How Coconut Oil Works, Results, Usage, and Side Effects

The pursuit of natural and effective solutions for hair loss has brought considerable attention to the use of coconut oil. Renowned for its nourishing properties, coconut oil is enriched with fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that are key to maintaining scalp health and promoting hair strength. Its ability to penetrate the hair shaft and reduce protein loss makes it valuable in treating hair loss. Additionally, its antimicrobial properties can help maintain a healthy scalp environment, essential for optimal hair growth. This article aims to delve into the ways coconut oil can be used to combat hair loss. Exploring both the scientific underpinnings of its benefits and practical methods for incorporating it into hair care routines. This offers a natural approach to enhancing hair health and vitality.

close up of cut open coconut and coconut oil

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is extracted from the mature fruit of the coconut palm. It is a highly regarded natural oil with a myriad of health and beauty applications, including hair care. This oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, predominantly lauric acid. This is known for its ability to penetrate the hair shaft more effectively than other oils. This unique property allows coconut oil to nourish and strengthen hair from within, reducing protein loss and mitigating hair damage. Its moisturizing effects also benefit the scalp, helping to combat dryness and dandruff, that can contribute to hair loss. Furthermore, coconut oil’s antimicrobial properties can maintain scalp health, creating a conducive environment for hair growth. Its widespread acclaim in the realm of hair care is backed by these beneficial properties. This makes it a popular choice for those seeking natural remedies to prevent hair loss and improve overall hair health.

How Coconut Oil Treats Hair Loss

Coconut oil treats hair loss through several mechanisms, leveraging its unique composition and properties:

  • Penetrates Hair Shaft: It’s molecular structure allows it to penetrate the hair shaft more effectively than other oils. This deep penetration helps in nourishing and strengthening the hair from within, reducing protein loss from the hair during washing and styling, which can lead to reduced breakage and hair loss.
  • Scalp Health: The oil’s antimicrobial properties can help maintain a healthy scalp. A healthy scalp is crucial for hair growth; by combating issues like dandruff and bacterial infections, it can prevent conditions that often contribute to hair thinning and loss.
  • Moisturizes Hair and Scalp: It is an excellent moisturizer. By hydrating the hair and scalp, it can prevent dryness and brittleness, leading to less breakage. Well-moisturized hair is less prone to damage and falling out.
  • Reduces Protein Loss: One of the unique benefits of coconut oil is its ability to minimize protein loss from hair when used as a pre-wash or post-wash grooming product. Since hair is primarily made of protein (keratin), reducing protein loss can result in stronger, healthier hair.
  • Improves Blood Circulation: When massaged into the scalp, it can improve blood circulation, ensuring that hair follicles receive more oxygen and nutrients. This increased blood flow can enhance the health of the hair follicles, promoting hair growth.
  • Prevents Damage: Regular use can help prevent hair damage from environmental factors like UV rays and pollution. By reducing damage, it indirectly helps in maintaining hair density and preventing hair loss.
  • Tames Frizz and Prevents Split Ends: By keeping hair nourished and moisturized, it helps in taming frizz and preventing split ends, which can lead to healthier hair and reduce the need for frequent trims, allowing hair to grow longer and healthier.

Empirical Evidence

Several studies have investigated the benefits of coconut oil in treating hair loss and improving hair health. Here are a few notable ones:

  • Impact on Scalp Microbiome: A study highlighted the positive effect of coconut oil on scalp microbial communities, suggesting that changes in the microbiome could be the first step towards restoring a healthy scalp, which might lead to benefits for hair health in the long term. This study underlined that coconut oil could be considered for dandruff treatment, targeting both fungal and bacterial elements of the scalp microbiome​​.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects of Lauric Acid: A 2009 study examined the anti-inflammatory properties of lauric acid, a major component of coconut oil. Since inflammation can contribute to hair loss, understanding the effects of lauric acid may shed light on how coconut oil could help in treating hair loss conditions​​.
  • Coconut Oil as a DHT Blocker: Coconut oil, which primarily contains lauric, myristic, and oleic acids, may act as an effective DHT blocker. DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a hormone linked to certain types of hair loss, and inhibiting the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT could be beneficial in treating hair loss​​.
  • Prevention of Protein Loss in Hair: A study by Rele and Mohile demonstrated coconut oil’s ability to prevent protein loss in hair, which is crucial since hair is primarily made of protein. This study utilized different hair types and subjected them to various treatments, including the use of coconut oil. It was found that using coconut oil as a prewash treatment consistently reduced protein loss, which can contribute to stronger and healthier hair​
Clinical trial results showing that coconut oil minimizes the protein loss in hair

Clinical results of using coconut oil showing minimal protein loss of hair.


User-reported results of using coconut oil to treat hair loss vary, as individual experiences can differ. This is dependant on hair type, the underlying cause of hair loss, and how the oil is used. However, several common themes emerge from user testimonials and online discussions:

  • Improved Hair Moisture and Strength: Many users report that it helps in moisturizing their hair, making it feel softer and stronger. This increased moisture can reduce breakage and may indirectly aid in retaining hair length.
  • Reduced Hair Breakage and Damage: Users often observe a decrease in hair breakage, particularly when it is used as a pre-wash or post-wash treatment. This could be due to its ability to penetrate the hair shaft and reduce protein loss.
  • Healthier Scalp: Some users note improvements in scalp health, including reduced dryness and dandruff. A healthy scalp is essential for optimal hair growth, so these benefits can potentially reduce loss related to scalp issues.
  • Increased Hair Thickness and Volume: There are reports of increased hair thickness and volume. These might be attributed to the oil’s nourishing effects and its potential role in reducing hair breakage.
  • Slower Hair Loss Progression: While not a universal experience, some individuals claim that regular use has slowed down their hair loss progression.
  • Improved Hair Texture and Shine: Users often mention enhanced hair texture and shine, making their hair appear healthier and more vibrant.
  • Varied Results for Hair Growth: When it comes to regrowing lost hair, user experiences are more mixed. Some report positive results, while others notice little to no effect in terms of hair regrowth.
Before and after results of using coconut oil to treat hair loss

Comparison showing the results of using coconut oil to treat hair loss. 

How to Use Coconut Oil

Using coconut oil to treat hair loss involves a simple yet effective process, which can be adapted to suit individual hair care routines. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Choose the Right Type of Coconut Oil: Opt for virgin coconut oil, as it’s less processed and retains more of its natural nutrients. Refined coconut oil can also be used, but it may not be as beneficial.
  • Warm the Oil: Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so gently warm it to turn it into a liquid. This can be done by placing the oil container in a bowl of hot water. Avoid microwaving, as it can destroy some beneficial properties of the oil.
  • Test for Allergies: Before applying coconut oil all over your scalp, do a patch test on a small area of skin, like your arm, to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
  • Apply to Your Scalp and Hair: Massage the warm oil gently into your scalp using your fingertips. This stimulates blood circulation and ensures that the oil is well distributed. You can also apply it along the length of your hair, focusing on the ends, which are prone to dryness and damage.
  • Leave It On: After applying, leave the oil in your hair for at least 30 minutes. For a more intensive treatment, you can leave it overnight. If you choose to leave it overnight, consider using a shower cap to protect your pillowcases.
  • Wash Your Hair: Rinse out the oil with a gentle shampoo to remove all of the oil
  • Frequency of Use: The frequency with which you use coconut oil can vary. Some people benefit from using it 2-3 times a week, while others might use it less frequently. Pay attention to how your hair responds and adjust accordingly.

Safety and Side Effects

Using coconut oil for treating hair loss is generally considered safe, but like any natural remedy, it can have potential side effects, particularly if used incorrectly or by individuals with certain sensitivities. Here are some side effects to consider:

  • Allergic Reactions: Some people may be allergic, leading to reactions like rashes, hives, or itching. It’s important to conduct a patch test before applying it extensively.
  • Scalp Acne: For those with oily skin or prone to acne, it can potentially clog pores and exacerbate scalp acne or cause breakouts around the hairline.
  • Hair Protein Overload: While it helps reduce protein loss, overuse or use on certain hair types (like protein-sensitive hair) can lead to protein buildup, making the hair stiff and brittle.
  • Heavy and Greasy Hair: It is thick and can weigh down finer hair types if used excessively. It may also leave hair feeling greasy and heavy if not properly washed out.
  • Buildup on the Scalp: Overuse can lead to buildup on the scalp, which might impede hair growth and exacerbate hair loss in some cases.
  • Difficulty Washing Out: It can be difficult to fully wash out, especially if applied in large amounts. This might require multiple washes, which can strip the hair of its natural oils.
  • Impact on Dyed Hair: For those with color-treated hair, it might cause the color to fade faster, especially if the oil is used before the color has set in.


In conclusion, coconut oil represents a promising natural remedy for those seeking to address hair loss, thanks to its ability to nourish the scalp, strengthen hair, and reduce protein loss. While its effectiveness can vary among individuals, many have reported positive results, including improved hair strength, moisture retention, and scalp health. However, it’s important to approach the use of coconut oil with mindfulness of potential side effects like scalp acne, allergic reactions, and buildup. As with any natural treatment, results may not be immediate, and consistent, moderate use is key to observing benefits. Ultimately, coconut oil can be a valuable addition to a holistic hair care regimen, especially for those inclined towards natural remedies.


  • Impact of Coconut Oil on Scalp Microbial Communities: A Longitudinal Study.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lauric Acid in Coconut Oil (2009).
  • Coconut Oil as a DHT Blocker and Its Major Components: Study on Inhibition of Five Alpha Reductase Enzyme.
  • Coconut Oil’s Ability to Prevent Protein Loss in Hair: Research by Rele and Mohile.

Note: This piece serves as an informative overview. Individual responses may vary, and consultation with a qualified medical professional is indispensable before initiating any therapeutic regimen.

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