The truth about these 17 uses for coconut oil
Coconut oil is full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve uncovered every way possible of how to use coconut oil (psst, organic virgin coconut oil is best) in your beauty routine, you discover a new use for it. And it’s true, it’s one serious multitasker that offers a lot of beauty benefits. But it’s also been given a little too much credit where credit probably isn’t due (or at least, the scientific facts aren’t conclusive).
To ensure you’re across *every* possible use for this ingredient, as well as the uses that aren’t recommended, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of ALL the ways you should and shouldn't use coconut oil.
Here are 12 ways you can use coconut oil:
#1 / For dry skin
Used as a body and face moisturiser, coconut oil’s unique combination of essential fatty acids makes it ultra moisturising. It helps reduce water loss, which can prevent dryness, too.
#2 / For cracked lips
Since coconut oil is a natural ingredient with no additives, it’s safe to apply on your lips as a nourishing lip balm. That glossy sheen it imparts and its coconutty flavour? Well, that’s just coconut oil going above and beyond in the multitasking department.
#3 / For atopic dermatitis
While coconut oil can’t cure inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, there has been some research to suggest that it can ease symptoms of dryness and itchiness. However, the results aren’t as well-supported as those by medications like topical steroid creams. But if you’re interested in a natural alternative, then coconut oil is an option.
#4 / For removing makeup
Back in 2013, Emma Stone shared with Vogue US her love of coconut oil as a makeup remover: “I’m allergic to everything so I just use extra virgin olive oil on my skin because I know it won’t cause a reaction. At night, I take off my makeup with coconut oil.” Miranda Kerr is also a big fan - in fact, she uses coconut oil in a multitude of ways. She told The Huffington Post, “I cook with it, use it in my hair, it's great to remove makeup ... really good for eye makeup if you've got sensitive eyes.”
GOOD TO KNOW: While coconut oil is an effective, nourishing and natural way to remove makeup, it’s worth noting that coconut oil is comedogenic, which means it’s pore-clogging. So it's important that you remove all traces of the oil with a second cleanser.
#5 / For dry feet
Put coconut oil’s moisturising benefits to good use on dry, cracked feet. Apply a thin layer over feet before bedtime and cover with socks. Your feet will feel smoother and softer in the morning and will continue to improve with regular treatment.
#6 / For repairing hair
For hair that’s damaged and prone to breakage, treat it to a coconut oil hair mask. Coconut oil helps reduce protein loss and the lauric acid in it is able to penetrate the hair shaft more effectively than many other oils. Apply it liberally to wet hair. Coconut oil works best when left in hair for one to two hours. Rinse and shampoo to thoroughly remove the oil.
#7 / For taming frizz
Smooth down fly-aways and get frizz under control with a light layer of coconut oil. Simply rub the oil between your palms to warm it up, then smooth your hands over your hair. Just make sure you don’t overload hair with the oil, and avoid the scalp to prevent your roots from looking greasy.
#8 / For protecting hair pre-swim
When you take a dip in the water, your hair just loves to drink it up - but chlorine and saltwater can dry out your strands. Applying a generous dose of coconut oil to your strands before you jump in will coat hair in a protective barrier that prevents it from soaking up so much water.
#9 / For hair growth
In addition to making your hair soft and improving its health, it’s thought that coconut oil can improve hair growth - to a degree. Coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory properties can help decrease local inflammation on the scalp, which may be hindering your hair’s ability to grow. By strengthening your hair strands, coconut oil can also reduce hair breakage, which in turn helps promote healthier hair growth.
#10 / For cooking
Coconut oil adds a beautiful nutty flavour to food that is, quite simply, delicious. Just remember that it is full of saturated fats, so use it in moderation.
#11 / For whiter teeth
Have you heard of oil pulling? Swishing coconut oil around in your mouth for 10 minutes helps reduce bacteria and inflammation in your mouth. A study found that its effectiveness is comparable to mouthwash for removing bacteria that causes plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.
Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan, as well as Shailene Woodley. Shailene told Into The Gloss, “I love a natural way to heal. You can do something called ‘oil pulling’ where you swish coconut or sesame oil in your mouth when you wake up and spit it out. It’s amazing! It really makes your teeth whiter, because the plaque on your teeth is not water soluble, it’s fat-soluble. So the lipids have to dissolve in fats, which is why oil works in your mouth.”
#12 / For dogs
Yep, even our furry friends can enjoy coconut oil’s goodness. This nourishing oil is said to give their coats a lustrous shine. There are also claims that it can be used as a preventative treatment for fleas, although there doesn’t seem to be any concrete proof of this.
All in all, we have to say the beauty benefits of coconut oil are not bad for something you can buy at your local supermarket or health food store!
What you *shouldn't* use coconut oil for
But…(there’s always a but!)...there is a lot of conflicting information about what coconut oil can and can’t do. Here are a couple of uses for coconut oil that have received a lot of hype but there’s still not enough research to back up the claims:
The theory is that because coconut oil contains lauric acid - an antibacterial ingredient - it gets the tick of approval for treating acne-prone skin. But when we recently spoke to cosmetic chemist and founder of Hop & Cotton, Ee Ting Ng, she noted that the lauric acid found in coconut oil isn’t the right type of lauric acid, thus it doesn’t actually have antibacterial properties to help heal a pimple. Given coconut oil is also comedogenic, we don’t recommend applying coconut oil to breakout-prone or oily skin.
For weight loss
Coconut oil is made up of more than 60 per cent medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These fatty acids are quickly absorbed and can increase the number of calories burned by the body; they’re also less likely to be stored as body fat. Given these two major positives, it’s easy to assume that eating coconut oil can help with weight loss. However, numerous studies have shown that the effects of MCTs on weight loss are very moderate (some as little as 0.5kg over three weeks). The other problem is coconut oil is very high in saturated fats (even higher than butter!): 92 per cent of its fat is saturated.
For sun protection
It’s true that coconut oil can provide you with protection from UV rays, but a study found that it only provides an SPF of 7 and blocks out just 20 per cent of UV rays. While this is of course better than nothing, most suncreens block out as much as 90 per cent of UV rays and have a minimum of SPF 15, so it’s really not a suitable alternative to using an actual sunscreen.
For your brain health
There are even reports that coconut oil can help with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK, the claim is based on the theory that the brain cells of people with Alzheimer's disease are unable to use glucose to produce energy properly, and so the nerve cells essentially starve. Coconut oil is thought to serve as an alternative energy source in these circumstances, however the Alzheimer’s Society says there is currently not enough evidence to back up these claims.
For a healthy heart
Because coconut oil has been found to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as ‘good’ cholesterol’, thanks to it being high in MCTs, it has earned itself a bit of a reputation for being heart healthy. And while an increase in HDL may be good for your heart, coconut oil also increases the body’s low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - aka ‘bad’ cholesterol, which, according to the Heart Foundation Australia, overshadows the benefits of increased HDL. Instead, research suggests that olive oil is a healthier choice, as it is rich in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fat. Good to know: One tablespoon of coconut oil has 12 grams of saturated fat, while one tablespoon of olive oil only has one gram of saturated fat!
Ok, so here’s the bottom line. Coconut oil has a lot of pros and some cons, too. At the end of the day, in most cases it’s not necessarily doing any one thing better than another product or ingredient Want to nix dry skin? Hyaluronic acid is a better choice. Looking for a healthy cooking oil? Reach for olive oil.
But, there’s certainly no major issues if you love coconut oil and want to keep using it. Given its multipurpose perks, there’s no denying that having a jar of it on hand at all times will see you through numerous scenarios in a pinch.
Want to know which oils you should add to your beauty routine? These are the good oils you need to start using, ASAP.
What can coconut oil be used for besides all of the above? If you have more coconut oil uses you recommend, please share!
Main image credit: Getty
Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.