All That and a Jar of Coconut Oil
With benefits ranging from your hair to your teeth to your toast, it’s time to embrace the newest essential oil.
By Amelia Williams, City College of San Francisco
Ah, fall is here.
And coming with it: sweater weather, riding boot and cowl scarf weather, bitter winds and dry skin weather. Personally, my skin is very sensitive to temperature and humidity, so when it’s cold and dry out, so’s my mug. In a perfect world I could just shoot my personal dermatologist an email and she’d shoot me back a list of the best, most expensive serums with the best ingredients, like yeast ferment or raspberries. But an elaborate skincare routine for a broke or time-constrained college student just isn’t realistic.
Fear not though, because I bring to you, like a Refinery29 article, the oil of the Cocos nucifera, or humble coconut.
Coconut oil is derived from the meat of coconuts, and has been used as a cure-all, beauty supplement and cooking ingredient in Pacific Island communities for centuries. It is a stable oil, full of amino acids, antimicrobial and antifungal.
This means it acts not only as a moisturizer, but an effective infection fighter for the skin, hair, teeth and body.
Despite its high saturated fat content, it doesn’t cause cholesterol levels to spike, making it a better cooking ingredient than butter or lard. Coconut oil can be found at any major grocery store or on Amazon.
The miracle fat can replace half the products used in any beauty and self-care regime, which opens budgets up for more beers, more pumpkin spice lattes and fewer awkward phone calls to mom asking her to drop a couple twenties in the checking account.
1. Take Your Makeup Off
Makeup remover is one the most irritating products on the market, both literally to my eyes and my checking account. Those bi-phase water-oil mixtures often either sear my delicate eye area, leave a slimy film or are simply too expensive and small to make them worth it. Micellar water is the new wave of makeup removal and I’ve used to some success, but most of my makeup is waterproof and/or oil-based, so why would I use a water-based product?
Enter the oil.
Just a nickel-sized dollop is enough for the whole face and eyes. Warm between your fingers and spread a thin layer over skin. Since most makeup and sunscreen is oil-based or waterproof, the oil will do a much better job at breaking foundation, mascara and eye makeup down than Bioderma’s Sensibio at a fraction of the cost.
2. Clean Your Teeth
The debate on the necessity of mouthwash is a longstanding one, one I can’t really seem to come to a conclusion on, but I can conclude this: oil pulling works. What is oil pulling? It’s essentially swishing coconut or olive oil in your mouth like mouthwash for 5-10 minutes. It’s a practice that has been used in India for thousands of years, and research backs its positive impact on gum disease, bad breath and even tooth decay.
Unlike mouthwash, which is an astringent, the lipids in coconut oil attract bacteria and disease in the mouth because bacterial cells also have a lipid barrier, and like attracts like. It can be kind of gross in practice, letting a glob of oil move around your mouth, but to me it sure beats the burning feeling of Listerine, plus the results are visible in a couple of weeks.
I myself have normal-to-oily skin, so up until a year ago I had stayed away from oils for my face because I was under the impression, thanks to years of being told by beauty “professionals” that oil would exacerbate my skin’s sheen, that I needed a “mattifying” toner, or whatever bogus they were trying to push on me.
It’s actually quite the opposite. These harsh products strip the skin of oils that it needs to maintain a healthy moisture barrier, which can in turn lead to breakouts, dryness or even more oiliness as skin tries to compensate for what was lost. Oils, however, contain amino acids, fatty acids and moisturizing agents. Rinse with warm water or a warm washcloth and viola!
As mentioned above, oils like oils. Human skin absorbs oils faster than creams, serums, emulsions or any other water-based products. Just like cleansing, apply a thin layer to skin after cleanser, toner and/or serum—basically the oil should be last. Coconut fat has a strong shine factor, so I use it at night.
I should note though, that for sensitive skin or skin prone to clogged pores, coconut oil does have a relatively high comedogenic rating and can sometimes do more harm than good.
5. Hair Care
Just like skin, hair is susceptible to excessive dryness, brittleness and damage, perhaps to a greater degree than skin because hair cannot repair itself; it can only grow.
If coconut oil does such wonders for the skin and teeth, it would carry that it works for the tresses. It can be used as a full on hot-oil treatment to seal those yummy acids into the hair shaft, or as a leave-in conditioner to repair and strengthen dead ends. Here’s a tutorial. Tresemmé who?
When I was vegan, coconut oil was for everything. I put on toast, in smoothies, in rice, on vegetables—basically anytime I would have used butter or olive oil, I used coconut oil.
Since I couldn’t eat meat or dairy, my weight changed dramatically, and the fats in coconut oil were crucial to keeping me in a healthy range and keeping me full for long enough to get through class, work and my personal life. Coconut oil is sweeter than butter and olive oil, but it gets the job done just the same and cuts out a lot of space in that small student apartment kitchen.