Everything you need to know about coconut oil

Coconuts

Coconut oil has been praised as the beauty product of the decade. Promising sleek, shiny hair, soft skin and easy makeup removal, coconut oil has taken the beauty world by storm. If you’re unsure of the pros and cons, or what type of oil to buy, read on to find out everything you need to know about coconut oil.

The five types of coconut oil

Coconut oil product

There are five types of coconut oil: virgin, refined, organic, fair trade and fractionated.  Refined coconut oils are the cheaper option and have no coconut aroma. They are produced from dried copra – the dried meat or kernel of the coconut – rather than fresh coconuts, and the oil itself goes through various levels of processing. When it comes to beauty products, the preferred option is virgin coconut oil, as this is known for its enticing fragrance, antioxidants and vitamins. The oil is extracted from the white, ‘meaty’ part of the coconut without the use of heat or chemicals.

Organic coconut oil can be found both in virgin forms and pure forms. The difference between organic and other forms is how the coconuts are grown. Organic coconut oil comes from the trees that are grown in organic manure, without the use of synthetic fertilizers or insecticides. Although it’s difficult to tell the difference between organic and virgin coconut oils, organic is generally considered to be a higher-quality product.

Fair trade products are produced in a specific factory or farm in a country that adheres to fair trade regulations. This means that fair trade coconut oil was made by producers who were offered a fair price for their products and that the workers work in good conditions. Fractionated coconut oil is also a popular choice, as it is in liquid form. This version has a longer shelf life.

The many uses of coconut oil

Using coconut oil

In the last year, the hype around coconut oil has revealed many potential benefits to the product, from aiding weight loss to improving your memory, though there isn’t scientific evidence to back this up. While it’s important to take these suggestions with a pinch of salt, there are many clear beauty benefits to coconut oil.

Skin care is perhaps the most popular use of coconut oil, with many using it to keep their skin moisturised, smooth and youthful. If you suffer from dry skin, coconut oil has been proven to hydrate the skin, and can also protect it from so-called ‘free-radical damage’, such as air pollution and light. Using coconut oil for skincare is often the go-to option between spa days. This also applies to nail care, as you can apply the oil to your cuticles to promote nail growth.

Another key beauty tip using coconut oil is to apply it to your hair. If you’re battling with dry hair or dandruff, coconut oil can be an excellent remedy, depending on your hair and skin type. It also makes a fantastic natural conditioner, which is perfect for those seeking to use natural, organic products, as the oil contains no harmful chemicals.

Benefits of coconut oil and how to use it

Coconut oil spoon

Hair

To deep-condition dry or coloured hair, coconut oil can work wonders. Let your hair soak in coconut oil and absorb the vitamin E, vitamin K and iron. If you’re battling with frizzy hair, lightly combing your hair with a small amount of coconut oil can help to restrain flyaways, without making your hair look greasy. But be wary about using it on your roots, as they are most prone to becoming oily.

Face

Although coconut oil has been hailed as the remedy for most beauty-related issues, some experts are warning against using the product facially. A fashion and beauty writer for Cosmopolitan attended an adult acne talk by Cult Beauty, and revealed the following: “As I held my eyes mid-roll waiting to hear how I should find new ways to ingest this ‘miracle oil’, I was pretty shocked to hear that it was actually the one product we should put nowhere near our skin.”

The article goes on to quote former make-up artist and founder of skincare company SkinOwl as saying: “Coconut oil is less like a pure plant oil and acts more like a wax on the skin, much like jojoba oil. It’s very comedogenic which means that it can’t penetrate the pore. Because of this, it sits on top of the skin, leading to clogged pores, breakouts and without proper absorption, causes extreme dryness.”

However, despite being advised against slathering coconut oil on your face, beauty experts do praise the product for some uses. For example, using it around the eyes, as there are no oil glands, could help with make-up removal without clogging your pores. It is also recommended as a lip moisturiser, particularly in the harsh winter months when your lips are prone to chapping.

Skin

There are many ways coconut oil can be used on your body. Firstly, it makes for an excellent moisturiser. If you’re struggling with dry skin, coconut oil is great for replenishing the skin’s natural oils. It is also believed to have anti-ageing benefits, due to its high concentration of antioxidants. Just keep the warnings in mind before using the product facially.

Teeth

If you’re seeking a whiter smile, oil pulling is a technique you should be aware of. This method involves swilling coconut oil around in your mouth for several minutes, and has been found to whiten teeth. Coconut oil is also believed to have antibacterial properties, meaning it can help to ward off plaque build-up that eventually leads to tooth decay.

Can coconut oil help me lose weight?

Frying vegetables

In short, there is no evidence to suggest coconut oil promotes weight loss. Coconut oil contains a high concentration of medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs, a fatty acid that is processed more efficiently by the body than long-chain dietary fats, which are found in many foods, such as meat and cheeses. While the long-chain fatty acids take a long time to break down and attach to your tissue along the way, MCTs are broken down very quickly and burned as energy instead. This has led to some believing that coconut oil could potentially help you to lose weight. However, a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil was no better than olive oil at boosting your metabolism.

There are some benefits to cooking with coconut oil, as it can be used at higher temperatures, making it perfect for frying vegetables at a high heat. But nutritionists believe that there is no scientific evidence to prove that coconut oil can aid weight loss, and that such claims should be approached with caution.

Established 50 years ago, the British Nutrition Foundation provides evidence-based information on food and nutrition, and has offered guidance on coconut oil. We spoke to the team to find out whether coconut oil can actually help people to lose weight: “Coconut oil contains a type of fat described as ‘medium chain’, which has been suggested to help people lose weight. However, the evidence for this is weak and only from a small number of studies. There is also very little of this particular type of fat in coconut oil. It is important to remember that all fats and oils provide the same number of calories, no matter what type they are or what food they are in, and too much of any type of fat can encourage weight gain.

“Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat – it actually contains more than butter! High saturated fat intakes are linked with raise blood cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease, so we should be eating less saturated fat in our diets and replacing it with small amounts of unsaturated fats. Good choices of oils that are high in unsaturated fat include rapeseed, olive, sunflower and nut or seed oils.

“There is no good scientific evidence to support the reported health benefits of eating coconut oil, which range from enhancing brain function to boosting the immune system. If you like the taste of coconut oil you can choose to eat it, but not very often and only in small amounts.”

As with other products that are high in saturated fat, it’s important to consume them as part of a healthy, balanced diet and only in moderation. However the beauty benefits of coconut oil appear to be legitimate, and as long as you follow our guidelines for using the product on your hair, skin, face and teeth, you should be good to go!

For the ultimate treat, why not book a spa day with us? We have a range of treatments for skin and haircare, and can advise on the best beauty products to suit you.

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