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From coconut oil to coconut water, There’s little chance you have managed to avoid the alleged modern miracle that is coconuts. Everyone from your mum to your personal training is recommending it in one form or another. 

One of the most prominent places you’ll find coconuts is in your skincare. Utilised in lip balms, shampoos and everything in between, the cosmetics industry jails coconut oil as a must have ingredient.

But what exactly is coconut oil and dose it’s long list of benefits stack up?

Lets find out.  

Coconut oil is pure fat.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is extracted from coconut flesh, leaving behind the fibre, carbohydrate and protein, the extracted oil is pure fat. 

Coconut oil is made of roughly 92% saturated fats, with lauric acid making up just under 50% of it’s total fatty acids. 

This fat content is what gives coconut oil it’s solid-state at room temperature. When discussing coconut oil, we are generally referring to virgin coconut oil (VCO), as that is what is predominantly used in both cosmetics and studies. 

‘’VCO is generally defined as coconut oil being obtained through mechanical or natural means, which do not lead to alteration of the oil, and where the oil has not undergone chemical refining, bleaching or deodorizing. This is in contrast to methods that use undesirable solvents such as hexane to extract the oil.’’[1]

Moisturise and protects skin

Our skin naturally keeps itself moisturised through a natural emollient known as sebum.

This is a substance that is secreted by the sebaceous gland and is made up of fatty acids, fatty alcohols and esters. These substances work together to waterproof our skin and retain water.

Problems occur when our body doesn’t produce enough sebum (dry skin, or too much sebum ( oily skin). The external environment also causes issues, with our skin being bombarded by the sun, free radicals and air pollution.

This is where the topical application of coconut oil can help.  Coconut oil is an emollient. Emollients fill in the microscopic spaces within our skin, helping to create smooth surfaces.

Topical application of coconut oil helps to keep skin moist.

‘’Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been traditionally used as moisturizer for centuries by people in the tropical region. Clinical studies have revealed that VCO improves the symptoms of skin disorders by moisturizing and soothing the skin.’[1]

Coconut oil reduces inflammation

Our skin is the primary barrier between the rest of our body and the external world. It’s first line of defence against both physical and diseases from infection.

When our body detects a foreign invader, blood flow is increased to the area and white blood cells are triggered, releases chemicals used to fight infection. These chemicals can lead to redness of the skin and irritation.

While this is manageable over the shorterm, problems occur with prolonged inflammation. This can conditions such as bacterial sepsis, rheumatoid arthritis and of course skin inflammation.

Coconut oil, specifically virgin, has bioactive components that help it address inflammation of the skin.

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‘’Our study demonstrated the anti inflammatory activity of VCO (virgin cocnut oil) by suppressing inflammatory markers and protecting the skin by enhancing skin barrier function. This is the first report on anti-inflammatory and skin protective benefits of VCO in vitro. Overall, the results warrant the use of VCO in skin care formulations.’’[2]

So if you’re finding your skin is constantly irritated and itchy, coconut oil is a great choice!

Beneficial for hair

Our hair is made up of a protein called keratin. When our hair lacks sufficient protein, whether, from lifestyle choices or external factors, our hair can end up looking lifeless and dull.

This in turn can make your hair harder to manage, with split ends and an overall lackluster look.

By using coconut oil, we can help to keep protein locked in our hair.

Coconut oil helps strengths hairs natural proteins.

A study comparing coconut oil to sunflower and mineral oil found coconut oil to have the greatest benefit on penetrating the hair and reducing protein loss to hair.

‘Among three oils, coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product. Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft.[5]

By helping to maintain high levels of protein in our hair, coconut oil is ideal for hair care products such as beard balms, shampoos and clays.

Coconut oil and the environment

Before diving into the potential impacts of coconut oil, it’s important how much coconut production is a key economic resource for pooer nations farmers. 

‘’The production of palm and coconut oils hold promise and represent one of the most effective methods of hoisting developing nations like countries in Sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty, and ensuring food security. The large scale manufacture of these oils is sure to provide employment for millions of unskilled and semi-skilled workers.’’ [6]

Like all farmed natural products, coconut oil has an impact on the environment. The ICUN maps the impact oil crops have on threatened species with the areas of the plantation and how sustainable they are. A 2020 paper found that coconut oil plantations threatened 65 species, plantations of palm oil threatened 321.

Coconut oil also producers a variety of byproducts. These include things like animal feed, husks utilised in horticulture, as well as coconut water.

Coconut harvesting and production is a source of income for many people in developing nations.

The byproducts help to reduce the overall environmental impact of coconut oil production by using as much of coconut as possible and reduce wastage.

 ‘For one ton of coconut oil production, there are two to seven tons of valuable byproducts produced. This virtually always includes 0.5 tons of copra cake (high-protein animal feed) and 1.5 tons of shell (used for everything from fuel to water filtration). In many cases, marketed byproducts also include 3 tons of husk (highly sought after for horticulture and other uses) and 2 tons of coconut water.’ [7]

How to use coconut oil

When you’re trying out a new substance for the first time and you’re unsure if you’re allergic or not, it’s best to test it first. 

The best way to test if you are allergic or not by applying a very small amount, 1-3 drops of coconut oil to your forearm. Again, if you know you’re allergic, don’t put it on your body.

Leave it covered for 8-12 hours and if you have no irritation, bumps or redness, you should be in the clear.

You’ll find coconut oil in a variety of products but it’s best used in soaps, shampoos and moisturisers.  

Conculsion

Coconut oil provides a host of benefits, from moisturising skin to strengthening our hair, it’s little wonder it’s found in so many products.

Have you used coconut oil?

As always let us know below.

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