Natural Skincare Wonder #4: Coconut Oil

Indigenous people all over the world, from Thailand, Indonesia, India, Nigeria, and Somalia, to the Philippines, Panama, and Jamaica, have known for hundreds of years about the health benefits from eating coconut oil  – and using it on their skin and hair for amazing results.

But in the mid 1950’s, doctors began to advise their patients to avoid all saturated fats, based on a medical study that concluded that eating saturated fats caused heart disease.  Recent research has shown that those earlier studies were flawed, and that not all saturated fats are unhealthy.  In fact, coconut oil is a saturated fat that has many health benefits that are more remarkable than even those native people had realized.

Today, coconut oil is being used by some physicians in the treatment of liver and kidney diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and even HIV and AIDS.  Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) in coconut oil will accelerate the metabolic rate activity to in turn accelerate healing – and that same activity works when coconut oil is applied to the skin.

Coconut oil as a stand-alone skin softener and conditioner is a “new” trend that just happens to be a very old tradition.  Coconut oil also works well as a leave-in conditioner for the hair – also an old tradition practiced by island natives and people who had an abundant supply of fresh coconuts.  Today, coconut oil is readily available in grocery stores, health food stores, and online.  But how do we know what type is the best?

There are basically two types of coconut oil: unrefined (also called “virgin”) and refined. Unrefined coconut oil has a light but distinctive “coconutty” scent, while the refined version has no scent.  For optimum quality and benefits, refined coconut oil is the best.  Use coconut oil sparingly – a little goes a long way – on skin after a bath or shower to retain moisture and give skin a healthy glow.  Use a tiny amount (pea size or less) on the ends of hair; may be applied to damp or dry hair.

For a more luxurious creamy version, try whipping your coconut oil – here’s how to do it:

Coconut Oil Whip (Makes 8 ounces)

This whip makes an excellent moisturizer for the body and face, a deep conditioning mask for hair, a tamer for hair frizz and fly-away strands, a safe and gentle makeup remover, a luscious lip balm and myriad other uses. In whipped form, coconut oil is much easier to dispense and apply. Only a small dab is needed for most applications.

8 oz. virgin coconut oil, chilled (oil must be solid)

10 - 20 drops essential oil such as lavender, lemongrass or sweet orange (optional)

Place the chilled coconut oil in a 4-cup container. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the oil for 5 – 7 minutes until light and very creamy in appearance. Add essential oil, if using, and whip for an additional minute to disperse evenly. Spoon into a container with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dry place. Ambient temperature of 76˚F or more will result in the coconut oil whip deflating and liquefying, which only affects the texture. (Note: Avoid getting water into the container. Use a spoon or cosmetic spatula to scoop out.)

Tomorrow’s blog post is about lavender essential oil – one of my very favorites!