Cheapie but Goodie: Coconut Oil

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A while back, I was looking up recipes to make your own deep conditioner online, when I kept hearing all this chatter about coconut oil and its amazing properties. I had thought olive oil was great for dry hair, but apparently only coconut oil actually penetrates the hair shaft. A few of my Indian friends swear by it, and given their long, luxurious-looking hair, I popped into Whole Foods and picked up a jar of organic, unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil (hey, it did come from Whole Foods!).

Normally, of course, this is used to cook with, and one whiff of the contents makes it clear that it's high in fat--which might be what makes it so good for your hair. But the really cool thing about this stuff is how it responds to temperature change. At room temperature, it's a slightly runny, fairly workable mass. When it's cold (or if I have the air conditioner on), the coconut oil congeals and hardens and basically becomes immovable unless you apply heat. If it's really warm, the oil is in its most liquid state, just as you would find most in the grocery store. I sucked at Chemistry, but somehow the affect temperature has on this really fascinates me.

I know some people like to mix the coconut oil with other things and then apply the DIY product to their hair, but I use this stuff straight up. Simply scoop out a bit, rub it between your palms until it melts back to being a liquid (in the colder months, I sometimes have to microwave chunks of the oil), apply it to dry hair and let it sit for however long as you want before shampooing it out.

That right there might be what I love so much about this oil as a hair treatment: it's meant to be put in when your hair is dry. No slathering on deep conditioner in the shower, clipping it up, and then dawdling in the tub until you can rinse it out. I love doing overnight treatments, but I hate having to lounge around the house, very conscious of my wet, gunked up hair. Taking out the requirement of wet hair/being in the shower means I can use the coconut oil in my hair whenever I want, on my own terms.

If I've got some time to spare before a shower, I'll rake some of this through, and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. That's time I'd normally be wasting in the shower--but by putting it into dry hair, I can be doing schoolwork or other things.

Now I've heard a few people say that they dampen their hair and then put the coconut oil in, but that just doesn't make any sense to me. Everyone knows that oil and water don't mix, so if you douse your strands in H2O first, wouldn't it form a barrier around your hair and prevent the oil from doing its job?

These days, I tend to treat this jar like it's Vaseline or something--it can just about do it all! Aside from using the oil as a deeply moisturizing treatment, I can swipe a little on my fingers and use it to smooth down flyaways, add shine, or even apply some to my ends to make them look healthy and fresh.

You really only need a little at a time, even for when you apply it all over--I've had this 14 oz jar for over a year and a half now, and I'm barely halfway through. Whole Foods sells lots of different coconut oils, but I picked up this one for $10.

This is a really foolproof hair treatment, so the only cautionary advice I would give is to avoid using this on your roots. Most people don't bring hair masks up to their scalp because it'll make it greasy, and that's doubly true when using oil. And if you have especially fine hair, it might take you two shampoos to really wash all the oil out.

I really love things like this--kitchen ingredients that serve double duty as beauty products, so if you know of any others, please let me know!

Or, if you have any great recipes using coconut oil, I'd love to hear about those too! =)

Hope you're all well and having a great weekend!

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