If you haven't already jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon, here's why you need to.
The uses for coconut oil are almost endless: you can cook with it or use it as a hair mask or body moisturiser. But did you know that you can also use it as a teeth whitener, a lip balm, a face serum, a de-frizz serum, a cuticle softener, a makeup remover... It's pretty amazing. Here's why it's so good and where you can buy it.
What is coconut oil?
And what is coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut water?
Coconut oil is the oil extracted from the white flesh of a coconut. It is derived by drying out the white flesh of a ripe coconut. The flesh is then pressed and the oil is extracted.
The oil is different from coconut milk, coconut water and coconut cream. One of the very obvious distinctions between these products is that coconut oil and coconut water are extractions from a ripe coconut whereas the milk and cream are actually made.
Coconut water is simply the water found inside a ripe coconut. Coconut milk is made by soaking the white flesh of a coconut in hot water. This produces a viscous white liquid called coconut cream, which can be skimmed off the top, and a more watery substance, which is the coconut milk.
All four of these products are used in cooking, but it is only really coconut oil that should be used on the body. You can't just buy a can of coconut milk from the supermarket and make a hair mask; it has to be coconut oil.
Why should you use coconut oil in cooking?
Using coconut oil in cooking is actually an issue that has created division among experts. Some say that it is a much better alternative to peanut oils and canola oils. Others say that the high saturated fat content of coconut oil makes cooking with it very unhealthy.
There are a lot of cases for and against cooking with coconut oil. It is important to remember that, like with any oil, moderation is key. Before you decide to make the switch, speak with a doctor or nutritionist.
Why is coconut oil so good for your skin?
Coconut oil is filled with fatty acids, and good saturated fats making it an excellent moisturiser. It is also rich in vitamin E and proteins. Due to its low molecular weight, coconut oil has the ability to penetrate the skin and hair more deeply than average moisturisers. It also has strong antibacterial properties. These factors are what makes coconut oil so uniquely beneficial for skin.
Saturated fats: The presence of these help coconut oil retain the moisture content of the skin and reduce moisture loss through pores. The saturated fats are mostly medium chain fatty acids like triglycerides. These fats give the skin a smooth and glowing appearance.
Antioxidants: Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and coconut oil is full of it. Oxidant damage occurs when free radicals (which are produced naturally through ageing but occur in larger quantities due to smoking, drinking and sun damage) attack and damage our cells. If the cell is badly damaged enough, it dies and you age. Vitamin E combats free radicals and protects cells, reducing the rate at which your skin ages. Vitamin E is also beneficial for skin growth and repair.
Proteins: The proteins in coconut oil help with tissue repair and cell health. Proteins help in the replacement of damaged cells in the skin and top tissue. If you are low in proteins, cuts and wounds will not heal as quickly. Using coconut on the skin gives scars, cuts and other blemishes the boost they need to heal faster and helps the skin repair itself more efficiently
Antibacterials: Coconut oil also has antibacterial properties because three of its key fatty acids – capric, caprylic and lauric acids – act as a disinfectant. As a result, when you use coconut oil on your skin, it's protected from infections.
The best beauty uses for coconut oil?
Coconut oil can be a bit too rich to leave on certain skin types for a lengthy period of time. If you're looking for an oil you can leave on your face, try rosehip oil. Rosehip is great for fighting congested skin and blemishes.
Rub coconut oil on your legs before you shave. Unlike soap, it doesn't wash away as soon as your leg gets a little wet; it stays on until you wash it off. Also, the antibacterial properties in coconut oil make it ideal for shaving as it protects any nicks and cuts from infection.
What kind of coconut oil can I use on my skin?
Pure, virgin coconut oil is the best kind to use on skin – the kind you get at the supermarket or health food stores. Don't be tempted by products like moisturisers "enriched with coconut oil". Just go for the pure stuff.
The term virgin means that the coconut oil is unrefined. Refined oils are often deodorised and bleached. When using coconut oil on your skin or hair, it is always better to find one that has been processed as little as possible.
Unfortunately, there is not really any regulation as to who can use the term "virgin" on the packaging of coconut oils, so you can't always guarantee that something labelled as "virgin" or "unrefined" really is just that. The best thing to do is to look at the consistency of the oil. Virgin coconut oil will generally be white, solid and somewhat lumpy. In warmer climates, it may be a little more liquid. This is the coconut oil you should choose. If you see a coconut oil that is clear and entirely liquid, it is likely that it has been processed and refined.
Where to buy coconut oil
If you're looking at buying unrefined coconut oil, it's best to start with pharmacies and beauty retailers. There are lots of retailers on the market that sell products with coconut oil in them, but not many that sell the pure stuff. Here are a few that definitely sell the good stuff: