What good is coconut oil for hair and skin?

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?

As a solid its an ointment or balm, warmed to a liquid a liquid its a moisturizing, conditioning oil

As a solid, its an ointment or balm, warmed to a liquid, its a moisturizing, conditioning oil

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?

-Jodi

 

Are you aware of this summer itch hazard?

shutterstock_135071150

Fiberglass: Up close and personal. These little fiberglass fibers, when they become exposed and loose, can get lodged in your skin if you touch them and cause intense itching!

Question:  I was working outside doing pool and yard chores and all of a sudden I got this intense itching and burning on my upper, inner arms. What is it and how can I get rid of it?

Answer: This is a true story and it can easily happen to you the more time you spend on outdoor summer activities.

This patient came into the office in a panic about what was itching on her upper arms. I noticed some redness and scratch marks where she had been itching and asked her what she was doing that day. After she told me she was doing yard work and pool chores I had a sneaking suspicion that she was a victim of fiberglass intrusion. This tough material is a fiber-reinforced polymer made of a plastic matrix reinforced by fine fibers of glass. You can come in contact with fiberglass in boats, oars and boating equipment, pool equipment, insulation, storage tanks, cars, bikes,  bath tubs, hot tubs and surf boards just to name a few. I shined the light upwards on the reddened area and looked with a magnifying glass and there they were:  Hundreds of small, hairy spicules of fiberglass that had penetrated her skin.

That’s when the light went on in her eyes and she told me how she had wrapped her arms around the fiberglass pool filter canister to twist it loose. Over time and with unrelenting sun and weather exposure, uncovered fiberglass degrades and the needle-like fibers on the surface can come loose which can get lodged in skin that comes in contact. this intrusion causes intense itching and burning (we clinically call it contact dermatitis because its caused by coming in contact with the substance, in this case, fiberglass) and will continue to itch and burn until the fiberglass “spicules” fall out or are removed.

How to get fiberglass out of your skin

Wash skin exposed to fiberglass as soon as possible by letting water run downward over the area (never rub upwards as this pushes the spicules further in or causes them to break off in your skin). You can try running a wet washcloth downward under downward running water to help dislodge strands.  Gently dry in a downward motion also. When skin is dry treat remaining area with a dusting of talcum powder which causes the fibers to slide out of and off the skin. Itching may continue for a day or so until all strands are dislodged, but no lasting effects should be seen.

If after washing your skin you are still itchy and uncomfortable, a trip to the dermatology office is necessary. The irritation can be treated with topical anti-inflammatory creams so the itching and redness are decreased.

Have you ever been the victim of a fiberglass intrusion?