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).
Ahn 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.