Question: I’ve been reading more and more about using coconut oil for hair and skin. Do you think this is a good idea? Can you tell me how to buy coconut oil and how to use it properly?
Answer: I love coconut oil as an added treat for hair and skin (as long as you are not allergic to nuts or coconut). But, I only recommend buying organic unrefined expeller-pressed virgin coconut oil (also called VCO).
I think VCO is a great addition to any hair and skin routine because:
- It has no preservatives, additives, or color.
- It’s available at any local health food store or online.
- It’s affordable at $9 for a small 14 oz. jar.
- It’s a multi-use beauty product: Coconut oil is a solid (like butter) at room temperature and ideal as an ointment or lip balm, but if you place the jar in warm water, it melts into a liquid oil perfect for massaging, baths, a moisturizer or a hair mask.
- That smell is like being on a desert island (refined VCO does not retain its natural coconut aroma).
The real beauty of VCO for skin and hair is its natural, molecular composition
Not only does VCO have a high saturated fat content-composed of 90% saturated triglycerides, but its low molecular weight and straight linear chain (called a medium-chain fatty acid, in contrast to other saturated fats comprised of long chain fatty acids which make them larger molecules), it is able to permeate the hair shaft and skin surface rather than just sitting on top. That’s what makes it so effective. If you use it at room temperature (when it is solid) it is the perfect ointment to relieve dehydrated, chapped, scaly and itchy skin and it can even improve symptoms of psoriasis and excema.
The medical literature supports my own observations of VCO as a healthful skin conditioner and moisturizer. Studies have shown that VCO use may improve skin barrier function (protecting skin from bacteria and fungal intrusion) and decrease trans-epidermal water loss (skin’s ability to retain moisture). Animal studies have shown that coconut oil use can improve wound healing and increase collagen production, too.
For hair, in addition to its high absorbability, VCO contains a high percentage of the saturated fat, lauric acid, which also is highly attracted to the protein in hair. Because VCO actually absorbs through the hair shaft, it has positive effects on the strength of hair while it prevents hair damage and protein loss from styling, brushing and even chemical treatments.
A little coconut oil on your skin and hair goes a long way:
- As a daily body moisturizer, after shower or bath
- As a bath oil
- As a skin exfoliator for skin and to help control dandruff in hair
- As a cuticle conditioner
- As a lip balm
- As an intensive hair mask, from scalp to ends
- As a scalp or body massage oil
Coconut oil can be greasy if applied too heavily, but don’t worry, it absorbs in a few minutes leaving behind that beachy smell and softer, healthier, smoother skin.
It can be applied on wet or dry skin. But only apply to dry hair because water limits the VCO from coating the hair properly and permeating the hair shaft. To remove VCO from hair, do not wet first. Simply lather up shampoo in your hands and apply directly and completely over hair and scalp, from roots to ends, then rinse thoroughly.
VCO can be applied in the same way to children and adults. Just be sure that you don’t use coconut oil at all if you are allergic to nuts or to coconut.
Have you tried virgin coconut oil yet? What’s your favorite way to use it?