Coconut Milk Isn’t Just for Cooking—It’s Also Great for Your Hair

Photo: Getty Images/Granger Wootz
I've fallen in love with coconut over the years. First, it was eating the meat out of a freshly-cracked coconut—a snack that instantly transports you to a sunny tropical island whenever you take a bite. Then it was using coconut oil as the full-body moisturizer my skin never knew it needed. And lately I've jumped on the coconut milk bandwagon, using it in my creamy—and ridiculously frothy!—matcha lattes. One thing I've never thought about, though, is pouring some on my head.

Even though coconut oil is touted as the ultimate saving grace for revitalizing dry strands, coconut milk—which is simply coconut flesh puréed with water—has hair-saving powers, too. "Coconut milk has some restorative qualities," says Paul Labrecque, the celebrity hairstylist behind Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa in New York City, Palm Beach, Florida, and Philadelphia. "The natural fatty acids in coconut can help grow hair, restore strands, and keep your hair in great condition."

The coconut milk you're going to be using on your hair might be a little different than the kind most people use in their lattes. Instead of choosing one of the newfangled coconut milks you see in the alt-milk section of the grocery store, buy the creamy canned versions that are unsweetened, organic, and don't contain a long list of additives. Most will only contain three ingredients (like this one from Thai Kitchen): organic coconut, water, and guar gum—a common stabilizer made from guar beans that helps the product stay nice and smooth. If you'd rather make your own coconut milk, you can do that too. Just blend up a cup of shredded unsweetened coconut with two cups of water.

Whether you buy coconut milk or make it yourself at home, reaping the hair benefits is easy. Some people mix it with other ingredients to use as a mask (like essential oil, honey, olive oil, or avocado), but Labrecque says he prefers using it as-is. "For a treatment, you can put it directly on your hair and leave it in for 20 minutes before shampooing," he says. And if you need a little extra assistance with fighting off frizz in the humidity this summer, you can use it as a leave-in conditioner. "It can also be used to help de-frizz strands. Mix a little coconut milk and lemon juice together and apply."

With a little help from the healthy fats in coconut milk, your hair will stay healthy, moisturized, and shiny all year long. And the best part? If you have any leftovers, don't let it go to waste. You can add it into soups, smoothies, and your coffee. The uses are endless.

If you have some leftover coconut milk, use it in one of these delicious pudding options. And if you're curious about other alt-dairy options and their benefits, consider this your go-to guide.

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