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Thursday 10 January 2013


Coconut oil normally brings back nightmares of mom chasing (a much younger!) me through the house, trying to pour the greasy oil on my head and following it up with a vigorous massage till every pore and cuticle was saturated. Mom’s point was that coconut oil has been used by Indian women for centuries to keep their hair long, lustrous and healthy. My problem was simply that I hated a head full of grease. Surely, there had to be a better way!

Turns out that we were both right in the end. Coconut oil is not called the ‘Elixir from the tree of life for nothing’. According to research, coconut oil – unlike mineral oils – actually penetrates the hair shaft because it is so similar to our tresses’ natural lipids. Once inside the hair, it serves as a “re-fatting agent”, replacing the natural oils that have been lost due to washing, heat damage and environmental toxicities. This strengthens the hair, adds volume and prevents breakage.

Besides this, coconut oil contains Lauric Acid and Capric Acid, which have a microbial action, thereby guarding against hair loss. It also contains Vitamin E, which keeps the scalp healthy; fatty acids that keep dandruff at bay; and a high moisture retaining capacity, which keep strands soft and hydrated.

However, for maximum benefits you need to get Virgin Coconut Oil (by the way, there is really nothing like Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – that’s just marketing hype), which is so called due to its pure, raw and unadulterated state. Most of the commercial preparations (including the one mom would brandish about) are extracted from dried coconut (copra). This requires high levels of heat, which gives the oil a very strong odour and heavy, drippy texture. Usually, this oil also undergoes chemical refining, bleaching and deodarizing (hence it’s known as RBD), which strips it of most benefits.

Virgin Coconut Oil (or VCO), on the other hand, is extracted from fresh coconut by mechanical or natural means. This was actually the original way of extracting coconut oil and this food-grade liquid retains the light taste and aroma of coconuts and is high in vitamin and minerals. Absolutely clear in appearance, it has powerful antioxidant properties that allows it to stay fresh for a very long time. Biggest bonus? It simply melts into the hair, without the heavy, saturated feeling of RBD.

And applying it is simple: All you need to do is warm some oil, drizzle it on your scalp and lightly massage till all the strands are coated right through to the roots. Leave on for 2-3 hours (or overnight if your hair is very dry, damaged or brittle) then wash with a mild shampoo.

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