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Is coconut oil the key to natural beauty?


Coconut and coconut oil

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There’s a little beauty secret that packs a big skincare punch and it doesn’t come in fancy packaging labelled with promises of eternal youth. It’s also inexpensive, readily available and can replace most skincare products you’d likely find in your bathroom cabinet. You can also eat it.

Coconut oil is a beauty product from nature, revered by Asian countries and island nations for eons thanks to its skin-beautifying effects and therapeutic properties. It’s only in recent years that the Western world has taken notice of its health and beauty benefits as it makes its way into smoothies and cooking, and is applied as an all-over body moisturiser.

Most beneficial when extracted using a cold-pressed method, it’s widely known to kill bacteria that cause throat infections, gum diseases and other bacterial infections. It’s also thought to prevent the spread of cancer cells and strengthen the immune system, while fighting off fungi and yeast that can lead to infection. It also works as an anti-inflammatory, fostering cardiovascular health.

“Fat, especially quality fat like coconut oil, plumps up our skin cells and keeps them hydrated, so removing fat, particularly saturated fat, from the diet makes us shrivel like prunes.

According to Dr Bruce Fife, author of The Coconut Oil Miracle, coconut oil is “the healthiest oil on earth”, used for centuries by women who well knew its beautifying properties when regularly eaten or used externally.

Despite its many uses, the oil was, for many years, nearing the top of the “bad fats” list. While it is a saturated fat, it’s now known the oil works differently from animal-derived long-chain saturated fats. Studies have found it’s used by the body as energy, while promoting good heart health. Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA), which means it’s absorbed, transported and metabolised differently from other fats — one reason why it’s possible to lose weight when consuming coconut oil but gain weight while eating animal and some vegetable fats.

When taken internally and applied to the skin, coconut oil works as a great youth elixir, says nutrition expert, speaker and author of The Fat Revolution, Christine Cronau. “Have you noticed that some people age much faster than others? And that we seem to be ageing faster than we did 20 years ago? There is a good reason why,” she says. “Fat, especially quality fat like coconut oil, plumps up our skin cells and keeps them hydrated, so removing fat, particularly saturated fat, from the diet makes us shrivel like prunes. Research shows that women eating vegetable oils age much faster than those consuming saturated fats like coconut oil.”

Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr, who developed her own natural skincare line, KORA, is also a fan of coconut oil, religiously taking four teaspoons of the oil daily to keep her skin hydrated and smooth. On her website, www.koraorganics.com, she suggests making a warm footbath laced with three tablespoons of coconut oil. “Add some mixed spice and coconut milk to enrich this rejuvenating foot soak. The lauric acid in coconut oil may assist with fighting fungal infections and bring balance to your hard-working feet.”

What to look for

Whether you’re using coconut oil as a food or topical treatment, it’s best to keep it stored in a dark glass container to prevent premature spoiling. Stored above 24°C, the oil will melt to become a liquid; kept below this and it will harden. Choosing an extra-virgin cold-pressed type also ensures you’re getting the most therapeutic benefits. While there are no known contraindications, it’s always best to monitor how the oil works for you, as some people do have aversions and allergies to coconuts.

Coconut oil for weight management

Unlike vegetable fats, coconut oil’s MCFA content assists the body in weight loss. These acids convert into “instant energy” rather than being stored in the body’s cells as long-chain fatty acids are. It’s also thought that those who regularly eat the oil burn fat at a higher rate and speed up their metabolism. Some experts also agree that the oil may eliminate food cravings.

Top 10 Beauty uses for coconut oil

  1. Add a tablespoon to a smoothie for your daily intake of good fats, which fosters great skin.
  2. Apply as an all-over body moisturiser.
  3. Use it as eye makeup remover.
  4. Work through your hair from scalp to ends for a deep, nourishing treatment.
  5. Rub a little between your palms and work through hair to tame frizzy flyaways.
  6. Buff away dry skin by adding sea salt for the ultimate toxin-free body exfoliator.
  7. Add baking soda to coconut oil and use as a natural toothpaste.
  8. Ward off bad odours by mixing coconut oil, cornstarch and baking soda and applying under your arms.
  9. Wear as a sunscreen. Coconut oil is natural protector with an SPF of approximately 4.
  10. Nourish skin and minimise the appearance of stretchmarks by massaging in coconut oil daily.


 

Shannon Dunn

Shannon Dunn is a journalist, author and writer who specialises in holistic wellness, self-empowerment and natural beauty — from the inside out. The mum-of-one is founder of the popular holistic beauty blog Eco Beauty Editor and a conscious public relations company, Communeco. When she’s not writing and spending time with her family, Shannon can be found sweating it up at her local hot yoga studio.