In Sanskrit, coconuts are called “Kalpa Vriksha”, which means: “the tree that gives all that is necessary for living”.
This strange looking, hairy nut, has long been known for its health and medicinal properties in the tropics. Recently, western society has become aware of the skin and health benefits of this meaty nut, and uses range from regular cooking to a cholesterol and weight-loss lowering supplement.
I’ll focus on the the effects of coconut oil when used directly on the skin in this post, as the dietary advantages are just far too many to be included here.
Coconut oil as a moisturizer:
Recently it was found that coconut oil and mineral oil have comparable effects. Both oils showed to be effective through significant improvement in skin hydration and increase in skin surface lipid levels. There are some claims that coconut oil may help diminish stretch marks, although I couldn’t find scientific proof to back this up.
Coconut oil and Wounds:
Coconut oil has long been used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for various skin disorders including wound healing and microbial infections.
In a study performed using Virgin coconut oil on wound inflicted rats; Coconut oil treated wounds healed much faster, and there was a higher turnover of collagen.
Virgin coconut oil contains large amounts of polyphenols, vitamin E and provitamin A (read my post on antioxidants and what they do here) Virgin coconut oil contains high amounts of antioxidant polyphones, catechins, ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid, caffeic acid (also found in argan oil. Read my post about that here) phenolic acid and flavonoids. It was hypothesized that the cumulative effect of these compounds may be beneficial to the wound healing process.
Coconut oil and hair:
Coconut oil is made up of a variety of fatty acids, which moisturize and soften dry hair and scalps. The chemical structure of coconut oil is unique in that its fatty acids allows it to absorb all the way into each hair shaft to replenish moisture. Additionally, the oil forms a barrier around each hair shaft, sealing off hair from the harsh environment and preventing further moisture loss.
Studies reported in the Journal of Cosmetic Science show that coconut oil can strengthen hair, protecting it from the damage of daily handling.
Coconut oil also interact with the proteins of your hair. According to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science in 2003, using coconut oil as a pre and post-shampoo treatment significantly decreased protein loss over time.
Dandruff is often caused by buildup of dry skin, or infections as a result of yeast on the scalp. Coconut oil can be used to control mild forms of dandruff, because of its ability to moisturize the scalp. Massaging your scalp with coconut oil using circular motions will help scrub away dead skin, and also moisturize underlying skin to prevent future dandruff. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties, so it may also help to prevent dandruff as a result of microbial infection.
Coconut oil and Anti-aging:
During the same study that investigated wound healing under the influence of coconut oil, it was noted that total Glycosaminoclycan levels were also elevated in treated wounds on the 10th day. Glycosaminoglycans bind water in your skin, and as we age these substances are incresingly lost, resulting in saggy, lose skin. Read how to correct saggy cheeks here. Also, total protein, hexose, sialic acid and elastin levels in Virgin coconut oil treated wounds were found to be increased significantly compared to the control. Proteins are the natural building blocks of our skin and body. As we age we produce less of them, and anything that increases their production will ultimately have an anti-aging effect on our faces long-term.
The total collagen content of Virgin coconut oil -treated wounds showed a significant increase compared to the control, and there was an upregualtion of the cells that produce it too, so so far so good!
Also, all the antioxidants mentioned previously have cumulative anti-aging and sun protective effects, helping skin fight off those free radicals so that we’ll stay young and fresh.
Coconut oil and skin infections:
Lauric acid, the main fatty acid of coconut oil has been associated to having antimicrobial properties. Fun fact; lauric acid is also found in breast milk! And rubbing premature babies with coconut oil has been shown to induce weight gain -link.
It has also been shown that Virgin coconut oil had activity against the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus, as well as fungi, and viruses and may therefore be useful in the proactive treatment of Atopic dermatitis colonization.
On headlice, a mixture of anis and coconut oil showed to be more affective than traditional treatment.
I’ve been adding my coconut oil to smoothies and shakes for a while now, and I also use it as a moisturizer after showering, on my face and body. If you’re ready to get a little bit nutty (hrmph), you can get your own extra virgin organic coconut oil from lookfantastic at £12.49 – lookfantastic.com
Effect of Topical Application of Virgin Coconut Oil on Skin Components and Antioxidant Status during Dermal Wound Healing in Young Rats
K.G. Nevin T. Rajamohan
Department of Biochemistry, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, India
Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2010;23:290–297 DOI: 10.1159/000313516
Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis.
Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS.
Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15.
Clinical trial showing superiority of a coconut and anise spray over permethrin 0.43% lotion for head louse infestation, ISRCTN96469780.
Burgess IF, Brunton ER, Burgess NA.
Eur J Pediatr. 2010 Jan;169(1):55-62. doi: 10.1007/s00431-009-0978-0. Epub 2009 Apr 3.
A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis.
Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM.
Department of Dermatology, Makati Medical Center, Makati City, Philippines.
Dermatitis. 2004 Sep;15(3):109-16.
Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage.
Rele AS, Mohile RB.
Research and Development Department, Nature Care Division, Marico Industries Ltd., Mumbai, India.
J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92.
InvestiDationof penetrationabilitiesof variousoils into human hair fibers
K. KEIS, D. PERSAUD, Y. K. KAMATH, and A. S. RELE, TRI PrincetonP,rincetonN,J 08542 (K.K., D.P., Y.K.K.), and MaricoIndustriesLtd., Andheri,Mumbai400 058, India (A.S.R.).