Coconut oil is becoming increasingly popular both in and outside of the kitchen. This tropical treasure has remarkable therapeutic properties that have been enjoyed by people living in the South Pacific for a very long time.
Besides being a highly nutritious and delicious cooking oil, coconut oil contains properties that feed and moisturize the skin. The scientific community is finally catching up with what many have known for ages, coconut oil is truly good for you, both inside and outside.
The age-old secret is out…
Until recently, the benefits of coconut oil were known only to people of coconut growing areas. It was kind of like a best-kept secret. They had been using it for generations, probably more out of necessity than choice, for cooking as well as for skin and hair care. The excellent health and longevity enjoyed by islanders who use coconut oil is widely recognized today.
Here are just some of the reasons why you should start putting coconut oil on your face:
Coconut is an excellent skin moisturizer
This all natural, edible oil is inarguably the best moisturizer out there, and the only one you’d ever need. Coconut oil may be solid at room temperature if your room temperature happens to be below 75F, but it typically remains a liquid in the tropical regions where coconut trees grow. Solidified coconut oil has a texture similar to plain petroleum jelly, but it does not feel sticky or greasy on your skin because our body temperature is normally above 97F.
Coconut oil melts on the skin as soon as you apply it, without leaving any kind of residues. It easily seeps into the skin pores, moisturizing deeply and thoroughly.
How to use it: If you have dry skin, apply coconut oil to your face after washing and drying it lightly with a towel. You need only a small amount since the oil spreads well. Take just ¼ teaspoon oil in the palm of one hand rub it with the other. Apply it on the face with both palms, gently massaging it in. Wait for 5-10 minutes for the oil to absorb into the skin, and wipe away any excess with a soft cotton towel. A thin layer is all you need to prevent moisture loss through evaporation from the skin surface.
If you have oily skin, you can still make use of the moisturizing effect of this oil. Overproduction of sebum is often the result of inadequate skin hydration; it is body’s own attempt to prevent further dehydration. However, extra sebum secretion can cause skin problems like comedo formation and acne, especially when dry, flaky skin easily forms keratin plugs over the follicles.
For oily skin, apply warm coconut oil liberally on the face and neck after washing with a mild soap. Leave it on for 15 minutes. Wash with warm water and dry with a soft towel. Repeat this for several days to condition your skin. You may experience an initial flare up of acne, but you can ignore it unless it is too severe. Your skin would eventually reduce sebum secretion.
Coconut oil is a fabulous natural makeup remover
Have you ever struggled to take your makeup off? No matter what type of makeup you wear, it is always a good idea to take it off before going to bed. Removing it off allows your skin to breathe. However, the process of removing makeup can traumatize the soft skin on the face, especially the sensitive area around the eyes. Coconut oil makes this hard task easy on you and your skin.
Coconut oil is an excellent grease cutter; it is as good as, or even better than, commercial anti-grease products. If you read the labels of cleaning products, you may come across a coconut-derived detergent agent sodium lauryl sulfate. Chances are, you will find the same ingredient in baby wash care products as well. The point is that it is powerful enough to cut through motor oil and grease while being safe and gentle on baby’s skin.
How to use it: To avoid too much rubbing and skin pulling while wiping off the makeup, apply coconut oil all over the face with a cotton ball. Leave it on for 5 minutes and wash off with warm water and mild soap. The main bulk of the makeup should be gone, but you should again apply oil to do a thorough cleaning.
Keeping the eyes tightly closed, place cotton pads dipped in coconut oil over them. Within a few minutes, the oil will dissolve waterproof mascara and eyeliner so that you can gently wipe them off. If coconut oil gets into the eyes, it may sting a bit, but it is perfectly safe. In fact, the oil is used in many herbal preparations for eye diseases.
Coconut oil is the ideal deep cleanser
It is important for skin health to deep cleanse our face from time to time. No other part of our body is exposed to as many chemicals, be it from makeup, air pollution or just dust and grease in the air. Toxins seep into skin pores and clog them. The dehydrating effect of air conditioning and heat can leave your skin dry and flaky, and the skin pores can develop keratin caps that keep the sebum trapped in the follicles.
Coconut oil is a gentle, yet thorough cleanser. It softens the keratin caps and makes exfoliation much easier. The light, spreading texture of coconut oil enables it to seep into the hair follicles and dissolve the hardened sebum, bringing it up to the skin surface.
How to use it: For dry to normal skin, mix 2 Tbsp almond flour with enough coconut oil and milk to make a thick paste and apply on the face, gently massaging in a circular motion. You can also use powdered oatmeal in place of almond flour for normal skin, but it can be too drying for dry skin. Dip a towel in very warm water and place it on the face for 10-15 minutes. Wash off first with warm water to clean out all the pores and then with ice cold water to help the pores close. Allow the face to air dry and apply a very thin layer of coconut oil to lock in the moisture.
For oily skin, use a paste of rice flour/oatmeal and coconut oil to exfoliate. You can add a teaspoonful of lemon juice or a few drops of lemon oil to the mixture. Use a warmed wet towel to cover your face for 15-20 minutes or, better still, steam your face for five minutes. This will open up all the skin pores and help get rid of the accumulated dirt debris softened by the oil. Wash it off with mild soap and warm water.
Coconut oil acts as an antibacterial shield
The antibacterial properties of coconut oil protect the skin from potential pathogens. More importantly, it can reduce the risk of bacterial infections worsening acne. It is mainly the lauric acid in the coconut oil that acts as the antibacterial agent. This medium chain fatty acid constitutes 85% of the coconut oil. The only other natural substance high in lauric acid happens to be breast milk.
The primary reason of acne may be excess secretion of sebum, either due to hormonal imbalance or problems with skin hydration. Comedo formation (blackheads and whiteheads) is the usual result, with the ones covered with a layer of skin remaining as whiteheads while the sebum-filled open pores becoming dark.
The sebum-filled whiteheads may enlarge to become acne vulgaris, with bacteria proliferating in the trapped sebum. Propionibacterium acnes which normally reside in the follicles multiply quickly, filling the acne with pus and making way for secondary infections by other bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and S. epidermidis. Using coconut oil regularly, for both moisturizing and deep cleansing, can keep the bacterial populations under control.
Coconut oil tackles fungal infections
The antimicrobial action of coconut oil extends to fungal infections of the skin too. Although many fungal infections are minor and self-limiting, they can be a big problem on the face. Yeast infections and ringworm can start as small patches of dry, scaly or rough skin, but they can flare up unexpectedly.
Applying coconut oil to the face as part of general skin care or spot application in affected areas can take care of these infections.
Coconut oil offers protection from sunburn
Coconut oil offers some protection against solar radiation. With SPF 4, coconut oil may not keep you safe during a full day on the beach, but if you apply it on your skin before stepping out of the house, you can escape the effects of solar radiation during brief periods out in the sun. Also, if you have been in the sun without any kind of protection, applying coconut oil immediately afterward reduces the damage.
The ultraviolet rays of the sun damage the skin cells, triggering the formation of a large number of free radicals that can do further damage to cellular DNA. But the antioxidant action of coconut oil can reduce the oxidative stress and stop the chain reaction. Coconut oil has a soothing effect on burnt skin and goes to work right away to reduce inflammation and pain.
Coconut oil can reduce facial wrinkles
Even fine wrinkles can mar the youthful look of facial skin. Coconut oil can preserve the smoothness of the face by keeping it wrinkle-free.
Collagen, a structural protein in the inner layers of skin, is what keeps the skin elastic and smooth. It may breakdown due to the effect of UV rays, pollution, smoking, and physical injuries. Replacement of collagen is necessary to counteract the effects of its breakdown.
It has been found that coconut oil has the ability to penetrate deep into the skin. The triglycerides in the oil attract protein molecules, ensuring timely repair of the collagen layer.
Coconut oil prevents premature aging
Premature aging of the skin is a result of oxidation stress due to UV rays, environmental pollution, and injuries caused to the skin by rough handling and use of harsh chemicals. It goes without saying that facial skin is the most affected because it is exposed to the environment all the time.
Coconut oil can prevent premature aging in several ways. It is gentle on the skin as a moisturizer and exfoliates without abrading the skin. When applied in a thin layer, it can act as a physical barrier to dust and other environmental pollutants, while sealing in skin moisture. Its antioxidant action reduces oxidative damage. It keeps the skin smooth and supple by promoting collagen formation.
A couple of other ways to use coconut oil include:
This has special significance in mosquito-infested tropics, but can come in handy when you have outdoor activities in summer, especially if you want to avoid strong chemical repellants like DEET.
Coconut oil can be the base of all-natural bug repellant salves you can make by adding a few aromatic herbs. The effect of herbal insect repellents wears off faster than that of chemical agents mainly because of the high volatility of aromatic oils. Coconut oil base may help prolong the repellant effect.
How to use it: Heat 2 cups of coconut oil in a double boiler until it is warm to touch. Add a cup each of peppermint and catnip leaves and let them steep for 5-6 hours. Filter the oil and pour into wide-mouthed containers. Apply this insect repellant oil to your face and other exposed parts of the body whenever you step out of the house.
To make a thicker balm that you can carry along for reapplication as and when necessary, use beeswax along with coconut oil. Melt a cup of beeswax pellets in a double boiler and mix in a cup of coconut oil. Take off the heat and allow to cool down a bit. When the top layer starts to solidify, beat in 10 drops each of citronella oil, clove oil, and eucalyptus oil until the mixture becomes thick and fluffy. Fill into small containers with tight-fitting lids.
Soothe chapped lips
Coconut oil can help relieve chapped and cracked lips. All you have to do is apply a single drop of oil on your lips with your finger tip. It is perfectly fine to lick off a little of this edible oil. It’s antifungal action may even bring relief to painful oral thrush infections.
Coconut oil makes an excellent lip balm on its own, but can be mixed with different herbal extracts or essential oils to suit your taste.
Safe, effective and hypoallergenic…
Many people shy away from coconut oil on account of it being tree-nut oil. Coconut oil indeed comes from the coconut trees, but coconut is a drupe, botanically speaking, not a nut. So there’s no reason why a person with peanut or tree-nut allergies should have a similar reaction to coconut oil. Besides, it is certain proteins in nuts that cause allergic reactions; and there are no proteins in coconut oil.
Coconut oil is safe on babies and for people with sensitive skin. If at all any allergic reaction occurs, it is not related to tree-nut allergies, but probably sensitivity to any one of the fatty acids in the oil. Stop using the oil for a while and try again on a small patch of skin.
Coconut oil is as natural as you can get!
Pure, unrefined, virgin coconut oil is one of the most natural products available today. For one thing, it is highly stable on account of being over 85% saturated oil, so it does not require any additives or preservatives. Secondly, coconuts are still a GMO free item; let’s hope it remains so.
The next time you are tempted to purchase expensive cleansers and moisturizers for your skin… remember the humble coconut and its healing oil. You skin will thank you.