The Coconut Oil Debate: Oils vs Moisturizer

Last updated on May 27th, 2023 at 05:10 pm

coconut oil

A 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 quickly. She was VERY rude. That’s OK. That’s why I have this here blog to express my own thoughts and opinions (which I’m basing on fact) 🙂 The fact that coconut oil doesn’t moisturize.

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, lets examine the role oil actually plays in moisturizing hair.

Simple. Oils help to seal in aka promote the retention of moisture. It is not moisture in and of itself. This is why coconut oil does not moisturize.

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

Of the many oils that abound, coconut oil has the ability to strengthen the hair shaft. It protects the protein integrity of the hair shaft and helps it to RETAIN moisture.

Coconut Oil’s Properties

Coconut oil is a triglyceride 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 your hair from cuticular damage. It reduces the swelling of the cuticles when you wash it. Similarly, when combing your hair, coconut oil can protect the hair’s cuticles from damage.

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

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. This is yet another reason why coconut oil doesn’t moisturizer.

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.

In conclusion

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 get a nice lubrication 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 articles are 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)

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Michelle Smith

Michelle is a Christian natural hair enthusiast. She's been natural for 20+ years and shares natural hair care tips and easy hairstyles for those with low density or thin fine natural hair. It's her joy to inspire you to live by faith in God while caring for your "crown."

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Tina


    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. Michelle

      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

  2. Alison

    Michelle, this is really good information. Thanks for sharing. I will be whipping out my coconut oil and giving it a whirl in my hair!

    1. Michelle

      you’re welcome. Rub it into your hands too 🙂 I have another post coming next week where I am doing a 30 day coconut oil experiment

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