If you’re not yet cuckoo for coconuts, time to reconsider. Nothing perks up dry, listless damaged hair better than slathering on a dollop of coconut oil. It brings hair stressed by the elements, natural and otherwise (think wind, sun, chlorine, harsh products, coloring, and blow-drying), back to life.
This long-maligned oil nourishes hair, skin, and overall health when you apply it topically or even eat it. Contrary to the bad press it gets, coconut oil is not high in saturated fat; the medium-chain fatty acid it contains actually packs a protective punch against heart disease and atherosclerosis. (Of course, you never want to use it in its hydrogenated form.)
Coconut oil, which Asian and Pacific cultures have used for centuries to treat an array of illnesses from athlete’s foot to urinary tract infections, boasts antiviral, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. In addition, recent research notes coconut oil’s ability to penetrate viral cells and fight off viruses that cause flu, hepatitis C, and even HIV, according to the Coconut Research Center.
For body care, the oil moisturizes, soothes, and forms a lipid barrier that wards off sun damage. It also combats wrinkles and skin discoloration and promotes healing. The oil’s health-promoting nutrients pass readily through the skin, so using it topically brings benefits that go more than skin deep.
Jungle Products, based in Healdsburg, California, contracts with family farms in the South Pacific to create its line of unrefined coconut oil—sold in two potencies, one for eating and one for topical use, and in an array of personal care products including a soon-to-be-introduced hibiscus hair tonic.
Says company founder Emily Mattison, “Coconut oil has long been used by indigenous cultures for skin and hair care. In India, hibiscus flowers, which have antioxidant properties, are dredged in oil that is then massaged into scalp and hair and left on overnight.” The overnight treatment nourishes the hair and also rids the scalp of any unwanted microbes.
For a simple in-home treatment, put a couple spoonfuls of plain coconut oil in a small glass bowl and place that bowl in another one filled with boiling water for 10 minutes until the coconut oil warms to a malleable consistency. Work the oil into your hair, one section at a time, moving from the roots to the ends until all the hair is covered. Give yourself a head massage using the fleshy parts of the fingertips, moving in a circular motion across the scalp. Leave the oil on for at least an hour (or sleep with it on for a deep healing treatment) and then shampoo. The coconut oil rejuvenates depleted hair and leaves the scalp smelling of lush locales.
By Barbara Hey