Everything You Need to Know About Coconut Oil

March 11, 2014 | By | Comments (50)

As much as I consider myself to be up on the latest beauty trends, I was sadly behind on the whole coconut oil craze (in fact, I first heard about it in the comments section of a blog entry I posted weeks ago—thank you, Real Simple readers!). Anyway, now it’s become one of those things; once you know it exists, you start seeing it and hearing about it everywhere. So I’m up to speed now.

For those of you who are not yet coconut oil aficionados, it’s a highly moisturizing natural oil (derived from you know what) that can be used in myriad ways. It comes in solid form, is sold in health-food stores and, increasingly, at salons and spas. As soon as you heat it up in your hands, it spreads easily. Some people, I’ve learned, store it in the shower; the humidity keeps it soft and always at the ready.

I asked my friend Jamie Ahn, owner and creative director of the Townhouse Spa and Acqua Beauty Bar in New York City (and a long-time coconut oil fan) for her list of uses since I’m so new to the game. Without further ado, here’s what she said:

Body Moisturizer: “Once it is settled and blended into the skin, coconut oil leaves a silky finish that is not as greasy as you would think. It is especially great for really dry and sensitive skin. I also carry a small amount in a tiny jar and apply it continuously throughout the day to my lips, cuticles, and around the eyes where crow’s feet form.”

Makeup Remover: “Coconut oil is also a very effective makeup remover (including waterproof mascara). I usually massage it into my skin in circular motions around the eyes until all the makeup is lifted, then I use a cotton swab to wipe the excess along the eyelids. It’s not as irritating as some other removers.”

Pain Reliever:  “My mother has been applying it with a cotton swab around her inflamed gums and it has helped heal the inflammation immensely.”

All-Purpose Healer: “I’ve just started ‘oil pulling’ with coconut oil this week—this means swishing the oil around in my mouth for 20 minutes. Although it sounds bizarre, this technique has been around in Ayurvedic medicine and in parts of Asia for centuries. Supposedly, it helps pull toxins out of the body, fostering healthy gums and breath, as well as easing sinus congestion and certain inflammatory conditions.”

In addition to Jamie’s uses above, RS readers have recommended it as a hair conditioner, to cook with, to soothe a sunburn, to shave with, to treat diaper rash, and as nipple cream while breastfeeding (as long as it is 100-percent natural, it is safe).

-1Ahn says that on top of all its other virtues, coconut oil is also less expensive and more versatile than other oils. It is also more efficacious. (Jojoba oil, for example, is actually a wax and does not penetrate skin as well as coconut oil; argan oil can be pricey, though for acne it is considered the superior remedy.)

Ahn turned me onto Jax Coco coconut oil (you can buy it online for about $28 store.jaxcoco.com or through Jamie’s spa at townhousespa.com). I like the design of the jar, to be honest, and its hefty size. But I’ve seen tons of options at health food stores (now that I’m in the know). It’s also starting to turn up in other beauty products (for example, Nexxus hair conditioners) because, well, did I mention it’s tremendously versatile? Let me know what you use it for.

Get more pampering tips from the pros.

COMMENTS

  1. Diane

    I’ve just started using it myself and love it. Using it for pretty much everything you mentioned. I’ve heard it’s very good for psoriasis.

    March 11, 2014 at 9:48 pm
  2. Sam

    I like milk or cream in my coffee. I find almond milk taste funny. When I am desperate because there is no milk in the house, I find coconut oil seems to work. Sounds funny, I know; but it is better than drinking black coffee.

    March 12, 2014 at 9:20 am
  3. Lesley

    Great on pancakes and waffles!

    March 12, 2014 at 11:43 am
  4. Julie

    I tried to do the oil pulling but it was WAY too thick. Do you add water? I don’t see how you could possibly swish it?

    March 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm
  5. Lynsie

    Julie, after a few seconds of chewing/swishing in your mouth, it completely melts to liquid and is very easy to swish.

    March 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm
  6. Kelly Dahl

    you actually swish it for 20 min?

    March 13, 2014 at 9:30 am
  7. allie

    You have to give it a few minutes to liquefy before it can actually “swish” – everything I have read says :20 is the magic amount of time. I just started this week & I’m a fan!

    March 13, 2014 at 11:23 am
    • Kelly Dahl

      Sorry for seeming so tupid but I can not imgine swishing i your mouth for 20 minuates… although I didn;t try it …but I Love coconut oil it is good for so many diffrent things!

      March 13, 2014 at 11:32 am
  8. Kelly Dahl

    ** opps typos sorry about that :) *stupid *didn’t

    March 13, 2014 at 11:33 am
  9. Deborah

    Just starting the oil pulling and seeing and feeling great results! Loved learning the other uses ;) Thx Didi!

    March 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm
  10. tjrey1

    Any thoughts on the brand that Costco sells? It is inexpensive and a large container.

    March 21, 2014 at 2:38 pm
  11. Suzanne Lasich

    Make sure you don’t get a MIX. Something with the coconut oil or refined. You want Extra Virgin Certified Organic Coconut Oil. I have one in the bathroom for oil pulling, makeup remover, hair smoother, body moisture, and little jars of it mixed with essential oils for nice smelling me!
    I keep another in the kitchen. I put a tablespoon in my hot tea at night, I fry in it, I use it like I would use any oil or butter.
    GOOD FATS actually help you lose weight and bring down cholesterol levels!

    March 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm
  12. heather

    Add some extract to the coconut oil.. i use mint.. since the texture is a bit rough for me when oil pulling. Do it while showering or doing your hair in the morning.

    March 21, 2014 at 2:48 pm
  13. Susan

    Any number of minutes is good for oil pulling. I started with 5 minutes and extend it a little each time. Don’t discard in sink or toilet. It might clog pipes. Put in trash.

    March 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm
  14. Carla

    I’ve been oil pulling for a few weeks now. I am a fan. I credit it with helping to really clear my skin and make my teeth look whiter. I keep it in my night stand and swish while checking email, dressing, or even showering. It liquifies so quickly and you get used to the twenty minutes quickly. I started with a small amount for less time and increased time and amount gradually until I got to a good spoonful.

    March 21, 2014 at 2:52 pm
  15. Tina Clark

    I started using coconut oil (and flour) in the kitchen awhile back and love it. I wanted to put it on my skin but…I don’t want to smell like coconut all day? Is there some magic trick to this? Or a brand that is best to buy where I don’t smell like a coconut all day? LOL

    March 21, 2014 at 2:53 pm
  16. Kay Gallagher

    Oil pulling; a teaspoon of oil or a tablespoon?

    March 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm
  17. Diana

    I have used coconut oil for 40 years for scars. If you start putting it on a cut right away, it will heal quicker, and scar less, and if you keep it up, the scar will go away, too. My husband just had a knee replacement, and there are areas of the scar that have already healed over and show no signs. Other parts are still healing and getting better daily. His doctor was amazed and is now recommending it for all his surgery patients.

    March 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm
  18. Alice

    for anyone like me who has spent thousands on dental care, coconut oil pulling is a miracle. I have been pulling for less than a week and can already see a great improvemnt in my gums..it is reversing the receeding and they look better already.

    March 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm
  19. Leslie George

    You can get 54 fluid ounces of 100% organic, cold pressed, extra virgin coconut oil from DrVita. Great company and they ship fast. We use it for oil pulling (every morning!) for skin and for cooking. Try to get cold presses extra virgin for oil pulling.

    March 21, 2014 at 3:04 pm
  20. Alisha

    I actually prefer dr bronners coconut oil it’s only 15$ and world wonders I use it to cook with and put a small amount in my babies bottles it’s cleared up his eczema with in a week and his reflux ifs gone as well as his daily lotion!

    March 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm
  21. Tiffany

    I use it for making anything and everything DIY toiletries! (Deodorant, Vaseline-replacement, lip gloss, lip scrub, face moisturizer, acne treatment, anti-wrinkle cream, make-up remover, leave-in hair conditioner, cuticle and nail treatment; it is also naturally SPF4; put ½ tsp per day in your cat/dog food and it shines their coat; add sugar and it makes a great body scrub…) Mix with sugar, honey, olive oil, beeswax, etc. = ENDLESS uses!!

    March 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm
  22. Sylvie Pastor

    I started using it a few months ago. Hair, skin, shaving… it does wonders on breakouts too! I used it also for my son’s KP on his arms. Here is a list of good and bad coconut oil brands…

    http://www.evolvingwellness.com/essay/how-to-choose-a-coconut-oil-comparing-best-and-worst-brands

    March 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm
  23. Mary

    How is it used as acne treatment? Just use it to wash face? Wash and rinse? Apply as you would a moisurizer and leave on face?

    March 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm
  24. Lisa

    Do I need to pay attention to the expiration date or is the shelf life open?

    March 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm
  25. traci

    As of now only used for sauteing, for those using for fried foods if any oil smokes change it once oil reaches its smoke point it starts to become carcinogenic. Coconut oil and Olive oil have low smoke temperatures

    March 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm
  26. jacqueline

    Everyone needs to do some research before jumping onto the coconut-oil-as-a-cureall locomotive. IT IS NOT THE ELIXIR IT IS PURPORTED TO BE. Further, many other oils return the exact same outcome for certain things (like diaper rash). This whole article is really just bad reporting as it’s entirely based on anecdotal “evidence” as in from ONE PERSON at some spa in New York.

    March 21, 2014 at 3:52 pm
  27. Alicia

    I have sensitive skin and a fair amount of adult acne. I recently started keeping a mason jar with a mixture of coconut oil, olive oil, witchhazel and water near the sink and use it on cotton balls to remove my makeup. It has done wonders for my skin and works better than any name brand product I’ve tried.

    March 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm
  28. Maggie

    I rub a very small amount into the palms of my hands then run it through my hair and it makes my hair very shiny. Don’t use too much, just a tiny tiny bit.

    March 21, 2014 at 4:24 pm
  29. Amyj

    I love coconut oil and have started to wash my face with it. My face is not only softer but it has almost completely cleared up my adult acne. It is important to remember to make sure you are only using extra virgin, organic coconut oil though for the best results.

    March 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm
  30. Pam

    I use it for all the things you mentioned, plus I brush my teeth with it at night (after regular brushing) and let the oil stay on my teeth and gums overnight. I use it on my elbows when they get rough and dry, and under my breasts when they get sore from wearing a bra. I use it nightly as a moisturizer for my face, hands, and feet. If my hair gets dry or frizzy, i use a small amount combed through my hair with my fingers. It’s the best oil out there for cooking, too.

    March 21, 2014 at 4:38 pm
  31. Mary Ann

    I use it to polish my furniture. It’s works great, and there are no nasty toxins in the air.

    March 21, 2014 at 6:52 pm
  32. Susan Hall

    I had psoriasis in my armpits. I read that coconut oil was a good natural deodorant…… No more psoriasis.

    March 21, 2014 at 7:42 pm
  33. tami

    I melt one cup dark chocolate with one cup coconut oil. Pour into ice trays. Only fill about half way. Coconut oil helps with energy, metabolism, weight loss and cognitive function. Helps with conditions like dementia and alzheimers.

    March 21, 2014 at 8:09 pm
  34. Becky

    I’ve been using coconut oil for about a year. I use it for make up remover, moisturizer for the entire body, I make a scrub for the bath with coconut oil, Epsom salt, almond oil and essential oil, deodorant, put it in all of my green smoothies and it works wonders on scarred, scratched real wood cabinets and furniture. It has a million uses!

    March 21, 2014 at 8:54 pm
  35. Veronica

    I’ve been using it for about a month mostly for moisturizing especially on my heels. No more ashy, cracked heels! I wear sandals all year long. I’ve just started “oil pulling” on Monday and my teeth feel great! I’m slowly working my way up to 20 minutes. Just yesterday I read that it’s good to use along with baking soda as a deodorant! Today is my first day, cross my fingers!

    March 21, 2014 at 10:36 pm
  36. Julie

    Jacqueline, people are commenting with their own experiences – so even if ‘a spa in New York’ gave coconut oil its praises, these comments are based on actual, personal experiences.

    March 21, 2014 at 11:11 pm
  37. Cindy Mangum

    Just started oil pulling. 20 min. a day sounds like a lot but I do it when I know I won’t have to talk and either read or watch TV. Time goes by quick! Have done it for a week and sinuses have been pleasantly calm considering the pollen count is thru the roof in my past of FL. I do it before brushing my teeth. Be sure not to swallow it while you’re swishing. It’s pulling toxins out of your body. If you swallow it, the toxins just go right back in to your body. And don’t just spit it down the drain; it will solidify in the pipes and cause plumbing problems. I just use a little bathroom paper cup and then fold the y to

    March 21, 2014 at 11:28 pm
    • Kay

      Cindy, how much oil do you use? K.

      March 21, 2014 at 11:52 pm
  38. Cindy Mangum

    I just fold the top of the cup down and throw it in the trash. I’m a believer! Try it.

    March 21, 2014 at 11:32 pm
  39. Nola J.

    Don’t waste your money… $28 for a jar… are you nuts? You can buy a jar of this stuff in the international food aisle of most grocery stores for about $3-5.

    March 22, 2014 at 12:06 am
  40. Kseniya

    hi ) everything you’ve mentioned about coconut oil is true – i live in india for couple of years now – and yes – it is widely used …..i did apply in my body during pregnancy and had no problems with my skin at all!!! applied in on dry hair – it becomes silky!!!!! the only negative – you really should not use it for cooking – it is widely used kerala – and its the capital of coronary heart condition (((( sorry for a bit of negativity – but yeah rather then that – its an absolute go ahead oil!!!! the best for babies – please do not use it during winter time and when you have fever and runny nose – as it tends to cool down the body…

    March 22, 2014 at 12:38 am
  41. Namy

    Hey all lovely ladies : For all those who want to deeper delve into magic of extra virgin coconut, give this a read :
    http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.in/2014/02/coconut-palm-tree-sugar-nutritious.html

    March 22, 2014 at 2:53 am
  42. Kay

    Teach me to ask a simple question: so I googled it and for those that might be wondering what the answer is to the question I have asked twice already, here it is plus some:

    How to do oil pulling:

    Put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into the mouth. I prefer to use 2 teaspoons of organic coconut oil. I scoop it out as a solid and let it melt in my mouth before swishing (I don’t like the texture of solid coconut oil). I also pour a few drops of Brushing Blend (naturally antibacterial) into the mix.
    Swish for 20 minutes. Apparently the timing is key, according to Dr. Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, as this is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spit out.
    Spit oil into the trash can. Especially if you have a septic system like I do… don’t spit into the sink! Do not swallow the oil as it is hopefully full of bacteria, toxins and pus that are now not in the mouth!
    Rinse well with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better (my opinion). I swish a few times with warm water to get any remaining oil out of my mouth.
    Brush well. I prefer to brush with Brushing Blend to make sure any remaining bacteria is killed.

    March 22, 2014 at 3:13 am
  43. Victoria

    Kay, could you tell me more about Brushing Blend, what’s the brand? Where do you get it, etc.

    March 22, 2014 at 9:55 am
  44. baritoneuke

    Use Trader Joes, $5.99 organic with no other ingredients.

    March 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm
  45. Kim Lane

    I love using baking soda with hydrogen peroxide for brushing my teeth. Teeth, gums and mouth all feel so fresh afterward.

    March 23, 2014 at 2:16 pm
  46. Janine

    And… The best personal lubricant ever! ;)

    March 23, 2014 at 4:30 pm
  47. Meg

    What about if you have filling and denture is it ok to use it for
    oil pulling?

    March 26, 2014 at 12:03 am
  48. Jo brown

    I love coconut oil..Been using it for a few years now and you can get a 16 oz. jar at Trade Joe’s for around $4.99..

    July 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm

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