Natural Grooming On A Budget: Coconut Oil
The Waleed Aly of household products, coconut oil can do just about anything – and do it well. If you don’t want to waste money on a million products and use less plastic and enjoy chemical-free, natural products, then unrefined coconut oil would be a good place to start.
Firstly, let’s get something straight. Coconut oil has saturated fat, almost 85-90%. And this isn’t a bad thing.
For a long time, we lived in a world at war with saturated fats. This type of fat was deemed the culprit of clogged arteries, obesity and heart disease, but there was just one little problem – no one had actually ever proved that to be the case. In the 1970s research linked saturated fat intake and heart disease, helping form the cornerstone of the modern crusade against saturated fats. But the study was deeply flawed. We made a pretty big mistake when we vilified this fat, turning to sugar and trans fats to replace flavour and mouth-feel lost. The past couple of years, there has been increased discussion around the health benefits gained from good quality sources of saturated fat.
One such primo source? The humble coconut. The saturated fat from unrefined, virgin coconut oil helps you feel satiated, can improve your immunity, balance hormones, control sugar cravings, ease digestion, support a healthy metabolism and boost liver functioning and energy levels.
Basically, you’ll want a big glass jar in your kitchen, and a second one in your bathroom. Why? Here are just some of the ways you can incorporate this tropical wonder into your life.
#1 Body and hair moisturiser
Coconut oil is the closest in molecular structure to our own skin’s natural sebum (skin oil) and is amazingly absorbed into the skin. Furthermore, both our natural sebum skin oil and virgin coconut oil have the same pH levels (about 0.5). This means it is a fantastic treatment for skin, hair and nails. It also relieves skin problems such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema.
Apply at night after a shower as a whole body moisturiser. It’s a hydrating treat for your face, too. And for a deep conditioning hair treatment, massage it through hair, leave overnight and wash out in the morning.
#2 Make-up remover
Use a cotton swab and a dab of coconut oil and gently wipe the eye area.
#3 Beard oil
The hair on your face can get the same conditioning benefits as that on your head. Pat a small amount on your beard, massage through and comb. Remove excess with a cloth.
#4 Deep facial cleanser
Rub coconut oil over your dry face, massaging in to begin lifting dirt and grime, keeping it out of your eyes. Run a cotton face cloth under warm/hot water, wring, and place over your face. This creates a mini steam facial which opens your pores. After a minute, use the cloth to wipe your face clean.
#5 Body scrub
Use leftover coffee grinds or some sugar and mix with coconut oil. Scrub yourself down, rise and pat dry, and you’ll be smooth and moisturised.
#6 Pre-shave lotion
Coconut oil is a great pre-shave balm and will help prevent any damage from shaving.
#7 Tattoo healer and enhancer
Prevent pigment from fading by regularly using coconut oil on your tattoos. For new tattoos, coconut will hasten the healing process and decrease the chance of infection. This is because it is also antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial which makes it great for healing wounds, burns, bruises and scars.
#8 Oil pulling treatment
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic dental practice where you swish coconut (or sesame, or sunflower) oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes before spitting, and then continuing with your regular brushing routine. It is claimed to whiten your teeth, make your breath fresher and lead to massive improvements in oral health by reducing plaque and bacteria in your mouth. It’s a mini mouth detox every morning – just don’t forget to spit out the oil.
#9 Leather shoe conditioner
Using a clean cloth, work a small amount into leather shoes to moisturise them and make them shine. No more chemical-laden shoe polish. Be sure to wipe your shoes clean with a damp cloth first to remove any dirt.
#10 Sun burn (and other burn) relief
Its moisturising properties will prevent peeling and soothe sun burn, and for other burns it will promote healing and reduce the chance of scarring.
#11 Stop mosquito bites itching
Mosquitos having a meal of you? Dab on a bit of coconut oil to calm the itch. It may also help the bite heal without leaving a scar and it’s antibacterial properties will prevent it from getting infected.
#12 Cook with it
Coconut oil has a unique composition that is different to most oils. It has medium chain fatty acids (whereas most other oils have long chain fatty acids), and this structure means it has a higher smoking temperature than most polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils. It is therefore highly resistant to oxidation at high heats → oxidation creates free radicals → free radicals damage your cells. (Sadly, this means cooking with olive oil creates a free radical fiesta). So coconut oil is the perfect oil for high-heat cooking methods like frying.
#13 Eat it up
Unrefined coconut oil is the good stuff that hasn’t been chemically bleached or treated, and retains all its health benefits (plus its beautiful, tropical smell). So first of all, it tastes awesome.
Secondly, those short term medium chain fatty acids we’ve been talking about have been consistently shown to promote weight loss. They’re small enough to be easily absorbed by the body, and then are metabolised in the liver where they’re immediately converted into energy (fuel for the brain and muscle function) rather than being stored as fat. In short, eating good fats does not make you fat.
These fatty acids (such as lauric acid) contain antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties which boost the immune system. They have a soothing affect on bacteria, candida, or parasites that cause poor digestion, and heal viruses such as herpes, influenza and cytomegalovirus. It’s also said that coconut oil boosts your metabolism, which means you’re burning kilojoules at a higher rate, promoting weight loss and control.
Sonia Taylor is the editor of The Cusp, and is currently covered from head to toe in coconut oil.