By Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas
The hair on our bodies are there for a reason – they help regulate body temperature, provide protection against the environment and they heighten our sense of touch. Other than that, hair in certain parts of the body contribute to our overall appearance, such as the hair on our scalp. These are the reasons why taking good care of our hair is important.
What contributes to hair damage?
Just like the skin, the hair is also made up of several layers – the medulla, which is the innermost part, the cortex the protein-rich middle layer, which also contains pigment and determines our hair color, and the cuticle or the outermost layer made of overlapping keratin scales that protect the inner more fragile part of the hair.
Many things that we do to our hair on a regular basis, such as washing, combing, styling, doing hair treatments such as coloring or bleaching, using harsh products and even walking under the heat of the sun without sun protection, can damage the cuticle that protects the inner part making the hair brittle and prone to split ends and breakage.
Take washing the hair for instance. When the hair is wet, the cortex absorbs the water and swells. This changes the structure of the cuticle pushing the overlapping scales outward, which can cause them to break when the strands rub against each other or when you comb your hair.
How does applying oil on the hair help?
Based on research, there are several ways that can oils protect hair from damage. One is by filling in the gaps between the cuticle and serving as an added layer of protection from external substances. Another is by smoothening the strands, lowering friction and preventing the scales from snagging when rubbed against one another. And, finally, some oils are able to penetrate the inner layers which reduces the water absorbing capacity of the strands when wet, leading to reduced swelling and less stiffening or “sticking up” of the cuticles scales occurs.
Why is COCONUT OIL an ideal oil for the hair?
Coconut oil, because of its low molecular weight, linear, medium-chain triglycerides, and its high affinity for hair proteins, has shown in studies to be able to penetrate the hair shaft more than other oils. This not only soaks the inner layer with oil but also forms a protective layer that blocks water entry.
In addition, in a study done by Rele and Mohile in 2003, they found that compared to mineral oil and sunflower oil, coconut oil reduced protein loss of hair when used on the hair before and after washing.
How to use coconut oil on the hair?
There are several ways you can use coconut oil on the hair.
- You can apply the coconut oil on the strands prior to washing.
- You can use it after washing to help detangle the strands and to aid in lubrication when you comb
- As a hair mask or a scalp treatment. Just be careful when leaving it on overnight especially if you have oily scalp.
How often you do these and how much of the oil you use will depend on your hair characteristics, your habits and your preferences. When used correctly, coconut oil can minimize hair breakage and split ends and protect hair from damage, it may reduce loss of protein in the hair and can give the appearance of healthy-looking, smooth and shiny hair.
Int J Trichology. 2015 Jan-Mar; 7(1): 2–15. ⚬ Comparative Study J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019 Dec;18(6):1947-1954. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12918. ⚬ J Cosmet Sci. May-Jun 2001;52(3):169-84. ⚬ J Cosmet Sci. Jan-Feb 2012;63(1):27-31. ⚬ J Cosmet Sci. Mar-Apr 2003;54(2):175-92. ⚬ Photo courtesy of Vecteezy