Coconut Oil - Five Star Nurturing Inside and Out

Cocos nucifera – we should (almost) saturate ourselves in this wonder product – inside and out – all over and all the time. Why? Because coconut oil has so much to offer that it flat out deserves a 5 star rating. It's healthy to eat, it's great for skin, and it's downright fabulous for hair. It's even reasonably priced. What's not to love?

My research on coconut oil made me fall in love with it all over again. 'Can one get giddy about a mere ingredient?' you may ask. In my world, it happens all the time.

Let's take a look at the wonders of coconut oil.


Several Ways to Produce it
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat (and milk) of the coconut. It can be procured by either wet or dry processing.
The dry process: consists of first drying the coconut meat, then adding solvents to extract the oil. This process gives a greater yield than wet processing.
The wet process: consists of pressing the ripe, raw meat to extract the oil. This method is costlier and yields less than the dry process.
Virgin coconut oil can be made several ways: from the fresh meat or even from the milk. It takes a little over 14 coconuts to produce a liter of oil.

Eating it – Previous Naysayers Now Say Yay 
Because of the high content of saturated fat in coconut oil, it has been a misconception for years that it should be consumed in moderation. Recent studies are showing something else. Experts that used to warn of the dangers of coconut oil consumption are beginning to sing a different tune.

Why?

... because previous testing of coconut oil was done on partially hydrogenated coconut oil – not virgin coconut oil. Despite coming from the same source, these 2 oils are worlds apart. (This article in the New York Times explains more)

So, enjoy your virgin coconut oil – it's good for you! (keeping in mind that overdoing it  – even with healthy food – is never a good idea)

What Science Says About Virgin Coconut Oil for Skincare
Although they phrase it a teensy bit differently, science agrees that virgin coconut oil rocks for skincare – particularly dry and itchy skin.

I found a slew of surgical and medical centers referring to studies that all document coconut oils' positive and healing properties.

Here are just a few examples:
The Los Gatos Surgical Center writes
"Although consuming coconut oil may not yield health benefits, topical application has been shown to improve skin and hair conditions."
A test on 34 patients showed it to be 'as effective as safe as mineral oil' for moisturizing the skin of adults with xerosis (a skin condition in which the skin is dry, rough, and itchy).  See more here.

According to a 2008 study published in the journal 'Dermatitis', virgin coconut oil has emollient properties that help to heal and protect the skin’s surface, as well as broad-spectrum antimicrobial components that help to protect against bacteria, viruses and fungi associated with eczema. (see the article here)

study in India (on lab rats) showed conclusive results that wounds heal faster when treated with Virgin coconut oil. see more here

Langone Medical Center (and many others) have published similar articles.

I could (seriously) go on.

Long story short: science agrees that virgin coconut oil is not only softening and soothing for skin, but it even aids healing

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, petrolatum!

Worried About Coconut Oil and Pores?
As for the comedogenic properties of coconut oil, please read this previous post  'coconut and the core pore question' for more info.

Science Says: For Optimal Care, Put Coconut on Hair 
One of the best reasons to use coconut oil for hair care is scientifically documented – coconut oil helps strengthen hair.

The Journal of Cosmetic Science writes that coconut oil helps protect the hairs protein content and prevent combing damage.
"Among three oils, coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product. Both sunflower and mineral oils do not help at all in reducing the protein loss from hair." (see the article here)

LisaLise Hair Under Coconut Care
I tried a virgin coconut oil pre-wash treatment (for the first time!) recently. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is to work with. The results were silky soft hair, and the coconut scent is an added bonus. I'm absolutely sold on coconut oil as a pre-wash treatment, and will be adding it to my regular routine.

Downsides of Coconut Oil
Yeah, I know I made it sound like there were no downsides, but these are just teensy weensy, almost-hardly-worth-mentioning downsides.
Coconut oil will react with rubber.
Used in hair, it can (and will) soften and even dissolve the rubber in hair bands.
Used as a personal lubricant, it can damage condoms.

Do Tell
Are you a fan of coconut oil on skin or hair? What's your preferred method of application?

Comments

Boony said…
So, how do you use it as a pre-wash treatment? How much do you apply? Does it have to 'sit' there before washing it out?

And if you use it as a pre-wash treatment, do you then follow up with some after you've come out of the shower too?

Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Boony - It's so easy it's not even funny. Apply to dry hair and work through. You can leave it sit for about 10 minutes or so if you like (some swear by overnight leave-in treatment, others say half an hour is enough, while others say a few minutes is enough). Enter shower. Shampoo off. The amount depends on your hair length. I have short, fine hair, so i use about a teaspoon and a half.

No need for any follow-up treatment - just enjoy the silky softness!
Desideria said…
Hi Lise - I just recently found your blog online and I'm so glad I did - I look forward to visiting it more often. As far as cocount oil is concerned...I LOVE LOVE LOVE using coconut oil on my skin. I use organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin coconut oil after every shower as a body cream of sorts. Initially, I only used it to help control occasional eczema breakouts. I found that if I slathered my hands (where I get eczema breakouts) in coconut oil the painful and maddeningly itchy symptoms would go away almost immediately. Since I've started using it every morning following my shower, I have not had any breakouts and I have noticed a remarkable change in my skin -- it's incredibly soft and smooth and even glows a bit. Such a fantastic product.

Do you recommend using any type of coconut oil over another -- such as extra-virgin cold-pressed over RBD coconut oil?
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Desideria, I'm so pleased to hear coconut oil is working well for you! It sounds like you are already doing everything right. If at one point you find it seems to 'work less' than before, you may want to switch to another oil fir a few days or so. Jojoba is very close to human sebum and very well tolerated, so you could try that and alternate between the 2.
ItsAmy said…
The boy I nanny for has some spots that are always irritated (probably eczema). His Mom just me roomed coconut oil to me today & I have an extra jar in my cabinet! I think we'll try a little on his skin and see if it gives him some relief. I'll report back on the results.
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi It'sAmy - Great idea! You may also want to have a look at shea butter for itchy skin as well. I use refined shea, but some swear by unrefined. There's a blog post on that if you look under 'oils and fats' or check the ingredient library. Do let me know how it goes