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Why You (don’t!) need Coconut Oil for Curly Hair

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Let’s be real. Coconut Oil has a myriad of benefits like, it is cost-effective oral hygiene (Oil Pulling), known to be safe and effective moisturiser for skin and perfect for cooking and so forth. Given the amazing coconut oil benefits, it’s only natural to wonder if it can be as good for curly hair, right? Wrong. Well, at least according to 130 responses I received on my Instagram story when I asked this:

Disclaimer: These tips and suggestions are from my personal experience, including other’s over DMs and personal consultations. Authority sources linked are here to encourage you to do your own research as well.

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Oh the Video is here, watch at 0.55 sec.

The Bad Side-Effects (real responses)

It was easier if I listed all the cons BUT I wanted you to notice the little connections that add up.

Hair feels heavy and weighed down. Coconut oil is a penetrating, moisturising oil . However, if you use too much, it can sit on top of fine hair or coarse low porosity hair like mine, making hair feel heavy. It only feels heavy if it isn’t taken out properly.

It requires a strong clarifying shampoo to remove all the grease. Shampooing too many times in the week dries curly hair out. And if you do not cleanse the oil properly, it builds up! You reach for the strongest SLS shampoo you can find, but at what cost?

Hair smells weird when coconut oil is not properly cleaned out. The famous Lorraine Massey once said “hair is like a fibre, imagine your favorite dress soaked in oil and is left damp – how would that smell?” Lorriane advises to use coconut water instead.

Coconut Oil makes hair feel brittle. This was my first clue. I noticed my postpartum hair (SEE BELOW) became unmanageable after using my usual coconut products. My hair found coconut oil so repulsive! Truth is, coconut oil mimics protein, and too much protein makes hair brittle. Learn more from the Sciency-blog here.

When I shared my postpartum hair changes receiving a lot of positive response was so comforting for me. I never ever thought this would happen to me! That my postpartum hair would change and be sensitive to coconut. In reality, my coarse hair was always sensitive to protein. And coconut mimics protein! My hair doesn’t like being overly protein-fortified.

  • Since it is highly penetrative, it leaves less space for water to enter hair.
  • Coconut oil reduces hair swelling (which otherwise is a great thing!).
  • Coconut Oil reduces protein loss (but more protein, means less moisture this way!)
  • Protein overload makes hair drier, brittle and more prone to breakage.

But the only reason it was easy for me to narrow it down to Coconut is because of Instagram pages like Lorayn’s! Lorayn who also has coconut sensitivity, says it’s easy to avoid coconut oil is almost every product except shampoo/cleansers! This is because Coconut is the milder option to harsh sulphates. My curl friend Lorayne has the same issue. See below:

Does Coconut Oil Treat Acne or make it worse?

Coconut oil is not recommended for oily skin because it is highly comedogenic, which means it can clog pores. That is why it can actually make acne worse for some people. The skin on your scalp and face is very similar except, your scalp has more glands that produce sweat than any other part of your body. How does this matter? It matters a lot if you have oily skin and/or maybe using hair products with coconut oil.

Cons for Scalp

In my aforementioned survey, many responded their scalp felt soar and tender after using coconut oil. I couldn’t help but wonder could it be because scalp wasn’t cleaned properly? Or was it clogged by the comedogenic oil? Painful, acne-like bump appeared on my edges (side part near the temples) right after styling. Guess what? That gel had coconut oil as the third ingredient!

The thick high density hair likely gets damp easily, become damp, and buildup-y if not properly maintained. So it is possible that cowashing is not enough to remove any coconut oil-buildup on your scalp. Your sweat, together with coconut oil, and other hair products “residing” on your scalp start building up. This residue eventually leads to flaking.

The buildup, the flakes, the damp environment, skin shedding, are all conducive to invite fungal infections, like dandruff. This is when your scalp’s pH starts increasing and starts hurting too – a tell-tale sign it’s time to wash! Do not ignore it. Since I am SLS-free I used my DIY clay treatment to detox my scalp and hair once a month. Love ACV rinses too.

Cons for Face & Body

These are the collective responses from my Instagram survey I mentioned earlier:

  • Feels itchy, and then breaks out 
  • Dries skin making eczema worse
  • Makes skin drier making it more acne prone
  • Painful cystic acne making face looking bumpy
  • Used to remove mascara and it caused eczema on eyelids!

This is not to scare you away from coconut oil but these are real responses and they deserve to be heard. So here’s another one from my curl friend Tina Anderson.

How to identify if coconut oil is the culprit?

Experimenting is key, and your instincts are never wrong. If you have oily-acne-prone skin then it’s crucial you examine product labels. The ingredient list on your hair products’ bum will clearly state coconut oil or say, Cocus Nucifera (Coconut) Oil on most styling products.

Alternate names for coconut oil in shampoo:

  • Surfactants – cleansing agents – Coconut Acid,
  • Hydrogenated Coconut Acid,
  • Potassium Cocoate,
  • Sodium Cocoate,
  • Ammonium Cocomonoglyceride Sulfate,
  • Sodium Cocomonoglyceride Sulfate,
  • Potassium Hydrogenated Cocoate,
  • Sodium Hydrogenated Cocoate

How I use coconut oil 

Having oily skin I am acne-prone, so I have a solid reason to avoid coconut oil in my skincare routines. However, I can’t deny the coconut oil benefits for my hair so I don’t mind coconut-derivatives in my shampoo. Using coconut cream leaves my hair soft and shiny! I just like to avoid coconut oil in all my styling products. My hair loves products with minimal coconut. That means it should be listed in the middle of the ingredient list or below or in “extracts” is ok too. My hair goes stiff and frizzy with products high in coconut oil content. 

Like me, you may also get away from using coconut oil in your pre-cleansing routine. Just remember to use products with minimal amounts of coconut oil. It’s simple to identify the quantity. If coconut oil is listed in the first 5 ingredients it likely has high amounts. Coconut oil listed in the bottom of the list may have the least.

Is coconut water ok, then?

Do you want to use coconut water as a leave-in? Do you have products with coconut water? Then do a patch test on a curl clump (preferably at the nape of your neck) to see if coconut water works for you. 

After trying so many brands over the years I can confidently say products with coconut oil in large amounts do not work for my skin, it breaks me out. If you avoid coconut oil like the plague then here are my top recommendations for coconut-free products! 

Here’s a fantastic must-watch video by award winning blogger Naptural85 to help you understand more about coconut oil sensitivities

Overall you see, coconut oil is not bad for curly hair but it could be problematic for some. If you’re a beginner or not sure if coconut is a problem for you, I suggest go on on a coconut-free product-diet for a few washes to see if that makes a difference to you. 

Thank you for watching & reading!

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Do you use coconut oil sparingly? Or not at all? Leave a comment below

5 thoughts on “Why You (don’t!) need Coconut Oil for Curly Hair”

  1. Thanks to you and your immense knowledge, I’ve been more mindful about coconut in my hair products and I see so much of a difference in how my hair feels and also the acne!! 😍

  2. I stopped coconut oil after watching your videos. Switched over to almond oil. Same thing. Now using Arata hempocado very minimally to avoid weighing down. Your account is very helpful.

  3. From childhood my mom and granny used massage my head using coconut oil only. To remove the oil completely I used to shampoo my hair 4 times. But some was left in my hair making my hair greasy. A year and half before I stopped using coconut oil and switched to grape seed oil and of course I add some essential oil get that extra benefit. Grape seed oil is non sticky and very much light compared to coconut oil and my hair never been happier😍😍

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