When people speak of baldness, they are usually not talking about the slick-shaven, bad-ass “Stone Cold” Steve Austin look that became popular in the 1990s (and really has not gone away).
No, they are talking about alopecia, or losing one’s hair, rapidly or over time in an unstoppable race to social ridicule.
Men are often the most terrified of losing their hair, but it can affect women, too. And while there is no formal “cure” for baldness — at least not one recognized by any official health organizations, George Costanza be damned — there are some remedies that can help.
In this article, we will be focusing on one of the best — coconut oil. But before getting into this too heavily, let us discuss the factors that can cause one to suffer from hair loss.
What Causes Hair Loss?
A number of “causes” can bring about hair loss, but before diving too far down the rabbit hole, let’s call our enemy by its name — androgenetic alopecia. This has been described in less syllables as “male-pattern baldness,” but, again, it can affect women, too.
According to the National Institute of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Hair is lost in a well-defined pattern, beginning above both temples.
Over time, the hairline recedes to form a characteristic ‘M’ shape. Hair also thins at the crown (near the top of the head), often progressing to partial or complete baldness.”
The NIH notes this pattern can differ in women by becoming “thinner all over the head, and the hairline does not recede.” In women, androgenetic alopecia “rarely leads to total baldness.” That’s hardly a consolation prize.
Why does Mother Nature do this to us? That is a question that may never be answered. However, we do know some things that can lead to the condition, and those include the following:
Hair is made from a resilient protein known as keratin. The thyroid — located just below your Adam’s apple — secretes thyroid hormones. These reign over metabolism and protein synthesis.
When you suffer from thyroid disease, this can create deficiencies in protein, which will only weaken your roots and exacerbate hair loss.
Keeping in mind that healthy hair is all about having strong enough protein, it is worth noting that anemia can affect production as well. That’s because the condition, says MedLine Plus, occurs when your blood does a poor job of carrying oxygen to the rest of the body.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hair grows thanks to blood from the blood vessels in your scalp feeding the root, “which creates more cells and makes the hair grow.”
When your body is not properly circulating blood, it can only hurt hair production.
Not to beat a dead horse, but let’s go back to the AAD’s explanation of how hair grows. Their words: “Your hair begins growing from a root in the bottom of the follicle. The root is made up of cells of protein.
Blood from the blood vessels in your scalp feeds the root, which creates more cells and makes the hair grow. The hair gets pushed up through the skin as it grows, passing an oil gland along the way.”
Obviously, if you suffer from deficient protein, it’s going to affect your roots in a negative way given the denseness of the material found there, and that will pretty much kill all hopes of maintaining a healthy mop of hair.
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy not only suffer hair loss on their heads, but also all over their bodies.
This happens, BreastCancer.org notes, because chemo “targets all rapidly dividing cells — healthy cells as well as cancer cells.” The scorched earth nature of chemotherapy may kill cancer cells, but it does not stop there. Not by a long shot.
As it turns out, hair follicles are some of the fastest-growing cells in the body, so they are deeply affected by the treatment.
A testament to just how quickly these cells grow can be seen in the rapid hair growth that often occurs once chemotherapy treatments cease and the patient’s body is allowed to return to its natural processes.
Low vitamin levels
While there may be a temptation to focus solely on protein when hoping to boost hair growth, strengthen overall health, and avoid losing your hair in the first place, it is important to not lose sight of the types and amounts of vitamins that you are taking in.
In addition to protein, your hair requires vitamins B, C, and E to thrive, as well as zinc and iron.
If you are concerned that your hair seems to be falling out or thinning, then pay attention to the vitamins you are consuming on a daily basis. Try to get the essentials through your diet, but don’t hesitate to chew a Flintstone’s or take another form of supplement to fill things out.
If that does not help, then your body may not be properly absorbing the nutrients that it is taking in. There is a technical name for this, and it is called malabsorption syndrome.
Actually, malabsorption syndrome is the catch-all, and it is responsible for a number of other more specific conditions.
When you suffer from a malabsorption syndrome, you cannot absorb certain nutrients and fluids in great enough quantities to ensure smooth overall functionality.
Nutrients, notes Healthline, can be macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), or both.
Hair loss is just one of the ways malabsorption syndrome can manifest. Other tell-tale signs include the following:
- Foul-smelling stools (yeah, we know, stools don’t smell great to begin with, but if you notice a lighter color that accompanies it, that’s a pretty
- Bloating, gas, explosive diarrhea
- Low blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Muscle wasting
Why Does Baldness Scare Us?
Baldness can scare us for a number of reasons, both trivial and non-trivial.
One of the biggest reasons we might fear going bald is that it could be taken as a sign of the aging process. No one wants to think they are getting old.
Beyond that — and this is especially true if you are a younger person — it could be a sign of poor health, and if you have one iota of hypochondriac in you, that can lead to assuming the worst at the first sign of trouble.
(And beware searching it. With the Internet, all signs lead to cancer.)
Fortunately, most hair loss can be controlled through diet and taking the right types of supplements, and that’s where coconut oil can make a big difference.
What Is Coconut Oil?
The coconut tree, also known as Cocos nucifera among those of us who like to wow you with our abilities to do a Google search, is the source of all coconuts, which, when matured, produce an edible oil from their “meat.”
In recent years, coconut oil has picked up steam as a preferred supplement for the belief that its high levels of natural saturated fats elevate HDL (“the good cholesterol”) while converting LDL (“the bad cholesterol”).
While we could debate the merits of coconut oil as a healthy food option — elevated fats and corresponding elevated calorie content will lead to weight gain if not properly handled, no matter what — the substance can be a boost to those hoping to prevent or reverse hair loss.
How Coconut Oil Can Help Hair Loss
While calling coconut oil a “cure for baldness” may be going a little far in our estimation, there is reason to believe that it can be a benefit, and not an insignificant one.
To understand how this is possible, it is important to understand what sebum is. Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. This natural oil prevents your scalp from becoming too dry, which, in turn, can lead to hair breaking off and falling out.
Coconut oil, like sebum, contains medium-chain triglycerides, which, LIVESTRONG notes, “allow the substances to effectively penetrate the hair shaft so their beneficial characteristics can assist in maintaining hair’s health and increasing growth.”
Additionally, coconut oil holds in moisture, and this can prevent the aforementioned drying out.
Coconut oil also has anti-parasitic qualities as well, and these allow it to fight off bacteria and fungi, ensuring strong hair while protecting roots. This also is a reason that coconut oil is often recommended for acne sufferers (cough teenagers).
Coconut Oil Properties
Now that you know how coconut oil can help with hair loss and nourishment, let’s take a deeper dive to see what’s actually in it. While the following is not an exhaustive list of everything you will find in coconut oil, these properties will be the most abundant (and impactful).
This antioxidant gets credit for building and repairing tissue, two particularly useful qualities when dealing with hair loss. It, along with the string of medium-chain fatty acids that we are about to discuss, is one of the primary components of coconut oil. It features skin benefits as well.
Coconut oil has several fatty acids in it, with each one producing a similar result as most are medium chain and saturated. Among them, the top dog is lauric acid, which composes around 50%, give or take a couple of percentage points.
Lauric acid is the substance mostly credited for boosting good cholesterol. In addition to coconut oil, it is found in watermelons, plums, macademia nuts, and pumpkin flowers, to name a few.
This fatty acid is the second most significant to be found in coconut oil. Additionally, it shows up in nutmeg, palm oil, butter fat, and spermacetin, or oils that are produced by sperm whales. Hair treatments are but one use of myristic acid.
The beauty industry often incorporates it into fragrances, cleansers, and emulsifiers. Up to 21%, and usually no less than 15%, of every coconut oil fatty acid is of the myristic type.
About 5%-10% of coconut oil’s fatty acid composition comes from caprylic acid. This particular medium chain triglyceride (MCT) is found in peanut butter, milk (cow and human varieties), and palm fruit oil.
According to Healthline, caprylic acid also is used in the treatment of yeast infections, skin conditions, high cholesterol, and digestive disorders. It can lower risk on antibiotic resistance as well.
Also called decanoic acid, capric acid composes between 4%-8% of all fatty acids found in coconut oil. As yet another MCT/saturated fat comprising part of the composition, its effects are largely supportive of the more prevalent properties (i.e., lauric acid and vitamin E).
This fatty acid is found in animals, plants, and microorganisms, and it is the most common. That said, it only comprises 7%-10% of the fatty acid composition of coconut oil. You will find it in greater abundance in soybean oil, sunflower oil, and cocoa butter.
The World Health Organization has linked palmitic acid to cardiovascular disease, but that’s only relevant if you consume it. As a topical agent to your scalp, it does not matter as much.
Oleic acid is the most commonly occurring unsaturated fat in coconut oil, comprising 5%-8% of the overall fatty acid composition. It has been linked to positive gains in good cholesterol and reduction in bad, and it may be responsible for the blood pressure easing effects you’ll find in olive oil.
The relationship between eating coconut oil and hair loss
While applying coconut oil as a topical agent to prevent hair loss and boost overall hair health, the nutritional data mentioned above does not matter as much. But that does not mean consuming coconut oil will have no effect on your hair’s strength.
Remember that thyroid diseases can play in to hair loss. Well, according to this recent study, consuming coconut oil may help with some thyroid conditions, and that can definitely influence what is going on up-top.
Different Applications For Coconut Oil on Hair?
Now that we have established why coconut oil is so effective for hair use, let’s look at the best way to apply it to get the best result.
Some may tell you to microwave in order to soften the coconut oil to the right consistency. This isn’t advisable because microwaves use intense levels of heat that can a) be too hot for the application, and b) hinder the consistency.
To soften up the coconut oil for best use, you may want to use the two-bowl technique, which involves placing the coconut oil into a small bowl inside of a larger bowl.
Then, fill the larger bowl with warm water until it slightly submerges the smaller, infiltrating the oil’s properties.
Using the two-bowl method, you will notice the temperature of the oil is more tolerable on the scalp, and it will not result in runniness that can make even application across the scalp difficult.
Once the coconut oil is ready, you can apply directly to the scalp and distribute evenly via brushing, or you can wrap your hair in a towel and let it sit overnight.
You will get differing opinions on this, but consider leaving it in 20-30 minutes to start and then rinsing out. As time goes, you might want to try keeping it in longer (maybe even overnight) until you are satisfied with the results.
For particularly frizzy hair, a coconut oil hair mask might be your best bet. BuzzFeed recommends first putting your hair into a ponytail (if possible), then saturating the length of the hair (not the roots).
Next, you’ll want to wrap it, pin it, and wash out (this is where overnight leave-ins can play to your advantage). The site also recommends capping your hair if you’re sleeping on it to protect pillow cases.
For those of you who would rather not go through all the trouble, there are some products out there that utilize coconut oil for hair support. Let’s look at a few.
Coconut Oil Infused Products
If you do not have the patience to melt your coconut oil to the right consistency, then you may want to try any one of a number of hair products that emphasize coconut oil as their main ingredient.
Take, for example, the Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Leave-In Treatment, which allows you to keep your hair hydrated with a spritz while your hair is still wet after a rinse or wash.
If you want something a little more heavy-duty, you might try the Herbivore Coconut + Sea Salt Beach Wave Hair Mist. This product utilizes aloe water, and it is infused with coconut and vanilla essential oils.
Still others may wish to go the shampoo route, and for that, there is the intense (and somewhat expensive) Charcoal and Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo from Briogeo.
This product utilizes binchotan charcoal in conjunction with coconut oil to remove dirt and debris from follicles. It also contains properties from essential oils, including tea tree, peppermint, and spearmint.
Ouidad Curl Immersion Coconut Cleansing Conditioner is an option for curlier hair. While coconut oil is a central ingredient, it also includes a combo of grape seed, rosemary, sage, and avocado oils.
For more examples of the types of hair product that you can get with coconut oil as at least a part of the equation, Cosmopolitan has a quick rundown at this link.
Straight Coconut Oil Vs. Formulated Product
There are certainly pros and cons you will want to weigh when it comes to deciding between straight coconut oil and coconut oil-infused hair care products.
For starters, coconut oil by itself will cost less money, and you can utilize it for other purposes aside from just hair. The major dietary advantage that we have already mentioned — reducing bad and boosting good cholesterol — doesn’t do you much good if you are only utilizing coconut oil as a topical hair treatment.
On the other hand, prepping coconut oil for use may not be as user-friendly as buying a pre-infused product. Likewise, pre-infused may bring in other ingredients that have additional hair care advantages.
For example, the charcoal shampoo mentioned above can cleanse your scalp and follicles in a way that coconut oil cannot.
Ultimately, you will want to decide which course of action fits your goals and your budget. If you have the money to burn and are not that crazy about putting in the time to heat coconut oil for proper use, then pick something up at the salon.
If cost is a factor, you don’t mind the prep work, and you want to use coconut oil for other purposes, then go with the straight buy.
Non-Coconut Oil Products Claiming To Fight Hair Loss
The last thing you should be mindful of before going all in with coconut oil is that it does not necessarily fit every style of hair. And by that, we mean that coconut oil may offer little to no benefit depending on your hair’s strength and texture.
For example, it is not recommended for use with coarse hair. Instead you may wish to use jojoba oil, which comes from a shrub commonly found in the southern portions of Arizona and California as well as northwestern Mexico.
If you suffer from dried-out hair, then consider olive oil.
Whether your hair is coarse or dry, coconut oil can actually have the opposite effect from what you are probably hoping for, resulting in brittle hair and hair loss, so proceed with caution and know your style.
As you can see, from the fatty acids and vitamin-E content alone, coconut oil has many of the properties necessary for promoting the red blood cell production and circulation to nourish proteins and hydrate the scalp, setting an environment for healthier hair and faster growth.
While we may never find a legitimate cure for baldness, coconut oil has produced positive results for many users with thick, shiny hair.
Coarser-haired individuals may wish to avoid. But even if, you can learn something by examining the properties of coconut oil and applying that same level of research and scrutiny to the hair care products that you try.
So what about you, readers? Have you used coconut oil? Were you pleased with the results? What do you think the best application of it is?
And have you noticed any difference since you started using it in hair length, thickness, etc.? Sound off in the comments section below.