coconut oil
Natural Hair Products

The Coconut Oil Debate: Oils vs Moisturizer

coconut oilA while back I had an almost heated debate with a fellow YouTuber about coconut oil being a moisturizer. Well, it wasn’t really a debate. The person who believes coconut oil is a moisturizer shut me down real quick with her rudeness. That’s OK. That’s why I have this here blog to express my own thoughts and opinions (which I’m basing on fact) 🙂

I notice a lot of ladies using the words “oil” and “moisturizer” interchangeably. I’m writing this post to further explain why oils are NOT moisturizers. For one, in order for something to be a moisturizer, it must contain….moisture. Moisture is wet – water, aloe vera juice, etc. It’s the presence of liquid. It can evaporate when dry. Oil does not evaporate.

Some synonyms for the word moisture are: dankness, dew, drizzle, fog, humidity,mist, perspiration, precipitation, rain, sweat,water, wateriness, wet, wetness, damp

The Role of Oils in Hair Care

Now that we’ve examined what moisture is, let’s examine the  role oil plays in the moisturizing of the hair. Simple. Oils help to seal in aka promote the retention of moisture. It is not moisture in and of itself.

There have been various studies on oils with regard to moisturizing the hair. Studies have been conducted using olive oil, castor oil, mineral oil, jojoba oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, shea oil, argan oil and coconut oil.

Of the many oils that abound, it’s been discovered that coconut oil has the ability to strengthen the hair shaft by protecting it’s protein integrity and helping the hair to RETAIN moisture. Coconut oil is a tryglycerife of a principle fatty acid called, lauric acid and it has a high affinity for hair proteins because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain.

That is why coconut oil can penetrate deep into the hair’s cortex. When used as a pre-poo, coconut oil can also protect the hair from cuticular damage by reducing the swelling of the cuticles when the hair is being washed. Similarly, coconut oil can protect the hair’s cuticles from being damaged when combed.

Coconut oil is also hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. How then could it be a moisturizer if it repels the very thing that’s required to moisturize?!

To Retain or To Impart?

Retention and Impartation are two distinctively different things.

Retention is defined as the act of retaining; the capacity to remember, Involuntary withholding by the body of wastes or secretions that are normally eliminated; the capacity to hold or retain liquid.

Impartation is defined as to impart, to give or bestow upon, to grant a part or share of.

Coconut oil does not impart moisture to the hair or skin. It promotes retention of moisture in the hair or skin. In other words, moisture must already be present for coconut oil or any oil for that matter to keep it moisturized.

I close with this…

You can slather oil onto your skin and hair all day and night but without ever adding anything “wet”, you won’t experience the moisturizing you are looking for. You’ll be nicely lubricated though 🙂

Since I am not a doctor nor do I have any letters after my name, you may not take my word for it. However, check out the following sources. Most of these were written by scientists or doctors.


Dr. Mercola Official Site:

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:

The Journal of Cosmetic Science: (also read their “About” page)



Michelle Smith
Michelle is a Christian special needs mom residing in the NYC area who shares useful tips to grow and maintain fine natural hair. She's a published author and Creator of Fine Natural Hair and Faith, inspiring others with faith for living along side knowledge on how to care for their "crown."

4 Comment

  1. Michelle,

    This is very informative. I now understand why it is necessary to moisturize my hair with water first and then use coconut oil to seal in the moisture.
    Do you have any suggestions for those who have both thin and baby fine hair?

    1. I’m glad you appreciated it Tina. I wouldn’t however uses coconut oil as a sealant for the hair. I know many naturals do but I don’t prefer it because in colder temps, coconut oil solidifies leaving the hair feeling a bit crunchy.

      I prefer coconut oil in a pre-poo so it’s washed out.

      For fine hair, Jojoba oil is a great choice. It’s very light and much like the sebum that comes from the scalp.

      Hope that helps

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