Let's work backward. When you think about the health benefits of coconut oil, we're going to guess that the last thing that comes to mind is rubbing the edible plant grease all over your face. Or your arms. Or coconut oil for your hair. But a growing body of research, countless experts, and an army of natural-beauty devotees swear by the stuff for just about everything. Are they onto something?
Yes, according to our experts. Coconut oil is used in many natural beauty products, and for good reason: It's naturally antibacterial and antifungal, coconut oil for skin is an excellent moisturiser, it can penetrate hair better than other oils, and, well, it smells like cookies.
"Yum," says integrative medicine expert Dr Tieraona Low Dog. "Is there anything more luscious than coconut oil?"
We can't think of anything. But we can think of 18 amazing uses for it in your very own home that don't require spending a fortune on store-bought products. In fact, all you need is one thing: Raw (and preferably organic) virgin coconut oil.
Try these all-natural, DIY beauty tricks with coconut oil for yourself!
1. Deep-condition your strands overnight
There's a reason many conditioners contain coconut oil: It's better able to penetrate hair (and prevent protein loss) than mineral and sunflower oil, according to research. "I use coconut oil for hair and on my skin for deep conditioning," says Tasneem Bhatia, MD, an integrative doctor, and owner of the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine. Apply a quarter-size dollop to your hair, comb it, and then pile it into a loose bun. You'll want to place a soft towel over your pillow or sleep in a shower cap. In the morning, shampoo as usual with a gentle cleanser.
2. Tame frizz
If you struggle with taming your mane, coconut oil can definitely help. Calm your frizzy, flyaway strands with just a bit of oil to leave your hair looking smooth and polished. As an alternative to straight oil, you can also use products like this coconut oil hair serum that will nourish your hair while also protecting it from heat-styling tools.
3. Add shine
Smooth a tiny amount of organic coconut oil onto your ends of your hair to add a little shine if you have dark hair. Remember that a dab will do you: Any more and your hair might appear greasy.
4. Minimize dandruff
One of the most common causes of dandruff is a dry scalp. But before you spend money on special shampoo, try minimizing the problem with an ultra-moisturizing coconut oil treatment: Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil on the stove over a low flame. Once it liquifies, immediately remove it from the stove, so it doesn’t become too hot. Then, massage the oil into your scalp. If you have any leftover oil, you can use it to coat the rest of your hair. Let the oil sit on your scalp for 30 minutes and then wash it out with shampoo. (A shower cap will contain the mixture and prevent it from dripping on you while you wait.) If the problem persists, try some of these other dandruff remedies.
5. Clean your face
Because coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, antifungal, moisturizing and, according to research, great for atopic dermatitis, many women swear by its use as a nighttime moisturizer for their face, too. Try the double-cleansing method: Simply rub the oil in circular motions all over your face and neck, giving yourself a gentle massage as you go. When you're done, wash off the residue with your favorite cleanser. (If you're acne-prone, avoid this technique unless you know your skin tolerates coconut oil.)
6. Remove eye makeup
Yes, coconut oil even works on waterproof mascara! Put a little on a cotton ball and gently sweep it over your eyes, paying attention to your under-eyes as well. The oil does a great job breaking down waxy, inky eye makeup, and leaves the delicate area hydrated, too. Once you're done, wash your face as usual.
7. Give yourself the perfect pout
Fend off chapped, flaky lips or even add a pop of color to your pout with a homemade tinted gloss made from coconut oil. To make it, simply mix bits of an old lipstick with some coconut oil. For lips that need a little more TLC, make a nourishing lip scrub by substituting the lipstick bits for some brown sugar and honey. Put the mixture on a soft toothbrush and then use a circular motion to lightly exfoliate your lips. Let the mixture sit on your mouth for a minute and then remove it with a damp cloth.
8. After exfoliating, moisturize your lips
Once your lips are silky smooth, dap them with a bit of coconut oil for added moisture and shine. You can add straight coconut oil (carried in a tiny container like a contacts case), create your own DIY blend, or buy an organic lip balm made with coconut oil, like this three-pack that also utilizes essential oils of eucalyptus/mint, vanilla, and citrus.
9. Freshen your breath
Remember oil pulling? Turns out, swishing coconut oil (or any organic vegetable cooking oil) around in your mouth may actually pull the toxicity out of your mouth. Just swirl it around your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes until it turns a milky white color, then spit it out into the trash and rinse with water. If this sounds like a gross way to spend 15 minutes, you'd be surprised-it becomes routine fairly quickly and can even feel meditative and relaxing, one writer found.
10. Highlight your cheeks
Nothing perks up a tired face like a little highlighter, but you don't need store-bought products to achieve the same effect. Simply sweep a small amount of organic coconut oil on top of makeup and leave it alone. It looks like your skin but glowier, which is why many natural makeup brands use it as a base ingredient in their formulas. If you're looking for a more portable option, try the cult favorite Living Luminizer by RMS Beauty ($38, amazon.com), which has a coconut-oil base and light reflecting pigment.
11. Soothe dry hands
This won't work for dry digits when you're on the go, but at home, coconut oil for skin can work wonders on your dishwashing-parched hands. You can get a jar at your local grocery store, or try this organic coconut oil by Viva Naturals ($10.25, amazon.com). "I keep a jar of organic extra virgin coconut oil by the kitchen sink and put a little on after washing my hands to keep them soft and moist," says Low Dog. And if you cook with coconut oil-you can sub it for butter in baking recipes because it’s solid at room temperature-scoop out a little extra for your hands, too. "Whenever I cook with coconut oil, I make sure to moisturize my hands with it too," says Katrine van Wyk, a holistic health and nutrition coach based in New York.
12. Shave your legs
Conventional shaving cream is an expensive cocktail of chemicals that you don't need to get a nice clean shave on your legs or underarms. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is inexpensive, naturally antimicrobial, and smells divine. Plus, its skin-soothing properties will leave your legs looking hydrated (but never greasy).
13. Moisturize your body
A recent animal study found that when applied topically, virgin organic coconut oil for skin can speed up wound healing, and a human study found it to be effective in increasing hydration and reducing water loss in seriously dry skin. Sounds like a recipe for a really good lotion to us! It's a health-expert favorite, too. Says Wyk: "It smells delicious, is very affordable, and leaves my skin feeling nourished and smooth."
14. Have a little rubdown
Many store-bought massage oils have either coconut or jojoba oil as their base. Cut out the middleman and go straight to the bottle. It's slippery, skin-friendly, and moisturizing.
15. Create luscious body scrub
Here's a little DIY beauty secret: That store-bought body scrub you save for special occasions? It's a waste of money. That's because you can make one yourself with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. Low Dog agrees. "I love to do this. It's wonderfully moisturizing, great for the skin, inexpensive, and blissfully absent of chemicals you can't pronounce!" To make your own, Low Dog suggests melting ½ c of coconut oil at a very low heat. Pour it over 1 c of brown sugar or salt and stir well. If you have some on hand, add in five drops of your favorite essential oil or some pure vanilla extract for a scrub so fragrant you'll want to eat it.
16. Nourish cracked cuticles
Massaging coconut oil into your cuticles and the skin around your nails can bring some much-needed moisture to an oft-overlooked part of the body. The benefit? You'll fend off cracked skin, prevent hang nails, and have healthier looking nail beds.
17. Relieve psoriasis during bathtime
Aside from making a hot bath even more luxurious, adding a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil to the tub can relieve itchy, scaly skin caused by psoriasis and moisturize your skin. But don't overdo it with the oil or linger in the bath too long, lest you end up trapped like this unfortunate woman did.
18. Mend your pup's paws
Ok, this one's a beauty trick for your dog, but even our furry friends need a little pampering sometimes! If your pup loves hiking and other outdoor activities, his paws can become cracked and raw from all the stress. Rub a little coconut oil on his paws-it'll function as both an antiseptic and moisturizer to help him heal. To estimate how much to use, measure about 1 tsp. oil per 10 pounds of body weight. While coconut oil has been shown to be completely safe for most dogs, you should check with your vet first before using it if your pup has a health condition.