Unless you’ve been living on a remote desert island for the past decade, you can’t have failed to notice the resurgence of coconut oil. It has now become synonymous with skin and hair care. The question is…does coconut oil deserve this hype? Let’s look at exactly what it is, what it can do for you, and how you can use it at home.
What is coconut oil?
The coconut is the edible fruit of the coconut palm (cocos nucifera), and the oil extracted from it is packed with fatty acids, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6, carbohydrates, essential amino acids, and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. It has antioxidant, antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Whilst the refined variety of coconut oil which you may have in your kitchen could still impart some benefits to skin and hair, the oil has been compromised with the use of heat or chemicals, and some of the nutritional and therapeutical benefits have already been lost. Therefore the best type of oil for skin and hair is always cold-pressed as it is the pure oil which has been pressed and removed without heat or chemicals, so it retains the full benefits.
What are the health benefits of coconut oil?
In addition to the benefits to hair and skin, coconut oil is reputed to regulate metabolism, help to burn fat, and reduce appetite, effectively promoting weight loss. When used for ‘oil pulling’ to clean the mouth and teeth, coconut oil is shown to effectively kill the harmful pathogens causing tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath, and decrease the build-up of plaque. Coconut oil, added to baking powder can also make a natural toothpaste.
Coconut oil can be added to the diet to take full advantage of the nutrients and vitamins. Being heat stable, it is suitable for baking and frying. Coconut oil may be included in various dressings, health shakes and smoothies, and may be used as a butter substitute.
What are the benefits of coconut oil for skin and hair health?
Coconut oil moisturises and hydrates the skin, restoring the protective barrier and trapping in moisture. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties can help to soothe acne, eczema, and irritated skin. Coconut oil also benefits collagen production, repairing and protecting against ageing of the skin, maintaining elasticity and firmness, and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
As an emollient, coconut oil will deeply penetrate dry hair and stay inside instead of evaporating. It intensely moisturises each strand and works as a heat protectant, in addition to repairing brittle hair and split ends. Regular use will prevent hair damage, breakage and loss, and stimulate healthy growth. Leaves hair soft and lustrous and the scalp glowing with health.
How to use at home
The omega-3 fatty acids in coconut oil will help to melt away make-up, including stubborn mascara. Simply add a few drops to a cotton pad and gently wipe the make-up away.
Cleansing face wash
Naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and moisturising, coconut oil makes a great face wash, and the omega-3 fatty acids will break down dirt and make-up, whilst the lauric acid can help to inhibit acne causing bacteria and repair the skin. Gently massage oil in circular movements to break down dirt. Sweep over the face with a damp muslim cloth to rinse.
Diminish dry or dark under-eye circles and puffiness. Before bed, apply a light layer of oil, gently dabbing it on using your ring finger. Do not pull the delicate under-eye skin.
Moisturises and hydrates the skin, restoring the protective barrier and trapping in moisture. Stimulates collagen to reduce/prevent premature ageing. Apply to the face morning and evening.
Relieve eczema and psoriasis
Massage into the effected areas twice a day to soothe and rehydrate, prevent further moisture loss and repair the skin. Add some coconut oil to a warm bath.
All over body moisturiser
Apply after a shower to trap in the moisture.
Smooth gently over the skin prior to shaving to hydrate the skin, and prevent razor burn and ingrowing hairs.
Pre/after sun treatment
Coconut oil can make a great pre sun treatment – helping to protect against sun damage and create a barrier on the skin to help reduce dehydration of the skin. Massage into the skin before applying a SPF lotion. Can also help after sun bathing to restore lost moisture back into the skin.
Create a body scrub.
Skin looking a bit dull or feeling dry? Exfoliate using slightly warmed coconut oil mixed with brown sugar (ratio 1:2). You can add some essential oils too, if you have any to hand.
Treat your feet.
Soothe dry and cracked feet, eliminate bacteria and fungus. Soak the feet before bed. Apply a generous layer of coconut oil and cover with cotton socks.
Protect against or repair dry and cracked or chapped lips by applying coconut oil as required. If you have any old pieces of lipstick, make a tinted balm/gloss by gently heating the lipstick and mixing into some coconut oil.
Soak the nails for a few minutes in warm water and then massage coconut oil into the cuticles and nails, helping to nourish and rehydrate, and diminish brittleness.
Massage for arthritis
Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties, and may help to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis when applied as a massage oil.
Head and neck massage
Relieve stress, promote circulation and help to boost hair growth with a gentle scalp massage. Heat a couple of drops of coconut oil and gently massage into the scalp and neck, massaging into the hair roots and smoothing any excess along the strands.
Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal properties can be useful in the treatment of dandruff. Gently warm two tablespoons of coconut oil and massage into the scalp. Leave for 30 minutes, before washing out with a gentle shampoo.
For very dry and brittle hair, use as a pre-shampoo treatment. Add 1-2 tablespoons, massage into hair well and leave for 30 minutes, prior to shampoo and conditioning.
Deep conditioning overnight hair treatment.
Warm 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil and apply to hair. Comb through the hair with a wide tooth comb to allow even distribution, cover with a shower cap and leave overnight. Shampoo out in the morning. Use 1-2 times a week
Dry/split end reviver
As a remedy to revive dry or split ends between washes: warm a little oil in the hands to apply to dry ends, and smooth over the ends sparingly.
Tame frizz/add shine.
To prevent frizz and flyaway hair, rub a small amount of oil in the palms of the hands and gently smooth over the hair to leave it looking smooth and polished. Use sparingly to prevent hair looking greasy.
Melt one teaspoon of coconut oil and mix with ¾ cup of water. Add to a spray bottle. Shake well before use and apply to damp/wet hair from mid strand until the ends, before styling with heated styling tools.
Protect hair against chlorine/salt water damage.
Oils don’t wash away as easily as leave-in conditioners, so if you’re headed the pool or beach and want to protect against chlorine and salt water damage, massage coconut oil along the length of the wet hair and don’t wash out. Can also act as a sun protector too.
So that’s it! Coconut oil, does it deserve the hype? Well if your skin or hair is dry, or if you don’t want to inflict damage on either from the sun, then you can’t go far wrong with coconut oil. Even acne prone skin can benefit (and remember oily skin on the face does not mean that the body can’t do with some extra hydration elsewhere).