Is Coconut oil Bad for Curly Hair?

Posted by Elizabeth Alex on

Are you considering adding coconut oil in your curly hair routine? Maybe you already have but it's just not working? I hope this article helps you. User discretion advised, as always.



Disclaimer: These tips and suggestions are from my personal experience including other's over DMs and personal consultations. Authority sources linked are here to encourage you to do your own research as well.

Coconut Oil Benefits

Here are evidence based benefits of coconut oil for our body: 

Given these amazing benefits for the body, it’s only natural to wonder if it can be as good for hair and face too, right? Wrong. Well, at least according to 130 responses I received on my Instagram story when I asked this:

coocnut oil benefits, parachute oil, coconut free products, curly hair



 Oh the Video is here, watch at 0.55 sec. 

    Coconut Oil Cons for Hair 

    It was easier if I listed the cons BUT I wanted you to notice the little connections that add up.

    Hair feels heavy and weighed down. Coconut oil is a penetrating, moisturising oil there is no denying that. However, if you use too much, it can sit on top of fine hair or low porosity hair making hair feel heavy. It only feels heavy if it isn't taken out.

    It requires a harsh shampoo to remove all the grease but at what cost? Shampooing too much dries hair and scalp out. And if you do not cleanse the oil properly, it builds up.

    Hair smells weird when coconut oil is not properly cleaned out. The unpleasant smell is most likely from the scalp. On my Curl by Curl training, Lorraine Massey said to the class hair is like a fibre. So imagine your favorite dress soaked in oil and damp - how would that smell? Lorriane advises to use coconut water instead.

    Coconut Oil makes hair feel brittle. This is what I also felt and what you see in the first image on top. While I cannot explain why my postpartum hair suddenly hates coconut oil, I know that brittle hair is prone to breakage. Learn more from the Sciency-blog here. 

    Here's an amazing depiction of how coconut oil reacts with my curl friend Lorayne ~

    View this post on Instagram

    Please tell me you see the difference here. Left side was when I was using no coconut at all. Right side was when I stupidly decided to try coconut again, knowing my hair hated it. Coconut is in so many products. And I was also watching everyone else use it with no problems. So I tried it again. And again. And again. For about 3 months, I kept trying it over and over again trying to make it work for me. I was like.... but what if it works THIS TIME. But every time, it didn't work. Not only did my hair look like crap for months, the continual use was actually damaging my hair. I had to cut off 6 inches last summer, and I'm pretty sure coconut made that happen. So now I say bye bye coconut 🙋‍♀️. This is me turning my back on you. Goodbye forever. If you also have a problem with coconut, if you click the link in my bio to my Amazon store, I have all my fav products withought coconut there. Only 2 with coconut are listed under the subheading Edit: For some reason my hair loves the @zotosprofessional biotera gel. It's a mystery. It has coconut listed towards the middle. So I'll continue using that one. . . . . . #curlygirlmethod #curlycommunity #curlygirlcommunity #curlyhaircommunity #myhairjourney #hairtips #hairtip #curlyhairtip #curlyhairtips #curlyhairadvice #learningtolovemycurls #reallifecurls #realcurlyhair #naturallycurlyhair #naturallycurly #2ccurls #3acurls #longcurlyhair #myhairjourney #mycurlyjourney

    A post shared by Lorayne (@curly.lori.lane) on

    Does Coconut Oil Treat Acne or make it worse?

    Coconut oil is not recommended for oily skin. Coconut oil is highly comedogenic, which means it can clog pores. Consequently, it may actually make acne worse for some people. How does this matter? It matters a lot if you have oily skin and/or maybe using hair products with coconut oil. 

    The skin on your scalp and face is very similar except, your scalp has more glands that produce sweat than any other part of your body. Assuming it has more pores and coconut oil is a pore clogging ingredient, some may experience painful spots or acne after using coconut oil.

    Coconut Oil Cons for Scalp

    In my survey, many responded their scalp felt soar and tender after using coconut oil. I couldn't help but wonder could it be because scalp wasn't cleaned properly? Until I experienced the same just recently! Painful, acne-like bump on my edges (side part near the temples). That is where I had applied a new gel I was testing. It had coconut oil as the third ingredient! Usually all my gels are coconut free! (listed below) and I wash my hair every 3 days. So that is how I concluded it was the coconut in the gel.

    The scalp has massive amounts of hair (unless you’re bald!) so it has a greater “tendency” to become damp and dirty if not properly maintained. So it is possible that cowashing is not enough to remove the extra coconut oil on your scalp. Your sweat together with coconut oil and other hair products "residing" on your scalp start building up which eventually leads to flaking. 

    The buildup, the flakes, the damp environment are all conducive to invite fungal infections like dandruff! This is when your scalp's pH starts increasing and starts hurting too - it's a telling sign that it's time to wash it! Do not ignore it. Since I am SLS-free I used my DIY clay treatment to strip my hair of all Coconut oil buildup! 

    You can even scalp massage with DIY Hibiscus Gel to maintain the pH of your scalp. 

    Coconut Oil Cons for Face & Body

    These are the collective responses from my Instagram survey I mentioned earlier

    • Feels itchy, and then breaks out 
    • Dries skin making eczema worse
    • Makes skin drier making it more acne prone
    • Painful cystic acne making face looking bumpy
    • Used to remove mascara and it caused eczema on eyelids!

    This is not to scare you away from coconut oil but these are real responses and they deserve to be heard. So here's another one from my curl friend Tina Anderson ~

    View this post on Instagram

    ⭐ Coconut oil ⭐ An ingredient in so many lovely products that are loved by so many in the curly community. But for me, it might as well have a skull and cross bones because of what it does to my hair: my curls die. My hair loses its shine, the curls lose their definition, I can't keep the frizz down, it's more tangly, and feels dry. ⭐ I have fallen down the rabbit hole many times, trying to get them to work in my hair, but I've realized there's no use in fighting my hair. There are also a lot of lovely products without it. To see a list of my favorites, check out my highlights. An exception to the rule I've found for me is I'm a cowasher 99% of the time, but I've tried 3 different shampoos (it's really hard to find one that doesn't have a coconut oil derivative), that don't seem to cause havoc on my hair. I think it's because I use a conditioner and stylers after that don't contain it in them. ⭐The first picture is day 2 hair from my most recent wash day with products with no coconut oil, and the second, you guessed it, I used at least one product with coconut oil. It's looked worse from coconut oil, but usually I avoided taking pictures. ⭐Swipe to see each picture individually, and a picture of the back of my hair that shows the healthy shine I get when I use the right products. ⭐Does this sound familiar? ✋ -- -- -- -- #loveyourcurls #healthyhaircare #blessedwithcurls #healthycurls #healthyhair #beyou #shinegirl #cgm #cg #cgmethod #gingy #gingercurls #curlygirljourney #curlycommunity #curlcommunity #curlyhairjourney #curlfriends #curlscurlscurls #curlyhaircare #curlyhaircommunity #curlyhair #autoimmunewarrior #curlyredlocks #curlygingerlocks

    A post shared by Tina (@red.curlygirl) on

    How to identify if coconut oil is the culprit?

    Experimenting is key and your instincts are never wrong! If you have oily-acne-prone skin then it’s crucial you examine product labels. The ingredient list on your hair products’ bum will clearly state coconut oil or say, Cocus Nucifera (Coconut) Oil on most styling products.

    I never ever thought this would happen to me! That my postpartum hair would change and be sensitive to coconut. But the only reason it was easy for me to narrow it down to Coconut is because of Instagram pages like Lorayn’s!

    Lorayn who also has coconut sensitivity, says it’s easy to avoid coconut oil is almost every product except shampoo/cleansers! This is because Coconut is the milder option to sulphates! If you absolutely Hate coconut, Cowashing is a better option. I’ve discussed DIY cowash here. 

    Alternate names for coconut oil in shampoo:

    Surfactants - cleansing agents - Coconut Acid, Hydrogenated Coconut Acid, Potassium Cocoate, Sodium Cocoate, Ammonium Cocomonoglyceride Sulfate, Sodium Cocomonoglyceride Sulfate, Potassium Hydrogenated Cocoate, Sodium Hydrogenated Cocoate

    How I use coconut oil 

    Having oily skin I am acne-prone so I have a solid reason to avoid it in my skincare routines. However, I can’t deny the coconut oil benefits for my hair so I sneak in my hair mask; described it in my prepoo routine has coconut oil, I use it and after clarifying, my hair always feels soft and shiny! I just like to avoid it in my styling products, unless I am testing products for review. My hair loves Inahsi Natural products but its listed in the middle of the ingredient list. So safe to assume my hair does not do well with products high in coconut oil content. 

    Like me, you may also get away from using coconut oil in your pre-cleansing routine. Just remember to use products with minimal amounts of coconut oil. It’s simple to identify quantity. If coconut oil is listed in the first 5 ingredients it’s more likely has high amounts. Coconut oil listed in the bottom of the list may have the least. I listed my favorites below. 

    Is coconut water ok, then?

    Do you want to use coconut water as a leave-in? Do you have products with coconut water? Then do a patch test on a curl clump (preferably at the nape of your neck) to see if coconut water works for you. 

    After trying so many brands over the years I can confidently say products with coconut oil in large amounts do not work for my skin, it breaks me out. If you avoid coconut oil like the plague then here are my top recommendations for coconut-free products! 

    Coconut-free Hair Oils 

    Coconut-free Deep Conditioners

    Coconut-free Stylers

    Here's a fantastic must-watch video by award winning blogger Naptural85 to help you understand more about coconut oil sensitivities


    Overall you see, coconut oil is not bad for curly hair but it could be problematic for some. If you're a beginner or not sure if coconut is a problem for you, I suggest go on on a coconut-free product-diet for a few washes to see if that makes a difference to you. 

    Thank you for watching & reading!

    Need Help? Ask Liz here!

    1 comment

    • Hello liz! I hope you’re doing well. I had a query. I find that my hair is sensitive to coconut. Jaise Maui products don’t really work for my hair. I was looking for clarifying washes. And the flora and curl mint clay wash popped up in my google searches. But it has “coconut water” as one of its ingredients. Should I avoid it? Or will it be okay since it doesn’t contain coconut oil per se? Please help me out, thanks. Loads of love

      Simran on

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