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How to achieve natural beauty and skincare with coconut oil


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Virgin coconut oil, one of South East Asia’s long-held beauty secrets, has come of age. The oil, among the purest forms of coconut oil, is one of the earliest to be used for therapeutic purposes. It’s said that people in this region have lived off the health-giving properties of coconuts for centuries because the topical virtues of the oil are bountiful. Enriched with natural vitamin E and antioxidants, coconut-infused skin and hair are now celebrated in spas around the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Coconut has a long and exciting history. In India and Sri Lanka, the oil has long been used as a soothing hair and skincare ingredient. It’s said that people living in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka bathe in warm water after applying coconut oil all over their body and leave it in for an hour or so to soften their hair and skin.

In Ayurvedic medicine, too, coconut is revered for its cooling qualities that help pacify pitta (hot and fiery) body conditions, the milk often being used to help heal burns and scars. The Filipinos, who use coconut oil regularly in their diet, are known for their fabulous skin even though there’s sun all year round. For generations, they have been making virgin coconut oil by hand; in fact, coconut reportedly contributes 7 per cent of their total export income.

Could coconut oil be the world’s best-kept beauty secret? The texture of the oil is non-greasy, light and easily absorbed into the skin and the cooling qualities make it an effective anti-inflammatory oil. Rich in lauric acid, virgin coconut oil is a fabulous ingredient for soap, massage oils, scrubs and hair treatments.

In the Maldives, the native coconut, called kurumba, is plentiful and often the primary ingredient for scrubs, massages and oils. It’s said that coconut oil became a popular hair and skin luxuriant in this region during a time when no soap was available. Soon enough, islanders noticed that those working in the coconut oil business possessed healthy and shiny skin and thus a new Beauty ingredient was born.

Back to spas … what’s particularly inspiring is that health sanctuaries across Southeast Asia drawing on the goodness of coconut for treatments are supporting their local farmers. Not only do fresh ingredients do wonders for the skin, it’s reassuring to know that native ingredients support the local economy and its people. What else is there to say? When it comes to the health of our planet and ourselves, collaborations are our future.

Go nutty!

Try it yourself. Here are four easy home-spa recipes for skin, body and hair.

Coconut & Aloe Body Oil

The ultimate cooler to keep your skin soothed during humid days.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp aloe vera gel
  • 5 drops each of jasmine, sandalwood and neroli essential oils

DIRECTIONS

Mix all together and massage into your body after showering or bathing.

Balinese Massage Oil

Recall warm tropical evenings in Bali’s abundant landscape.

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp coconut oil blended with 2 drops each sandalwood, ylang ylang, black pepper and ginger essential oils

DIRECTIONS

Apply, then massage into the skin in circular movements.

Indonesian Coconut Hair Cream Bath

A classic treatment found in most spas across Bali, Indonesia and beyond. Recommended for shoulder-length hair, the eucalyptus stimulates and cleanses the scalp, rose tones and soothes, while rosemary stimulates circulation to the scalp and helps prevent hair loss.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup (125ml) coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream
  • 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 5 drops rose essential oil
  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil

DIRECTIONS

Heat the coconut oil until warm, remove from heat and add the coconut cream. Stir well. Add the essential oils. Apply to hair by massaging the scalp and hair with firm fingertip pressure. Press the scalp and make small, circular movements. Wrap a hot towel around your head and leave to absorb for half an hour. Rinse well with shampoo and conditioner.

Tropical Coconut & Ginger Scrub

A gentle exfoliation enriched with the skin-soothing properties of soybean oil to leave your skin fresh and rejuvenated.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup (125ml) base oils, such as almond, macadamia or soybean
  • ½ cup (40g) desiccated coconut flakes
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated

DIRECTIONS

Grind the coconut flakes finely in a coffee grinder. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Before showering or bathing, rub the blend over your body, massaging vigorously to stimulate circulation. Step into the shower or bath and allow the water to hydrate your skin, massaging further into the skin for a few moments. Rinse well.