Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

Has Coconut Oil Stolen Moroccan Oil's Haircare Crown?

Every few months a new release, hailed as a "hero product", comes along that will revolutionise our beauty routine. Or so we’re told. Though launched six years earlier, in 2012 Moroccanoil became the essential haircare item, touted as the miracle cure for parched locks and the beauty world literally lapped it up. After rave reviews featured in every magazine and blog, the little brown bottles flew off the shelves as everyone fell for the antioxidant-rich oil with “strengthening proteins and shine-boosting vitamins” that claimed to “completely transform… detangle, speed up drying time and boost shine—leaving hair smooth, manageable and nourished with each use.” Yes please.

Moroccanoil was created by Chilean-born Carmen Tal, a Canadian-based former salon owner, who discovered the nourishing qualities of argan oil on a visit to Israel. Following a hair colour catastrophe, Tal's sister-in-law took her to a local hairdressers where they used an argan oil treatment and the results were immediate. Hello shiny locks. Morrocanoil is made in Israel, sold in over 35 countries and now a multimillion-dollar business.

So why exactly is this little oil the hair elixir? Argan oil is extracted from the kernels of argan trees which grow exclusively in Morocco. The oil which is Vitamin E-rich, has been used in Africa for centuries but Tal introduced it to the masses when she and her ex-husband bought the small Israeli company that imported the oil from North Africa.
Of course, following the big boom in 2012, critics were quick to point out the oleic acid found in the product can clog pores and subsequently cause breakouts, and to draw attention to the fact that silicone is a key ingredient in a number of Moroccanoil products – in fact the first 4-6 listed ingredients are silicones. Considering the price of the product (over £30 for 100ml) it's disappointing that silicone, which merely sits on the surface of the hair making it appear sleeker but doesn't actually truly nourish, is used to significantly bolster up the oil. When silicone molecules build up over time, they leave hair looking lacklustre, greasy at the roots and feeling exceptionally dry. WAH Nails founder and beauty guru Sharmadean Reid recently told us: “I know it's bad for your hair but I love Moroccanoil. When I live in Jamaica, I'll go natural and then it will be all about avocado and egg and coconut oil hair masks.”

Which leads us nicely on to coconut oil, the multi-purpose, natural and far more affordable product that exploded onto the scene this year. Coconut oil – which can be used to wash your face, treat your hair, whiten your teeth, enhance your cooking and your smoothies, and even be used as lube – is the latest haircare essential. Since its hype over the past 18 months, many have now abandoned Moroccanoil as the coconut stuff is entirely natural and free of silicone, alcohols, and other chemicals that can upset sensitive skin and hair. For a fraction of the price, a handful of coconut oil slapped on as a mask, repairs damaged hair that has been bleached, heat damaged, or just in need of some TLC.
Additionally, coconut oil is anti-fungal, meaning that it tackles dandruff and regular use results in not just shiny and nourished hair, but a healthy scalp too. The reason coconut oil is so conditioning is because, unlike other oils that just sit on the hair rather than penetrating the follicle, it is actually absorbed into the hair shaft. Lauric acid, vitamin E and capric acid help to restore hair and increase strength by stopping the loss of protein. Those who regularly apply a coconut oil mask will notice more body and shine with significantly less breaking, unwanted frizz, knots and split ends. At around £15 for a huge jar in Holland & Barrett, it is, comparatively, a bargain.

Jordan Garrett, Senior Stylist at Hershesons, who has done the hair of Sienna and Kate Bosworth, shared his wisdom on the two products. "Personally I prefer Moroccanoil over Coconut Oil. The good thing about the Moroccanoil serum is you can use it as a prep when the hair is wet or when the hair is dry as a finishing product, to leave the hair feeling well nourished and with a nice sheen. Coconut Oil is great as a conditioner but I wouldn't use it to style, it's far less multipurpose.

Personally, I'm a bit sceptical about using it on wet hair, as I feel from experience using it on shoots and on my clients, that hair will absorb more nutrients when the hair is dry. Plus, it's easy to overestimate how much you would use [editor's note: I had to wear a beanie to work recently, and I'm not one for hats, after getting a bit carried away with a coconut oil treatment and subsequently having a head of hair that looked like an ocean oil spill]. Less is more with these types of products and I never apply to the root area, apply to the mid lengths and down."

The jury's out, but whether you're a coconut oil convert or a Moroccanoil loyalist, oils are undoubtedly the holy grail haircare products. Until the next one comes along...