Thursday 22 February 2018

Natural beauty: Four benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil is being lauded as the miracle ingredient
Coconut oil is being lauded as the miracle ingredient

On the coconut oil buzz yet? Claire O'Mahony looks at the beauty and health trend that we can't get enough of.

You've probably heard about coconut oil. At this point it's pretty difficult for it not to be on your radar. It's been given the A-list seal of approval with supermodel Miranda Kerr using it as a body smoother and the new foodie pin-ups, London-based sisters Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley, roasting their Brussels sprouts in it.

Coconut and coco oil
Coconut and coco oil

Coconut oil is being lauded as the miracle ingredient, as good for our insides as it is for our external appearance, with claims being made that it helps with depression and anxiety, as well as boosting weight loss and improving heart health.

Do we believe it or is it going to go the way of every other ingredient like goji berries? Most experts agree that a lot of the buzz about coconut oil is based on anecdotal evidence that isn't substantiated. Yes, coconut oil is cholesterol free but it's still a saturated fat and as yet, its effect on heart health isn't quite clear.

On the other hand, its beauty benefits are less controversial. Would you be happy swapping a big brand name serum and your next-generation conditioner for coconut oil? Honestly, probably not - but there's no doubt in terms of effectiveness and for the money (approximately €7 for a jar of unrefined, cold-pressed organic which is the preferable choice) it's a worthwhile investment.

1 Face facts

Where to start? It's an excellent eye make-up remover and it can work as a moisturiser, although it depends on your skin type because it has been known to cause comedogenic acne in some, so have a trial session before you commit. However, it's gentle and not laden with chemicals, as well as being non-bacterial so it suits most skin types. If you feel coconut oil by itself is too heavy for your skin, mix it with a carrier oil (using a 1:1 ratio), such as rapeseed, argan, almond or avocado, to dilute it. A warm washcloth is also recommended to soften the coconut oil, which can feel a bit heavy. Best possible practice is to keep it at room temperature and not in the fridge - it lasts up to two years.

2 Body beautiful

Mix it up with sea salt and there you have the most natural, inexpensive body scrub which works wonderfully on feet. Skip your shaving gel, which is probably full of unpleasant chemicals in any case, and slather coconut oil on legs and armpits for a super smooth shave. It's excellent for dry hands and studies have indicated coconut oil can help with healing small skin wounds and treating skin infections.

3 Hair apparent

Claims that coconut oil makes hair grow quicker and thicker should probably be taken with a grain of salt - perhaps it does, but it hasn't been proven scientifically. But there's no doubt of its great moisturising properties and its ability to smooth flyaway hairs and tame split ends in an instant. Coconut oil has a high moisture-containing capacity because it's very stable, keeping hair moist and luxuriant. Leave it in hair as a conditioner for 20 minutes and rinse very well - a good rinse is really important if you have fine hair which might be weighed down by the excess oil.

Coconut oil is being lauded as the miracle ingredient
Coconut oil is being lauded as the miracle ingredient

4 Mouth off

Coconut oil can be used as an alternative to toothpaste if you'd prefer to go the natural route. Make your own by mixing up six tablespoons of coconut with six tablespoons of baking soda and 25 drops of essential oil. It's not for everyone but you could also try oil pulling, an ancient practice, which involves swishing coconut oil around the mouth. The oil is allegedly meant to pull bacteria out of the gums, bind to the plaque on the teeth and help remove plaque. Twenty minutes of swishing, where you hold the liquid in your mouth for three to five minutes, then repeat, is recommended to get the full benefits. While it's a common aid for oral hygiene, it shouldn't be used as a replacement for proper visits to the dentist. But it makes your teeth feel really clean.

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