If you've been paying any attention to beauty and health news, you just might have noticed that everyone and their aunt is raving about coconut oil. I've long been a fan of this wonderful stuff being a part of my beauty regime, but following my switch to a plant-based diet earlier this year, I've been using it for a whole lot more...
Coconut oil truly is one of nature's miracles - it's packed full of healthy fats, is a natural antibacterial and anti-fungal, and, unlike processed oils, actually has great fibre and nutritional content. I'm currently using the Vita Coco Extra Virgin Coconut Oil*, which is 100% raw and cold-pressed - this process ensures all of nature's goodness is preserved in the oil.
I've been trying this product out in a couple of different ways, and today I thought I'd share the ones I loved (...and the ones I didn't).
What they say: One of the healthy hallmarks of coconut oil is that the 'good' fats contained within it remain stable and do not release harmful free radicals when subjected to high heat - basically, this means coconut oil is just as healthy to eat in its raw form as it is when it's cooked. Ingesting the healthy fats in coconut is widely thought to be good for cardiovascular health, raising the levels of HDL - a 'good' cholesterol (which ideally you want to be higher) in the blood. Coconut oil can be widely used in cooking in place of other oils, with recommended methods including roasting, frying and baking, and imparts a light coconut flavour into food.
What I found: I can't comment on my blood cholesterol levels as I didn't get that nerdy with my little project, however I have loved using coconut oil in my cooking. I've roasted vegetables in it, stirred it into porridge (this is my favourite recipe), fried with it to cook some delicious sweet potato pancakes and also to stir-fry. The Vita Coco is much more 'coconutty' than most of the other coconut oils I've tried - this means there's some cuisine it probably wouldn't lend itself well to (coconut tomato sauce for your spaghetti? I don't think so), but it's great for most cookery, especially sweet things!
2. Oil pulling
What they say: This is an Aryuvedic medicine practice where you swill a tablespoon of coconut oil around in your mouth for ten to twenty minutes without swallowing it. The swilling of the oil around the teeth and gums supposedly 'pulls' toxins out from the mouth, and when you spit it out, the milky white hue of the oil is supposed to show you all the nasty bacteria and toxins you've drawn out - long-term benefits include 'detox,' clearing of the sinuses, fresher breath, improved oral health as well as whiter teeth... hmmmm.
What I found: You've probably gathered from the use of quotation marks, the word supposedly and the 'hmmmm,' that I'm not remotely convinced by any of that... blame the day job for my scepticism. Nevertheless, I tried it out for a week and it was a seriously unpleasant experience. My mouth felt horrible afterwards, my teeth looked no whiter and I certainly didn't feel 'detoxed' (however that is meant to feel) - never again.
3. Makeup removal
What they say: The fats in coconut oil effectively break down makeup, including waterproof mascara - rub a small amount of coconut oil into the skin, and onto the eyes, massage in and remove with a warm, clean muslin cloth or flannel - this leaves the skin clean of all makeup without stripping moisture away.
What I found: I've long used coconut oil as a makeup remover - it effectively removes my makeup (including my lashings of 'shadow, mascara and liquid eyeliner... #CatEyeTilIDie) and leaves my skin feeling clean and soft... although I am careful to ensure I remove every trace of oil, more about that in a second. However, given the Vita Coco Oil is quite expensive, it felt pretty extravagant using it once a day to cleanse, so I think I'll use a cheaper coconut oil for this purpose.
What they say: The healthy fats in coconut oil replenish dry skin, provide a small amount of natural sun protection, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and, due to its vitamin E content, fade scars and hyper pigmentation.
What I found: Coconut oil is wonderful as an all-over body moisturiser - I've been using it since I came back from travelling, and genuinely think it has helped to prolong my tan! Whilst it's great for the body, I wouldn't use coconut oil as a moisturiser on my face - I have done so after reading countless celebrities saying it helped clear up their complexion and give them a gorgeous radiant glow... unfortunately, I started to notice lots of clogged pores and spots forming on my cheeks after I used it as a moisturiser, and a more thorough research made me realise coconut oil is actually rather comedogenic - which means it clogs pores... it didn't take rocket science to work out why my skin was playing up. Again, as the Vita Coco product is a little on the pricey side, I think I'll use a cheaper alternative as my body moisturiser.
5. For dry hair
What they say: Once again, those wonderful fats are to thank for this benefit - coconut oil is said to replenish lacklustre hair, leaving it super shiny and soft. Additional benefits include better growth and reduced hair loss, plus it's also a natural anti-dandruff agent!
What I found: I've also used coconut oil for my hair for many a year - whilst I was travelling, I made sure I used a coconut oil blend in the ends after I washed it, and despite being exposed to sun and salt-water on a daily basis, my hair looked super healthy when I came back. I also use coconut oil as a hair mask, applying it all over my tresses, leaving it on for 5-10 minutes before rinsing it out. The only slight issue with using an oil in the hair is that if you put a little too much into your wet hair, or don't rinse it out thoroughly enough your hair feels pretty gross and greasy, so just make sure you apply sparingly or use lots and lots of water to get every last drop out!
I think it's safe to I've gone a little nuts for coconut oil...
Vita Coco Coconut Oil (250ml) is priced at £5.99, and available at Amazon.