How to Use Coconut Oil As a Hair Conditioner and a Skin Moisturizer
Using virgin coconut oil can result in healthier, shinier hair. Used extensively in India as a hair preparation, coconut oil contains essential proteins needed for hair growth. Regular use can strengthen hair, nourishing it from the roots and penetrating the shafts to seal and protect individual strands. As a pre-shampoo treatment, coconut oil can reduce problems with dandruff without the harsh effects of chemicals used in commercial products. Massaging it into the scalp also has a stress-relieving effect due to both the massaging action and the light scent of the oil.
Coconut oil and associated products from coconuts have become hot topics lately, although the research dates back several decades. It is an ingredient in some hair and skin care products, but it may be more beneficial and economical to use the coconut oil alone and not pay the price for brand name shampoos, conditioners, and moisturizers.
There are three basic types of coconut oil: virgin, cochin, and RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized). The term "virgin" has not been satisfactorily defined or standardized. However, good quality virgin coconut oil is white in color and has a light coconut scent and taste. Cochin oils are also virgin but are made from air-dried copra, which commonly has some mold growth. The processing renders the mold harmless, but it does result in a product that is yellowish or grayish in color and may have a much stronger taste. Most connoisseurs of coconut oil consider this type to be inferior to the white, lightly scented virgin oil. RBD has little or no scent or taste, which some people prefer. The type you use is a personal preference. I have found the virgin oil to be more appealing. A very stable oil, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and can be stored safely without refrigeration for 2-3 years. It liquefies easily. Small amounts to use as conditioners or moisturizers melt easily in the palm of your hand.
You can use coconut oil to condition hair in one of three ways. For an extensive deep conditioning, apply 3-4 teaspoons of coconut oil to your hair before going to sleep at night. Allow the solid oil to melt in your hands and massage into your scalp. Reapply as needed to ensure all hair strands are coated. Cover with a shower cap and go to sleep. Shampoo as usual the following morning. For a less extensive treatment, or if you do not relish going to sleep wearing a shower cap, apply the oil the same way but keep on at least 1 hour, preferably 2-3 hours. Then shampoo as usual. Finally, especially effective in treating dandruff, use coconut oil as a pre-shampoo treatment. Massage 2 teaspoons of coconut oil into your scalp half an hour before shampooing your hair as usual. Used regularly, this should help with any dandruff problem
As for commercial products containing coconut oil, I have no idea of their effectiveness. Certainly, products containing coconut oil should be beneficial or at least not harmful. However, I do not know how these are processed or how much actual coconut oil the products contain. If you want a commercial product formulated for conditioning and shampooing hair, I suggest using a reputable organic variety to get the most benefit from the coconut oil in the product.
Coconut milk is a manufactured product made from coconuts. (The liquid found inside coconuts is called coconut water.) Although coconut milk has great nutritional value, I have found no references to using coconut milk as a hair or skin treatment. Coconut oil is the product of choice for hair and skin care.
As a skin moisturizer, virgin coconut oil is easily absorbed into the skin. Its antimicrobial properties promote healing, sealing the tiny cracks in the skin to reduce entry of bacteria and germs. Coconut oil is easy to apply. Just place a small amount in the palm of your hand, let it warm slightly, and begin to massage into the skin. Because it absorbs quickly, you may apply more than is needed in one application, leaving a film on your skin. It is better to reapply more frequently, letting the oil absorb completely, to get the full benefits of this product. Coconut oil is also a great moisturizer for your face, leaving your skin smoother and younger (over time) as it restores health to sun-damaged skin and fights blemishes. It also works wonders for improving dry, cracked skin and for softening cuticles.
My skin is definitely softer and smoother since I've begun using coconut oil as a moisturizer after showering. I also do not experience the "greasy" feeling some moisturizers leave on my face when I use it before applying my makeup; and I haven't had any blemishes on my face since then, either. (I have oily/combination skin and still get blemishes even though I'm well past my teen years). And my hands and cuticles have improved dramatically. My husband, who is a diabetic, has found virgin coconut oil to be effective in keeping his heels from cracking and his feet generally softer than with any other products.
For more information, check out books on the subject written by Bruce Fife, C. N. N. D. He includes full bibliographies so, if you want to look at the original research findings, you can locate them more easily. Most of the information in this factoid has been drawn from his work.
Fife, Bruce. (2004). The coconut oil miracle. New York: Avery.