I am madly in love with coconut oil. I cook with it, put it on my lips, wear it in my hair, use it on my body, mix it into homemade beauty recipes … the list goes on. The fragrant tropical oil has been the backbone of my beauty routine for years now, having replaced several other products along the way. Its value is no secret: women from around the world have been using coconut oil for ages, well before its recent revival as beauty’s magic weapon.
Given its myriad benefits and functions, the best advice I have for incorporating coconut oil into your beauty routine is to try it out in a variety of ways and amounts and see what works for you. In the meantime, here are my top three eco-beauty uses for coconut oil.
1. Hair. Coconut oil is the single most useful and reliable hair product I’ve ever used. In fact, it has become practically the only hair product I use. But the motto here is “a little goes a long way.” While I adore coconut oil for taming, softening and conditioning my hair, more than a dime size amount per day causes greasiness. And that is the limitation for my hair, which is a thick, wild, wavy mane. Those with thinner or finer hair should try using even less, or may find that the oil isn’t a fit at all. (Thick and curly-haired girls—trust me, it will work.) With that portion size in mind, coconut oil is an effective way to smooth and strengthen your locks. A small amount added after washing allows my curls to fall loose and soft. Paired with a dab of curly hair product, it acts as a frizz-fighting agent while the other product pumps up the ringlets. Coconut oil also makes for a great hair mask and/or deep conditioning treatment. Simply apply in liberal amounts to wet or dry hair and leave in for anywhere from an hour to overnight (in which case you may want to sleep in a shower cap). Next, wash your hair out (if you left it in overnight, you may need to wash it a few times) and voila—happy, shiny hair.
2. Eye make-up remover. Coconut oil rids of eye make-up better than any natural make-up remover I have tried. Here’s how I use it: First, I wash my face—including the eye area—with warm water and facial cleanser. Then I dip a Q-Tip or cotton pad into my trusty jar of coconut oil, retrieving just a small dab. Careful to avoid getting the oil in my eyes, I run the Q-Tip or pad over my lids and closely below my bottom lashes. A thin layer of the oil may be left behind, in which case I use a damp tissue or cotton pad to go back over the area, removing any residual coconut oil. Because of its moisturizing properties, coconut oil acts a nourishing eye cream in the process.
3. Skin conditioning. For my skin, coconut oil is a little too intense to be applied directly as a moisturizer. But, eager to capitalize on the oil’s legendary skincare benefits, I discovered this lovely trick: Set aside some of your coconut oil in a new container. (You won't want to bring your whole jar into the shower because water can get trapped inside and cause mold.) After you’re clean, but still in the shower, step away from the water. Rub coconut oil over your arms and legs. As happens when oil and water encounter one another, separation will occur and you will see droplets forming on your skin. After you’ve spread the oil around, step back into the water and rinse. The oil will not wash away completely. Instead, after patting dry, you will find your limbs impossibly soft and smooth.
Look for coconut oil at your local health food store, and be sure to get organic, unrefined, virgin coconut oil. (The refinement process strips the oil of beneficial properties.) Yet another wonderful thing about coconut oil is that it is very affordable, going for around $10 - $15 for a 16-ounce jar. This is an especially good deal considering that, despite how often I use it, one jar this size can last me a year or more.