How to Use Coconut Oil for Curly Hair

Last updated on January 26th, 2023 at 03:51 pm

Pure coconut oil is one of the best natural resources and is beneficial for so much more than hair care. However, for the purpose of this article we will focus on the benefits and different ways of using coconut oil in your hair care routine. You’ll read about how to use coconut oil for curly hair to achieve the best results in your hair routine.

how to use coconut oil for curly hair

This article will provide all the information you need to know if you are wanting to use coconut oil for healthy hair.

Because there is a lot to cover, here are links to the main sections should you want to skip around. However, it would be most helpful to you to read the article all the way through.

Coconut Oil Profile – About Coconut Oil

organic virgin oil

Coconut oil is predominantly a saturated fat. It is made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and several types of essential fatty acids, with lauric acid being the most abundant. Coconut oil also contains small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

At room temperature, coconut oil will be in a solid form. At temperatures above approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it will liquify.

This precious oil is made by pressing out the “meat” of the coconut fruit using heat, cold, a “wet” process or expeller pressed method.

You’ll find coconut oil available in an organic, non-organic, refined, unrefined (raw coconut oil), virgin or extra virgin form.

Unrefined or Refined

Because there seems to be the most confusion surrounding using unrefined or refined coconut oil, let’s take a quick look at how they differ.

Unrefined coconut oil, also called virgin coconut oil retains the “essence” of the coconut itself. So, taste and smell as well as some of the nutrients.

Refined coconut oil is more highly processed but both refined and unrefined have similar ratios of lauric acid and fats, making either adequate for use in your hair. 

Both types of coconut oil are available organic but for use in your hair, you don’t have to drop extra coins for organic coconut oil.

Of course, if you just want to spend extra for use as a topical aid, by all means go with Organic and Unrefined. However, my experience with coconut oil has shown that it actually does not matter.

The fact that coconut oil is a fat full of lauric acid and capable of penetrating the hair shaft is what’s most important.

If you’re interested in the health benefits of coconut oil, Harvard School of Public Health has published a great article here: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/

So, how does all of this related to using coconut oil on curly hair?

It’s the properties of coconut oil that make it beneficial for use on curly hair. However, don’t get too caught up on the oil being virgin, unrefined etc. You’re not eating it. You’re using on your hair. So, the health benefits don’t much apply.

Misconceptions About Using Coconut Oil for Hair

Before going into the benefits and the use of coconut oil for curly hair, let’s address a common misconception about coconut oil.

Coconut oil is not a moisturizer. Oils do not moisturize. They coat, seal or penetrate the hair shaft to encourage strength, moisture and protein retention.

Some will call it semantics but it’s important to be clear. Without water (the ultimate moisturizer), coconut oil will not moisturize your hair.

You can slather it on your strands all day every day with some benefits which we’ll discuss shortly but moisturizing your hair is not it (more on this in the FAQs below). It has it role to play in helping you RETAIN moisture but it’s not actually IMPARTing moisture to your hair. See the difference?

benefits of using coconut oil

Coconut Oil Benefits for Curly Hair

Coconut oil has a number of amazing benefits for curly hair. Our hair has a unique set of challenges that other types of hair don’t much share in.

For example, those with curly deal more often than not with excessive split ends, frizzy hair, moisture retention issues, dull strands, knots and tangles.

Coconut oil has the ability to address each one of these hair concerns.

For an entire suite of products too address these hair issues, check out Olaplex for curly hair

As mentioned earlier, coconut oil is able to penetrate your hair strands. This is because of its low molecular weight.

How can this help natural hair?

When used correctly, coconut oil helps with balancing moisture and protein levels. It helps to prevent hygral fatigue and protein loss.

Coconut oil is essentially a:

  • Solution to Dry Hair
  • Hair Loss Prevention Aid
  • Healthy Scalp Promoter
  • Protector and Mitigator of Hair Damage

For those with fine curly hair, coconut oil is a God send. Fine and thin hair need protection from protein loss and ultimately, hair breakage. Coconut oil and good coconut oil products are champions of the cause.

It doesn’t matter if you have fine hair or coarse hair. Both need protection from moisture and protein loss. It just so happens that those of us with fine hair need a bit more protection.

Types of Hair Care Products Containing Coconut Oil

You’ll find this precious oil in a lot of hair products with natural ingredients.

You can purchase these types of natural products containing coconut oil in them or make your own:

  • Deep conditioner
  • Leave-in conditioner
  • Styling product like a curl cream or scalp treatment
  • Pre-poo

11 Best Ways to Use Coconut Oil for Curly Hair

The best way to use coconut oil in your hair is the way you find gives you the best results. I go into how to use coconut oil in every way imaginable down below. Here’s the summary of ways to use it:

  1. As a sealant
  2. As a pre-poo
  3. As a hot oil treatment
  4. To improve your hair conditioner
  5. In DIY hair recipes
  6. As a hair mask
  7. To combat scalp issues
  8. To tame frizz
  9. To protect your curls when pool swimming
  10. To aid you in detangling
  11. To stimulate hair growth

Now, let’s go into depth on each of the ways for how to use coconut oil for curly hair.

tips for using coconut oil on natural hair

I. As a Sealant

Some use coconut oil on wet hair to seal in moisture. It’s not for everyone.

I submit to you that you will get better results applying coconut oil to dry hair.

Many ladies with textured hair have reported that while they can agree that coconut oil is a good choice for improving hair health, it leaves them with brittle hair when used on wet or damp hair.

Once dry, the hair feels dry and rough. I’ve actually experienced the same and I have fine natural hair.

We’ll discuss further but here’s how some use coconut oil as a sealant:

  1. On wash day, a small amount of coconut oil is applied all throughout damp hair. A little goes a long way.
  2. Starting with the ends of your hair and working up toward the roots, apply the coconut oil.
  3. Then, move on to styling.

II. For Use as a Pre-Poo

The Pre-Poo is the absolute best way to use coconut oil in your hair. Here’s why…

When used as a Pre-Poo, it’s almost like deep conditioning your hair before washing it and provides maximum benefits. The coconut oil penetrates the hair follicles and does some pretty magical stuff.

This is how to use it as a pre-poo:

  1. Before washing your hair, use your fingers to section and apply coconut all throughout DRY hair
  2. Then, put a shower cap on your dry hair for at least an hour
  3. Trust the process
  4. Proceed to cleansing
YouTube video

III. Hot oil treatment

Using coconut oil as a hot oil treatment is another great way to improve the health of your hair. It promotes shine and strength.

A hot oil treatment with coconut oil is similar to doing a pre-poo. Only, you are applying the oil to your hair after you’ve washed it.

The difference between using it as a sealant is you are washing it out so the drying affects are removed. It’s the same like when using olive oil or any other nourishing oil to do a hot oil treatment.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. If in a solid state, melt down a few tablespoons of coconut oil and put in an applicator bottle
  2. After washing your hair, use a wide-toothed comb to gently section
  3. Apply much coconut oil (for longer hair, use more) to the hair
  4. Put on a plastic cap and sit under either a hooded dryer or a heating cap for 30 minutes to an hour
  5. Thorough rinse and proceed to styling

IV. To Improve Your Hair Conditioner

Sometimes you buy a hair product and it under performs. Before you toss it, consider adding some coconut oil or even coconut milk to it.

Here’s how to do it:

If you are looking to improve your hair conditioner, you can add a tablespoon of coconut oil. This will also give an otherwise “dry” conditioner some slip.

V. To Use in DIY Recipes

There are so many ladies (and gents) creating their own hair products. It’s the natural way of taking care of your hair because you don’t have to worry about any added preservatives or other unsavory ingredients.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Decide on the type of DIY recipes you can commit to creating (and have the time for)
  2. Do some research online for hair recipes that can address your specific hair concerns (ex: excess split ends, hair breakage etc)
  3. Create recipes that call for coconut oil OR
  4. Exchange the use of other oils in a recipe for coconut oil
how to use coconut oil for natural hair

VI. For Use As a Hair Mask

As an alternative to store bought conditioners and hair treatments, you can use coconut oil solely as a coconut oil hair mask.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Using coconut oil in its solid form, mix 1 cup with a couple tablespoons of a protein free conditioner
  2. Add 3-5 drops of an essential oil (optional) – See this article: best essential oils to use for curly hair
  3. Whip up the hair mask and apply throughout hair in sections
  4. Put on a plastic cap
  5. Use a heating cap or hooded dryer for 30 minutes OR
  6. Leave on your hair under the plastic cap for an hour
pre-poo with coconut oil

Soothes itchy scalp

VII. To Combat Scalp Issues

Those with curly hair may deal with scalp issues more commonly than those with straight hair because sebum has difficulty traveling down the hair shaft and can build up on the scalp.

Coconut oil can be used to treat dry itchy scalp, dandruff and yeast infections in the scalp.

I was advised by a dermatologist familiar with those who have curly hair, to use it on my son’s scalp before shampooing with a medicinal shampoo.

While it can be applied at room temperature, warm coconut oil works best. It can be heated on the stove in a double boil fashion. No microwave.

Your hands may warm it but it’s a good idea to put the emulsified (now liquid) oil into an applicator bottle and allow it to sit in a cup of hot water for a few minutes

While my young man does still get flakes from time to time, he hasn’t had any scaly pimples on his scalp like he used to.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. 10 minutes prior to shampooing, massage warm coconut oil throughout your scalp
  2. Shampoo with a dandruff or other doctor prescribed shampoo used to treat scalp conditions
  3. Rinse thoroughly

VIII. For Taming Frizz

Working a small amount of coconut oil throughout your hair can tame frizz caused by stray hairs. Coconut oil will smooth your hair cuticles and reduce the appearance of frizz.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Emulsify a small amount of solid coconut oil in the palm of your hands.
  2. Smooth over frizzed sections of hair.

Note: Regular use of coconut oil via hot oil treatments and pre-poos will tame your hair and train it to be frizz free.

IX. To Protect Your Curls when Pool Swimming

The chemicals used in pool water can do a number on curly hair.

If you’ve ever gone for a pool swim with your hair unprotected, then you know how damaging it can be. Coconut oil can provide some level of protection for your curly hair from the dry and damaging effects of the chlorine in pool water.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. 30 minutes prior to swimming, saturate hair with coconut oil
  2. Smooth hair back into a bun or put in a loose twist/braid
  3. Put on a swim cap
  4. Enjoy your swim

X. To Assist With Detangling

While detangling curly hair is best done with the 90/10 detangling method, if you need to do a bit of light detangling, you can use a bit of coconut oil to help you get the job done.

When detangling dry hair, opt for finger detangling to prevent breakage. Curly hair is much too fragile to detangle dry. Coconut oil will give you the needed slip to detangle and your fingers are the best tools.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Always working in sections, apply coconut oil to the desired area to detangle
  2. Smooth the oil through the hair starting from the ends
  3. Pull apart tangles gently with your fingers
  4. If you come across a knot, simply cut it out

Note: I recommend to only lightly detangle dry curls. This method should only be used to easier manipulate your hair into a style.

XI. Use for Healthy Hair Growth

When mixed with other natural oils and essential oils, coconut oil with help you to grow long hair. Since hair grows from the scalp, you want to concentrate the oil on your scalp.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Add a few drops of an essential oil indicated for hair growth (ex: Rosemary, Lavender, Peppermint) to a cup of liquid coconut oil.
  2. Add to an applicator bottle
  3. Warm the oil by sitting the bottle in a cup of hot water 5-10 minutes
  4. Apply throughout your scalp, distributing with your fingers
  5. Using a scalp massage brush, massage each section of your scalp for approximately 3 minutes.
  6. Repeat the process 3-4 times per week

Best Coconut Oil Brands

coconut oil
Spectrum oil
Trader Joe's brand
Virgin Beauty Coconut Oil

The best brand of coconut oil for use on curly hair is the one that’s completely pure, devoid of junk additives like mineral oil and easy to get your hands on.

Some easily accessed and high quality brands include:

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Whole Foods 365 brand
  • Spectrum
  • Native

How to Store Coconut Oil

The last thing to take into consideration after learning how to use coconut oil for curly hair is how to store it.

Typically, it’s best stored at room temperature. If you live in a warm climate, you can keep it refrigerated if you prefer but if you will use coconut oil as a pre-poo or hot oil treatment, it’s easier (if even a bit more messy) for it to be in a liquid state.

Wrapping It All Up

Coconut oil can be used on any of the curly hair types. It’s how it’s used that’s most important. Clearly, the best way to use coconut oil for curly hair is as a pre-poo but the other 10 ways are beneficial as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions by those looking to use coconut oil for healthy hair.

1. Is Coconut Oil a Sealant or a Moisturizer?

While coconut oil has the ability to help with moisture retention, it is an oil and therefore has no moisture inducing properties.

Some will say it’s semantics because coconut oil helps with retaining moisture. To make it black and white though, while coconut (and other oils) help with moisture retention. It does not help with moisture impartation.

In fact, if you were to never put water (the true source of moisture) on your hair and you just used coconut oil, it would be as dry as the Sahara Desert.

2. Should I leave coconut oil in my curly hair overnight?

While it’s OK to leave coconut oil in your hair over night, it can be messy and there are no additional benefits in doing so.

After a couple of hours of having coconut oil in your hair, the benefits remain the same.

3. Should you put coconut oil on wet or dry hair?

We covered this above but to summarize, coconut oil provides the most benefit when adding it to dry hair. The exception is when you are using it as a hot oil treatment or in a hair mask. In both cases, you are washing it out.

4. Does coconut oil loosen curls?

I’ve not experienced that on my fine curls. Coconut’s sole purpose is to protect the integrity of your hair, not loosen it’s curl pattern.

5. Is Coconut Oil CG friendly?

Absolutely! Oils in general are curly girl friendly. What’s not CG friendly are oils containing silicones.

Hey Curlfriend,

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Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on finenaturalhairandfaith,com is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Always consult with your doctor when looking to treat health conditions. Read the full disclosure policy here

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