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Did you know one of the best personal care products you'll ever find may be sitting in your kitchen cupboard right now?

I'm talking about coconut oil, which is equally beneficial externally as it is taken internally, and can be used for both skin and hair.

According to one study, which compared mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil as possible products for nurturing and conditioning hair, coconut oil was the only oil that reduced protein loss for both damaged and undamaged hairi .

These findings were true when used as either a pre-wash or post-wash grooming product, but coconut oil achieved the greatest results when used as a pre-wash treatment.

Part of the reason for this is because coconut oil is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water.

So when applied as a pre-wash conditioner, it inhibits the penetration of water into each strand, which would otherwise cause the cuticle, or surface of the hair shaft, to rise, making it prone to damage and breakage.

Furthermore, when applied as a pre-wash treatment, a small amount of the coconut oil is able to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft during the wash, when the hair fiber swells slightly.

This can also explain why so many rave about the oil's ability to prevent "the frizzies" in humid weather—this is another feature of its hydrophobic activity.

According to the study, which was published in the Journal of Cosmetic Scienceii :

"The findings clearly indicate the strong impact that coconut oil application has to hair as compared to application of both sunflower and mineral oils. ...

Both sunflower and mineral oils do not help at all in reducing the protein loss from hair. This difference in results could arise from the composition of each of these oils. Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft.

Mineral oil, being a hydrocarbon, has no affinity for proteins and therefore is not able to penetrate and yield better results. In the case of sunflower oil, although it is a triglyceride of linoleic acid, because of its bulky structure due to the presence of double bonds, it does not penetrate the fiber, consequently resulting in no favorable impact on protein loss."

More porous types of hair may find coconut oil particularly beneficial, such as African- and chemically treated hair.

By Dr. Mercola .
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