red, coconut oil may fade the color. For most hair types and colors, it will not.

Natural Hair Color Booster

Coconut oil is a great base for natural hair colors as it penetrates the hair shaft. For darker hair, mix 2 tablespoons of coconut oil with 1 cup of strong coffee, with 1 tablespoon of spent grounds, and apply to hair. Allow to sit for 45–60 minutes, the longer you leave it, the darker the results. Rinse well and style as desired.

For blonde hair, or to add subtle highlights, mix 1/2 cup of strong chamomile tea, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, and ¼ cup coconut oil in a blender until emulsified. Apply to hair and roots and cover with a shower cap. Sit in the sun, or use a hair dryer to keep the cap warm for 45 minutes to 75 minutes. Rinse well.

Natural Hair Mask with Coconut Oil

This DIY Hair Mask is made with coconut oil and soothing essential oils. It helps to add shine to your hair, tame unruly locks and give your hair a deep conditioning.

To make the mask, place 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and ½ of a ripe avocado in the blender, or soften the coconut oil and use a whisk instead. Then add 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon of raw honey, and blend again. Next, add 5–10 drops of rosemary essential oil and 5–10 drops of lavender essential oil.

Apply the mark to damp hair, covering all of your hair, especially the ends. Then put a shower cap over your hair and let the mark sit for 45 minutes to an hour.

Wash the mask out with an all-natural shampoo and conditioner. For the best results, apply this coconut oil hair mask once a week.

Best Coconut Oil to Buy

Using coconut oil for hair is one of the best things you can do to avoid harmful chemicals that are in many commercial hair care products. Look for virgin (or extra virgin) organic coconut oil to use on your hair and skin, and in your food. When you open the jar, the aroma should remind you of fresh coconuts. If you don’t get that refreshing coconut aroma, then the oil may be refined and overly processed. Stick to the least processed forms of coconut oil for your hair.

Protect hair from the elements, and keep it strong, nourished, shiny and manageable by using coconut oil. It works as an effective and natural tool for conditioning, styling, boosting hair growth, getting rid dandruff and treating lice. Plus, it’s inexpensive, very easy to find and can be used for so many other uses, too!

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4.6 / 5. Vote count: 37

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.



  1. Teyla on

    Hi, I used to have such beautiful full head of hair, and now that I’m in my early 60’s my hair is thinning and falling out. I feel terrible about it! I do not like to use the shampoos that all the stores sell, so I will give coconut oil a try. Thank You!

  2. Daisy kwok on

    When using coconut oil for hair, do we use fractionated coconut oil? The cold pressed oil seems hard to dissolve in the palm of hand.

  3. Cynthia Morris on

    I really appreciate all the great information that you are providing free to anyone who is interested! You are changing lives Dr. Axe :-)

  4. Bren on

    Coconut oil:
    I started eating a lot of this over the last couple of years after reading all the benefits it has. Last year my skin started to look lifeless, no underlying strength, and becoming wrinkled and lack of collagen structure. I have been trying to figure out what is going on. During this time I have been working on healing a leaky gut, hypothyroidism, and fatigue. I have purchased your super green and gut heal products. I am looking into as many things as possible to find what my body needs. In so doing I’ve learned that coconut is not good for type O blood, which I am. Maybe coconut oil isn’t so wonderful for everyone…?
    Do I stop using this wonderful oil? What oil do I use in it’s place?

    Thanks for your help!!!

  5. Stella on

    My question is when I tried to use coconut milk as a shampoo before it went bad in about 3-4 days. So I tried to keep it in the refrigerator and it got clumpy actually a big clump.
    So how long does it last and should we make the shampoo in smaller batches?

Comments are closed.

More Beauty