I’m usually a tad reticent to try out “natural” hair masks, since my hair is very fine, and I’m afraid that the natural oils will weigh me down with greasy strands. But then again, I do like to try out new remedies for my follicle woes, and changing up my shampoo-conditioner keeps things interesting. I chose to try out a coconut hair oil mask, both for its high fatty acid content that will moisturize and strengthen, and its soothing aroma to calm me.
To make the mask, I mixed two bananas and approximately half a cup of coconut oil until it was the consistency of a smoothie. Typically you can halve this recipe, but we tested it on three people, so I doubled the ingredients. A rundown of ingredients and their components
“Acid” is kind of a deceiving name for this multi-purpose essential fatty acids. To start, topically-applied linoleic acid (found in coconut oil) will seep into your scalp, keeping follicles hydrated and fortified against damage, so that your hair can continue growing under normal conditions. Additionally, it reduces dandruff, dry hair, and protects some forms of hair keratin that are responsible for hair thickness and growth.
Linoleic acid also creates a sort of encasing over your hair strands that will absorb moisture, but won’t release it. However, this fatty acid has another important function — it links together the individual cells of the hair shaft’s outmost layer, the cuticle. As hair becomes dry, damaged, etc. the lipids that link the cuticle’s cells begin to disintegrate and disperse, giving hair a thin, weak appearance. By applying a new cohesive lipid, your hair’s appearance should become noticeably better and provide a stronger protection (Centre Clauderer)
While Linoleic acid works to moisturize and strengthen your hair, you can think of lauric acid as being a super-defensive against all bacteria that would hinder hair growth. Researchers found that lauric acid is good at inhibiting bacteria build-up for acne vulgaris (common acne), which commonly can inflame hair follicles. Specifically, you only need 1/15 of topical lauric acid to match the effects of benzoyl peroxide for common acne.
Also, unlike other treatments, lauric acid is non-cytotoxic, meaning that it won’t damage or pollute your cells while cleaning them. Plus, hair/skin moisture should not be negatively affected by lauric acid, as it does not inhibit sebaceous cells’ activity (Nakatsuji et al).
So how will some acne inhibit hair growth? If you have it on your scalp, acne may turn mild inflammation into folliculitis, or severe follicle inflammation. In many cases, small pus-filled bumps will grow on the scalp and as they burst and crust they will collect more bacteria. If you itch, you may deposit germs from your and into the open pustules (Mayo Clinic). Bacteria and free radicals that accumulate in the follicles may inhibit, damage, or even kills the hair shaft by “oxidizing” potential and existing cells. For a follicle ridden with free radicals, no or very weak hair is able to grow (Avacor).
Dopamine in Bananas
There is very little research about banana’s affects on your hair, specifically using the fruit part and not the peel. On skin, banana is known for it’s vitamin E content and healing properties (Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, British Journal of Pharmacology). Many people favor bananas for their biotin, which is renowned for strengthening hair when ingested and applied topically, though evidence for this is still sparse. (Check out more on Biotin).
However, many banana species contain the antioxidant dopamine which is stronger than many other more common antioxidants, such as flavonoids and carotenoids. In one study it was found that using dopamine from banana peels eliminated free radicals (germs, bacteria, harmful cells) more efficiently than most other antioxidants. While this study focused on ingested dopamine (and not banana fruit), it would be reasonable to assume that these antioxidants would get rid of some free radicals that lurked in our hair strands.
As we said before, there is very little evidence about topically applying banana fruit to hair. Many people favor it for its biotin content, which is great for eating. It is more than likely that banana is paired with coconut merely as an adhesive for the hair.
Personal Use and Experience
I was so excited to give this mask a try since my hair has recently stopped responding well to store-bought conditioners. By the end of it all, however, I was reticent to see ever touch a banana or coconut again, and my beloved chocolate-coconut candies are now hidden away. After making the mixture, we shampooed and rinsed our hair so that it was left damp for application.
We then applied the paste evenly throughout our hairs’ layers, like how a hairdresser will apply hair coloring in layers. Then, we left it in for about 30 minutes and rinsed. Some sources will recommend leaving it in for an hour, but I found that after 20 minutes or so it starts to dry and coagulate on your tresses.
After rinsing my hair, my locks felt drier than before, were impossibly fly away, dull-looking, and completely lank. Worse yet, my hair was so tangled and frizzy that I ended up yanking out a wig’s worth of strands with my brush. Two days afterwards, we were still picking small banana pieces out our hair. In short, there were no redeeming points for this hair mask — it didn’t even give my hair a pleasant aroma.
So what went wrong? My hair is very long, so it is possible that Il didn’t apply enough of the mixture. Also, the coconuts I used were out of season, and may not have been as nutritionally-rich as they would in their proper season. Nevertheless, this mask still proved to be a disappointment.
The coconut-banana hair mask has a lot of great ingredients, like linoleic and lauric acids, that are renowned for moisturizing and protecting your hair. But maybe kitchen mixing isn’t your best bet for this one. While this mask if a cost-efficient do-it-yourself alternative to traditional conditioners, I am not sure if its for everyone. After my mother, a friend and I gave the mask a test, we all reported having very dry, fly-away immediately after using it, and small pieces of banana were falling from our locks two days later (despite vigorous shampooing).
This at-home mask was a bust. You might consider looking for some products with these ingredients that are specifically formulated for hair. These can often give you the benefits of certain ingredients without the pitfalls of home mixing.
Some masks that have banana or coconut:
Editorial Intern Taylor Barbieri is studying English Literature and Mandarin Chinese at the University of Pittsburgh. After a series of follicle follies in her youth, Taylor is now dedicated to bringing FutureDerm readers the best tips and tricks for hair and eyebrow health, specifically about having thick and lustrous hair. In her free time Taylor enjoys studying obscure foreign languages, Bollywood music, cooking pastries, reading ethnographies, and anything involving chocolate. You can contact Taylor at Taylor@futurederm.com.View all Taylor Barbieri posts.
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