How long does it take for coconut oil to work on hair?

In this brief guide, we will answer ‘how long does it take for coconut oil to work on hair?’ Also, we will look at the benefits and research that supports the claim.

How long does it take for coconut oil to work on hair?

You need to let the coconut oil sit for 20 to 30 minutes after application. Shampoo and rinse as usual after the time is done. You may also leave the oil overnight to soak in your hair shaft and pores completely, only if you are suffering from very dry hair.

Depending on the dryness level that is affecting your hair, you may use coconut oil once or thrice a week. This ritual needs to be continued for 3 months along with a properly balanced diet to notice differences in the hair quality. 

What is coconut oil? 

Coconut oil is produced by crushing copra, which contains about 60-65% of the oil. The oil has the natural sweet taste of coconut and contains 92% of saturated fatty acids (in the form of triglycerides), most of them (about 70%) are lower chain saturated fatty acids known as medium chain fatty acids (3). Coconut oil is extracted from raw or dried coconuts. It looks solid like white butter at room temperature and melts into liquid when heated. Coconut oil is packed with beneficial omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E that are essential for good, shiny, bouncy and lustrous hair.

Coconut oil has been around for centuries. Whether in the kitchen, balanced diet, skincare or hair care, it’s been ages since coconut oil was accepted as a staple for all households.

What benefits does coconut oil provide to your hair?

Coconut oil provides the following hair benefits;

Fights fungal infection

Based on a study coconut oil when massages into the scalp can help get rid of fungal infections. Moreover, regular use of coconut may also help get rid of dandruff and other fungi on the scalp. The presence of 12-carbon lauric acid makes the coconut oil potent towards microbes. Coconut oil was found to exhibit antibacterial activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Proteus vulgaris and Bacillus subtilis (2).

Soothes scalp irritation

Coconut oil is saturated in nature, such an oil when massaged onto the scalp helps to soothe scalp irritation, flaking and itching. Being highly saturated, coconut oil can also help seal in hair moisture. Topical application of coconut oil brings anti-inflammatory activity and improves skin barrier function by protecting against UVB irradiation. It could be useful in treating skin disorders, such as atopic dermatitis and eczema (4).

Combats split ends

Based on a review, coconut oil absorbs hair strands better than other oil. This may help prevent hair breakage and split ends. Split ends happen when the cuticle is removed, especially when the hair is treated with free radical cosmetics and exposed to sunlight. Treatments using oils reduced the formation of split ends in the hair (1).

Coconut oil may help reduce protein loss in hair. This prevents dry, brittle or hair that breaks easily. A study done using mineral oil, coconut and sunflower oil on prevention of hair damage showed that coconut was the only oil to show a marked decline in protein loss for both damaged and undamaged hair when it was used as a pre-washed or post-washed product (2).

Protects from heat damage

Using a small amount of coconut oil on wet hair or before styling while using heat, may keep your hair safe from thermal damage. Coconut is found to have a strong affinity for hair proteins and it easily penetrates the hair shaft due to its low molecular weight and straight linear chain. That is due to the high amount of lauric acid in coconut oil, which is a relatively low molecular weight and polar fatty acid (2).

Coconut oil makes a protective covering around the hair shaft that may protect your hair from any type of heat damage.

Do coconut oil help promote hair growth?

Well no, coconut oil does not directly affect hair growth but rather provides benefits that improve your hair and scalp health. Coconut oil strengthens your hair shaft and nourishes the scalp leaving your hair feeling soft and shiny. Prevents breakages and deeply hydrates your hair as well as scalp. This can make your hair appear healthier that has given a boost to the façade that coconut oil promotes hair growth (5).

Drawbacks of using coconut oil

For every pro for using coconut oil, there are a few cons attached to it too. Like any other oil, coconut oil can leave your hair greasy. Even if you properly wash it out your hair will still feel greasy to you.

Moreover, coconut oil is comedogenic, meaning it may clog your skin and pores. This can lead to skin irritation (6).

How to use coconut oil?

There are a few ways you can use coconut oil for your hair. Some of them are;

Pre-wash protector

Apply coconut oil concentrating more on the scalp and mid-shaft of your hair, 15 to 30 minutes before you shampoo. This can prevent your hair from soaking up too much water and in turn stave off damage and dryness.


You can either use coconut oil as an alternative to your conditioner or may add a few drops of oil to your usual conditioner. Leave it on for 5 minutes and rinse. This will strengthen your hair shaft and prevent breakage

Styling product

You can apply a small amount of coconut oil to your damp hair. This will reduce frizz, act as a heat protectant and leave you with more manageable hair.

Hair mask

For super-nourishing hair treatment, massage a teaspoon or two of the oil through your hair. Wash it out after a few hours, or leave it on overnight if you have extra dry or damaged hair.


In this brief guide, we answered ‘how long does it take for coconut oil to work on hair?’ Also, we have looked at the benefits and research that supports the claim.

Hopefully, you find this guide helpful and informative. In case of any queries or comments please do let us know.


  1.  Dias, Maria Fernanda Reis Gavazzoni. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int j trichol, 2015, 7, 2.
  2. Deen, Afka, et al. Chemical composition and health benefits of coconut oil: an overview. J Sci Food Agric, 2021, 101, 2182-2193..
  3. Krishna, AG Gopala, et al. Coconut oil: chemistry, production and its applications-a review. Indian Coconut Journal, 2010, 53, 15-27.
  4. Varma, Sandeep R., et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. J trad compl med, 2019, 9, 5-14.
  5. How To Improve Your Health and Beauty With Coconut Oil. Pennmedicine. 2016
  6. Elmore, Lindsey K., et al. Treatment of dermal infections with topical coconut oil. Nat Med J, 2014, 6.