Coconut oil is a fairly new kid on the block in the Western World, but it’s been popular for centuries in the East – with good reason.
The benefits of coconut oil are seemingly never-ending: from adding shine to your hair, softening your skin and whitening your teeth to helping you cook up a storm. Make sure you stock up on this tropical cupboard staple! We’ll take you through all the ways you can use it here.
1. Coconut oil for hair
People have been including nourishing coconut oil in hair care routines for hundreds of years, but why? First, let’s get the low-down on this tropical treat. Coconut oil is a saturated fat rich in the fatty acid (triglyceride) lauric acid – and this is the component that makes it such a hair hero.
Helps to prevent hair damage
With all the heat, hair dye and other styling we put our hair through in this modern age, one thing we need to do is try to keep hair damage at a minimum. Coconut oil may help you do just that.
One study tested the effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil and coconut oil on the prevention of hair damage. Coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair when used in pre-washing and post-washing treatments. Researchers suspect that lauric acid plays a big part in this, as it is highly reactive with hair proteins and can penetrate inside the hair shaft due to its low molecular weight.1
Can soothe dry scalps
Dry scalps can be irritating and are one of the main causes of dandruff – and coconut oil may help. Moisturising your scalp with a little coconut oil may help you say goodbye to dry and flaky skin. Be careful though, it won’t work for everyone and may just end up making your hair greasy, so do a little patch test first.
May help to promote hair growth
A telling indicator of hair health is how well it grows. Although further studies into the connection between coconut oil and hair growth need to be done, coconut oil may help to improve the health of your hair. When hair is healthy, it is less prone to the breakage and split ends that may inhibit growth.
How to use coconut oil in hair
Now you know the benefits of coconut oil for hair, here’s how to put them into practice:
- Protect with a pre-wash – as coconut oil can penetrate hair follicles and protect your hair from the inside out, it can stop your hair from soaking up too much water when you wash it. Damaged hair is much more porous than healthy hair and when hair absorbs water and increases in size, it can become damaged and break.2 Try applying some coconut oil through the midsection and ends of your hair about 30 minutes before you wash with shampoo and conditioner as normal.
- Apply as a conditioner – its recommended that everybody use a hair conditioner after shampooing to decrease friction, minimise frizz and detangle the hair.3 Coconut oil makes a great conditioner to help prevent breakage and strengthen hair shafts. Use it as an alternative to your regular conditioner or add a few drops to your normal conditioner.
- Use as a styling aid – before you pick up the hairdryer or hair straighteners try applying a dab or coconut oil to damp hair and work through the ends to help tame frizz.
- Make a nourishing hair mask – if you want to give your hair a real treat, take some coconut oil and massage it through your hair. Leave it for a few hours or even overnight if you have very dry and damaged hair, wash it out and enjoy beautifully nourished hair.
Want to know more? Check out: Is coconut oil good for hair?
2. Coconut oil for skin and nails
When it comes to skincare, it seems that a lot of us are opting to go back to our natural roots and incorporate oils and other natural goodness into our routines. However – not all oils are created equal. The benefits of coconut oil for skin have made it very popular in the beauty world; let’s find out why.
Can help prevent harmful microorganisms
Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids. A study about fatty acids and how antimicrobial they are concluded that lauric acid was the most effective.4 And coconut oil is full of the stuff! In fact, lauric acid makes up almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil.
Try applying some to your feet and putting on some socks before bed to give them some antibacterial TLC.
Can be used as a makeup remover
Do you find makeup wipes are harsh on your skin? Or maybe you’re on the market for a more environmentally friendly way to take your makeup off at the end of the day? Either way, coconut oil could be your solution!
All you need to do is:
- Get yourself some unrefined coconut oil
- Rub a teaspoon size between your hands until it warms and becomes a liquid
- Massage it onto your face with your finger – no cloth necessary
- Then rinse with warm water and repeat is necessary
Using coconut oil this way provides you with a completely natural way to clean your face. It’s also free of the harsh ingredients makeup wipes sometimes include and helps you avoid ‘scrubbing’ at your face and eyes. Coconut oil is also a good alternative for people with sensitive skin – just do a patch test beforehand.
Can soothe and moisturise dry skin
Just to add to its skin-loving properties, coconut oil is also great for enriching dry skin with much-needed moisture. This tropical oil helps to moisturise dry skin by keeping it hydrated and helping the skin barrier.
Try applying it after a shower to lock in some of the water and help keep your skin hydrated.
What about other oils? A study comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturiser for mild to moderate dry skin found that both oils helped to reduce the symptoms of dryness, scaling and roughness of the skin.
Can help you look after your nails
As mentioned previously, coconut oil can be a great way to enrich the skin with moisture, and the same goes for our delicate nail skin. Try massaging some into your cuticles before bed for newly moisturised nail skin come the morning. Read more about How coconut oil can help your nails here.
3. Coconut oil for teeth whitening
The trend for bright white teeth has gained some serious momentum over the past few decades – not that we didn’t care about clean teeth before – a lot of people just want their teeth as white as possible. However, with this popularity comes cheap products claiming to whiten your teeth quickly and cheaply. Coconut oil may just be the natural teeth-whitening alternative people have been looking for.
Coconut oil is most commonly used in the practice of ‘oil pulling’, which is the process of swishing oil around the teeth and mouth for a prolonged period of time and spitting it out. This process has been seen to help improve oral hygiene when practiced correctly and regularly and used alongside normal dental hygiene practices like brushing teeth and flossing.
There are several oils recommended for oil pulling, each with their own benefits. Coconut oil was seen to decrease plaque formation.5 Plaque (a film of bacteria that forms on teeth) is the most easily repaired cause of yellow teeth, and coconut oil could help you produce less of it.
4. Coconut oil for cooking
Most of us like to indulge in fried foods every once in a while, and coconut oil could be the oil for you! This tasty oil is very resistant to oxidation at high heat due to its high levels of saturated fat, 40% of which is lauric acid.6
Coconut oil is pretty versatile too! As it is solid at room temperature, it can be used as an ingredient in baking and cooking as a replacement for vegetable oil or butter in recipes, as well as a cooking aid. You can also use it for greasing baking pans – so it’s definitely worth having in your cupboard. Here’s 3 delicious coconut oil recipes to try.
Please note: like with every food, especially calorie-dense fats, coconut oil can add some serious calories to your meal. Don’t just slather it onto everything, treat it like you would any other oil e.g. olive oil, especially if you’re trying to be healthy.
Coconut oil for keto diets
If you’re following the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, coconut oil could become one of your staples.
The medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil can be converted into ketones by your body, which are an important alternative energy source for the brain.7 They are also essential for keeping your body stay in ketosis, which is the metabolic state that instructs your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.
Coconut oil for keto coffee
A popular way to give your body a morning boost of ketones is to make a ‘Bulletproof Coffee’. Also known as Keto Coffee, Bulletproof Coffee is a high-calorie, no-carb drink designed to replace breakfast. It is claimed to fuel your morning, keep your body in ketosis and help you feel alert and focused.
Most recipes call for butter, coconut oil / MCT oil and coffee, with coconut oil providing the all-important MCTs. You can also make it vegan by subbing the butter for cacao butter or more coconut oil. Here’s how to make it:
- Brew some organic coffee and add around 350ml to a blender
- Mix with 2 tbsp of unsalted butter / ghee / cacao butter and 1tbsp of coconut oil, then blend until frothy and foamy
- Enjoy your creamy coffee!
Which coconut oil is best?
So now you know all the ways you can use coconut oil and the benefits it may possess, you probably want to know which coconut oil is best.
There are several types of coconut oil, each distinguished by the way they have been processed and their intended final use. Every type has different benefits depending on how you want to use it.
- The best coconut oil for hair, skin and teeth: unrefined, cold-pressed (extra virgin) coconut oil. The purer the better when it comes to non-food use of coconut oil.
- The best coconut oil for cooking: the unrefined, virgin coconut oil you would use on your hair and skin is also great for baking and sautéing, but not for frying as it has a smoke point of 170C. If you want to get frying, opt for refined coconut oil as it has a higher smoke point of 204C.
Coconut oil terms
- Refined coconut oil: Processed for a milder taste and a higher smoke point so it can be used to fry food
- Unrefined coconut oil: Purer and less processed with a deeper coconut flavour and a lower smoke point
- Cold pressed coconut oil: Not exposed to a high heat before or after pressing
- Extra virgin coconut oil: The term for unrefined and cold-pressed coconut oil
And there you have it, some of the best things you can use the humble coconut oil for.
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Last updated: 26 August 2020