I didn't know coconut oil was a 'thing' until 2012, when I started living with my Dominican friend who kept it in her room but would bring it to the kitchen to cook. I thought it was weird to use the same substance for frying and moisturising, but have ended up having nothing short of 13 uses for it.
To say coconut oil has reduced the junk by beauty cupboard would be an understatement. My products are so minimal now and it's done such wonders for my hair and skin that I don't use a whole host of additional things I was using before - de-frizzing solutions, foundation, makeup remover specifically for waterproof makeup... This stuff was a godsend for me and it couldn't seem more natural to be using something pure and edible on my skin - what goes on you goes in you as they say!
Here is a list of what coconut oil works as for me:
(1) Frying: coconut oil has a higher smoke point than most other oils on the market, making it more safe to heat up when cooking.
(2) Eating: e.g. as an ingredient in vegan chocolate/replacing butter or other oils in recipes. High in ‘good saturated fat’ and with a whole hunk of nutritional benefits, it’s the only oil in my pantry (/beauty cupboard/wherever it lays its hat).
(3) Makeup remover: all makeup slides off easily with a little coconut oil. Sometimes if I’m feeling rebellious I’ll go to bed with makeup on (including waterproof mascara) and cover my face with coconut oil. When I wake up I’ll have two big panda eyes where my eye makeup has slid off - no pulling or tugging and much more gentle than conventional makeup remover. Extra eco tip:- I use reusable cloths that I wash instead of cotton pads when removing makeup.
(4) Hair mask: oh my gosh. I don’t want to sound overdramatic but using coconut oil on my hair has increased my quality of life by at least 58%. The night before washing my hair, I smother it in coconut oil (all over but rubbed in especially on the ends) and let it sink in. After washing, I’ll smooth a bit more through the ends, and if it’s sunny pat a little throughout (see (5)). Along with giving up shop-bought shampoo and conditioner, this has well-improved my hair’s condition - coconut oil adds shine, life and strength to dull hair.
(5) Heat protectant: due to its high smoke point, coconut oil can be used as a heat protectant when styling with medium heat, although since stopping the use of shampoo/conditioner I only heat-style my hair on special occasions (maybe once every couple of months) as I’ve learned to work better with what I naturally have (wild, thick waves). I also apply it when sunbathing or when the sun is strong in order to avoid sun damage.
(6) Facial moisturiser to combat wind in winter: this helps my skin not dry out in harsh winter weather. I use it daily, and rub in extra when I go for winter runs in the city. It forms a little barrier of coconutty goodness against the cold.
(7) Nighttime facial moisturiser/primer: I used St Ives’ scrub for 9 years before switching to Suneeta back in June. I loved St Ives’ graininess and the way it really cleared out grime, but it would sometimes leave my skin slightly dry. For the last 3-ish years I countered this by applying coconut oil after my evening shower, and it would also work as a primer for my makeup the following morning.
(8) Shaving gel: my half-Chinese genes render me pretty hairless, but for the bits I do shave, coconut oil works as a brilliant natural gel. It’s non-irritant, great for sensitive skin and the razor glides over it leaving those areas moisturised and smooth.
(9) Low SPF sunscreen: coconut oil has an SPF of around 10, but there’s debate over whether it should be used as a complete sunscreen. I use it as a sort of semi-sunscreen - as in, when most people don’t bother at all. In the light spring sun, or when wandering around London.
(10) Body moisturiser: all over, everywhere. Nighttime, daytime, all the time. Coconut oil is a real rescuer for damaged skin, and prevents normal skin from drying out.
(11) Lip butter: I don’t carry it around with me, but a layer of coconut oil before bed means I wake up with soft, happy lips.
(12) Aftersun: I never let myself burn, but coconut oil’s natural moisturising properties mean that after a day out in the sunshine your skin will feel its benefits.
(13) Massage oil: natural, nourishing and inexpensive - you can even lick it off if that’s your thing.
(POST YOGA TEACHER TRAINING EDIT: I now also use coconut oil for oil pulling in the mornings as part of cleansing practice. Taking about a tablespoon and swishing it inside the mouth before spitting it out, rinsing and drinking a cup of water.)
Next on the list:
Suneeta do a fluoride-free toothpaste that uses coconut oil. I’m going to try it out, and if it’s good I’ll try making it myself. It’s scary going against the norm when it comes to something like dental care and I’ve been putting this off for a while now but articles like this have me intrigued.
Apparently coconut oil makes a great natural furniture polish for rubbing wood and also removing stains from metal. I’ll give this a go when I next clean up.
Insect bites - since researching for a presentation on bananas aged 14 (they’ve been a life-long love), I’ve been using the peel as a remedy. It soothes quite well, but I’ll be testing this out next time I get bitten.
Where can you get your coco fix?
I'm lucky enough to live in an area with lots of Bangladeshi-run grocery stores that stock coconut oil as standard, as they commonly cook with it themselves and use it for their hair. There's debate over refined vs. unrefined, and non-hydrogenated coconut oil is supposedly far superior to hydrogenated. I won’t bore you with those details (read here for facts if you’re interested, and here for a guide to finding the right type for your needs), but I will tell you that the one I use (out of convenience) is KTC coconut oil, which is refined and unhydrogenated. It’s the only one my closest off-licence stocks and is £2.49 for a 500ml that lasts for months, even with all the ways I’m using it. During my research for this post, I’ve learned that the plastic used for the 500ml tub can apparently leach into the oil, so next time I’ll buy the 250ml glass bottle, warm it and pour it into a glass jar (a great excuse to polish off a jar of almond butter). Give it a go and let us know if you discover more uses for the versatile beauty wonder that is coconut oil!
This post was originally published on The Vegettes in June 2015.