How To Use Coconut Oil To Soften Your Beard

Oil made from coconuts has unique properties that help protect your beard from damage

You should be using coconut oil for your beard if you want a softer, more well-behaved beard. This article gets in depth, showing why coconut oil is good for your beard and three ways you can use it.

TL;DR Summary

Benefits of coconut oil for your beard

Using coconut oil for your beard has several benefits:

  1. Prevents damage to your beard from the outside environment
  2. Makes hair easier to groom and style
  3. Softens the texture of your beard
  4. Prevents bacterial buildup
  5. Moisturizes the skin under your beard

While using beard oil delivers some of these benefits, it doesn’t offer them all. Coconut oil has been scientifically proven to fully absorb into your hair. Many other oils only coat the surface of the hair.

Your hair can become damaged from washing, grooming habits, chemicals, and other sources. When hairs deeply absorb oil, they become healthier and resist damage from these elements.

This article goes in depth into the science behind each of these claims, and provides sources if you want to learn more.

How to use coconut oil for your beard

If you just want to figure out how to incorporate coconut oil into your beard-grooming routine, then it can be used in the following three ways:

  1. Rub a generous amount into your beard an hour before you shower
  2. Apply a bunch in your beard and then wrap your beard with a hot towel for 5 minutes
  3. Use it the same way you use beard oil (it’s a lot cheaper!)Coconut Oil pick

You might be surprised that you should use coconut oil before a shower. This article will explain exactly why this is one of the most effective methods for softening your beard.

We recommend this coconut oil for use in your beard. It’s “fractionated” so it’s liquid at room temp and easier to apply.

The science: why coconut oil softens your beard

What is the structure of beard hair?

To understand why coconut oil helps your beard so much, we have to first understand the composition of each strand of hair.The three-part structure of hair starts to show us why coconut oil is good for your beard

Your hair consists of three layers:

  • A tough,scaly outer cuticle
  • A midlayer cuticle
  • A central medulla

The outer cuticle really protects the rest of the hair from damage (source). Think of it like armor. It protects the inner parts of the hair from absorbing chemicals or other pollutants. It also protects the hair from excess moisture.

You can actually feel the cuticle on a strand of hair. Take a strand of hair and pinch it between your thumb and index. Run your fingers up from the root of the hair to the tip. It’ll be smooth. Reverse direction, running from the tip to the root. You’ll feel a squeaky friction. That’s caused by the upward-pointing scales of the cuticle.

The inner bits of the hair are more fibrous and less scaly. If they are exposed, they are prone to split. These are the split ends that you may have heard ladies talking about. They’re not good for your hair.

How does hair get damaged?

Hair gets damaged in a variety of ways:

  • Water absorption
  • Friction
  • Sunlight
  • Chemicals

We’re going to ignore the last two for now. You should be trying to use 100% natural products on your beard, and there’s not a lot you can do to avoid sunlight on your beard.

However, we can take steps to minimize the first two sources of damage. Let’s understand them in a bit more depth.

Coconut oil makes your beard hair less likely to absorb too much water

Water damage is actually one of the most prevalent ways that hair can become damaged. Your hair, when healthy, should repel water. When it doesn’t, the inner parts of hair absorb a lot of water and increase in volume. If a hair fiber swells past 30% of its original volume, the stiff cuticle starts to break from the strain.

That unleashes a cycle of damage. Now that the cuticles are broken, more water can get into the hair, leading to more swelling and more damage. Not good.

Friction also can damage hair. Friction is caused by grooming, and especially combing. In fact, hair science will often refer to “combing forces.” Apply too much force to hair and it can break. All the info in the last three paragraphs can be found at this source.

It’s worth noting that beard hair more easily suffers damage than does scalp hair. Beard hair has higher liquid absorbency, as well as a lower ability to withstand friction or other forces, as compared to the hair on your scalp (source PDF).

Why does it matter if hair gets damaged?

Damaged hair:

  • Looks dull and lifeless
  • Feels stiffer, more brittle, less soft to the touch
  • Tangles easily, resists grooming efforts

It starts to look dull and lifeless because the shiny exterior of the hair gets deformed. The scaly cuticles on the outside of the hair start standing up instead of laying flat. Or worse, if there’s lots of damage, patches of cuticle fall off altogether. This uneven surface diffuses light and causes dullness.

Coconut oil can prevent this kind of damage to hair cuticles
A microscopic look at healthy hair on the left, damaged hair on right

Damaged hair begins to feel stiffer and brittle. There’s less of a protective layer to maintain proper levels of moisture in the hair. Also, the natural oil in your hair declines, making it less pliable. So your hair starts to feel more wiry, dry, and stiff when it’s damaged.

Finally, the hair becomes much harder to groom when damaged. As the “exoskeleton” of the hair is damaged, the hair develops kinks. It starts to frizz out, the damaged hairs each doing their own thing. Moreover, the cuticles are poking out from each of the hair’s surfaces, increasing friction between the hair and leading to tangling. Finally, if the damage becomes bad enough, the hair fibers themselves split, leading to more tangling.

So if you like your beard to look supple, feel soft, and respond to brushing, you care about keeping it healthy.

How does coconut oil protect your beard and skin?

Coconut oil preserves the cuticle, which is like the fortress of your hair
Coconut oil is like a fortress for your beard

Coconut oil has several benefits that prevent damage to your beard and skin:

  • Absorbs into the inner shaft of the hair, preventing the risk of water swelling
  • Coats the outside of the hair, reducing grooming friction and allowing the hairs in your beard to be more flexible, making them easier to groom and style
  • Softens the texture of your beard
  • Prevents bacterial buildup in your beard and skin – is a natural antiseptic
  • Moisturizes the skin under your beard

Many different oils can deliver the last three benefits. But coconut oil is the only oil that we can say definitively absorbs into the hair shaft based on scientific studies.

There are a lot of reasons for this on a molecular level. Simply put, the particles in coconut oil are small enough and shaped correctly to get past the scaly exterior of the hair shaft. If you’re interested in more detail (polarity, triglyceride composition, etc.) feel free to check out the full scientific rundown.

By penetrating all the way into the hair shaft, coconut oil maintains the water-repellant nature of your hair. Your hair doesn’t absorb as much water, doesn’t overswell, and preserves its outer cuticle.

It’s also worth shouting out to the antiseptic properties of coconut oil here. Beard itch, a dreaded condition for many beardsmen, is partially caused by an aggravation of the skin due to the presence of bacteria. An antiseptic oil like coconut or tea tree oil can help to alleviate this problem, as well as the potential for acne that might otherwise arise from beard oil.

3 ways to use coconut oil for your beard

There are three different ways to use coconut oil for your beard:

  1. Rub a generous amount into your beard an hour before you shower
  2. Apply a bunch in your beard and then wrap your beard with a hot towel for 5 minutes
  3. Use it the same way you use beard oil (it’s a lot cheaper!)
Want a photogenic beard? Use coconut oil!

The first two uses deserve a closer look.

The first might seem counterintuitive. Isn’t the point of showering to rinse out the oils and gunk from our scalp and beard? Why would we intentionally lather up prior to a shower? Well, now that we understand hair structure and how coconut oil works, we’re prepared to answer that question.

The whole point of coconut oil for your beard is it (unlike other oils) prevents water damage to hair! We apply it before showers so that our beards are protected under that deluge of water.

You don’t have to do it for every shower. Once a week is probably enough to keep your beard really soft and to replenish the oils on the inside of your hair shaft. You do want to allow enough time for the coconut oil to absorb into the hair (an hour or two) before you rinse it out.

Everyone’s hair is different. Some people naturally have more porous hair, which will lead to more water absorption and therefore a higher need for this coconut oil treatment. So adjust your frequency up or down depending on how your hair reacts.

Let’s look more closely at the second use of coconut oil: hot oil treatment. When coconut oil gets hotter, the molecules get smaller. This leads to more absorbency into your beard hair. It makes sense to heat the oil somehow to get more of its benefits.

You can check out this article about hot oil beard treatments or just rely on this simple instruction: put a bunch of oil in your beard, and wrap a really hot towel around your beard for 5 minutes. Boom.


Coconut oil is awesome for hair (especially this one). We’ve known it for centuries, but now we have some studies to prove it. Your beard probably will get softer if you use this stuff. It will protect your beard when the weather turns colder and everything seems to be drying out.

But why stop there? If you’re using it all the time, your head hair might be getting jealous. It’ll work for both, so don’t neglect the head.

Viva la beard!

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